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School of GeoScience News - Last 20 Stories

Carbon focused art exhibition

Apr 11, 2014 1:00 am

A unique exhibition of art works responding to carbon in its many forms entitled 'C', is now on show at ECCI.

As part of the first collaboration between the Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, students of the Edinburgh College Art Space Nature have produced a series of provocative works that explore visual and interactive stimuli in the context of ECCI’s multi-faceted approach to creating a low carbon future.

The Exhibition will run at the ECCI from the 7th to 25th April, in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

See ECCI News item.


Mar 5, 2014 2:00 pm

Visit the School's webpages to see details of the many scholarships available for 2014/15 entry.

Details of Scholarships and Programmes This will open in a new page.

Gabi Hegerl receives award

Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

Congratulations to Professor Gabi Hegerl who will receive a Research Merit Award from the Royal Society. Her work will focus on learning about the climate system from the observed record.

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has announced the appointment of 21 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders. Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

Major ESRC Award

Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

Professor Chris Dibben has been awarded £7 million by ESRC to run an Administrative Data Research Centre for Scotland (ADRC-S). The centre will support researchers wanting to use administrative data for their own research and will also have its own programme of research into substantive social and health research areas (e.g. informal care and an ageing population) and into technologies that will enhance these datasets (e.g. Natural Language Processing).

The Centre will be directed by Chris Dibben and include collaborators from the universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, St Andrews and Stirling and work in close partnership with the NHS and Scottish Government.

The ADRC-S will be based in the Edinburgh Bioquarter, with facilities to accommodate up to 50 researchers (both permanent staff and visiting researchers). Together with similar centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it will deliver an Administrative Data Research Network to the UK research community.

Paul Boyle Chief Executive of the ESRC has commented that: "There will be benefits [from the network] for researchers, government, local communities and the public – indeed there is the potential for a revolution in our ability to answer a host of questions that were previously intractable."


Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

ECCI's newly refurbished building at High School Yards was officially opened by The Princess Royal, the University’s Chancellor, on 8 October 2013. After 19 months of construction, £10.5 million investment and nearly three years in operation, the world’s first carbon innovation hub officially opened its doors as the George and Kaity David Centre - named after businessman and alum George David whose donations have helped make the project a reality.

The School is delighted to report that ECCI recently received confirmation the building has made history by becoming the first listed building to achieve the UK's highest green building award at design stage.

ECCI has announced its latest strategic project - 'Smart Accelerator'. This 18 month, £1.2million project aims to accelerate the development of major smart city and sustainable island projects in Scotland, based on inter-national good practice. This ERDF-funded project is geared towards integrating SMEs and academic expertise to maximise sustainable local economic development and is supported by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, SCDI and the University of Edinburgh.

ECCI is partnering with Edinburgh City Council and Edinburgh's Colleges on the Edinburgh Interspace project. The new ERDF funded initiative will develop and enhance synergies between Edinburgh's existing incubators and accelerators to create effective knowledge exchange, enhance existing services and provide a central portal to announce internationally that 'Edinburgh is open for business and ready to incubate ideas and business'.

The ECCI website.


Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

Steve Brusatte has been one of the experts consulted for the new film ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ Steve helped the story-tellers incorporate new science to portray a more accurate representation of dinosaurs based on his current research. This contribution has not gone un-noticed as Steve has been busy giving television and radio interviews to a number of stations. This included live spots on BBC Scotland and BBC Wales, and various other BBC stations. Along with BBC Breakfast, Steve did a piece for BBC Newsround. The US press picked up on this too when Steve was asked to give a 45-minute interview for Science Fantastic with Michio Kaku, the largest syndicated science radio program in the US.

Steve has a great outreach website. Here it is.

Medal for Ian Main

Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

The European Geosciences Union has just recently named next year’s Medals and Award. Professor Iain Main has been will be presented with his Louis Néel Medal in April 2014.

‘The Louis Néel Medal was established by the Division on Magnetism, Palaeomagnetism and Rock Physics in recognition of the scientific achievements of Louis Eugène Felix Néel. This medal is reserved for individuals in recognition of outstanding achievement in rock magnetism and rock physics and geomaterials.’

Award for Massimo Bollasina

Mar 5, 2014 1:00 am

The Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has announced that Massimo Bollasina is the recipient of the James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award for 2013. Dr.Bollasina’s research investigates the physical processes and mechanisms governing regional climate change and variability, in particular the role of anthropogenic aerosols. His novel and comprehensive use of various modelling tools, in conjunction with ground and satellite observational datasets, has yielded important syntheses of theoretical understanding and numerical modelling for practical applications.

Network in Drummond Back online

Mar 16, 2013 7:00 pm

Power has been restored to the Network rack in Drummond Street, following the power outage earlier today. Access to services in Drummond Street should now be restored.

Power Problem in Drummond Street

Mar 16, 2013 1:00 am

Power to Drummond Street has been restored after a power cut on Saturday morning. Unfortunately the power to a cabinet that runs all the networking equipment subsequently tripped out. Computer network facilities were unavailable at Drummond Street until this was resolved around 7pm. School computing services should now be back to normal.

Greenland Hydrology

Mar 4, 2013 1:00 am

Researchers in Edinburgh’s Cryosphere Research group were involved in two papers just published in high impact journals that report on the seasonal evolution of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s hydrological system. The morphology of the subglacial drainage system critically influences both the dynamics and geomorphic impact of the ice sheet but until now, the structure and evolution of this system during the melt season have remained poorly understood. Using two types of hydrological tracer, fluorescent rhodamine dye and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), injected into the drainage system over three melt seasons, we observed subglacial drainage properties and evolution beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, up to 57 km from the ice sheet margin. The results indicate an evolution from a slow, inefficient drainage system to a fast, efficient channelized drainage system over the course of the melt season. The rapid development of an efficient and extensive subglacial drainage system suggests that the ice sheet may be less sensitive dynamically to increasing surface melt in a warming climate than previously suggested.

The two papers, in the Journal of Geophysical Research and Nature Geoscience, were led by Tom Cowton, a PhD student based in Edinburgh GeoSciences, and by colleagues at Bristol University respectively with input from numerous Edinburgh researchers (in bold below).


Feb 21, 2013 1:00 am


Colour as Information:

Jan 15, 2013 1:00 am

See the movie and paper made by Toshie Mizunuma and John Grace: Click here for Video

The Price Medal to U of Ed:

Jan 15, 2013 1:00 am

The Price Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in solid earth geophysics, oceanography or planetary sciences. For 2013 the Medal goes to Professor Kathryn Whaler of the University of Edinburgh for her distinguished career in geomagnetism and international leadership in geophysics. Click here for RAS website.

New in Nature - Trees & Drought

Nov 29, 2012 1:00 am

Beneath the bark of world’s trees pulses a finely tuned vascular system that transports billions of litres of water to the skies every day. This plant hydraulic system depends on a unique but unstable mechanism that is continuously challenged by environmental stress. New research in the current issue of Nature, lead by the University of Western Sydney and Ulm University in Germany, has found most trees, even those in rainforests, operate very close to their hydraulic safety threshold leaving them highly vulnerable to droughts of increased severity.

Drought is one of the major forces shaping our forest ecosystems. Over the last century, drought has been responsible for many incidences of large-scale forest dieback around the world. To make effective predictions of how the forest landscape may change in future, we need to first understand how plants work. One of the main problems that plants face during drought is to keep their ‘plumbing’ working. In order to take up carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and to cool their leaves, plants must transpire very large amounts of water every day. This water is absorbed from the soil and transported through a network of thread-like pipes that connect the roots to the leaves.

But this hydraulic pipeline is vulnerable and can break down during drought because of the development of air embolism. As soil dries, the water in these pipes comes under a large tension that can cause breakage of the liquid threads inside the plumbing system. So called “cavitation” of the liquid continuum inside the plant vascular system causes an air blockage, similar to the embolisms that can block the human circulatory system. As drought stress increases, gas accumulates in the system until the plant desiccates and dies.

Vulnerability to embolism is known to be one of the main factors determining drought effects on trees. However, plants vary dramatically in their tolerance of drought induced embolism making predictions of how forests might be altered more difficult.

Dr Brendan Choat from the University of Western Sydney and Dr Steven Jansen, from Ulm University in Germany, assembled an international team of 24 plant scientists to help create a global data synthesis examining all existing measurements of plant embolism resistance in forest species.

The researchers found that, as expected, species growing in wet forests were less resistant to embolism than those growing in arid areas. However, when vulnerability to embolism was compared to the moisture conditions typical for each species it emerged that most trees currently operate very close to their hydraulic safety threshold leaving them highly vulnerable to drought.

While plants vary greatly in their embolism resistance, their vulnerability to drought is the same across all forest types. Seventy percent of 226 forest species from 81 sites in the worldwide study operate with narrow hydraulic safety margins against potentially deadly levels of drought stress. The team found safety margins are largely independent of mean annual precipitation, illustrating global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought, with all forest types equally vulnerable to hydraulic failure regardless of their current rainfall environment.

The findings provide insight into why drought-induced forest decline is occurring not only in arid regions but also in wet forests not normally considered at drought risk. Trees take a ‘risky’ hydraulic strategy in a trade-off that balances growth with protection against the risk of mortality.

For trees, and the planet, the consequences of longer droughts and higher temperatures are potentially dramatic. For example, rapid forest collapse via drought could convert the world’s tropical forests from a net carbon sink into a large carbon source during this century.

However, the results of the study do not necessarily point to forest Armageddon. A forest may respond to climate change in a number of ways. For instance, some species may be able to evolve quickly enough to keep pace with a changing climate in one location, while others may spread into new locations, tracking their preferred conditions. Survival is largely dependent on species having enough time to respond to changes in the environment. The new dataset will be useful to better predict the balance between a declining or a healthy forest. It will also provide a better understanding of which species are likely to persist and which are likely to suffer and potentially disappear.

Original publication:

Choat B., Jansen S., Brodribb T.J., Cochard H., Delzon S., Bhaskar R., Bucci S., Feild T.S., Gleason S.M., Jacobsen A.L., Lens F., Maherali H., Martinez-Vilalta J., Mayr S., Mencuccini M., Mitchell P.J., Nardini A., Pittermann J., Pratt R.B., Sperry J.S., Westoby M., Wright I.J., Zanne A. (2012) Global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature11688.

Ellsworth Blue-ice Blog- latest

Nov 28, 2012 1:00 am

Another blog post from our guys in the Ellsworth Mountains Blue Ice project, Antarctica:

(...) We have six people and 5 tons of equipment. The original four of us from the science side have been joined by two field assistants, Malcolm Airey and Scott Webster.The total weight sounds a lot and is a lot but it includes 4 skidoos, petrol, five tents, radar, large batteries, two generators, paraffin and food for two and a half months.The total load involves 5 Twin Otter flights - five and a half hours flying time south of Rothera. We are indeed the most southerly field party...

The Ellsworth Blue Ice Blog is chronicling the work of Prof. David Sugden and Dr. Andy Hein from GeoSciences, along with Prof. John Woodward and Dr Stuart Dunning (both Northumbria), on their current Antarctic expedition - investigating whether or not the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) survived the last interglacial.

Ellsworth Blue-ice Blog

Nov 20, 2012 1:00 am

First instalment from the Ellsworth Blue Ice Blog. Prof. David Sugden and Dr. Andy Hein from GeoSciences, along with Prof. John Woodward and Dr Stuart Dunning (both Northumbria) are blogging on their current Antarctic expedition - investigating whether or not the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) survived the last interglacial.

Simon Mudd has paper in Nature

Sep 27, 2012 1:00 am

Simon Mudd is one of the authors of a paper published this week in Nature warning that salt marshes, which form a key natural defence against the impact of climate change, will die out before the end of this century.

Salt marshes are effective at removing carbon dioxide from the air and lock away as much carbon as about one-third of the world’s forests. Their loss would be expected to make a significant contribution to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and consequently to increase global warming.

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, Virginia and California created computer models of how salt marshes are likely to respond to increased temperatures and sea levels, by combining existing data on rates of plant growth and decay.

Their results suggest that, for the next 60 years, warmer temperatures will accelerate growth in the roots and leaves of the plants, helping to remove more CO2.

At about this time (2075), plant decay is forecast to overtake plant growth, and from about the turn of the next century, rising sea levels would be expected to drown many plants and prevent them storing any further greenhouse gases.

Previous research had suggested that sea levels would impact on salt marshes, but this study is the first to predict the combined effect of rising temperatures, CO2 and sea levels.

Edinburgh Graduate carries torch

Jul 27, 2012 1:00 am

Edinburgh Geographical Information Science graduate Wai-Ming Lee was nominated on behalf of the disaster-management charity MapAction to carry the Olympic Torch to Buckingham Palace, where it will be viewed by Prince Harry, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Wai-Ming studied GIS in Edinburgh 1995-96 and has subsequently built his career in GIS, working for companies such as Hunting Technical Services and ESRI(UK). He is an active MapAction volunteer who joined the charity in 2004 and has been deployed to assist in the aftermath of humanitarian emergencies such as the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) and Pakistan floods of 2010.

Seligman Crystal to Sugden

Jul 27, 2012 1:00 am

David Sugden, a former Head of the School, has been awarded the 2012 Seligman Crystal by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). This award is made periodically to those who have made an outstanding contribution to glaciology. As the nomination stated: 'David Sugden has inspired a generation. There are few glacial geologists who have made a greater impact on our field, and none that we know of more influential in linking glacial geomorphology and glaciology.' The only other UK winner of this award since 1986 has been our own Professor Geoffrey Boulton.

The full nomination for David is worth reading!

  • IGS full nomination textt

    David will receive his award at a branch meeting of the IGS in early September.

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