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Elspeth Robertson

Elspeth is currently undertaking a PhD in Geology at the University of Bristol. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of ground deformation seen at a number of Kenyan Rift volcanoes. Elspeth tweets as @eamrobertson.

Science Snap (#33): Earth Science Week

James Hickey is a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. A geophysicist and volcanologist by trade, his PhD project is focussed on attempting to place constraints on volcanic unrest using integrated geodetic modelling.

Earth Science Week is an international initiative to promote the great work that goes on in the geoscience community. It encompasses a huge range of topics; from dinosaurs to glaciers, and volcanoes to meteorites. There’s something for everybody. For an overview of how geoscience can have a positive influence on local communities and save lives, check out this video from the AGU:

For Earth Science Week, events are taking place here in the UK, organised by the Geological Society, as well as across the Atlantic in the US, where the American Geosciences Institute are coordinating things. To get an idea of the sorts of activities that are happening and see where you can get involved, you can check out their websites here and here.

So far my favourite initiative has been the release of the 100 top ‘Geosites’ in the UK. This list, compiled by the Geological Society and voted on by members of the general public, represents the best the UK has to offer in various geological categories (e.g. landscapes, adventurous, educational, and so on). You can view the ‘Geosites’ in an interactive map, and there are some great pictures to flick through in a BBC News article.

Precariously balanced, these are the Brimham rocks in North Yorkshire, part of the top 100 'Geosites' in the UK. Image credit: BBC News.

Seemingly precariously balanced, these are the Brimham rocks in North Yorkshire, part of the top 100 ‘Geosites’ in the UK. Image credit: BBC News.

Science snap (#32): Coral currents

KT Cooper is a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. A carbonate geochemist by training, here she dives into the world of corals.

Coral is misunderstood. It may look like a beautiful underwater plant, and for a long time it was thought to be one, but is in fact an invertebrate. The coral structures are colonies made up of individual small polyps. These produce an exoskeleton made up of calcium carbonate, which helps to preserve them in life and also in the fossil record.

Another misunderstanding about corals is that, on the whole, they are passive creatures obtaining their nutrients from the ambient flow of the oceans. Recent research at MIT and the Weismann Institute of Science (WIS) suggests otherwise. They have found that the external cilia (small threadlike appendages similar to those found inside a human lung) of the coral generate eddy currents which draw nutrients to, and potentially waste produce away, from the colonies. Using powerful microscopes and high-speed video equipment they have managed to capture this unexpected behavior on film.

Eddy currents being generated by external cilia of coral.  The paths of the tracer particles are colour-coded by fluid velocity. Image courtesy of MIT and the researchers

Eddy currents being generated by external cilia of coral. The paths of the tracer particles are colour-coded by fluid velocity. Image courtesy of MIT and the researchers

This research maybe an insight into how these tiny creatures have managed to survive, and thrive, so efficiently in the changing ocean environments as well as allowing scientists to visualize cilia-related processes that occur hidden from view inside organisms.

 

Things I wish I knew when I started my PhD…

James Hickey is a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. A geophysicist and volcanologist by trade, his PhD project is focussed on attempting to place constraints on volcanic unrest using integrated geodetic modelling.

As the academic year begins again, new PhD students across the country (and further) are slowly settling into their fresh surroundings. I stayed at the same university when I made the switch to postgraduate research but I still remember feeling quite lost at the start, not knowing what to do or where to be. I’m now entering the final year of my studies and have (I hope) picked up some useful knowledge along the way. [Read More]

Coral, wanted dead and alive; a brief excursion into the world of coral science

 

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Today we have a guest post from Dr. Peter Tomiak who delves into the life and death of corals…

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology and Geology at the  University of Bristol in 2008. Subsequently I undertook a sponsored internship with Save The Elephants, in Samburu National Park Kenya, before starting a short term position alongside Prof. Adrian Lister at the Natural History Museum, London, constructing a database of radiocarbon dates for extinct Pleistocene mammals. At this point I moved away from terrestrial mammals, and into the marine realm. I completed my PhD, examining the nature and applications of coral skeleton, within the Earth Sciences Department at Bristol University  in 2013 (funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council and an additional Wingate Scholarship), and then continued with my research as a postdoctoral researcher at the university into 2014. Over the past 6 months, I have been travelling throughout South and North America, performing volunteer work at several State and National Parks along the way. I enjoy spending time in the natural environment and am very enthusiastic about conservation. In my spare time, I enjoy wildlife photography, SCUBA, live music and playing or watching football. [Read More]