Events archive


Giant pterosaurs: not just fabulous flying freaks - Dr Dave Unwin, University of Leicester


  • Wednesday 25 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geology)

Giant pterosaurs were first recognised in the mid-1800’s and occasional fragmentary finds, often misidentified as dinosaur bones, continue to the present day. The paucity of fossils means that little is known of their anatomy, ecology and evolution and much of this meagre knowledge is hotly debated. A comprehensive reanalysis of the fossil record of giant pterosaurs, using a range of morphometric, phylogenetic and geological data sets, resolves many of the current disputes and provides important new insights into their palaeobiology. Gigantism, wingspans in excess of 6 m, evolved independently in at least four distinct lineages of pterosaurs and was a persistent feature of the last 50 million years of the Mesozoic. There seems to have been a maximum size limit of around 10m but, other than size, giants were anatomically comparable to smaller individuals. Giant individuals were flight capable and likely represent the final stage in a series of ontogenetic niches as for example in modern crocodilians. Pterosaur gigantism was not a freak occurrence, but a significant evolutionary phenomenon that had important consequences for late Mesozoic ecosystems.

A deep-time perspective on macroecology - Dr Erin Saupe, University of Oxford


  • Thursday 19 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Dr Saupe's talk will integrate palaeontological and neontological data to disentangle some of the long-term ecological and evolutionary responses of species to environmental change. More specifically, she will discuss some recent empirical and simulation research that examines (1) the causal mechanisms responsible for the latitudinal diversity gradient; (2) the role of palaeogeography in regulating extinction magnitudes; and (3) the degree to which competition structures species’ geographic ranges. These studies provide a bottom-up perspective on the generation and maintenance of biodiversity under climate change, and they enhance our understanding of the interaction of species’ intrinsic macroecological characteristics with a dynamic extrinsic climate.

TBC - Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, Director Institute for Global Sustainable Development, University of Warwick


  • Wednesday 18 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Title TBC - Dr Rosie Jones, University of Oxford/Oxford Instruments


  • Thursday 12 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Topic area - Igneous geochemistry

Moving with Risk: forced displacement and vulnerability to hazards in Colombia - Dr Roger Few, UEA


  • Wednesday 11 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Capabilities of SEM and How it is used for current research projects - Dr Tom Knott, University of Leicester


  • Thursday 5 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Title TBC - Dr Angela Gallego-Sala, University of Exeter


  • Wednesday 4 March 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

A tale of two transitions – the role of feeding in major evolutionary radiations - Dr Laura Porro, UCL

  • Thursday 27 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Key moments in the history of vertebrate evolution are often marked by dramatic skeletal evolution, including profound changes in skull and tooth shape. Feeding, which is critical to an organism’s survival and fitness, exerts strong selective pressure on skull shape and function, and it is has been suggested that novel feeding mechanisms and diets may have sparked adaptive radiations in many vertebrate groups. My current research focuses on two such landmark transitions – the invasion of the land by early tetrapods and the rise of dinosaurs. I will showcase how I utilize a suite of techniques – including medical imaging and 3D visualization, collecting experimental data from living animals, and biomechanical modelling – to quantitatively and rigorously test hypotheses of skull form and function. By correlating shifts in skull shape and performance with macroevolutionary patterns, we can explore to what extent feeding may have contributed to adaptive radiations in vertebrates.

Title TBC - Dr Ophelie Veron , University of Sheffield


  • Wednesday 26 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Topic - Critical geographies of race, class and gender in grassroots food initiatives

The metallogenic ‘DNA’ of post subduction magmatism - Dr Dave Holwell, University of Leicester


  • Thursday 20 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Some of the world’s largest epithermal gold deposits, characterised by abundant associated tellurium, are associated with relatively small-volume, alkaline magmatism in collisional settings. Characteristically, the timing of this magmatism corresponds with post-subduction extensional regimes and produces a very different metallogenic ‘DNA’ to syn-subduction systems that produce large Cu-Au-Mo porphyry deposits. The link between Au-Te deposits and alkaline magmatism is not, as previously assumed, a chemical relationship. Rather, these two features are independent results of the same early process: low degree partial melting of metasomatized lithospheric mantle. Here we show that this signature can actually be traced from the mantle, up through the crust, via lower and mid crustal magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulfide deposits to upper crustal porphyry and epithermal deposits. The Au-Te-rich nature of these ores evolves with lithospheric depth according to a number of key ore forming… or destroying… processes.

EDI Event: Pushing the Limits - Experiences of women in fieldwork - Dr Sara Thornton, University of Leicester

  • Wednesday 19 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Responsible Reserves: The Role of Geoscientists in Sustainability - Dr Sarah Gordon, Satarla

  • Thursday 13 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Population growth coupled with our evolving needs and desires for new technology and lifestyles mean that society is going to continue using non-renewable natural resources for centuries to come. Extraction of these natural resources through activities such as mining is therefore crucial to human survival. While mining activities have been undertaken and honed for thousands of years, there is still much more we can do to ensure that we mine in the most responsible manner possible.

One critical part of mining is understanding and communicating the quantity, quality and value of mineral resources in the ground. The core calculations to this value are normally undertaken by a highly skilled geoscientist. While many Codes exist to provide governance over the calculations used to estimate the volume and grade of the reserves reported, it is up to the geoscientist if they incorporate sustainability factors into their estimates. A Resource is the size and grade of an ore body in the ground, whilst a Reserve is the proportion of the resource that can be extracted economically. Valuations of projects, investments and often companies are reliant on the content of these Statements.

If we were to update the true definition of a Reserve so that it became an ore body that was not only economic to extract, but responsible to extract, we may be able to embed “responsibility” throughout the value chain of a natural resource. This would promote funding by investors of mining projects deemed to be responsible over those of a more dubious nature; reduce the need for lengthy and expensive sustainability reporting of data that has little influence on company decisions; provide a trustworthy and standardised approach to the measurement of responsibility and sustainability within the natural resources sectors that can in turn be used by governments, NGOs, customers, suppliers, employees, competitors and local communities.

The ability to update the definition of a Reserve, and therefore take the unavoidable extraction of our planet’s natural resources to a truly responsible level, sits in the hands and minds of geoscientists… What are we waiting for?

Movement analytics: using geospatial temporal data to understand behaviour - Dr Vanessa Da Silva Brum Bastos, St Andrews University

  • Wednesday 12 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Movement analytics has been boosted in the recent years by the ubiquitous availability and quality of spatio-temporal data on people and wildlife. Movement ecology and human mobility are the two main application areas of movement analytics, the first one aims to understand wildlife behaviour for conservation purposes mostly, whilst the second one looks at human movement to improve transportation and urban planning, particularly in the context of smart cities. Locational-based services and GPS trackers are constantly creating massive datasets on individuals’ locations at specific timestamps; these datasets can be analysed to extract movement patterns, which in conjunction with contextual data can lead to a further understanding of behaviour. In this seminar, Dr Brum-Bastos will present her current work on the influence of the weather on human movement in Scotland - UK, bicycling ridership patterns in San Francisco - US and the impact of e-scooters in Tempe - US.

How Sedex brine expulsions to the ocean triggered catastrophic early Palaeozoic global change and mass extinctions - Thijs Vandenbroucke, Ghent University

  • Thursday 6 February 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Increasingly, early Palaeozoic chemostratigraphic studies show dramatic episodes of global climate-oceanic instability that are denoted by isotope disturbances in oceanic C, O, S and Sr and trace element cycles.  It is now clear that these reorganizations of global Earth systems form the nodes in the evolutionary trajectory of life. Yet, while our understanding of these phenomena is advancing, the underlying trigger(s) remain poorly understood as these upheavals are no longer considered directly triggered by glacial episodes. This once-popular cause-and-effect relationship has been critically challenged by an accumulating body of high-resolution stratigraphic and proxy data that demonstrate misalignment between the faunal turnovers and the climatic perturbations.

Here, we advance an alternative hypothesis for the trigger of these dramatic events.  Specifically, we propose that massive releases of sedimentary brines, analogous to those that form sedimentary-exhalative (sedex) ore deposits, induced runaway fertilization and eutrophication that through a series of positive feedbacks resulted in these perturbations of global ocean-climate systems. Strong temporal correlations between events and brine releases, combined with mass balance evidence and oceanographic box modelling, suggest that the flux of metals discharged by the sedex brines was sufficient to cause observed positive excursions in the global marine isotope records of Sr, O en C, global anoxia, metal-rich black shale deposition, climate change, metal-induced teratology of marine organisms, and significant biotic extinctions - suggesting that these massive brine exhalations may be the ultimate culprit of these catastrophic global events.   
Central to the new model is the repeated observation of malformed (teratological) fossil microplankton throughout the early phases of the Ordovician-Silurian extinctions (O-S). By analogy with metal-induced malformations in modern plankton, teratology can be a new, independent proxy for monitoring changes in the metal concentration of the Palaeozoic oceans. This presentation summarises the results from a suite of analytical techniques, including ToF-SIMS, LA-ICP-MS, electron microprobe analysis, portable and Synchrotron XRF, used to quantify the major and trace element composition of microfossils and their host rocks through O-S events at high-resolution. The data is derived from multiple stratigraphic sections, including through the end-Ordovician mass extinction. The suite of metals observed, and their stratigraphic order of appearance, support global anoxia being a key factor during O-S events and support our model that these fluxes of redox-sensitive metals into the ocean are associated with dramatic brine flows and the deposition of major sedex systems. 

Unearthing the Nihewan Basin: a new multiproxy correlation for hominin archaeological sites - Catherine Langford, University of Iceland

  • Thursday 30 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72, Bennett Building (Geology)

It is widely agreed that early Pleistocene hominins occupied the Nihewan Basin, Northern China (circa 1.6-0.8 Ma). The archaeological sites where hominin occupation occurred are found in stratified fluvial-lacustrine sediments within the Nihewan Basin. Though many of these sites have been dated using magnetostratigraphy lack of consistent multiproxy data across archaeological sites means that correlating a new stratigraphic section into the documented basin stratigraphy is problematic. Consequently, the main aim of this project was to determine a new stratigraphic correlation for seven previously studied and one new site in the basin. The site sections range from 40 – 3 m thick. This new approach shows that it is possible to correlate previously undocumented site using a new multiproxy study; including sedimentary, grain size, micropalaeontological, and isotope analyses.

The new site Shigou has been correlated with a previously dated site Majuangou (circa 1.68-1.51 Ma). The correlation of the grain size analysis curves are supported through a change in bedding structure at the Shigou site from asymmetrical to symmetrical bedding, suggesting a change in water direction. Palaeoecological analysis of the 16 ostracod taxa has provided evidence of wet and dry periods that assist the new correlation. These updated environmental signals have allowed for a more consistent in depth interpretation of the eight archaeological sites across the basin.

Geopoetics of the postcolony: On storytelling the city - Dr Aya Nassar, Durham University

  • Wednesday 29 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

This talk is inspired by two trajectories in recent scholarship in world politics and political geography that call on poetics as a critical and decolonial praxis. The first is exemplified by the scholarship of Robbie Shilliam and Lousia Odysseos that employs poetics as decolonial ethics, building particularly on the affordance of Walcott, and Glissant (see for instance Shilliam 2012 and Odysseos 2017, 2019). The second, harnesses poetics of space (or geopoetics) as a similar decolonial praxis that also negotiates the materiality of space in understanding the world (or worlding)- and is called upon in practices of translation and critique (Last 2015, 2017a, 2017b). The intersection of these trajectories foregrounds the question of space in knowing the world. How do word, world and aesthetics help un-master sovereign understandings of political order? Drawing on archival research on postcolonial Cairo and narrative politics and auto-ethnographical approaches, I argue for a practice that accommodates materiality as a source of writing postcolonial histories. I argue for an understanding of space as worlding, indeterminate and disruptive. Geopoetics here become a more critical engagement with geophysical geography than geopolitics, which primarily sees the earth ‘as a resource and a military playground’ (Last 2017b, 160). I further propose that by attuning to Geopoetics as an approach that disrupts the lines of inside and outside, here and there, the postcolony can enrich political accounts of the eventful as well as the everyday.

The Fifth Element: Boron recycling in the Iceland mantle plume - Dr Margaret Hartley, University of Manchester

  • Thursday 23 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Iceland’s 500 km of active neovolcanic zones provides a high-resolution and spatially continuous transect across a mantle plume. Basalts erupted near the plume centre carry geochemical signatures such as high 3He/4He that suggest melting of a primitive mantle component. Yet trace elements and lithophile isotope signatures also point to the presence of enriched, recycled oceanic lithosphere in the Icelandic mantle source. Boron is an excellent tracer of recycled material, because it re-introduced to the mantle through subduction of serpentinized oceanic lithosphere. In this talk I will present new boron isotope measurements from suite of crystal-hosted melt inclusions from North Iceland. Do Icelandic magmas carry any distinctive boron isotopic signatures indicative of recycled crustal material? How are mantle-derived boron isotopic signatures modified by crustal assimilation? To what extent can boron isotopic heterogeneity be resolved on the lengthscale of a mantle plume?

Searching for digital places: Four ideas in geographic information science - Dr Andrea Ballatore, Birkbeck, University of London

  • Wednesday 22 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

(1) Place representation and bias. In the geography of user-generated spatial content in Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap, which places are over- or under-represented? What socio-demographic factors are shaping these digital geographies? (2) Googling places. Every day, billions of Internet users rely on search engines to find information about places to make geographic decisions. Why do people search for places? What does this behaviour reveal about place dynamics? (3) A context frame for interactive maps. Most cartography is concerned with what is on the map, although what lies outside is often necessary to interpret it correctly. A context frame can show objects located outside of the map, helping user interaction. (4) Cultural analytics in place. Applying spatial data science to the culture industry can enrich our understanding of cultural geographies. What factors influence place inequalities in the culture industry? Where were Hollywood actors born? And where are museums located in Britain?

The development and future impact of biotechnologies for mineral processing and metal recovery - Professor Barrie Johnson, Bangor University

  • Thursday 16 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Human society is seemingly at a crossroads in its use of metal resources. On the one hand, there are increasing demands not only for increased amounts of metals in general, but also for far more different metals (including rare earth elements) many of which were considered of little or no use or value in the past. This is set against global concerns about the degradation of the environment and the need to reduce carbon and energy footprints. The scale of demand for different metals is doubling every 10 - 20 years and only a small fraction of this can be met by recycling. Traditional metal mining is highly consumptive of energy, with about 5% of total global consumption estimated to be used to haul rocks to the land surface (~99% of which ends up in waste dumps) and to crush and grind them to fine powders (comminution). Scientists working in the fields of geomicrobiology and biohydrometallurgy have long recognised that some microorganisms can be harnessed to extract metals from minerals at ambient temperatures and pressures, and also to recover metals from waste and process waters by targeted biomineralisation. The first trial for using microorganisms to process metal minerals was established over 50 years ago (to extract copper from run-of-mine waste rocks) and has grown in scale to account for ~15% of copper and 5% of gold production worldwide. This presentation will describe how “biomining” has evolved, but why it is still considered a niche technology by most in the mining sector. Recent innovations that offer opportunities to use biotechnologies to exploit metal ores traditionally considered non-economic, due to their locations or mineralogies, will be described, and the financial as well as environment benefits to be gained by more widespread use of “bio” processes for extracting and recovering metals will be highlighted.


Hot-water drilling on Rutford Ice Sheet, West Antarctica - Professor Tavi Murray, University of Swansea

  • Wednesday 15 January 2020, Tea and Coffee 5pm, Lecture 5.30pm, LT1, Bennett Building (Geography)

Fast flowing ice streams and outlet glaciers are the volume regulators for the polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Thus, the flow speed of ice streams is one of the key controls on the ice sheet’s contribution to sea-level rise. The fast flow of ice steams is controlled and facilitated at their base, making it important to understand processes and conditions beneath them. The Rutford Ice Stream is a fast-flowing glacier that drains ice from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the Ronne Ice Shelf. In austral summer 2004-5 with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey we attempted to drill over 2 km through the ice stream to the bed. Unfortunately, the drill hose broke and we were forced to concentrate on surface experiments. We used data from a network of GPS receivers to show the flow of ice streams varies: near the grounding line the flow is modulated accelerating and decelerating at various tidal frequencies. Seismic reflection data were acquired and comparison between surveys in different years shows an period of rapid subglacial erosion (6 m in 6 years). This erosion was followed the deposition of a new drumlin, at the ice stream bed. The drumlin is 10 m high and 100m wide and formed in a period of no more than 7 years. Then in January this year, 2019, we returned to Rutford Ice Stream with a new hot-water drill and for the first time we successfully drilled three holes to the bed. We used these boreholes to undertake experiments at the bed, and to install instrumentation, as well as retrieving the first samples of basal sediments. I will report on both drilling attempts and report on the first scientific results interpreting results from this year’s successful boreholes.

Spirits Of Displacement: Ritual And Spatial Change In Morocco - Dr Stefano Portelli, University of Leicester

  • Wednesday 8 January 2020, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

As urban renewal and gentrification modify the use of both public and private spaces, many unexpected changes appear in disparate realms of social life. One that is seldom acknowledged is religion: by bridging intimate experiences with collective life, religious rituals often depend very much on spatial arrangements. In the Moroccan economic capital of Casablanca, the gentrification of the old city centre, and the relocation of residents in new peripheral neighbourhoods, contribute to the transformation of religious life among the working classes. A brotherhood called 'gnawa,' that performs night rituals of spirit possession through music and dance, and claims symbolic ancestry from West African slaves brought to Morocco from the Sahara desert, is suffering a gradual eviction from the central city where it celebrated most of its ceremonies. Displaced from the spaces where it amalgamated with mainstream society, the brotherhood is experiencing a series of structural changes that highlight how spatial arrangements are crucial for all the social fabric.


Critical Animal Geographies LOL: promoting an intersectional vegan politics through "laughtivism" - Dr Richard White, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Wednesday 11 December 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Drawing attention to the rise of critical animal studies/ geographies over the last two decades, talk focuses on the challenge of “how to” raise people’s awareness of social justice issues in ways that encourages them to care and to act. The first part of the talk thinks through this with reference to "the student body" in particular. Here a series of critical reflections are made that draw on my experiences as a Human Geography student in this Department in the mid-1990s, and as a university lecturer/ "scholar-activist" in more recent years.

The festive timing of this seminar, and the school-tradition of 'showing a film!' as teaching ends – might have influenced the second part of the talk. For it is here that I intend to highlight the success of recent cultural (film/ TV) interventions that draw on humour and satire – laughtivism - as a way of re-thinking dominant human-animal relations. Using Simon Amstell's mockumentary "Carnage!" as a key illustrative example, I will be argued that the ability to make people laugh can potentially enact a powerful radical politics of sight. Significantly, in the context of this talk, such an intervention promises to both challenge hidden (violent) geographies and structures, and persuade more people to identify with a compassionate vegan politics.

Advancements in the Faroe-Shetland Basin: A Perspective from Academic and Industry Research (and back again…) - Dr Kirstie Wright, Shell Centre for Exploration Geoscience, Heriot-Watt University

  • Thursday 5 December 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

The Faroe-Shetland Basin, located along the North Atlantic Margin, is the product of multiple phases of rifting, with the last event in the Palaeocene resulting in the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a known hydrocarbon province and exploration in the region has resulted in the collection of numerous well and seismic datasets aimed at understanding its complex structural, depositional and volcanic history.

Kirstie has worked in and around the Faroe-Shetland Basin since 2008, when she undertook a PhD at Durham University investigating the volcanic seismic stratigraphy of the subaerially erupted flood basalts. In particular this included a lava-fed delta system that once covered half the basin. While not a prospective reservoir, it forms a key component of offshore volcanic provinces. Analogues are found all over the world, with the best modern day examples seen on Hawaii.

Following this, she joined an oil and gas company in 2013 where she worked in intra-volcanic, deltaic, marine and fluvial environments across the basin, but with an industry focus. She rejoined academia in 2017, as a postdoctoral researcher at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh investigating short-lived Cenozoic uplift events and their potential impact on basin development, using subsurface data and 1D basin modelling. This talk will be both a look at being an early career Geoscientist and navigating the options available, together with the research undertaken along the way.

Postponed - The Spatial Demography of Depopulation: The U.S. Example - Professor Rachel Franklin, Professor of Geographical Analysis, Newcastle University

  • Wednesday 4 December 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Although the United States continues to experience robust population growth overall, increases have for years been unevenly distributed across regions, counties, cities, and neighborhoods. Those areas with ongoing population loss face a range of challenges, from demographic to economic to health-related. In this talk we propose a typology of population loss for counties in the United States that can serve to assist policymakers and researchers in identifying vulnerable locations and populations. Our primary proposition is that context matters: along with amount of loss, our classification incorporates measures of both temporal and spatial context. Together these elements differentiate between, for example, counties in growing regions that are experiencing only recent population loss and those for which decline has been persistent over time. We employ contemporary (2000–2010) and historical (1950–2000) county-level population data for the United States to quantify and characterize the areal extent of population decline and to explore demographic characteristics for different types of areas identified in the analysis.

Postponed - Title TBC - Iain MacDonald, Cardiff University

  • Thursday 28 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

Postponed - Title TBC - Dr Ophelie Veron, Geography, University of Sheffield

  • Wednesday 27 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

The pitfalls of using modern fluvial and coastal environments as analogues for the geological record - Gary Nichols, Head of Technical Development, Training RPS

  • Thursday 21 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

The ‘Present is the Key to the Past’ is a basic tenet of sedimentary geology, but it can be misleading if applied uncritically. Two aspects of the limitations of the ‘uniformitarian’ approach are considered:

  1. The use of appropriate analogues, and specifically the use of modern rivers as analogues for ancient fluvial deposits. It is important to use only those rivers that are occurring in current areas of subsidence and these can be shown to have a distributary pattern. Rivers in valleys are generally non-depositional and cannot form a sedimentary succession.  
    The recognition that modern environments do not provide analogues for all of the stratigraphic record. The estuaries found at river mouths today have formed in the particular circumstances of post-glacial rise in sea level. Most of the Phanerozoic was a greenhouse world, and coastal deposition under transgression would nor have resulted in deposition in confined flooded valleys.
  2. The interpretation of sedimentary successions should be carried out without trying to characterise all past deposits in terms of environments found today. It is important to use of the correct analogues and recognise that the modern world is not typical of most of geological history.

White or Caucasian? Technologies of the Racialised Self on Hook-Up Apps - Dr Lucasz Szulc, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield

  • Wednesday 20 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

While the majority of the most popular social media do not ask their users about their race, the majority of the most popular hook-up apps do ask about race in their registration interfaces. Moreover, different hook-up apps provide different predefined race or ethnicity options to choose from. Why does race matter in online self-presentation for romantic and/or sexual purposes? What are the differences in conceptualising race or ethnicity in the predefined options on different hook-up apps? And what do users do with them? In this talk, I will discuss these and other questions about baking race into hook-up apps design, navigating between the macro scale of globally operating digital platforms and the micro scale of everyday uses of the platforms. I will first compare the interfaces of a number of hook-up apps created in different cultural contexts and then discuss how they provoke racialised selves of a particular group of hook-up apps users, Polish LGBTQs in the UK. By intersecting the two scales of analysis, I will centre my talk on the questions of racial imaginations, digital media and globalisation.

From Development to Deep Time: Reconstructing the Evolution of Diversity with a Phenomic Approach - Professor Anjali Goswami, Research Leader, Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum

  • Thursday 14 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

What processes shape organismal diversity over large time scales? Approaches to this question can focus on many different factors, from ecology and life history to environmental change and extinction. Analyses that attempt to identify and model the primary drivers of large-scale patterns of morphological evolution, which, unlike molecular approaches can incorporate fossil data, usually focus exclusively on extrinsic factors, such as environment and extinction. Yet, intrinsic factors, such as genetic and developmental interactions among traits, are a major influence on phenotypic variation, and thus must have exerted a major influence on morphological evolution through deep time. Uniting intrinsic and extrinsic factors in a macroevolutionary framework is typically complicated, however, by differences in the sources, types and scale of data collected. 
I will discuss the patterns of and influences on cranial evolution using a dataset spanning >300 million years of evolution. While most large-scale studies of morphological evolution utilise relatively limited descriptors of morphology, hindering comparisons across clades, surface sliding semi-landmark analysis allows for detailed quantification of complex 3D shapes, even across highly disparate taxa.  We analysed cranial integration and morphological evolution using a dense dataset of 700-1500 landmarks and sliding semi-landmarks for over 1000 species of living and extinct tetrapod species.  Patterns of cranial modularity are generally conserved across large clades (e.g., within mammals, birds, squamates, caecilians), and there are some similarities across all tetrapods, for example in the suspensorium and occipital region.  Nonetheless, there are clear shifts in patterns across these clades, with ecology and life history having significant but differing magnitudes of influence on each clade.  While some clades show evidence that high integration constrains morphological evolution, and disparity is generally limited relative to evolutionary rate, there is not a consistent pattern of constraint relative to magnitude of trait integration across all tetrapods.

From neighbourhood to 'globalhood'? The rise of Airbnb and short-term lets - Professor Alasdair Rae, Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield

  • Wednesday 13 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

“The Scots think of it as their capital city: they're too possessive, Edinburgh belongs to the world.” These are the words of Edinburgh artist Richard Demarco, and in one sense he is right. Edinburgh hosted over 1.5 million international visitors in 2015, many of whom came during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, as they have done for decades. Yet there is a potentially ugly underbelly to Demarco's statement. The proliferation of online short‐term rentals has led to an intensified struggle over the essence of community in parts of Edinburgh, and residents have begun to ask who their neighbourhoods really belong to. This situation is replicated worldwide in cities like London, New York, Berlin, Barcelona, Venice and Sydney. But it also goes beyond the urban and in locations like the Isle of Skye there are real concerns about this type of short-term accommodation. Therefore, in this talk I'll take a closer look at the rise of Airbnb in the UK, with reference to a recent piece of work I've been involved in for the Scottish Government. I have data on the presence of Airbnb for all local authorities across the UK (most of which is not in the public domain) so I will share this data in the form of maps and charts, highlight the experience of people on the ground and discuss how this form of digitally-driven capitalism is both innovative and doubly disruptive. I will also give a little bit of background to my research on this, including the fact that I am something of an accidental researcher in this area.

Scottish Dinosaurs and the Land they Inhabited - Dr Mark Wilkinson, Edinburgh University

  • Thursday 7 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

From recent discoveries, it has become apparent that Scotland was home to a diverse fauna of dinosaurs and other reptiles during the Middle Jurassic. As this is a time period that is poorly represented worldwide in the fossil record, the discoveries are important despite the still limited number of finds. Several footprint sites are now known, these have the advantage over body fossils that they are definitely in-situ. While the general depositional environments of the fossiliferous sediments are well understood, the palaeogeography of Scotland is still debated. It has been proposed both that the Scottish Highlands were extensive upland is the Middle Jurassic, and in contrast that there was a series of large islands separated by seaways, perhaps not very different in topography to the Hebrides at the present day, though rather warmer!

Sediment eroded from the Highlands, and preserved in offshore basins, has an inverse stratigraphy. The lower sand-dominated section (Paleocene – Eocene) is interpreted to be eroded second-cycle sediment, i.e. pre-sorted, with the more muddy fraction removed from the Highland area. The overlying mud-dominated sequence (Oligocene – Recent) is interpreted as first cycle, predominantly derived from the Caledonian basement. Mass balancing volumes of sediment eroded from the area suggest that an average of c. 2km of sediment have been eroded from the area during the Cenozoic. From where was this sediment derived? Plausible sources are the uplifted footwalls of extensional faults, defining half-graben similar to those of the present-day Hebrides. Differential uplift during Paleocene igneous activity associated with the rifting of the North Atlantic uplifted the graben that are now in the Highlands. This resulted in their destruction by erosion, unfortunately complete with the dinosaur fossils they presumably contained.

Understanding past land use and land cover change across East Africa to develop sustainable management futures rooted in the long term - Professor Robert Marchant, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York

  • Wednesday 6 November 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

The landscapes of the Kenya-Tanzania borderlands is characterised by complex relationships between contrasting landscapes from montane water towers to lower elevation savanna ecosystems. The lowlands provide a grazing resource that supports both wildlife, stock and pastoral populations, and host some of the most valuable conservation land in Africa. Focusing on the wider East African landscape, we present a schematic for how societies, landscapes, ecosystems have responded to past climate change and societal use, to better understand how they may respond in the future. We place this in a wider context of challenges around climate change, large direct foreign investments. Here we assemble and query the scientific evidence base of historical land use and land cover change trajectories and socio-ecological drivers since the mid-Holocene, with a particular emphasis on the past few hundred years. Modifications to the ecosystem have particularly intensified over the last centuries, highlighting the challenges to developing pathways to sustainable solutions. These long-term records are crucial for understanding of how social-ecological-environmental interactions have evolved and changed over space and through time. Pressures from global climate change, rapid population growth, competing land use (including wildlife conservation), and new governance regimes present challenges and opportunities to societies, landscapes, ecosystems and Protected Areas in the Kenya-Tanzania borderlands of eastern Africa region; potentially undermining how they can adapt to climate change and maintain sustainable societal use into the future.

Cryogenian glaciation: exploring our planet’s frozen past in some of today’s hottest deserts - Dr Marie Busfield, Aberystwyth University

  • Thursday 31 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

The name of the Cryogenian Period comes from the Greek krýos for icy cold, and in many ways represents a unique time period in Earth’s glacial history. This is a time where evidence of the activity of glaciers and ice sheets is preserved on nearly every modern continent, with many of these regions occupying the tropics and sub-tropics at the time. These icehouse periods lasted several tens of millions of years, yet the debris left behind by these frozen ice masses is immediately overlain by carbonates typically associated with far warmer sea surface temperatures. These characteristics have been used to argue for two long-lived, globally synchronous ice ages, where the whole planet was plunged into a deep freeze, and melted back out of it equally rapidly: a globally frozen Snowball Earth. But delve into the sedimentary record of these icehouse intervals and the picture becomes a lot less clear.

Rather than the unique characteristics of the Cryogenian icehouse, the sedimentary rocks themselves are perfectly ‘normal’ recording multiple cycles of ice advance and recession, evidence of disparate ice masses separated by open, ice-free seaways, a variable glacier thermal regime with free flowing meltwater, and evidence of far more dynamic and variable ice mass behaviour than the Snowball Earth model would predict. The exceptional preservation of these rocks in the desert regions of Death Valley, Utah, Namibia and Australia help us pick apart the sedimentology of the Snowball, and solve a few conundrums of the curious Cryogenian cryosphere.

Incorporating the value of nature into assessments of future energy pathways - Professor Andrew Lovett, UEA

  • Wednesday 30 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

The UK government has made formal commitments to reduce GHG emissions (e.g. under the Climate Change Act 2008 and subsequent amendments) and to protect/improve natural capital and the environment (e.g. as part of the 25 Year Environment Plan). Meeting these objectives requires an integrated approach to two parallel challenges i) decarbonising the energy system and ii) better understanding and valuation of natural capital and ecosystem services. From an academic perspective this involves bringing together two substantial, but rather weakly connected bodies of research, while also acknowledging that this integration in a UK setting needs to recognise the international context (i.e. a whole systems perspective).

The ADVENT project (ADdressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together) has been funded by the National Environment Research Council to develop conceptual frameworks and modelling tools which ‘integrate the analysis of prospective UK energy pathways with considerations relating to the value of natural capital’. This seminar will discuss the need for more attention to energy-environment interactions and present initial results from work to downscale the implications of national energy pathways and incorporate environmental impacts into the assessment of different options.

The origin of the Sahara desert - Professor Paul Wilson, Ocean and Earth Science National Oceanography Centre University of Southampton

  • Thursday 24 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth. Prominent from space, it is a vast, bare landscape that grew by >10% in response to climatic forcing during the 20th century alone and today covers more than 7.5 million km2. It is also the source of about half of the world’s atmospheric dust– a potent fertiliser for biomass production in the Atlantic Ocean and as far away as the Amazonian rainforest.  Yet the timing and cause of the inception of the Sahara is highly controversial. A major factor contributing to the mystery of Saharan origins is the fragmented and poorly dated nature of geological records on land. The University of Southampton have been developing a work-around by reconstructing African climate geochemically by the analysis of deep sea sediments from sites close to the continent. In this seminar Professor Wilson will present some findings which are based on the analysis of drill cores recovered by the largest and most successful international scientific collaboration in the history of earth science, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).

Ireland and the Political Geography of the Abortion Pill - Dr Sydney Calkin, Queen Mary University

  • Wednesday 23 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

In a referendum in May 2018, Ireland voted to repeal its constitutional abortion ban and legislate for abortion provision. This paper addresses two questions on abortion reform in Ireland: Why did abortion pills become so widely accessible in Ireland while it ostensibly had a constitutional abortion ban and criminal sanctions for self-managed abortion? What role did abortion pills play in the repeal of the constitutional abortion ban and the introduction of more liberal laws? I argue that the state’s response to the abortion pill was predominantly shaped by its fragmented understanding of their political and territorial significance. State agencies and actors struggled to conceptualize the meaning of abortion pill flows, so their actions (and calculated inaction) on abortion pills were shaped through analogies to familiar cross-border flows for which they had established responses. Drawing on interviews with activists and politicians, analysis of government documents, and analysis of parliamentary transcripts, this paper brings political geography into conversation with reproductive technologies to understand the geography of illegal pill circulations.

The white factory: Coca, cocaine and political order in Bolivia - Dr Thomas Grisaffi, University of Reading

  • Wednesday 16 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

This seminar traces the political ascent and transformation of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) from an agricultural union of coca growers into Bolivia's ruling party. When Evo Morales—leader of the MAS—became Bolivia's president in 2006, coca growers celebrated his election and the possibility of scaling up their form of grassroots democracy to the national level. Drawing on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork with coca union leaders, peasant farmers, drug traffickers, and politicians, Grisaffi outlines the tension that Morales faced between the realities of international politics and his constituents, who, even if their coca is grown for ritual or medicinal purposes, are implicated in the cocaine trade and criminalized under the U.S.-led drug war. Grisaffi shows how Morales's failure to meet his constituents' demands demonstrates that the full realization of alternative democratic models at the local or national level is constrained or enabled by global political and economic circumstances.

Visual Movement Analytics in a 3D conceptual space - Dr Urška Demšar, University of St Andrews - CANCELLED

  • Wednesday 9 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

Recent developments and ubiquitous use of global positioning devices have revolutionised movement analysis, as we are able to collect increasingly larger movement data sets at increasingly smaller spatial and temporal resolutions. This talk discusses 3D representations of movement. Firstly Dr Urška Demšar introduces volumetric aggregations in a space-time cube (a conceptual 3D space, where the bottom two dimensions represent geographic space and the third dimensions time), the so-called space-time densities. The densities are used to visualise the dynamics of space use over time and to link movement with behavioural information obtained from other data (e.g. linking trajectories of eye and mouse in eye-tracking research and linking movement and behavioural data in marine animal tracking). In the second part of the talk Dr Demšar introduces a 3D volumetric algorithm for a geometric model of space use, the so-called potential path volumes and illustrate its use on real 3D trajectories. To finish some of the open challenges for visual movement analytics will be outlined.

Using seismology to evidence West Antarctic glacial isostatic rebound: the UKANET project - Professor Graham Stuart, University of Leeds

  • Thursday 3 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2), Bennett Building (Geology)

The horizontal or vertical dilemma: using satellite radar polarimetry to monitor the environment - Dr Armando Marino, Senior Lecturer in Earth Observation at the University of Sterling

  • Wednesday 2 October 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a, Bennett Building (Geography)

In some situations, it is hard to decide upon the best orientation of objects in order to extract/convey the most of the information (e.g. should my poster be portrait or landscape?). Engineers and scientists working with SAR satellite also experience similar problems when selecting the orientation of radar antennas during transmission and reception of radar pulses. The science of investigating the orientation of electromagnetic waves is called polarimetry and in the last decades, a large variety of satellites were built that can use polarisation to retrieve bio-physical parameters of objects on our Planet. In this talk, Dr Marino would like to take you for a stroll in my attempts of using signal processing “tricks” to extract information from polarimetric radar data. He will introduce you to basic concepts of Synthetic Aperture Radar polarimetry, and show some case studies considering the monitoring of icebergs, agricultural fields and forests.

Towards a data-based representation of tree mortality and its implications in global vegetation models - Dr Thomas Pugh, School of Geography and Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, University of Birmingham

  • Monday 16 September 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G02, CLCR, Bennett Building (Geography)

Forest carbon turnover rate has been identified as one of the largest uncertainties in understanding whether the terrestrial biosphere will continue to sequester one third of anthropogenic carbon emissions over the next century. This uncertainty is unsurprising if we consider that we do not have a clear picture of the contributions of different processes to this carbon turnover for the present day. Dr Pugh will outline the drivers of differences in global vegetation model simulations of carbon turnover, which highlight the importance of understanding the recent-historical baseline of tree mortality rates. Dr Pugh will then discuss steps that we are taking to better constrain current tree mortality rates and calculate how different processes influence forest structure and carbon cycling. Dr Pugh will particularly focus on large-scale forest disturbance events, presenting recent efforts drawing on space-based and ground-based observations to improve the representation of these disturbance events within a global vegetation model. Using a model-data fusion approach with satellite forest loss products, he will show an estimate of the total contribution of all large-scale disturbance types to recent forest dynamics. Dr Pugh will compare this with the results of forest inventory-based approaches to determining stand age and assess what this implies about disturbance size and the equilibrium of forests with respect to current disturbance regimes. Finally, Dr Pugh will present work implementing relationships of disturbance frequency as a function of forest composition and climate variability from protected forest areas into a DGVM. He will conclude by highlighting key knowledge and data gaps which constrain further progress on this topic and the need for an integrated global approach to tree mortality monitoring.

Giving back to cartography - Dr Kenneth Field, Cartographic Research and Development, ESRI

  • Friday 13 September 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G02, CLCR, Bennett Building (Geography)

In this talk Dr Field will share his passion for cartography and reveal his relationship with cartography to date, through a 20 year academic career in the UK and now in his role at a large GIS software company in California, and how his current focus is about giving back to the discipline to help others on their own cartographic journey. There’s pain and humour along the way. It’s often been a fraught relationship. It’s a scrapbook of Dr Field's life in cartography from student, through academia to the corporate world. He will explore the backstories, the hidden work, challenges and often brutal reality of negotiating a path to get things done when writing a book and building a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

The effects of Palm Oil and Soy Commodities in Amazon: is the certification of chains a driver of deforestation and social impacts? - Professor Nirvia Ravena, Center for Higher Amazonian Studies, Federal University of Para

  • 15 May 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

The presentation aims to explore the debate around the sustainability of commodities chain in Amazonia and their effects on the environment and traditional communities that are situated in the area of the Companies spectrum of action. The research meeting aims to present some initial findings and discuss with Leicester University the possibility of exchange experiences, skills and share the possibilities of research cooperation.

Valuing the bowling alley: Contestations over the preservation of spaces of everyday urban multiculture in London - Dr Emma Jackson, Goldsmiths, University of London

  • 20 March 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

This paper is based on an ethnographic study of a London bowling alley. It builds on ‘the convivial, everyday turn’ by approaching the workings of complex urban spaces of multiculture as entangled with processes of urban change that are infused with judgements and contestations about what is of value. The paper explores the competing value claims made for this leisure space used by a diverse group of people (in terms of dis/ability, ethnicity, gender, class and age) that has been threatened with demolition. It examines how arguments about diversity and inclusivity are deployed in these debates and how official discourses are resisted through the mobilisation of other articulations of social value. The paper argues that the combination of the hollowing out of the concept of diversity and the political and economic context results in a paradox whereby multiculturalism is celebrated as an atmosphere and generator of capital while existing physical spaces of everyday urban multiculture are at best unprotected and at worst not recognised, devalued and demolished. Project website:

Is the diversification of life constrained or expansionist over geological timescales? - Professor Richard Butler, University of Birmingham

  • 14 March 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

Life on land today is highly diverse, comprising 75–95% of all species on Earth. It remains unclear how this biodiversity has been assembled through deep time, and whether diversity is much higher today than at any point in the past. Professor Butler will discuss our new research examining Phanerozoic diversification patterns for terrestrial tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates), using large datasets drawn from the Palaeobiology Database and new methods that adequately account for major variation in spatial sampling through time. Their results indicate that terrestrial tetrapod diversity at both local and regional spatial scales has been constrained over timespans of tens to hundreds of millions of years, and that the modern diversity of the group does not exceed that of the early Cenozoic. The Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction appears to have played a fundamental role in reorganising terrestrial ecosystems, with terrestrial tetrapod diversity more than doubling in its aftermath.

Twilight Islands: Race and Politics in the Shadows of the Contemporary Caribbean - Dr Karen Salt, University of Nottingham

  • 13 March 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Salt defines twilight islands as small, mostly nonhuman inhabited spaces and biodiversity hotspots that represent forgotten lands with deep histories and tragic tales of human warnings about dispossession (between and amongst multiple species). Many of the global interactions with these islands have been framed through the lens of racial difference that has cast the local or regional inhabitants as less able, less political or even less human as compared to people or empires in the North Atlantic or the more amorphous ‘west.’ In leaving these smaller, nonhuman inhabited islands outside of the larger arc of coloniality and empire within histories of these lands and seas, crucial formal and informal networks of control have been left out of narratives and studies of island territories, as well as their presence across the globe. Trapped between tales of becoming and cycles of extraction, twilight islands remain ever outside the structures of justice, reparations or ecological conservation that tend to bring in—and amplify—particular histories within the Caribbean region. For many of these islands, dwelling in twilight means living within racial logics that continue the destruction, consumption or slow depletion of their ecosystems. This chapter responds to Derek Walcott's musings on twilight, Rob Nixon's challenge to consider the ‘unmourned’ places that surround us, and Avery Gordon’s theorization of ‘haunting’ to bring these twilight islands into view and consequence. It will explore these themes and resonant modes of working through a range of Caribbean works that re-frame notions of place and race within longer ecological spirals and complex racial logics. In wrestling with these responses to twilight and its cycles, Salt begins to imagine how archipelagic justice may offer a road map to futurity for living (and surviving) within the Americas.

Pyrite as ore and gangue in hydrothermal systems: potential and pitfalls - Dr Sarah Gleeson, (GFZ Helmholtz Centre Potsdam and Freie Universität, Berlin) MIN SOC

  • 7 March 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

Pyrite is the most common sulphide mineral in the Earth’s crust, and is found in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Pyrite is also a common gangue mineral in hydrothermal ore deposits formed in sedimentary basins, and in one type of Au deposit, the Carlin type deposits (Nevada), arsenian pyrite is the primary ore mineral. In order to assess how Au is sequestered from hydrothermal fluids into As-rich pyrite, experiments have been conducted at conditions similar to those in which Carlin type Au deposits form. The sequestration of gold into pyrite appears to be dependent on the concentration of As in the fluid; at high As concentrations, Au is strongly partitioned into pyrite. This suggests that simple partitioning (and the underlying process of adsorption) is the major depositional process in forming these giant deposits.

In sediment-hosted Zn deposits, pyrite is a major pre-, syn- and post-ore phase, and may often be the most abundant sulphide mineral present. As such, differentiating between background and ore-stage pyrite is critical for understanding the footprint of the deposit. For example, pyrite enrichment has previously been considered to be a distal expression of exhalative hydrothermal systems, and used as an exploration vector to mineralization. More recently, however, the coupling careful petrography with in situ techniques (LA-ICP-MS and SIMS) has revealed a more nuanced story. In some of the better-preserved deposits, it is clear that hydrothermal mineralization post-dates early diagenesis and pre-ore pyrite formation. As such, the distribution of hydrothermal pyrite around deposits (‘pyrite halo’) formed in the sub-surface is more restricted than previously thought. Moreover, trace element maps of hydrothermal pyrite in large ore deposit are complex and highlight the challenge we face in scaling up micro-analytical data to 3d volumes of crustal rocks as represented by economic ore deposits.

Earth Observation for Good (#EO4Good)? - Dr Doreen Boyd, University of Nottingham

  • 6 March 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

In 2015, member countries of the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York. These global goals have 169 targets and 232 indicators that are based on the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. Substantial challenges remain in obtaining data of the required quality to address these goals, especially in developing countries, given the often limited resources available. This seminar will showcase a number of on-going projects that demonstrate the important contribution that EO makes towards populating a wide diversity of the SDG indicators. A plethora of EO data types (from satellite to “drones”), methodologies (e.g., citizen science to Artificial Intelligence) and engagement will be discussed. Come along and find out how the wetlands of Mexico, forests of Borneo, modern slaves of south Asia have benefited from EO and the unexpected discoveries made along the way. As EO technology evolves and the data become more open, #EO4Good is a term I will advocate.

Fly-ash particles as indicators of environmental change - Professor Neil Rose, University College London

  • 28 February 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

Fly-ash is the particulate by-product of fossil-fuel combustion and is emitted with flue-gases into the atmosphere. The scale of emissions is vast and the distinctive morphology of these particles means that they are unambiguous indicators of contamination from these sources. This talk will describe the use of these particles as indicators of fossil-fuel derived contamination, both spatially and temporally and how they have been employed in the acid rain debate, as proxies for other pollutants and more recently as a potential marker for the Anthropocene.

From planting soft Pakistan to how articulated experience of non-human life animate development - Dr Daanish Mustafa, Reader in Politics and Environment, Department of Geography, King’s College London

  • 27 February 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Do plants have anything to tell us about the cultural politics of nation building and aspirational urbanism in the global South? In Pakistan plants are mobilised in very politically charged ways to enact elite fantasies of modern urbanism. That aspirational urbanism is not only complicit in the production of national and global scales, but also makes for, at times a fatally dystopian urban experience for the urban poor. A set of running themes of militarism, soft image of Pakistan to neo-liberal development converge upon exotic plants and especially the date palm. We have leveraged the insights of this completed research project to develop a proposal to investigate how cultural memory and articulated experience of the non-human life animates development practice in the violence prone context of Pakistan. The project will seek out pathways for a foundational reengagement of cultural memory and experience with peacemaking and sustainable development practice. I hope to get some critical feedback on the research conducted, and the proposal ideas in my presentation.

Surveillance Anxiety in the Smart City: Learning from Music Festivals - Dr Jeremy Crampton, Associate Editor, Dialogues in Human Geography and Professor of Urban Data Analysis, Newcastle University, UK

  • 20 February 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Music festivals have often been places of freedom where attendees have been able to escape the governance of everyday social norms and assert a desired self. However, festivals have recently had to grapple with a number of high-profile incidents including deaths, drug confiscations, pick-pockets and a mass shooting. As a result, they have rapidly introduced new smart security measures into formerly less-policed spaces. Given the rapidity of these measures, I ask if festivals can provide important lessons about surveillance in the smart city. I will present the results of a preliminary survey of festival-goers which examines attitudes around surveillance anxiety. Although a significant proportion of respondents reported they experience surveillance anxiety, men, women and non-binary people differed markedly in their attitudes to surveillance. These findings indicate we need to think more carefully about the effects of surveillance in the smart city.

Axial development strategies: Catalyzing New Mobilities and Immobilities in Mongolia - Dr Batbuyan Batjav from Mongolia

  • 13 February 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Natural disasters (such as droughts and dzud) continue to make Mongolian herders leave their homelands in search of a better quality of life. To better understand the choice of routes, the points of juncture (sites of resource, service, or amenity concentration), and the networks into which new or improved infrastructure becomes integrated is essential in promoting political, cultural, and socio-economic sustainability in specific places. My study focuses on determines the settlement patterns of rural population in Mongolia and the socioeconomic factors that affect them, thereby identifying the differences in territories and defining the future development trend of rural populations. The preliminary findings clearly show how a complexity of changes are migration, is affecting and challenging the rural systems of Mongolia. Moreover, axial development strategies (the building of roads to catalyze development) currently deployed within Mongolia constitute microenvironment of population distribution.

Moving beyond ‘just-so’ stories: computer simulation and hypothesis testing in palaeontology - Dr Imran Rahman, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, UK

  • 7 February 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

Palaeontologists have always been fascinated with how ancient organisms moved and fed, and what particular anatomical structures were used for. It has long proven difficult to address these questions in ways that allow specific hypotheses to be tested, and so endeavours in the field are frequently dismissed as unscientific ‘just-so’ stories. However, the increasing availability of techniques for visualizing and analysing fossils digitally and in three dimensions provides a quantitative framework for testing specific hypotheses in extinct taxa. One such method is computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, a tool for simulating flows of fluids and their interaction with solid surfaces. In this talk, I will present case studies of CFD used to test functional hypotheses in different fossil groups, shedding light on the ecology and evolution of a variety of ancient organisms.

Mass extinction in hyperthermal worlds - Dr Alex Dunhill, University of Leeds

  • 31 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

The biosphere was subjected to a number of hyperthermal warming-driven mass extinctions during the late Palaeozoic-early Mesozoic that nearly extinguished life from the planet. Why was life pushed to the brink so often during this period of Earth history and what were the lasting effects, both evolutionary and ecologically, from these crises? I present a number of case studies from the Late Permian, Late Triassic and Early Jurassic extinction events in an attempt to answer these questions.

Drought in the Anthropocene: examples from around the world - Dr Anne van Loon, University of Birmingham

  • 30 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

In the current human-modified world, or ‘Anthropocene’, the state of water stores (soil water, groundwater) and fluxes (river flow) has become dependent on human actions as well as on natural processes. Hydrological droughts are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows and storage changes. In this presentation, we visit example catchments around the world where human and natural drought processes are strongly interrelated. With a targeted methodological framework, the influence of human interventions on drought are quantified, showing both aggravating and alleviating effects. I will also discuss responses to drought and feedbacks between drought and society, with the aim to get a more general understanding about drought in the Anthropocene.

Nitrogen isotope analysis on foraminifera and corals - Alan Foreman, Max-Planck institute, Mainz

  • 18 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

The anatomy of an Ordovician arc-continent collision; Newfoundland and Ireland - John Dewey, University of Oxford

  • 17 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, TA2 (G72) Bennett Building (Geology)

This presentation reports on recent work conducted by Warwick Business School and the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) into future gas security in the UK. By way of introduction, the role of natural gas in the UK’s low carbon energy transition is considered. A supply chain approach is then used to assess that current situation and future challenges to gas security, including the impact of Brexit. The presentation concludes by exploring the key uncertainties around the future role of gas and their implications for UK energy security. The findings have wider implications for the relationship between climate change and the role of gas in Europe’s energy mix.

Michael Bradshaw is Professor of Global Energy in the Strategy and International Business Group at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. He previously held academic posts in Geography at the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester. He works at the interface between geography, international relations and business and management. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG) and a member of Council, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He holds an MA from the University of Calgary and a PhD from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is the author of Global Energy Dilemmas (2014, Polity Press), co-editor of Global Energy: Issues, Potentials and Policy Implications (2015, Oxford University Press), and co-author of Energy and Society: A Critical Perspective (2018, Routledge). He led the social science elements of the EU’s H2020 M4 Shale Gas project, is currently involved in a programme of research on the global impacts of unconventional oil and gas for the UK Energy Research Centre and is monitoring and assessing the UK shale gas landscape as part of a 4-year NERC/ESRC research programme on Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK Energy System. He has recently published papers in Economic Geography, Global Environmental Change, Energy Policy, International Affairs and Extractive Industries and Society.

Predictors of Performance: Conditions driving success in PES schemes to prevent peat fires in Indonesia - Dr Rachel Carmenta, Frank Jackson Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

  • 16 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

This talk will focus on the carbon dense peatland frontiers of Indonesia. A landscape of global importance, and a contemporary frontier of land use change. In Indonesia, burning associated with land preparation has induced large-scale wildfires, which are a persistent environmental, humanitarian and economic challenge. Numerous legislations, policies and programs to mitigate peat fires and govern towards responsible peatland management have largely failed, indicating that solutions are complex.

Interventions that support land users agricultural and production needs in combination with measures to induce forest protection have been proposed as an optimal strategy to secure sustainable outcomes. Payments for environmental service (PES) type approaches are expected to perform strongly by making rewards strictly conditional on environmental performance. A recent standardized private sector PES initiative has generated variable success and provides a unique opportunity to study the conditions associated with its performance. 

We collected primary survey data (n 303) in 10 villages in Sumatra Indonesia, and combine it with geospatial data of land cover and plantation extent. We apply our data to a two-step qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to conduct a systematic cross-case comparison to identify the conditions, and combinations of conditions, that are related to the variable performance of the initiative. This contribution is particularly salient given the present, resurgent interest in peat fire mitigation from donors and policy-makers in response to the catastrophic fires of 2015, and the rapid development of literature examining the performance of PES initiatives.

Energy Security and the low-carbon transition: the future of natural gas in the UK - Michael Bradshaw, Professor of Global Energy, Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick

  • 9 January 2019, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

This presentation reports on recent work conducted by Warwick Business School and the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) into future gas security in the UK. By way of introduction, the role of natural gas in the UK’s low carbon energy transition is considered. A supply chain approach is then used to assess that current situation and future challenges to gas security, including the impact of Brexit. The presentation concludes by exploring the key uncertainties around the future role of gas and their implications for UK energy security. The findings have wider implications for the relationship between climate change and the role of gas in Europe’s energy mix.

Michael Bradshaw is Professor of Global Energy in the Strategy and International Business Group at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. He previously held academic posts in Geography at the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester. He works at the interface between geography, international relations and business and management. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG) and a member of Council, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He holds an MA from the University of Calgary and a PhD from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is the author of Global Energy Dilemmas (2014, Polity Press), co-editor of Global Energy: Issues, Potentials and Policy Implications (2015, Oxford University Press), and co-author of Energy and Society: A Critical Perspective (2018, Routledge). He led the social science elements of the EU’s H2020 M4 Shale Gas project, is currently involved in a programme of research on the global impacts of unconventional oil and gas for the UK Energy Research Centre and is monitoring and assessing the UK shale gas landscape as part of a 4-year NERC/ESRC research programme on Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK Energy System. He has recently published papers in Economic Geography, Global Environmental Change, Energy Policy, International Affairs and Extractive Industries and Society.


The birth, demise and reincarnation of Snowball Earth - Ian Fairchild, University of Birmingham and Trustee, Hertfordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust

  • 6 December 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett Building (Geology)

Snowball Earth constitutes a theoretical framework for extreme glaciation at times in Earth history when glaciers extended to sea level in the tropics. A rich array of hypotheses have been generated and tested. Tested propositions include the storyline that ice ages were discrete, long-lasting episodes during which atmospheric carbon dioxide builds up to a level that ultimately leads to their demise.

Physical evidence exists, within geological successions located in the tropics, of extreme cold arid environments like those of modern Antarctica (and sometimes used as Mars analogues). Variations in ice cover related to Milankovitch forcing was also a feature of the later stages of a Snowball event and may also be influential in the build-up phase in those rare cases where sedimentary deposition continues during major sea level fall at the onset of glaciation. Snowball Earth continues to provide an extreme testing ground for our theories of Earth system behaviour and organic evolution.

The volatile planet: Carbon, water and the deep Earth - Olly Lord, University of Bristol

  • 29 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett Building (Geology)

Life on Earth is made possible by its volatile rich surface. These volatiles (mainly H2O and CO2) are cycled between the oceans, atmosphere and biosphere on geologically short timescales. While exchange between these surface reservoirs and the deep Earth (the mantle and core) through subduction and volcanism is slower, the deep Earth has the potential to dwarf the volatile capacity of the surface. The form and location of these volatiles within the deep Earth is likely to have a significant effect on the geochemical and geodynamic evolution of our planet and indeed the long-term maintenance of clement surface conditions. In this talk I will focus on our recent experimental efforts to understand the fate of subducted carbon and water as well as the new techniques we are developing to help us understand its geochemical and geodynamic implications.

Bearspace: geographies of fat stigma in a gay/bisexual men’s subculture - Nick McGlynn, University of Brighton

  • 28 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

The UK is said to be grappling with an ‘obesity epidemic’ – an explosive and dangerous build-up of fat bodies framed as inherently unhealthy, irresponsible, unproductive, and sexually repulsive. Unsurprisingly fatness is highly stigmatised, with resultant serious mental/physical health impacts. Men are increasingly affected by fat stigma and it is known to be intensified in gay/bisexual men’s spaces. Yet the impacts of fat stigma on men’s health or sexuality have received little academic attention – particularly within geography. My research aims to uncover the role of geography in the marginalisation and/or empowerment of fat gay/bisexual men in the UK.

I bring together space, fatness and sexuality through work in the ‘Bear’ community - a large global subculture of large-bodied gay/bisexual men. ‘Bear spaces’ such as bars, clubs, and events are often experienced as ‘safe spaces’ for men excluded from both ‘mainstream’ (due to sexuality) and gay/bisexual men’s spaces (due to fatness). In this seminar I will discuss the Bearspace Project which tackles these issues. First, I explain the project’s intellectual origins in historical writing on the Bear subculture, and in research on fat geographies. Second, I outline the project’s progress to date and the programme for future work.

The Oman Drilling Project: why and how to drill oceanic lithosphere in an Arabian Desert - Jude Coggon, University of Southampton

  • 22 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 Bennett Building (Geology)

Mid-ocean ridge spreading re-paves two-thirds of the Earth's surface every ~200 Ma, however, we have never sampled an intact section through the lower crust and into the mantle. Ophiolites provide an opportunity to recover continuous cores across these critical boundaries avoiding many of the technical difficulties of drilling at sea. The Oman Drilling Project (OmanDP) is an international scientific drilling project with the overarching aim of investigating the processes of formation and evolution of the lower oceanic crust and lithospheric mantle from the ridge, via hydrothermal alteration and obduction to modern day chemical and and microbial weathering. Fifteen boreholes (nine fully cored and six rotary) were successfully drilled in the Samail Ophiolite during two operational phases in order to sample a section through the lower crust, across the basal thrust of the ophiolite and into the metamorphic sole. More than 3200 m of core was recovered and logged to IODP standard on-board the DV Chikyu, in Japan. Hydrological testing and microbiological sampling will continue at a multi-borehole test site in partially serpentinised peridotite. I will present an overview of the drilling operations and a first look at these unique samples.

Proximal sensing from the Nephosphere: drones, kites and fine-grained geospatial data for monitoring environmental change - Karen Anderson, University of Exeter

  • 21 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Karen Anderson is a physical geographer and remote sensing scientist at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. Her research addresses questions about the relationships between spatial pattern, volumetric structure and ecosystem function in vegetated systems using remote and proximal sensing observations. Karen founded, and leads the DroneLab research group at Exeter. Together with her research group, and wider collaborators, Karen’s work has developed new ways of measuring biomass variations in drylands, hydrological functioning in wetlands and spatial distribution of urban ecosystem services, using spatial data captured by satellites, aircraft and drones.

Data captured from lightweight drone platforms have been a major feature within Karen’s recent research, and to an extent, this mirrors a reshaping of the way that spatial data are captured for physical geography research generally. Karen’s seminar will discuss this shift from ‘remote’ to ‘proximal’ sensing and the opportunities and challenges this poses for geographers and environmental scientists.  Calling on examples from research in drylands (South Western USA), tropical plantations (Malaysia), peatlands (Exmoor, UK), sand dune systems (Cornwall, UK), and rock glaciers (Khumbu Himal, Nepal), the seminar will show the various ways in which the proximal sensing viewpoint can deliver new insights into fine-grained environmental processes. Alongside, issues of spatial uncertainty and the detailed aspects of methodological work involved in extracting information from drone- and kite-derived photogrammetric point clouds, will be discussed.  

The seminar should be of interest to physical and human geographers alike. Drones transform the ‘remote sensing’ workflow from one where data are delivered by third party organisations to researchers, to one in which the researcher becomes the data provider. This shift carries with it great potential, and great responsibility (both operationally, and from a data quality perspective). Drones of course, have long been part of the geographic imagination: whilst “human geography suddenly seems afloat with airs and winds, fogs and aerial fluids, with volumes, verticals and objects in the air” (Adey 2015), physical geography is entering a new proximal sensing era with widespread use of drones and kites. The Nephosphere (see Garrett and Anderson (2018)) defines the (often contested) near-surface airspace within which drones can operate. From the Greek, nepho (cloud), and sphere (round geometrical three‐dimensional [3D] object), the term engenders a volumetric perspective that is, generally, above rooftops and below piloted airplanes, an area of the sky previously looked at but rarely from, and the habitat for the drone.  As geographers expand their drone operations within the Nephosphere, there is a growing need for interdisciplinary conversations about the ethical, social and political ramifications of these praxes, which is something that the combined philosophy of human and physical geography has the potential to deliver.

Taking the pulse of the tropical oceans through the coral’s lens - Jens Zinke, University of Leicester

  • 15 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett Building (Geology)

The tropical ocean is also a key player in regional and global climate dynamics – especially in terms of seasonal, interannual and decadal climate variability – the time scales most relevant to human societies. Current warming of the global Tropics with anthropogenic climate change continues unabated and has already forced regional-scale climatic variables beyond the range of historical experience. Valuable ecosystems, such as coral reefs, are already adversely affected by climate change and are predicted to continue to do so in coming decades even when large reductions in carbon emissions to limit warming to 2°C by 2100 were successful. However, due to the lack of long instrumental climate records from the tropical oceans we are left with rather large uncertainties in model-based climate change process studies of past and future responses of tropical ecosystems to climate change on a variety of time scales.

Therefore, it is my goal to take the pulse of the tropical ocean with the help of stony corals, the iconic sentinels of the Tropics, as natural sensors of past and current tropical climate and environmental change and variability over their long, multi-century life span. In my presentation I will provide examples of geochemical reconstructions of tropical climate from corals. I will outline some key research areas where I aim to develop new reconstructions of tropical climate change as part of newly funded research projects and a Royal Society Wolfson award.

Water Security and multi-functionality of the water supply chain - Louise Bracken, Durham University

  • 14 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Water security and sustainability is a major global concern (socially, economically and environmentally) with approximately 80% of the world’s population facing a high-level of water security. However, water security lacks a clearly agreed definition and multiple approaches to understanding and estimating the term exist. Issues exist around reconciling the interests of different views to be able to maintain acceptable levels of water-related risks while balancing support for livelihood, human well-being, socioeconomic development and ecosystem functioning. In this seminar I will examine the different definitions of water security, explore existing conceptual frameworks and outline the current operational models for analysis of water security. I will then discuss the relationship between managing water resources and water security through two examples; inter basin water transfer in India and catchment management for drinking water supply in the UK. I will end the seminar by proposing a new conceptual model, the water mix, for examining water availability and consumption at a range of scales.

Can models simulate climates of the past? - Alan Haywood, University of Leeds

  • 1 November 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett (Geology)

Our best understanding of the physics of the atmosphere, ocean and land systems have been incorporated into numerical models of climate. These models represent the vanguard of our effort to predict the impacts associated with the anthropogenic modification of our climate system. Accurate prediction is vital for climate mitigation and adaptation pathway to be accurate, meaningful and trustworthy. The stakes have never been higher.

However, the unique opportunity afforded by palaeo data/model comparison comes with the challenging of adequately identifying and quantifying sources of uncertainty that are unique to this science. These uncertainties are of course partly model related, but they are also linked to inherent limitations in providing climate models with accurate boundary conditions for deep time, as well as within quantitative palaeothermometry techniques themselves.

Here I re-evaluate the patterns of data/model disagreement in the context of known uncertainties in model performance, the specification of accurate boundary conditions, and the interpretation of proxy data. The outcome of this reanalysis is a conclusion that is in many respects surprising, and at minimum suggests a more balanced evaluation of model performance than has been provided before. It indicates that great care and caution is needed in using the outcomes of deep time data/model comparisons to justify the modification of process representation within climate models used for future climate change prediction.

Co-producing a research agenda for sustainable palm oil - Rory Padfield, Oxford Brookes University

  • 31 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

Co-design of research processes and co-production of knowledge are key elements of transdisciplinarity, a way of conducting research that integrates different disciplinary perspectives whilst incorporating stakeholder views into the research design. Focusing on the topic of palm oil – a much-maligned yet generally misunderstood vegetable oil – this paper presents the findings of a global multi-stakeholder engagement exercise in order to identify priority research questions for the study of palm oil sustainability. In addition to an analysis of the highest priority research themes that emerged, the papers explores the similarities and differences towards the questions between different stakeholder groups. The paper concludes with a number of recommendations to help re-align current research efforts towards those deemed to be the most urgent.

A 3.77 (or possibly 4.28) billion year history of microbial communities associated with marine hydrothermal vents - Crispin Little, University of Leeds

  • 25 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett (Geology)

Modern hydrothermal vents provide diverse environments for microorganisms. Here there is a large phylogenetic and physiological diversity of bacteria and archaea, occurring in a wide range habitats. An assumption is that similar communities of microorganisms have been present on Earth for an extremely long time, given that there is direct evidence of marine hydrothermal activity going back to the Archaean eon (which began 4 billion years ago), and the hypothesis that life may have originated in these environments. In this presentation I will review the fossil record of microorganisms at hydrothermal vents, which comes from two different rock types: volcanogenic massive sulfides (VMS), which formed at high temperature vents, and jaspers (iron-silica rocks), which formed at low-temperature, sulfide-poor vents. Occurrences of microorganisms in VMS go back to the Palaeoarchaean era (3.235 billion years ago) and in jaspers to the Eoarchaean (3.770, or possibly 4.280, billion years ago), with the latter being the oldest organisms yet discovered on Earth. These very dates suggest that life may have been possible on Mars during its equivalent aged warmer period, and that life may be found at putative hydrothermal sites on the icy moons with liquid oceans (e.g. Europa and Enceladus).

A critical physical geography of peat fire within socio-biophysical landscapes in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia - Jenny Goldstein, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University

  • 24 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, LT5 Bennett Building (Geography)

Widespread drainage of Indonesia’s peatlands used for plantation agriculture has resulted in near-annual landscape-scale fires, causing severe air pollution, economic losses, and health impacts for millions of Southeast Asia residents. Yet not all fire in peatlands transition from a surface fire to a sub-surface peat fire, the latter of which is the source of the most dangerous air pollution. While draining peatlands creates the biophysical conditions that enable peat fires, specific fire occurrence depends on the interaction of biophysical and socio-political factors that create and respond to those conditions. Based on cross-disciplinary field research with collaborators in a degraded peatland ecosystem in Central Kalimantan province, I take a Critical Physical Geography approach to argue that sub-surface peat fire behaviour is dependent on a range of site-specific socio-political and biophysical dynamics that extend beyond peatland drainage and human-led fire ignition.

Assessing human exposure to air pollution - do we have the correct tools for the job? - John Gulliver, University of Leicester

  • 18 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett (Geology)

In May 2018 the EU Commission referred France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to respect agreed air quality limit values. This decision is based on data from a network of air pollution monitoring stations that are geographically distributed across Europe.

Most people, however, spend most of their time indoors at home, and the remainder of their time travelling, at school/work, or elsewhere, where air quality is not necessarily the same as measured at the monitoring stations. Do we therefore need more appropriate methods to inform EU law on air quality and to better understand human exposure and health effects of air pollution?

Earth Observation: Is the UK public sector analysis ready? - Paul Robinson, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

  • 17 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

The EU’s Copernicus Programme is now generating unprecedented quantities of data from a suite of satellites that is released under an open data policy. This session provided a background of work being done to enable access to pre-processed, analysis-ready forms of that data, as well as details of the ongoing research programme aiming to utilise that data to meet policy requirements across the UK environment sector.

The rise of eukaryotes: Environmental controls on the early fossil record - Ross Anderson, University of Oxford

  • 11 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, G72 (TA2) Bennett Building (Geology)

The Neoproterozoic-earliest Palaeozoic emergence and diversification of complex eukaryotic life is one of the most fundamental transitions in the history of life on Earth. Fossils provide the only direct way to test hypotheses for the sequence of evolutionary events, yet the early fossil record is compromised.

Before organisms with biomineralised parts like shells or skeletons were common, we are reliant on environmental circumstances in which decay-prone organisms can be preserved. The rarity of these circumstances means fossils are similarly rare; and our limited understanding of the preservation processes mean we unable to know whether the ecological and temporal ranges of fossil organisms are real or artefacts of changing preservation potential.

Here I investigate the role clay minerals, both in the surrounding sediment and when attached to organic remains, in Burgess Shale-type (BST) fossilisation, one of the most common pathways for the preservation of decay-prone organisms. An improved understanding of BST fossilization will enable vital new fossils to be found and will enhance our palaeobiological understanding of these important assemblages.

The politics of food qualities: Fresh perspectives on sustainable food systems - David Evans, University of Sheffield

  • 10 October 2018, 1.00pm-2.00pm, F75a Bennett Building (Geography)

This presentation explores the industrial production of ‘freshness’ (cf. Freidberg 2009) as a quality of food in the UK and Portugal. Freshness is a paradoxical concept when applied to food insofar as the availability of produce that is thought to be ‘fresh’ (and by extension safe, healthy, wholesome and so on) relies on processes that are often anything but ‘natural’ (relying as they do on technological innovation and organisational interference).

Drawing on a range of empirical materials - including key informant interviews with retailers and technical experts, archival sources, and observations with supply chain actors and households - I address the multiple and mutable meanings and uses to which the term ‘freshness’ is put. Rather than seeing these differences as contrasting perspectives on essentially the same thing, or as social constructions, I approach ‘freshness’ as a matter of enactment. The analysis considers the ontological politics of food qualities by exploring how different enactments of ‘freshness’ - temporal, technological, statistical, sensory - clash with but also collaborate with and rely on one another.

Focusing on the development and application of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), and on competing sources of fresh food provisioning (supermarkets, greengrocers and so on), attention is paid to the enrolment of consumers in particular enactments of freshness; the distribution of responsibilities for health and sustainability outcomes, and the (moral and political) economic realities that are modulated through these performances of qualities. Crucially I suggest that the articulation of value permits the alignment of different ontologies and thus interpret the paradox of industrial freshness as a matter of convention and public secrecy.

To conclude I return to the environmental consequences of this stabilization and argue that the slipperiness of qualities combined with the stickiness of conventions poses a particular challenge (and calls forth new responses) to the sustainability of food systems.

David Evans is a Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield. His work is located in the geographies and sociology of consumption and material culture, with particular interests in food and sustainability.