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School of Geography

Grant successes in the School of Geography


Dr Simon Lewis, Reader in Quaternary Science, has been awarded a grant of £250K from The Leverhulme Trust on ‘The Breckland Palaeolithic project: culture, technology and evolving humans.’ This project will employ a postdoctoral research associate for three years and a research assistant for 1.5 years and will involve collaboration with the British Museum and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

The Breckland of East Anglia has a rich concentration of early Palaeolithic sites that can answer questions of international significance at a regional scale. Alongside a diverse stone tool record spanning 600,000 years, the region has produced Britain’s earliest evidence of controlled fire and a wide range of palaeoenvironmental data. Combining novel and established geological and archaeological methods, the project will address questions of the environmental and cultural context of Britain’s earliest occupants, the links between technology, culture and human evolution, and the distinctiveness of regional signatures after 400,000 years ago.

Earlier this year, Dr Kate Spencer, Reader in Environmental Geochemistry, and Dr Simon Carr, Senior Lecturer in Geography, were awarded a NERC research grant (£693K) to study 3-Dimensional Floc Structure and Dynamics. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr Andy Bushby and Dr Lorenzo Botto, both colleagues from the School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS). Jonathan Wheatland, who completed his undergraduate degree at the School of Geography and is now a PhD student in SEMS, is also involved in the project.

The research will sample, observe and quantify sediment floc micro-structure in 3-dimensions and at multiple, correlated spatial scales using novel techniques developed at QMUL. This project integrates sampling techniques from the biomedical sciences that are more commonly used to examine fragile biological cell tissues and analysis used in materials science and the earth sciences to analyse the microstructure of concrete, alloys and rocks (focussed ion beam nanotomography FIB-nt/SEM and X-ray microtomography). The research team will then apply this novel approach to the study of delicate, flocculated sediment in the aquatic environment.

Additionally, Dr Kate Spencer has also been awarded £18K from the Life Sciences Initiative (LSI) Small Grants awards scheme to work with Dr Andy Bushby to develop protocols for the examination of nanopollutants and microplastics in aquatic environments.

Kate and Andy have already developed novel protocols that enable the capture and characterisation of fragile sedimentary materials using X-ray microtomography and Focussed Ion Beam nano-tomography to generate, for the first time, 3-D datasets that quantify the structure and composition of suspended particulate matter. This pilot project will enable them to explore whether these techniques can also identify the presence, distribution and association of nano-silver and microplastics in suspended particulate matter which can support further grant applications in the expanding field of nanopollutants, and human and ecological health.

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