Research Seminars for 2017/18

Both external and internal speakers are invited to the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment to present the latest results of their research. Everyone is invited, so please come along!

Semester 1

DateSpeakerTitle

4th October 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GL)

 

Henning Bauch

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research c/o GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel, Germany

Climate change and the role of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – A “fresh” view from different angles

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is an integral part of the Earth's climate system as it is instrumental in carrying the atmospheric heat generated in the tropics northward into the Arctic via oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Over the North Atlantic region climate variability during the Quaternary has been identified on various time scales due to changes in AMOC, ranging from glacial-interglacial, to millennial-centennial, and down to multi-decadal. Naturally, the processes involved – actively and/or secondarily as a feedback – were also quite variable, both temporally as well as spatially.

This lecture provides an overview and some new thoughts on crucial aspects of the causes and consequences of glacial and interglacial paleoenvironmental conditions as they are identified in marine sediments from different areas of the global ocean, that is, from the high-latitude polar regions to the subtropics.

5th October 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Victoria McCoy

Newton International Fellow, University of Leicester

Soft tissue preservation in amber

Preservation of fossils in amber appears to be simple and perfect: an organism is entombed in resin, which hardens, protecting the carcass and ‘freezing’ it in time. However, although almost all fossils in amber look perfect to the naked eye, recent studies have revealed that this is often just an illusion.

The best preserved specimens are indeed perfect, and include external cuticle as well as internal soft tissues such as flight muscles and neural tissues. In contrast, many other amber sites are simply hollow molds, stained to a life-like color with remnant carbon. Actualistic taphonomic experiments reveal the factors that contribute to this variable preservation of fossils in amber.

This lecture will look at the future of amber palaeontology and how we can more accurately interpret the amber fossil record.

11th October 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Claire Belcher

Associate Professor in Earth System Science, University of Exeter

Fire Behaviour: Present and Past

Wildfires have occurred on Earth for some 410 million years. They have shaped our ecosystems and help regulate the habitability of our planet.

The impacts of fires must be tied to fire behaviour, that describes the energy flux within a fire and its distribution across a burned area.

Dr Belcher will present a snapshot of the wildFIRE Lab’s research that is developing novel tools and approaches to estimate fire behaviour across both modern- and deep-timescales in order to:

  1. Inform land management practices following modern wildfires
  2. Understand the palaeoecological impact of fires and their contribution to long‐term Earth System processes.

12th October 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Professor Jim Briden

Emeritus, University of Oxford

 

One day in the life of a Continental Drifter

The Continental Drift Controversy lasted for over 50 years with opponents (“fixists”) in the majority throughout.The tipping point in favour of Drift came suddenly, on a November day in 1966 in New York City - paradoxically at a conference intended to decide how to tackle the geology of the Moon in the Apollo landings, and geology had little part to play in the decisive discoveries. In retrospect it is clear that the balance of evidence had actually shifted some years previously. In this talk Professor Briden will explore why majority acceptance of drift was so delayed, what were the new discoveries that came together so unexpectedly and decisively, and why it still took a couple of years for the full Plate Tectonic model of earth dynamics to emerge.

19th October 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Professor Gavin Foster

Professor of Isotope Geochemistry, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton

Insights into our warm future from the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)

Our relatively recent geological past contains numerous real-world examples of the Earth functioning in altered climate states. Intervals of past global warmth hold the potential to provide unique insights into how the Earth System functions when significantly warmer than today and presents a reality check for the imperfect climate model simulations of our warm future. In particular, observations of our geological past allows us to explore the “unknown unknowns” that are impossible to parameterise even in the most sophisticated climate or Earth system model.

In this lecture Professor Foster will present new boron isotope data from the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) ~56 million years ago.  The PETM is an interval of global warmth commonly interpreted as being driven by the massive and rapid destabilization of carbon from surficial sedimentary reservoirs. If this interpretation is correct, this event has both important implications for the amplification of future fossil fuel emissions via carbon-climate feedbacks and offers a way to examine how climate sensitivity may vary as a function of background climate state.

25th October 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Professor David Evans

Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield

POSTPONED

The politics of food qualities: Fresh perspectives on sustainable food systems

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 – Professor Evans addresses 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, He approaches ‘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 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 Professor Evans suggests 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 he returns 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.

26th October 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Dave Holwell

Associate Professor in Applied and Environmental Geology, University of Leicester

Death of magmatic Ni deposit, reincarnated in hydrothermal form

Magmatic sulfides hosted by mafic/ultramafic rocks are the largest resource of Ni and platinum group elements (PGE) on the planet. The genesis of these deposits by magmatic processes of sulfide saturation, enrichment and fractionation are well constrained. However, there are some Ni and PGE deposits that occur as hydrothermal deposits. These have puzzled economic geologists for years due to the largely immobile behaviour of Ni and PGE in hydrothermal fluids and most have loosely assumed a connection with magmatic sulfides, but that link is, as yet, unproven. By using Zeiss’ automated mineralogy to fully quantify a suite of samples that represent the alteration and destruction of magmatic sulfides under specific geologic conditions, it is apparent that this process liberates significant Ni, Cu, Fe, S and Pd to a fluid phase, such that it becomes a viable source of these metals into hydrothermal fluids, and whilst causing the death of the magmatic ore deposit, it has the potential to rise again and become one of these enigmatic hydrothermal Ni and PGE deposits.

1st November 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Thomas Smith

Lecturer in Physical & Environmental Geography, King’s College London

Smoke and mirrors: Why are tropical biomass burning emissions important? And how do we measure them?

Tropical peat swamp fires in Southeast Asia are a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs), responsible for climate change; and reactive gases and aerosols, responsible for poor regional air quality affecting hundreds of millions of people. Approximately 90% of seasonal haze in Southeast Asia is due to fires burning on peatlands. This talk will explore recent developments made by the Wildfire Research Team at King’s College London and their collaborations to improve estimates of total emissions from tropical peatland fires in the Southeast Asia region. The talk will briefly review methods for assessing tropical biomass combustion using satellites before focussing on recent fieldwork efforts in Malaysia and Indonesia to improve our knowledge of variability in peat burn depth and emission factors (mass of gas/particulates emitted per kilogram of biomass combusted) – central to improving seasonal haze forecasting and regional carbon accounting.

2nd November 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Mr Holger Kessler

Team Leader Modelling Systems, British Geological Survey

3D geological modelling for infrastructure projects in the context of a national geological model

In this seminar Mr Kessler will show how 3D models are created from geological maps to understand and explain geology. He will also display how these models have been used in various different infrastructure projects in the UK.

The talk will contain some live demonstrations and pointers to data and resources on the world wide web.

7th November 2017

12pm-1pm

LT10 Bennett

(GG)

Professor Harvey Miller

Bob and Mary Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science The Ohio State University

 

Data-driven Geography: Some big thoughts about Geographic Information Science in an era of plenty

In the 21st century, Geographic Information Science has shifted from a data-poor to a data-rich environment. How should we do things differently? And what should we not do?

In this talk, Professor Miller will outline three big thoughts for GIS in an era of plenty:

  1. Opportunistic GIScience (experiments are not just for labs anymore);
  2. Mesogeography (there is a middle path to geographic knowledge);
  3. GIScience, fast and slow (should our decisions be as fast as our data?)

8th November 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Sharif Mowlabocus

Senior Lecturer in Media Studies/DigitalMedia, University of Sussex

“A license to be reckless”: (re)framing gay men’s health in the era of same-sex marriage

In 2016, the National AIDS Trust took the NHS to Court over the provision of  pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP), the drug treatment that protects against HIV infection. After the High Court ruled that PReP provision did fall within its remit, the NHS announced a moratorium on funding all new treatments, causing a furore over NHS funding and the morality of this new preventative treatment. In this paper, and drawing upon an archive of British news media, I explore the arguments made against the provision of PReP on the National Health Service in 2016. I begin by examining the discursive strategies employed by those who criticised the High Court ruling. These strategies included the invocation of key figures such as the ‘innocent bystander,’ the ‘vulnerable child,’ and the ‘hard-working public servant’ and were positioned in opposition to the ‘deviant’ gay male population.

I then move to consider the deployment of these strategies (as well as other rhetorical devices, and news framing techniques) within the context of recent LGBT civil rights victories, to consider the unforeseen ‘costs’ of what some might term the triumph of homonormative politics. Chiefly, I argue that in the so-called ‘post-equalities’ era, critics of PrEP appropriated key political gains for homophobic purposes. In doing so, they drew power from recent legislative successes to (re)stigmatise the sexual performances and identities of gay men living outside of the ‘homonormative’ framework of the ‘happy gay couple’. In doing so, the British news media succeeded in in (re)framing PrEP as a “license to be reckless” rather than as a solution to a historic health inequality.

9th November 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Jessica Stanley

Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences

Inferring topographic evolution from the erosion history of the southern African Plateau

The southern African plateau is a dominant feature of African topography but there is considerable debate about when and how it formed. Topographic uplift is notoriously difficult to detect directly in the geologic record, but usually it triggers an response which can more readily be quantified.

Dr Stanley will talk about recent work documenting the timing and patterns of erosion across the southern African plateau using low temperature thermochronology, and use a landscape evolution model to explore the shape and magnitude of surface uplift implied by these and other erosion history data. Dr Stanley will also discuss the implications of these results for the role of deep earth and surface processes in shaping the southern African landscape.

15th November 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

Dr Sarah Johnson

Knowledge Exchange Fellow, University of Leicester

Drawing Lines on a Map : Using social sciences to help remote sensing projects

Funding for many scientific projects is increasingly being focused on Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant activities to support developing countries. This requires scientists, accustomed to dealing with data and algorithms, to learn more about how their data can be used and applied in real world applications. However, this is not as simple a task as it may first appear and can be full of social, political and economic complexities.

This talk draws on the experience of a Global Challenges Research Fund project, part of which looked at using Remote Sensing data to support pastoralists in Kenya and Mongolia. It concentrates on the requirements for remote sensing services, in terms of what users want and what their challenges are. It particularly examines how expertise from social sciences can help support the engagement with users. Such an approach has significant benefits in revealing a far greater depth of understanding of user needs. Significantly, it also allows scientists to think about the potential for misuse of their data which may have significant negative ramifications on the intended beneficiaries.

As a scientist, I share some of the lessons that I’ve learned from this project which may have implications for those working in physical and environmental sciences . It will also be of interest to human geographers interested in getting an insight into how their expertise can help shape the development of science based applications.

16th November 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Ana Ferreira

Reader in Seismology, UCL

Mapping mantle (an)isotropy with big data and novel seismic observables.

Seismic tomography – the imaging of the structure of the Earth’s deep interior – has greatly progressed in the past 40 years. The large-scale features in the isotropic structure of the Earth’s upper mantle are now well resolved, showing an excellent correlation with tectonics (e.g., low velocities associated with mid-ocean ridges and back arcs, and fast velocities in continental shields). Yet, there are still discrepancies in the small-scale features in existing tomography images. As huge high-quality data volumes have accumulated, it has been possible to image more challenging properties, such as seismic anisotropy (the directional dependency of seismic wave speed), which is key to map and understand mantle flow. In addition, it is now timely to explore high-resolution observables that are rarely used, such as seismic wave amplitudes.

In this talk Dr Ferreira will present recent developments in seismic anisotropy tomography and its combination with geodynamical modelling to unravel deep mantle flow processes. She will also discuss new, sharp seismic images of the Earth’s upper mantle based on seismic amplitude data alone.

22nd November 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Julie Cupples

Reader in Human Geography, University of Edinburgh

The Celebritization of Indigeneity: Tame Iti as Media Figure

In recent years, a number of indigenous activists in different parts of the world have gained celebrity status in ways that carry interesting implications for contemporary cultural politics.  Nevertheless, the growing literature on celebrity culture has failed to pay sufficient attention to the complex dynamics surrounding this phenomenon.  This paper focuses on the celebritization of Tame Iti, arguably New Zealand’s best known Māori activist, within a wider cultural context characterized by intensifying media convergence, an expanding politics of decolonization, and the growing influence of Māori media in the New Zealand mediascape. We draw on forms of conjunctural and discursive analysis developed in cultural studies to explore how wider historical forces and social dynamics come to be embodied in particular flesh and blood individuals, who are thereby constituted as resonant media figures, who operate as both objects and agents of struggle, and who at once intervene in and shape, while also being shaped by, key terrains of contemporary discourse and cultural politics.

23rd November 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Professor Edward Rhodes

Professor of Physical Geography, University of Sheffield

Understanding fault behaviour with constraints from luminescence dating

Tectonic forces generated within the earth cause earthquakes, and these are sometimes associated with surface rupture. Repeated sequences of these events lead to significant landscape modification, and the construction of topography, including mountain building processes. Our understanding of these events and the mechanisms involved comes from direct measurement and observations of the present day, combined with geological data from past events. Data relevant to several earthquake cycles can be obtained at some sites, and luminescence dating of sediments associated with these events can contribute significantly to constraining their timing. Measurements of offset features such as terrace risers (the erosional boundary between two different elevation fluvial terraces) that have developed over several earthquake events can provide estimates of fault slip rate. There are particular issues associated with the dating of these contexts, but recent developments have produced results with important implications for the study of fault mechanics and seismic hazard, with key sites in California, USA, and the Marlborough Region, New Zealand.

29th November 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Chris Sandbrook

Senior Lecturer in Conservation Leadership at UNEP-WCMC, University of Cambridge

What do conservationists believe about people, nature and markets?

Recent years have seen heated debates within the conservation community about why, what and how to conserve. These have tended to be dominated by a small number of (mostly) white, western males occupying powerful positions. The Future of Conservation survey set out to discover what the wider community of conservationists felt about the issues under debate. With nearly 9,000 respondents, it is the largest ever survey of the conservation community, and provides some startling results that challenge conventional thinking. In this seminar, Chris Sandbrook will outline the contours of current conservation debates, provide an early insight into the unpublished findings of the survey, and discuss their implications for the conservation movement. (If you would like to take the survey yourself, it is at www.futureconservation.org)

30th November 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Dan Smith

Lecturer in Applied and Environmental Geology, University of Leicester

Tellurium Tomorrow: Solar Power, Supply, Demand and Waste of a Rare Material

Tellurium is one of the least abundant elements in the Earth’s crust, yet society has a burgeoning need for a reliable supply of this semi-metal, particularly as a key ingredient in solar panels. Although established uses in alloys and computer components have declined, rapid growth in solar power has dramatically increased the consumption of tellurium. Tellurium is almost exclusively produced as a by-product of refining other metals (chiefly copper), and at present, industry is poorly positioned to increase supply in line with growing demand. Alternative sources exist however; a number of mineral deposit types are notably enriched in tellurium. Why some deposits are enriched in Te in particular is puzzling; this lecture will unpick some reasons why this rare element becomes enriched in particular environments.

A continuing challenge for tellurium supply has been in the “how” of recovering it. There are a number of metallurgical problems with the extraction of the element even from enriched ores. This talk will outline some novel solvents being developed at the University of Leicester that have the potential to radically change the way we process ore minerals, and transform the supply of rare metals such as tellurium, all while reducing the economic and environmental impacts of mineral processing.

6th December 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Graeme Swindles

Associate Professor of Earth System Dynamics, University of Leeds

Peatlands and environmental change: From the Amazon to the Arctic

7th December 2017

1pm-2pm

G72 (TA2) Bennett

(GL)

Dr Tom Harvey

Lecturer in Geoscience, University of Leicester

 

 

Microscopic “Burgess Shales”: expanding the fossil record of early animal evolution

The fossil record documents an explosive Cambrian radiation of animals and other organisms. In particular, Burgess Shale-type Lagerstätten provide us with staggeringly detailed snapshots of the unfolding drama, via their exceptional preservation of articulated, non-biomineralizing macrofossils. By definition, however, exceptional occurrences tell us little about larger-scale patterns and processes. As a result, we still cannot say when animals first evolved, or whether Burgess Shale-type assemblages are representative of Cambrian communities more generally. To fill some of the gaps, Dr Harvey focuses his attention on small carbonaceous fossils, or SCFs, which can be thought of as the microscopic counterparts to Burgess Shale fossils, but which are turning out to be far more widespread. As well as expanding the known range of Burgess Shale-type animals, SCFs include “cryptic” forms including derived crustaceans and meiofaunal loriciferans. In this talk Dr Harvey will review some of the key discoveries from his recent work on SCFs from western Canada and the Baltic Basin, and address the thorny issue of whether animals originated as microscopic forms long before the Cambrian.

13th December 2017

1pm-2pm

F75a Bennett

(GG)

Dr Mary Menton
Seed International

Governing Amazonia: Power, Politics, and Contested Landscapes

Based on the results of over a decade of research in Amazonia, ranging from forest policy analysis to studies of smallholder livelihoods to an assessment of the drivers behind land/resource conflicts in the region, this seminar will address the conflicting visions of ‘development’ in the Amazon. While many powerful players push for ‘sustained’ development, other actors advocate for ‘sustainable’ livelihoods. Focusing on examples from Peru and Brazil, we will explore the discord between these visions and realities on the ground for local people. We will address the multi-level policy processes and power dynamics that drive decision-making around natural resource governance in the region.

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School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
University of Leicester
University Road
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LE1 7RH, UK
T: +44 (0)116 252 3933
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E: geology@le.ac.uk