Tuesday, 4 February 2014

New Year quizzes, Grauniad and FTIR preparation

It's been a busy January with a fair amount of teaching to do. In addition the REF work has now started in earnest. The REF is the (about) once every 6 years assessment of UK academic effort in Universities. The quality of research in all disciplines is assessed. I am part of the effort assessing "Earth System and Environmental Science". Currently I'm reading (and grading) 8 academic journal papers a day. This will go on for some time - I have more than 400 to read - and then we also have to assess things like the impact that academic research is having in society. We have a meeting this Thursday to compare scores so far.

So not much time for research at present. However I am gearing up for another trip to Diamond 16th to 23rd Feb. So far there has been no time to analyse the data we obtained on the last trip but the plan is to spend some time on data analysis this time round. Additionally I have located the right software in York (thank you Paul Elliot in Green Chemistry) which I can use whilst not at Diamond.

Jo Witton has started analysing the 800 odd soil samples gathered by David Jones et al. late last year as part of our project on earthworm distributions in pastures and Hongling is busy determining whether some earthworms have moved the carbon present in soil from one form to another. Hongling's big field experiment is still on going. We've given up hope of seeing a difference between the with- and without earthworm treatments, we think perhaps the earthworms are no longer there! So next week we're going to do the earthworm equivalent of turning the volume up to 11, i.e. we're going to add more earthworms and see if that makes a difference.

There's been some good press coverage lately of the earthworm calcite work in the Guardian - despite a few factual errors - and I was delighted that the research was the answer to a question in the York Link 2013 quiz. Q: Scientists at the University of York revealed how they could find out about the planet's climate in the past. But what rather unusual substance helped them achieve this?"

The answer of course (as always) is earthworm poo!

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