Making an impact. Geography Research 2010
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the â€˜Making an Impactâ€™ brochure of the School of Geography at the University of Southampton. This showcases some of the highlights of our research activity. We have an enviable international reputation for our quality, vibrancy, innovation and most importantly our socio-economic impact on the world. The research featured is selected from our wide range of research projects and grants. They convey a flavour of the cutting edge research that we undertake, including both innovative projects with immediate and direct socio-economic impact and blue skies research. We conduct research in five key areas where we demonstrate distinctiveness and world-leading research activity: Economy, Society and Space Population, Health and Wellbeing Global Environmental Change and Earth Observation Earth Surface Dynamics Palaeoecology Laboratory, University of Southampton In addition, the School includes the GeoData Institute which conducts applied environmental research.
These strengths contribute directly to tackling some of the most serious problems that the world faces today such as environmental sustainability, climate change, health inequalities, poverty, and global recession.
I am immensely proud of the achievements and success of the staff in Geography at Southampton. With our positive and outward-facing approach, much of the research that we conduct is multidisciplinary involving connections and collaboration with other researchers both across the University and externally, including UK and international partners worldwide. We strongly believe that research should be relevant and make great efforts to engage with the public and end users, as demonstrated within this brochure. I hope that you enjoy reading this brochure and that it gives you a sense of the high quality of the research undertaken in Geography at Southampton. I also hope that it allows you to share in the excitement of our staff who are at the cutting edge of contemporary geographical knowledge and understanding. Professor Peter Atkinson
Contents Technology in the icefield Are we being served? Free range or factory? Saving unique ecosystems Making sense of the 2011 Census Curbing the spread of sleeping sickness Saving lives by providing safe water Preserved in the peat Winds of climate change Clues in the soil America burning Location, location, location Flood risk Beneath the Bosphorus On the trail of Atlantic salmon Britainâ€™s Atlantis High altitude research The facts behind mythology Ecology in action Out of Africa Studying spin outs Garments without guilt Mapping spring and autumn from space Homeless or overcrowded Eye in the sky New models of business Stubbing it out More than metropolitan Tales of the riverbank Under the surface
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“In terms of climate change the glaciers are a thermometer of what’s changing.”
Technology in the icefield Tracking retreating glaciers from the lab Understanding the rapid break up of a glacier in response to climate change could be critical in predicting global disasters such as landslides, resulting in thousands of lives being saved. By identifying how clasts behave underneath the glacier we can understand how the glacial sediments that cover the British Isles were deposited. Using cutting edge technology developed at the University of Southampton, the GLACSWEB project, undertaken jointly by geography Professor Jane Hart and Dr Martinez, School of Electronics and Computer Science, has been monitoring the behavior of glaciers in response to climate change since 2003 with a network of wireless sensors called probes. Deep within the Briksdalsbreen glacier in Norway, Europe’s largest ice sheet, this network of wireless sensors continuously reports data back to Southampton on measurements including movement, pressure, and temperature. Over the last three years the glacier has been retreating at approximately 100 metres a year, and the warm autumn temperatures of the last few months have contributed to a retreat of around 50 metres since July. Due to the rapid melting of the ice, the glacier has become too steep and dangerous to work on, so the
project will have to move to another glacier. However, the results from Briksdalsbreen provide much more general indications of glacier behavior because by charting the dramatic breakup of Briksdalsbreen we can predict what may happen to other rapidly melting glaciers. This has particular relevance to the outlet glaciers of Greenland, whose discharge has an important control on the thermohyline circulation, which affects the climate of North-West Europe.
Early warning system These electronic sensors will now be used to monitor erosion rates during California’s storm season as they are to be placed in Los Laureles Canyon in Mexico. A total of six sensors will be placed upstream from the Tijuana estuary, just over the Mexican border in San Diego. There they will record data about their environment over the next two years. The new climate for the probes is a steep contrast from their old habitat as they will be compacted in mud rather than ice and they will not be placed as deep as they needed to be under the glaciers. If they reveal that a pattern of changes precede an erosion, it could be the start of an early warning system for sudden landslides, particularly common in India and Asia, which cause mass devastation, claiming hundreds of lives and leaving millions homeless. The project has been funded by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Wireless sensor networks allow us to investigate previously inaccessible places, such as beneath glaciers, inside volcanoes, within landslides and even other planets!”
Probe power The probes are powered by lithium thionyl chloride batteries, and have a life expectancy of 10 years. With the exception of their daily report, which is uploaded via radio and hourly measurements, which take one second to complete, they are completely dormant to conserve power.
Are we being served? High streets battle the economic downturn Anecdotal evidence suggests high street shops are having a hard time winning business in these difficult economic times. Vacant units abound in some town centres. Yet there is little research into what type of high streets are weathering the recession best and continuing to win customers.
Supermarket giant Tesco is sponsoring a three-year ESRC CASE studentship, supervised by Professor Neil Wrigley, to unpick these issues. The research forms part of the work of the £1.45 million Retail Industry Business Engagement Network, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council - a crossdisciplinary consortium of some of the UK’s best-known retail research groups based at the Universities of Southampton, Oxford, Leeds and Surrey. Across the network, there are 15 CASE studentships and eight Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. A business voucher scheme is also being established to enable smaller retailers to tap into university expertise.
“The project involves 367 town centres and high streets in four regions of the UK, analysing the characteristics of each high street and seeking to discover the factors leading to success or failure ” said Neil Wrigley. Research on retailing and consumption is an internationally-acknowledged strength of Geography at Southampton. It ranges from agenda-setting studies of retail globalisation to policy-oriented work on UK retail competition and planning regulation.
“We are working directly with retailers, contributing university expertise gained through our extensive global research.”
Free range or factory? Animal welfare in the food chain Animal welfare assurance systems on both sides of the Channel are being examined by Dr Emma Roe with colleagues at the University of Exeter and the Institut de l’Elevage in Paris. Their work is part of the European R Union-funded project Welfare Quality. This investigates ways of improving the assessment of animal welfare within the food chain to enhance the quality of farm animal lives, and give opportunities for producers, manufacturers and retailers to respond positively to this growing area of consumer concern. Reliable on-farm monitoring systems, product information systems, and practical species-specific strategies are being developed. Three key groups were interviewed: farm assessors; personnel within the
certification schemes; and the working groups setting the standards. The project is considering the ongoing development of standards: looking at which issues are important, and what is impeding progress. It is also exploring the ways that assurance schemes respond to the various shifting regulatory and social pressures surrounding higher welfare products R and how the EU’s Welfare Quality assessment tool and animal-based measures more generally could be a part of such developments.
“Talking to these groups has given us considerable insight into how these assurance schemes have achieved their current positions and how good animal welfare is judged, both within standard documents and practically, on the farms.”
Saving unique Some of the worldâ€™s rarest and most fragile coral reefs and the economies that depend on them will now be better protected, thanks to a major international marine project led by the School of Geography.
ecosystems Professor Terry Dawson headed the three-year, Government-funded, Darwin Initiative project Galapagos Coral Conservation: Impact Mitigation, Mapping and Monitoring. Its aim was to assist the Ecuadorian government in protecting the last remaining extensive Galapagos coral reefs of the northern Wolf and Darwin Islands and examining how they can be managed in a way that still supports the important economic activities. The islands’ coral reefs contribute significantly to species richness and diversity in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. They support thousands of species, including many rare and endemic corals. Reed ecosystems are also major hotspots with remarkable numbers of sharks, tuna, turtles, and dolphins all ecologically linked to the area. However, their distribution has been strongly affected by extreme climatic events over the last 30 years, especially El Niño where extensive coral reefs were reduced by 95 per cent in 1982–3, with further mortality in 1997–8 due to increased sea surface temperatures as a result of ocean warming.
The fishing and tourism industries were engaged to improve the management of the marine environment involving dive guides and fishers. Permanent mooring buoys were installed to avoid damage by boat anchors.
“This demonstrates how relatively modest external aid can empower applied marine research and lead to management policy. Such steps are critical if natural ecosystem function is to be conserved to maintain Galapagos’s intrinsic value and contribution to the wellbeing of future generations.”
“These significant findings greatly improve our knowledge and appreciation of the value and current condition of the Galapagos’s northerly coral communities and establish conservation measures and stakeholder commitments to protect these valuable habitats,” said Terry. The project also discovered new species both to science and to Galapagos, including zooanthid species from the genera Parazoanthus and possibly Epizoanthus, although the latter may be an entirely new species as yet undescribed. Two new species from two new genera were confirmed to also be present in the Galapagos. Other reef-building corals have also been identified. This is the most comprehensive study using innovative mapping, remote sensing and rapid assessment techniques undertaken to date in the remote northern islands. It brought input from a large number of international and local marine and coral scientists, including the Charles Darwin Research Station, Conservation International, Galapagos National Park Service and WildAid, to address the particular conservation challenge faced in the Wolf and Darwin Islands.
Making sense of the 2011 Ce New ways of mapping the people Accurate population information is vital if policymakers are to address issues of inequality, ageing and migration. Much work is underway at Southampton into making the 2011 Census as meaningful as possible. Geography Professor David Martin directs the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) £8.4m national Census programme, which involves researchers from 12 universities across the UK. Members of a six-strong team in Southampton Geography are involved in several Census-related research projects for the ESRC and the Office for National
Statistics (ONS). They are also working with colleagues across the campus including social statisticians from the School of Social Sciences and nurses and public health specialists from the School of Health Sciences. Much of Southampton’s research centres around developing ways of producing and mapping data for small areas within towns and cities. As large family homes turn into apartment blocks and communities change in character, the numbers of people living in an area can change radically. Local authorities, the NHS, government agencies and other bodies which provide services for our ever-changing
population need accurate data to forecast what will be needed in years to come. To help plan future demand, they also need to compare current data with past statistics.
“Everyone is interested in neighbourhoods, if you’re organising services such as transport and healthcare, if you’re drawing up emergency plans, if you want to know where
nsus the deprived areas are, you will need detailed information from small areas. We are working on ways of providing relevant and useful data from the Census and other authorities.” David and Samantha Cockings lead work with the ONS which involves developing complex data analysis methods and new computer software which can be used to take the small
areas defined in 2001 and, where necessary, adapt them automatically to create a new set of areas to more accurately reflect the characteristics of population and businesses in 2011. Looking to the future, another piece of research at Southampton is aimed at helping planners draw up more sophisticated population models. David, Samantha and Samuel Leung are using a wealth of information from places such as schools, hospitals and workplaces to develop ways to predict how many of the population may be at home, at school, at work, out shopping, etc. at any point in time. This Population 24/7 project will also be invaluable to planners.
Geography has worked with the Census for many years. David devised the small areas on which the 2001 data are based, and is looking forward to seeing how systems work in 2011, providing valuable information to enable organisations plan for the future. “If there’s a disaster at an oil refinery, the emergency services will want a good estimate of where local people may be at the time, so they can evacuate residents and workers efficiently. Census data only tell us where people live, not where they may be at different times of the day,” explained David.
Curbing the spread of sleeping sickness Mapping cattle movements in Africa Geographer Professor Peter Atkinson has joined an interdisciplinary scientific team to tackle the menace of sleeping sickness (SS) in Africa. This is a widespread and virulent parasitic disease of sub-Saharan Africa, transmitted by tsetse fly. Endemic in some regions, it spreads across 36 countries and it is estimated that around 60,000 people are currently infected. There are two forms of the disease (Rhodesian and Gambian) but fears are growing they may converge which would cause major problems for healthcare as diagnosis would be compromised and treatment
failures would increase. Livestock movements contribute to the spreading of the Rhodesian form of the disease and although livestock treatment regulations have been introduced, they have not been wholly effective. Researcher Professor Peter Atkinson from the School of Geography at the University of Southampton has joined colleagues from the University of Edinburgh (Schools of Biomedical Sciences and Biological Sciences) and the University of Oxford (Department of Zoology) to work with the Government of Uganda. This team brings together expertise on parasitology, disease control,
epidemiology, spatial analysis and geostatistics to offer evidence-based control measures. Extensive field-based surveys are underway to obtain a comprehensive database of geo-referenced SS cases as cattle with the Rhodesian strain spread, and thus overlap with the Gambian form of the disease becomes more likely. Southampton has contributed its substantive expertise in the fields of spatial analysis and geostatistics, along with access to specialist software and high performance computing facilities. Further research will assess the risk of further Rhodesian SS spread and the potential for disease convergence.
Saving lives by providing safe water Developing a reliable test One and a half million children across the globe die of diseases carried by polluted drinking water every year. Dr Jim Wright is working with the University of Bristol to help develop ‘Aquatest’, a low-cost drinking water testing device for developing countries to help people improve the quality of supplies. Part of the project involves looking at how consumers can be provided with relevant information about the quality of their drinking water. Alongside a
broader set of activities Southampton researchers are looking at consumer perceptions of water quality and how far these are influenced by media stories. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the University of Bristol $13 million to develop Aquatest. The University of Southampton, together with a number of other organisations, has been sub-contracted by Bristol into the international, inter-disciplinary Aquatest research consortium.
Preserved in the peat Ancient rainfall captured in peat bogs sparks new research Peat bogs hold vital clues for climate change researchers. The plants and amoebae preserved in the layers of peat give scientists robust data to track ecological responses to changes in air temperature and precipitation reaching back thousands of years. Researchers from Geography’s Palaeoecology Laboratory (PLUS) have pioneered much work on the climate of the Holocene period (last 11,000 years), building on Professor Keith Barber’s original research on peatlands in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently the western North Atlantic region has been a key focus of PLUS research activity. The accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet has raised concern about the future impact of increased freshwater runoff on regional climate through its effect on ocean circulation. This concern arises
from knowledge of past events in the Holocene. For example, Greenland’s ice cores register an abrupt climate cooling event ~8200 years ago that has been linked to meltwater discharge from the thawing North American ice sheet. A NERC-funded research project led by Dr Paul Hughes in 2006 showed that bogs in Newfoundland registered a pronounced, early response to the so called 8200 cooling event. Following on from this work, PhD student Tim Daley (Supervisors: Keith Barber and Alayne Street-Perrott; funded by NERCRAPID) showed that changes in oxygen isotopes at Paul’s research site greatly exceeded the values predicted by recent palaeoclimate model simulations. These surprising findings demand further research since they suggest that the climate of the Atlantic seaboard of North America is highly sensitive to meltwaterinduced changes in ocean currents.
Dr Paul Hughes and colleagues from the Universities of Exeter, Swansea and Aberdeen, now have a 3-year grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to explore the linkages between the land, ocean and atmosphere across a transect of peat bogs from Maine in north-eastern USA to northern Newfoundland in Canada. Paul said: “Our new project will provide important results about the linkages between changes in major ocean currents and changes in climate along the North American seaboard.” He continued, “Knowledge of past patterns of climate change is critical to the current climate change debate because it gives context to modern climate measurements, provides insights into key environmental processes and supplies researchers with the baseline data required to test the climate simulation models that are used to predict future climate change.”
Winds of climate change The windswept lakes of Patagonia in South America are helping geographers track past climate changes through the evidence of volcanic eruptions over the last 10,000 years. Layers of volcanic ash, known as tephra, can be seen today in sediments and identified by geochemistry and physical properties to build up a highly-precise timeline for climate change events. Initial research findings reveal more tephra deposits than previously recorded in the region, suggesting that volcanic activity was far greater than previously estimated. Dr Peter Langdon and colleagues are using funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to build reconstructions of climate change events influenced by the powerful westerly winds that sweep across Patagonia – described by travel writer Bruce Chatwin as ‘the uttermost part of the earth’. “Patagonia’s landscape is flat in the east, rugged and volcanic or glacial in the west, all of which is constantly buffeted by intense westerly winds that
are most alluring to the climate change scientist,” explained Peter. “These winds not only control precipitation across Patagonia, but also drive the Antarctic circumpolar current. Connections are thought to exist between the strength of these westerlies and climate change events in the northern hemisphere over long timescales. Hence, reconstructing the past patterns and strength of the winds is of key importance for detecting climatic links between the hemispheres.” A major challenge for researchers is to establish accurate chronologies to identify abrupt climate change events over timescales as short as a decade. Analysing the individual tephra shards allows them to identify and date layers, each associated with a volcanic eruption, and then to correlate the findings between sites, steadily building up a picture of the number of regional volcanic eruptions over time.
Clues in the soil Ancient DNA tells of climate change
DNA evidence from past centuries and millennia is giving scientists a unique insight into changing ecosystems. Research is underway on ancient, frozen soils of Siberia to investigate past diversity levels of vegetation. Ancient DNA extracted from soils and sediments is now being used to identify plant material, as samples can be matched against a catalogue of DNA from known modern species using a ‘barcoding’ technique. After
determining that modern tundra soil DNA closely reflects plant species in the surrounding area, scientists are attempting to reconstruct past plant communities. Professor Mary Edwards, Dr Henrik von Stedingk, and Dr Heather Binney are working with groups in Oslo, Copenhagen and Grenoble to develop methods for using environmental DNA that will help us understand the response of ecosystems to climate change.
“These data will provide insights into how the properties of vegetation and soils change through time, particularly over the large climate changes associated with the end of the last ice age. This in turn helps us anticipate biodiversity responses to future climate change.”
America burning Wildfires caused by historic climate change An international study of charcoal and pollen records from lake sediment in North America has linked rapid climate change with increased wildfire activity. Researchers can use charcoal data to pick out individual fires thousands of years ago. In general, it records the amount of biomass burning and points to an important role for climate and particularly-rapid climate change in determining broad levels of fire activity. The well-documented abrupt climate changes around 12,000 years ago may “There are clear links between sudden, therefore have triggered increased fire rapid climate change and the incidence of wildfires, with abrupt climate changes at a regional scale. generally marked by a shift in the level The research has scotched a theory that of burning as well as an increase in the a crashing comet caused widespread incidence of fires” said Mary, an expert fires across North America at this time. on the boreal forest of Alaska. “When the climate abruptly warms, burning Insight from this study will help increases - as it appears to have been scientists understand whether present doing again over recent decades.” changes in global temperatures will cause more frequent fires in the future. Professor Mary Edwards and colleagues have been examining paleoecological evidence of conditions across the continent during the transition from glacial to interglacial periods between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Location, location, location. What happens when inner cities change in character? Many city centres are being transformed from poor neighbourhoods to aspirational places to live as richer people move into the area. Dr Geoff DeVerteuil is investigating what happens to voluntary organisations in the inner city, which used to serve the previous vulnerable populations, as the area changes in character. He is examining whether the ‘gentrification’ of London boroughs such as Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster; and places in Los Angeles such as Hollywood, Venice, Santa Monica and Downtown, is pushing out charities and other third sector services. “The only way to find out was to begin systematically sampling and interviewing agencies serving all manner of people, from the elderly and ethnic groups, to refugees, rough sleepers and the unemployed,” said
Geoff, who has interviewed people at 77 centres across the two cities. An initial finding has been that a large majority of these organisations (80 per cent) have become ‘locked-in’ to their locations, unable to move or expand as rents rise. Twenty per cent have been forced to move. “This matters from a social welfare perspective,” added Geoff. “We need to improve our understanding of displacement effects in all of its forms – not just upon the homeless, and not just upon public housing tenants– by extending across varied national and urban contexts, allowing for a more rigorous, comparative analysis.”
Flood risk Sophisticated automated systems will warn of danger Storm force winds and high tides already cause potentially-disastrous floods in many parts of the South Coast of England. Future rising sea levels and tidal surges, combined with the threat of climate change, make accurate forecasting and planning even more essential. Jason Sadler, Craig Hutton and Mike Clark from the GeoData Institute are working with colleagues in Southampton’s Schools of Geography, Civil Engineering and the Environment and Electronics and Computer Science, together with European Union partners on a three year EU-funded project to develop advanced automated sensor networks along threatened coasts. The initiative involves the development of user-friendly interfaces to sophisticated semantic grid technologies, to allow rapid transmission of complex data from environmental sensor networks to the organisations involved in flood management. “We want to develop a system that will use cutting-edge data management technologies, using real-time and historical facts to provide accurate information to everyone who needs to know the risks” said Jason Sadler. A regional stakeholder group has been formed to advise on requirements and monitor progress. It includes the Environment Agency, Channel Coastal Observatory, Solent Forum and the Southampton and Portsmouth port authorities.
Beneath the Bosphorus Scientists track seabed deposits by submarine Researchers are using a submarine to The Black Sea study site is unique map meandering channels located on because it was created around 6,000 the deep seabed of the SW Black Sea. years ago when sea-level approached its present level, and dense salty fluid up to Professor Stephen Darby from 15 metres deep started flowing from the Geography, along with colleagues Mediterranean, through the Bosphorus Dr Russell Wynn from the National channel, past Istanbul and into the Oceanography Centre, Southampton south west Black Sea, forming an almost and Dr Jeff Peakall and Dr Dan Parsons constantly active sea-floor channel from the University of Leeds are network. examining the saline density flows that form the meandering channel network The team is using Autosub3, NERC’s and associated sedimentary deposits. new high-tech autonomous submarine, They are developing three-dimensional to ‘fly’ state-of-the-art measurement computer simulations of these flows equipment just above the bottom of which could benefit the oil and gas the channel to map its structure and exploration industry and others who flows. The data will be used to develop work underwater. The £750,000 research a model to give new understandings of award has been funded by the Natural long-term sediment deposition, with Environment Research Council (NERC). key applications for geohazard analysis,
seafloor engineering, and the prediction of sedimentary deposit types and distributions. “Seabed meandering channels are spectacular features that can extend for thousands of kilometres across the ocean floor, often tens of kilometres wide and up to hundreds of metres deep,” said Stephen. “These channels are the major transport pathway for moving sediments from continents to the deep sea and form the largest sedimentary deposits on Earth. They are significant hosts for gas and oil reserves and hold key information on past climate change and mountain building episodes.”
On the trail of Atlantic salmon Britain’s Atlantis Did they swim in Scottish lochs thousands of years ago? Southampton geographers are tracking down evidence of salmon in Scotland by analysing loch sediments dating back over 10,000 years. Professor David Sear and Dr Pete Langdon, with Dr Leanne Franklin-Smith have taken cores from the bed of Loch Insh in the Cairngorms. They are using a range of diagnostic radioisotopes, diatom and potentially-ancient DNA, to develop techniques for determining the presence and populations of Atlantic salmon before humans moved to the area. Laboratory analysis from the British Geological Survey is aiding the search
for evidence in this Atlantic Salmon Trust-supported research. The approach is based on work at the University of Alaska, in which the amount of marine nutrients and diatom matter in lake sediments are related to the populations of returning salmon. This is the first time that researchers have tried this approach to track early Atlantic salmon. The team was delighted to recover one core from Loch Insh that appears to span the whole period since the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.
“Salmon aside, this record in itself will be of value, and represents the first such record from Loch Insh.”
Clearest images yet of the lost town revealed Professor David Sear and colleagues Dr Andy Murdock and Gemma Donaghue from Geography’s GeoData Institute have been working with scientists in Wessex Archaeology and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton to explore the lost town of Dunwich. Using high-resolution sidescan imaging, the clearest images yet obtained have been recorded of the lost churches of St Peter and St Nicholas, lying on the seafloor some 300 metres off the Suffolk coast. Two other potential sites have also been discovered, one may be the remains of Blackfriars monastery. The project integrates digital cartography, geophysical survey and historical analysis to increase our understanding of the largest and most important medieval settlement to have been lost to the sea. Research was funded by English Heritage and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
High altitude research Mountains tell their stories
Mountain ranges in Europe and Asia are giving up their secrets to scientists anxious to plot the future of the world’s highest places. Climate change is expected to have a disproportionately large impact on mountain systems. Warmer temperatures and fewer snowfalls will have profound effects on rivers, ecosystems and the inhabitants of these areas. Professor John Dearing of Southampton and colleagues from the University of Liverpool have conducted research on water flows and erosion over time in the Alps and the Dabie Mountains of eastern China. In China, twentieth-century climate records; documented land-use changes; the year-to-year processes of flooding and soil erosion; and the effects of the summer monsoon were all analysed. However, over the long term, processes were more affected by human activities. In particular, notable periods of human impact on soil erosion include the Great Leap Forward
(1958-1960) and the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). At Lac d’Annecy in the French Alps, the mountain system was modelled mathematically to enable historic changes in water flows and soil erosion over the centuries to be plotted. To test the system, the model was run from 1850 to the present and compared with observed processes over the same timescale, as recorded in the sediments deposited at the bed of a lake. It proved to be accurate and will be used elsewhere. “In different ways, these two examples show how modern environmental problems often need a longer time perspective than is normally considered,” said John. “As global societies focus more and more on how to adapt to climate change and other pressures, ‘learning from the past’ will increasingly become part of the management tool-kit.” Research funding of £300,000 was received from Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society, the French Mountain Institute and the University of Liverpool.
The facts behind mythology Finding out how cities in ancient Greece worked Ancient Greek mythology tells us Hercules slayed the Stymphalian birds in the Stymphalos Valley in his sixth labour. Geography Professor Tony Brown and his team are on-site to find out more about the ancient cities of the Northern Peloponnese. The valley, high in the Arcadian mountains, 41 km southwest of the present-day town of Kiato on the Corinthian Gulf was the location for a Greek and later a Roman city. Few people now live in the area. Southampton scientists are reconstructing the water, mineral and land resources upon which these cities were built and prospered through a geomorphological and palaeoenvironmental survey. The research, funded by the British Academy, involves analysing lake sediment cores
and studies of alluvial and colluvial sediments from the terraces of the valley’s slopes. Findings will improve our understanding of how human and climatically-induced environmental change leads to the collapse of major settlements. Geoarchaeology is the application of geological and geomorphological concepts and methods to archaeological sites. This research area of Geography’s Palaeoecology Laboratory is funded by English Heritage and the British Academy.
“Increasing our knowledge of the growth and decline of ancient cities will give us valuable information on how communities respond to climatic change.”
Ecology in action Restoring rivers to their former glories
Geographers are working with Natural England on its challenging task of bringing 95 per cent of areas of Special Scientific Interest along rivers or in floodplains to ‘favourable’ or ‘recovering’ ecological condition by 2010.
Out of Africa
Human migration clues from the Middle Stone Age Excavations of a Middle Stone Age site on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya have produced new thoughtprovoking evidence on evolution. Southampton scientists believe the area may have been used by animals and early humans during droughts.
Geo-archaeologists Dr Laura Basell, and Profesor Tony Brown suggest major environmental changes such as volcanic activity and climate change affected human migrations at this critical time in human evolution. This research has been funded by the British Academy.
Professor David Sear and Geography’s GeoData Institute have been carrying out geomorphological assessments as an essential first step in setting the strategic restoration framework for these river and floodplain environments. They have developed the national guidance for Natural England and these principles and approaches have been tested on the Rivers Wensum and Nar in East Anglia. Working with the civil engineering consultancy Halcrow, the Southampton team is now undertaking a survey and analysis of the 205 km Hampshire Avon river system stretching from Pewsey to Christchurch. It has drawn together a wealth of data from recent and past surveys and the Environment Agency into a single geodatabase, providing restoration options. “Much of the river’s catchment area is affected by flow control structures, such as sluices and weirs, and land management, such as fishing and the demands of urban areas, which affect both the ecology and geomorphology of the river,” said David. “Local stakeholders will be consulted on the restoration options. Then we will present an implementation plan to our funding partners which include the Environment Agency and Wessex Water.”
Studying spin-outs Southampton’s successful companies analysed More than 50 companies have successfully spun-out from the University of Southampton as enterprising academics exploit their good ideas. Professors Steven Pinch and Peter Sunley have been analysing the role of venture capitalists in this research project funded by the British Academy, which focuses on the development of university-inspired high technology.
From 2001 to 2007, Southampton spinouts secured nearly £50 million in venture capital funds; just over £4 million per spin-out. Southampton is ranked fourth in the UK in terms of total sums invested since 2001 (behind Cambridge, Imperial College in London, and Oxford).
Garments without guilt The changing face of ethical labour practices
The manufacturing of garments to meet the exacting demands of today’s consumer, both in terms of quality and cost, often conjures up images and stories of clothing production facilities in the Global South which trouble our humane sensibilities. Unbeknown to most of us, however, there also exist sites of production in the garment industry, for example in Sri Lanka which deviate from those popular images of slave labour and dire working conditions. Corporate codes of conduct are a cornerstone of ethical trade initiatives. Yet these ‘global’ regulatory initiatives are primarily driven from the Global North, when retailers yield to consumer campaigns and NGO pressure. Consequently, there remains a lacuna relating to the integration of the voice of labour and their concerns for the Global South into these regulatory frameworks. What is the impact of ethical trading codes of conduct and social auditing methods on labour practices at sites of production?
apparel production. As a result, it will facilitate a comparison of differences in labour practices relating to the impact of ethical trading codes of conduct in higher value-added and lower value-added clothing production. Via these multi-dimensional approaches, the research will offer important
insights into the complex impacts of ‘responsible’ global sourcing at sites of production. The results will benefit international policy-making bodies by improving understanding of the key attributes and conditions that enable effective enforcement of ethical codes in countries hosting production sites.
Dr Kanchana Ruwanpura is addressing this issue through a study of the apparel sector in Sri Lanka with a view to understanding the institutional context within which this sector has been able to engage in ethical trading, and how it has made the transition relatively smoothly and rapidly. This Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded study will provide in-depth research of evolving labour conditions and practices focusing on the experiences and perceptions of workers from a sample of apparel producers and factories. It will also examine how initiatives to promote social justice and ensure worker welfare, via the maintenance of minimum labour standards at sites of production, is an outcome of a confluence of local and international factors. Importantly, the study will be set within the context of a country making the transition towards higher value-added
Title taken from Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum’s (JAAF) Brand Campaign.
Mapping spring and autumn from space Lessons from plants in India Satellite technology can already show scientists when spring arrives and trees and plants begin to go green across a continent. Likewise, as plant life dies off in autumn, the evidence can clearly be seen from space. Geographers from Southampton are examining this rhythm, which also plays an important role in the lives of insects, birds and other animals, including human beings. Any change may disturb the food chain, affect carbon uptake and even have implications for the global energy budget. Millions of people depend directly on forest products and hence the research is relevant for policymakers, and environmental and social researchers. Professor Peter Atkinson, Dr Jadu Dash and Dr Jeganathan Chockalingam have been mapping the lifecycle of natural vegetation in India using
geocomputational techniques. A time series of satellite images were used to discover the onset of greenness at the beginning of spring and the end of autumn as plants die off. Interesting phenomena have been revealed in this pioneering research. “Mapping phenology from the ground is incredibly difficult and mapping from space has been hindered by cloud cover. This will be the world’s first published map of natural vegetation phenology in India” said Peter. “We also discovered that the lifecycle of Indian tropical vegetation was mostly rainfall-driven.” Future research will aim to establish a ground-based network in India to examine life-cycles and explore the use of field-camera-based systems to provide supporting Earth-based evidence.
Homeless or overcrowded? Focus on immigrant communities Dr Geoff DeVerteuil is investigating why certain immigrant groups in global cities tend not to be homeless. His British Academy-funded research project examines whether migrants opt to accept overcrowded conditions, amid strong social and family networks. He is also looking at the potentially crucial role of an independent ‘ethnic shadow state’ in which third-sector, ethnically-based institutions may deal with these problems. Two groups are being studied: Central Americans in Los Angeles and Bangladeshis in London.
Eye in the sky New satellites will provide vital data Information from the next generation of environmental Earth observation satellites that monitor vegetation across the continents will revolutionise research into the changing climate. Francesco Vuolo is working with the European Space Agency’s three- year research project to develop algorithms for the estimation of chlorophyll content based on data from these new satellites. Studies of chlorophyll in leaves play an important role in determining the health of plant life and is an essential parameter for studies of terrestrial productivity, carbon gas exchange and the general health of vegetation.
New models of business Third Sector initiatives under the spotlight Geographers are involved in the Third Sector Research Centre which will examine the roles of charities, community organisations and social enterprises. The Centre, established jointly by the Universities of Southampton and Birmingham, will receive £10.25 million funding over five years by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Government’s Office of the Third Sector (OTS) and the Barrow Cadbury Trust. At Southampton, it is led by the School of Social Sciences. Focusing on key issues such as the sector’s scale, dynamics and effectiveness, its work will include research into the effectiveness and impact of third sector organisations, as well as specific research programmes on policy and practice; mapping
of organisations, and an enhanced understanding of their dynamics. In Geography, Professors Peter Sunley and Steven Pinch will examine the financial barriers to the development of social enterprise, paying particular attention to geographical variations in the experience of social enterprises in different regions. “This is a valuable new opportunity to provide an extensive and robust research resource for the Third Sector and to work closely with policy makers and practitioners - both locally and nationally.” Social enterprises are commercial ventures that attempt to provide social benefits for defined communities, such as a local neighbourhood, or communities of common interest, such as the long-term unemployed or disabled.
The Centre has been praised by MP Phil Hope, Minister of the Third Sector. He said:
“This is a very exciting development. This will be a Centre for the whole sector, with academics working alongside charities, social enterprises and small community associations to develop the evidence base on the sector and the impact it has on peoples’ lives.”
Stubbing it out Surveying England’s smokers National survey information on around 40,000 people is being used by Professor Graham Moon in his research into ‘stop smoking’ schemes for the Care Quality Commission, the NHS regulator. He has developed statistical models of risk factors for smoking, with colleagues at the University of Portsmouth. They used national survey information with census and
population data to make estimates of smoking levels at the level of primary care trusts, the main NHS bodies responsible for delivering ‘stop smoking’ policy. The team has also drawn up estimates for all general practices in England based on models of practice populations and associated deprivation measures. They are now working on ways of identifying the numbers of deaths per GP practice where smoking is a factor.
More than metropolitan Changing roles of design agencies in the regions Why do design agencies cluster in and around London and certain other cities? Geographers have been analysing the distribution of these consultancies and investigating why company founders choose to set up in business in some places, and not in others.
in the South East. It also found some cityregions, such as Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, and Manchester, have different types of smaller design clusters, based on local and regional markets.
the industry to flourish outside London and the South East.”
Suggested initiatives include: design vouchers to link regional companies with design agencies; internships in regional firms for the best design The most important factors in location students; improving the quality of turned out to be: proximity to clients who value good design; a supply of skilled demand from public sector clients; labour and experienced freelances; good establishing regional advisory and Research, funded by the Economic mentoring services; the development of and Social Research Council involved transport links; and suitable premises. policies that foster stronger links with more than 100 in-depth interviews universities and colleges; and design “Our findings suggest the Regional with designers. Led by Professor Peter promotion that exploits the track Sunley with Professor Steven Pinch, Dr Development Agencies and urban Suzanne Reimer and James Macmillen, authorities need to work with designers records of leading regional agencies the project highlighted the enormous to introduce more effective support and and the economic specialisations of each regional economy. concentration of design consultancies promotion programmes to encourage
Tales of the riverbank Living next to the Mekong Hundreds of millions of people live near the world’s largest rivers such as the Amazon and the Ganges– Brahmaputra and depend on them for their livelihoods. Yet there has been little scientific research so far into the effects of climate on these major arteries. Research findings have highlighted the influence of climate conditions such as La Niña, associated with higher monsoon rainfalls and river flows, on accelerating rates of river bank erosion. Improved riverbank erosion forecasting ahead of the monsoon season could enable They are developing innovative models disaster management agencies within the Lower Mekong Basin to to predict how the riverbanks will implement emergency planning respond to environmental pressures procedures more effectively. This will along the river in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and how they can be protected benefit around 60 million people who live along the riverbank. from erosion so people living by the Mekong can maintain their livelihoods. Professors Paul Carling and Stephen Darby from Southampton are researching the lower Mekong basin in South East Asia in projects funded by the British Council, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council and the Mekong River Commission.
“Monsoonal flooding can last for months and inundate floodplains tens or hundreds of kilometres wide, while erosion of riverbanks by flood waters can undermine flood defences and destroy roads and buildings. In the Mekong Delta, riverbank erosion can reach several hundred metres each year, and even large towns have to be periodically re-located, brick-bybrick,” said Paul.
“Understanding the world’s largest rivers is vital.”
Under the surface How farmland affects rivers Professor David Sear has joined with the ecological consultancy ADAS and the Centre for Ecology and Hydration to probe the effects of farmland sediments on aquatic ecology. Their £790,000 project, financed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will develop new data and modelling tools to help support the management of agricultural land so that it minimises the impact of sediment on fish, river plants and aquatic creatures. Staff from Geography’s GeoData Institute are also developing a national classification of rivers at risk from agricultural sedimentation and an egg research facility. Controlled experiments will be conducted to determine how fine sediments affect the development of eggs from some spawning fish species.
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Published on Aug 10, 2010
From free range to flood risks this brochure demonstrates the diverse research from the University of Southampton's School of Geography.