Events / Out in the field

British Science Festival 2013 – dinosaurs, landslides and carbon sinks

Earlier this month we attended the British Science Festival in sunny Newcastle, and had a great time trying to squeeze in as many geological events as possible. Other than our own undeniably fabulous event, highlights include learning about UK landslides with the British Geological Survey, and urban carbon sinks with our very own soon to be President, Professor David Manning.

At ‘Monitoring the economic and scientific ripples of landslides‘ we got a sneak previous of the BGS’s new video, highlighting the work their landslides team carry out across the UK.

The team keep track, as far as possible, of the slips and slides that occur throughout the UK, to gain a better understanding of why they happen. In the past, this has relied on various traditional media, but social media is increasingly becoming a useful tool. If you happen to witness a landslide, get out of the way and then drop them a line!

We also had the chance to catch up with David Manning, Professor of Soil Science at Newcastle University, who is heading up some fascinating research into ‘urban carbon sinks’ – finding ways to use demolition sites and other city spaces to act as natural carbon capture and storage facilities.

Wheatfield1‘As anyone who has done any geology in an urban setting will know’ he explains, ‘made ground is full of demolition material. We’ve been measuring how much carbon is taken up by this, and finding it’s something like 300 tonnes of carbon per hectare – almost twice what you would see in agricultural land.’

So could this see the redesign of cities in the future?

‘One of the plans we have for Newcastle is a 10 hectare site in the middle of the city where the brewery once was – famous for its brown ale. Now its a site that the city and the University are working on developing as a science campus, which will involve landscaping. Part of that will involve accelerating this carbon capture process.’

cement_0Lime in the cement used for construction contains calcium, and it’s this which provides the ingredient for carbon capture. Over the years, it reacts to the carbon dioxide in the soil solution to produce calcium carbonate. fixing the carbon in the soil.

It’s even possible to do this on an individual level as well – although not everyone wants to fill their garden with demolition rubble, there are other ways to produce the effect.

‘Some of the crushed rock materials you can buy to improve your garden will carbonate, given time, and gradually improve the structure of the soil as well’ says David.

‘We would really like to turn the Newcastle site into a demonstration, monitor it over a few years and then grow it into other areas and climates as well.’

Blog readers: you have your orders. Get into your gardens and start burying some rubble!

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