Saturday, 13 June 2015

June is the busiest month - exams and more exams (and a few earthworms)

I'm just back from Durham, external examining. This is a key role in the life of an academic, ensuring that academic standards are maintained across Universities. This was my second year as external examiner at Durham for their Environmental Geoscience degree. It remains a good degree and, I think, is better than the previous year thanks to the introduction of some new modules. The only disappointment is that by the time we got back to the Seven Stars in Shincliffe after dinner on the Wednesday night the bar was shut - perhaps this was just as well after last year though apparently THAT photo caused the Durham earth science department much amusement.

We've also finished our exams and exam marking here in York, external examiners will be here next week to tell us what we think.

Kirsty (Whispers in the dark) has been spreading the news about earthworms. Here she is with a budding earthworm-ologist at "Science out of the lab" part of the York Festival of Ideas.

Kirsty selecting some earthworms for a budding Charles Darwin to identify

We've also recently heard that Joseph Olimah's paper on his PhD work looking at ochre amendments to As contaminated soils has been accepted for publication in Environmental Pollution as has Alice Johnston's third PhD paper on earthworm population models in Journal of Applied Ecology - this one links them into ecosystem services.

Finally for now we've also just heard that we've got some Diamond beamtime on beamline i08 to use STXM to look for organic molecules stuck between subgrains of amorphous calcium carbonate in our earthworm calcite balls - so more restaurant reviews of biege food coming soon. The idea is that the areas of ACC we've previously identified on B22 with FTIR could be isolated from the surrounding calcite (and prevented from crystallising) by thin envelopes of organic molecules. This first bit of beamtime will tell us whether we can use STXM to test this hypothesis.

Must stop now to cut up some plastic bags in preparation for our latest set of experiments!

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