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

Friday, 4 December 2015

Why I like Soil...

Celebrating the International Year of #Soil #IYS and the start of the Soils Training Research Studentships (STARS) Centre for Doctoral Training #starsoil Recorded by the STARS PhD Students and their Supervisors at the welcome meeting for the first STARS cohort, Gregynog, Wales, November 2015

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

500 days, a new Soil Map and hats off to Tim Harrod

Recently I had occasion to pass through my old stomping ground the beautiful south west of England and Devon where I had a meeting in Instowe near Bideford with my OPUS Team (pictures here), and after visit the South West of England Soils Discussion Group meeting at North Wyke.

It was terrific to refind my long term colleague and friend Dr Tim Harrod.  Tim used to work for the Soil Survey, he is one of the original soil mappers who mapped the nation and we had adjacent offices in Devon in the 1990s at North Wyke.  When he retired in the early noughties Tim was frustrated that he had never had funding to comple the soil map of the south west and so on his retirment ca. 10 years ago he made it is personal project to finish the map off his own will power.  He thinks it took hm about 500 days and it was a pleasure to see him launch the map at the meeting.  Here are all my photos of the SWESDG meeting.

Hats off to Tim!  


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Congratulations Dr Ying Wang - Diester DNA Organic Phosphorus PhD Defence

Today my PhD student Ying defended her PhD on diester DNA organic phosphorus transfer through the soil-water continuum.  Her examiners were Dr Marc Stutter (James Hutton Institute) and Prof Hao Zhang (Lancaster University).  Ying is pictured here with me and her co supervisor Dr Ben Surridge.

Below is Ying pictured with her two examiners.

Well done Ying!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Oxisol - Below the rainforest floor......

To help the celebration of International Year of Soil, here I am inside an oxisol!

I have just returned from an enthrawling week visiting Barro Colarado Island, a research Island in the Panama Canal, operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institure.  We visited aspart of a BBSRC Partnering Award to develop links between ourselves and the research group of Dr Ben Turner on new techniques on phosphorus research.  Colleagues from Rothamsted Research, where I used to work, as well as others from ETH Zurich and Costa Rica, were also partners on the research visit. 

The picture shows me standing about 1.5 m deep in an oxisol soil pit, surrounded by Ben and his colleague Dayana from the Smithsonian Soils lab.  The full set of pictures from the visit are shown here.