Monday, 3 July 2017

Thank-you (Herr Doctor Professor) Daniel Blackburn...

Last week I said goodbye to one of the best Post Doctoral Scientists I have had working with the team, as 'Herr Dr' Daniel Blackburn moved on to start a 'grown up' academic career in the University of Oman (graduating from our mutual joke 'Herr Doctor' to 'Herr Professor'!).  Daniel has been a very active and hard working soil biogeochemist who originates from Brazil but joined the team from a job in Germany. He has helped develop new insight into phosphorus and particularly organic phosphorus forms in soil and its mobility.  We have also had a lot of fun together working and travelling the world including visits to Panama, Montpellier, Germany and Austria.  It was fun Daniel - thank you.  Here are some photos we took last week at the farewell pub lunch trip, as well as some in December 2015 in Germany.  Before he moves to Oman, Daniel will spend the summer working in collaboration with my team and Roland Bol in Germany, with whom he is pictured in 2015 here. Keep in touch fine fellow - the collaboration continues......

Friday, 30 June 2017

Farewell Jinchuan....

Today we say goodbye to Jinchuan Ma who worked with me and Ben Surridge at Lancaster University for the last 6 months. Jinchuan was visiting from the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Beijing China, and has been studying a phosphorus mass balance at the regional scale in China, as part of his PhD.  

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The business of soil?

Today I am with Jess Davies and colleagues from Lancaster University visiting The University of Lausanne.  Jess gave a terrific vision for the business case for soil pointing out the underlying value and contribution of soil to the world economy, providing a basis for food production, clean water etc.. Whilst I cannot argue with this as an academic, I wonder how successful we really are at communicating this at 'grass roots' level.  I still think there is a lot of work to do selling the case for #soil.  Meanwhile, good job Jess....

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Elusive Entisols: STARS Soil Science Training in Tenerife #starsoil #starstnr

Last week fourteen of us, 4 teachers and 10 PhD students, spent a week long training course with Cohort 1 of the STARS Soils CDT training on the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera. It was an inspiring week where we saw many soil types in different stages of soil development among the volcanic islands .

We saw the start of soil formation on the sand dunes of El Medano with entisols:

Witnessed soil development in the more moisture rich pine forest on the sides of Mt Teide:

More entisols in the arid Caldera of Mt. Teide...

On the final day we crossed the sea to the more mature and eroded and weathered island of La Gomera, and witnessed well developed soils with some beautifully partnered oxisols....

The full team!
An inspirational week among some great students and great teachers of soils - thanks all.

My full set of pictures are here on Flickr, please use all you like but do credit the source please.


Monday, 26 September 2016

The Treatment Train - Mitigating Agricultural Pollution

Here's a great piece of work from my colleagues Nick Barber and Sim Reaney from EdenDTC on their approach to mitigating diffuse pollution from agriculture - including a drone fly over Newby Beck in the Eden Valley. Nice work guys!

The Treatment Train - Mitigating agricultural diffuse pollution from source to stream from Sim Reaney on Vimeo.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Farewell Loyne Bridge #StormDesmond

Apparently the Loyne Bridge, which bridges Gressingham and Hornby on the River Lune has been around since at least 1684, has been pronounced structurally unsafe.  Farewell Loyne Bridge for now, let's hope you get fixed pretty soon.

Here is a photo I took of Loyne Bridge on Sunday Morning after Storm Desmond had peaked.

My other photos of the morning after the night before around Docker, Whittington, Arkholme, Gressingham and Aughton are here, please share.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Very Personal Reflection on Storm Desmond and Our Future

As I type this the tail end of Storm Desmond lashes the walls of my poor weatherbeaten 16th century cottage.  I have been arm waving about soil and water in lecture theatres for few years now in my job as a Professor of Soil and Water Science, but never has it felt so personal as my experiences yesterday.

It was a Saturday morning and we needed to drive my daughter 5 miles to the local town of Kirkby Lonsdale for her drama class.  It became a very complicated journey as we had to make detour after detour to avoid the floods.  When we eventually got 'home' we found that our local River Keer, normally a modest headwater ephemeral stream had blocked our access and we were forced to wade the final few m to our house.   I am quite a 'let's get on with it' person and I underestimated how stressful for this would be for my wife and children, specially because the flood water was fowled with cattle slurry and dirty water from our poor neighbour's flooded dairy.

After baths and drying off later that afternoon at dusk I had to pick my son up from work, normally a 5 mile journey in the other direction towards Carnforth.  Our 2nd car was still the home side of the river so we had options but it turned into a nailbiting experience.  We encountered road block after roadblock, rivers flowing across roads, it felt almost apocalyptic-like in the encroaching darkness. Thankfully, and I am amazed as I write this, we made it back, after a very round-about sort of route.  We were supposed to go to the Village Christmas Party only 2 miles away last night, it was not wise to try, the rain was still falling and my neighbour and I were both concerned that the Keer was going to burst its banks further downstream too.  We could not risk not getting home to the children.  So we hunkered down and looked after one another and tried to successfully divert the rampaging overland flow water from the back field.

So this morning things are calming and from my perspective we are lucky and relatively unscathed.  I cannot begin to feel the pain that others in Kendal or Keswick or elsewhere are going through, I am so sorry for you.  But even my modest experience was quite shocking and gave me a really personal insight about what is happening.  It makes my ITV television interview on Border TV on Monday seem strangely poignant.....

Sceptics question the role of climate change in all this but I have to say working with colleagues from the Met Office Hadley Centre on the changing behaviours of the rivers on the Eden and elsewhere I am reminded of what we know and what we can start to predict with albeit some (inevitable and healthy) uncertainty.  Analysis of the winter rainfall patterns in Newton Rigg, Penrith reveal an approximate 30% increase in winter precipitation since the 1960s to present.  This is not predicted and subjected to the whims and uncertainties in models, this is simply what has happened.  Looking ahead and working with the models, the best models that are available in the UK and in the world, the conservative predictions show that winter rainfall will rise by around another 15% by 2050.  So, as I reflected on twitter last night....

Don't you find this scary?

I did not realise that my words spoken to a TV crew on Monday would become so meaningful and personal to me just a few days later.   My 16th Century house and my neighbour's farm dairy were built in another time when we never expected the extremes or intensities that are now to be our future.  We need to accept this is how it is and how it will be and adapt.

Phil, Docker Garth, 6th December 2015