On 19th October 2012, Dr Martin Coombes will present at the annual conference of the International Navigation Association in London. The theme of the conference will be 'Learning from Experiences: Future ports and maritime infrastructure – learning lessons from the past'. Details of the event can be found here.
The presentation will explore the 'ecological enhancement' of hard maritime infrastructure, using examples from a range of on-going projects in this area involving collaboration between multiple research institutions, consultants and government agencies. The 'bioprotection' project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation will also feature in the talk, showcasing the research being undertaken to examine how intervention to enable organisms to colonise marine structures could provide engineering benefits alongside biodiversity and social gains. The event will give widespread exposure of the research and operational experience to industry professionals and practitioners.
On 8–9th September 2012, the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory (OxRBL) was opened to the public as part of the 'Oxford Open Doors' event. This events is organised by the Oxford Preservation Trust to encourage the public explore the buildings, architecture and activities taking place in Oxford's museums, colleges and university departments. Four tours took place in the School of Geography and the Environment involving over 40 people. As well as a host of other project, work being carried out at part of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded 'Bioprotection' project was highlighted. Experiments involving simulation of tides under laboratory conditions, and measurements of how barnacles influence rock decay in an environmental chamber were demonstrated to an interested audience!
On 11th July 2012 students (Year 12) from state schools in Oxford attended the School of Geography to participate in a day of research-related activities. The students collected environment data and undertook measurements associated with rock decay in nearby Wytham Woods, where the Oxford Rock Breakdown Group currently has a range of project in operation at their dedicated test site. In the afternoon, the students analysed their data and presented their findings and conclusions to the rest of the group.
During the day, the students were required to think about the geomorphological roles that organisms have on rocks and building stone, introducing the concept of ‘bioprotection’ in the built environment. The importance of higher plants for microclimatic regulation (e.g. of temperature and moisture at the rock surface) was observed and discussed. The day gave the opportunity for school students to engage with active researchers at University level, and to experience the rewards and challenges and of undertaking academic research in the field.
Update on fieldwork findings
We have completed our field monitoring and analysis examining the influence of seaweed on microclimates on coastal structures in South West England, UK. We found that seaweed canopies significantly alter surface conditions important for the efficiency of weathering in this environment, and in this way may offer some protection. More details can be found in our latest project update here. We have also submitted a paper to the journal 'Geomorphology' on our findings. We are now beginning our laboratory based work, where we will focus on the influence of barnacles on internal rock thermal regimes, and their influence on rates of rock and concrete breakdown in salt weathering experiments.
Initial work from the project has been presented at the 42nd Binghamton Symposium on Geomorphology (Zoogeomorphology and Ecosystem Engineering) held at the University of South Alabama, Mobile, USA. Martin Coombes presented a poster of the Bioprotection project at the conference, attended by 50 geomorphologists and ecologists interested in organism–environment interactions.
The project is now well underway, and monitoring equipment has been installed at four sites across Cornwall and Dorset. We are visiting the sites regularly though 2011 and 2012 to collect temperature and moisture data.
The bioprotection project was officially launched alongside the publication of new guidance on the ecological enhancement of hard coastal structures produced by our team at the Environment Agency’s Head Office in Bristol (see here for more details)