WACSWAIN: Time and ice

My last blog about the WACSWAIN project was in February 2020. We had just started the chemical analysis of our 651-metre-long ice core from Skytrain Ice Rise (Antarctica). The theme of this article is time – the first aspect being that a lot of time has since passed. Soon after I wrote last, our labwork was completely shut down by the pandemic, some of the team went back to their families in other countries, and we all learnt what Zoom meetings were.

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Arran 2021: reporting on the successes of running a field trip in Covid-times

Nicholas Barber, 4th Year PhD Student, tells us about his experience as a demonstrator for this summer’s first year field trip to Arran – the first since the pandemic started.   

Covid-19’s impact has touched each and every one of our lives. While the impacts of the pandemic have been devastating, in a much smaller way Covid-19 has completely reshaped what it means to study Earth Sciences at Cambridge. Traditionally, our students would spend a week over the Easter holiday tramping through the bogs and heather on the Isle of Arran – this would be their first taste of fieldwork and would be “the best revision any Cambridge undergraduate could ask for.”

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Cambridge seismology graduate named one of 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering

Image of mountainous backdrop, with winding road extending into the distance

Grace Campbell is an earthquake geologist and remote sensing specialist in Arup‘s Natural Hazard and Risk Management Team.

After gaining a Master’s degree in Earth Sciences at UCL, Grace moved to Cambridge to study – firstly for an MPhil in Environmental Science and Remote Sensing at the Department of Geography, then moving to Earth Sciences to undertake a PhD on earthquake hazards in central Asia. 

Grace has now worked at Arup for 5 years, and was recently recognised as one of 2021’s Top 50 Women in Engineering. We caught up with Grace in the following blog post and heard more about her work on natural hazard and risk management.

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Life after graduating, and life before the Cambrian Explosion

Before the unprecedented months of virtual everythings – hand sanitiser-soaked fingers and meetings in pyjama bottoms – I was happily enjoying my final year as an undergraduate. Whilst making the most of my time left in beautiful Cambridge and running the greatest student geological society there is (the unofficial title I awarded the Sedgwick Club), I found myself working on an interesting Master’s project with Alex Liu. The exciting results that came out of this project gave me something to focus on whilst stuck at home in the months after graduation. I’ll tell you more about my project, and my journey to getting my results published, in this blog post.  

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The UK’s best student mapping project

In June every year, the Part II examiners in Cambridge Earth Sciences select the best mapping project of the year group, based on the quality of field maps and notebooks, and on the final drafted map and report. Since 2006, this top project has won the Reekie Prize within the department; a useful accolade to put on the CV. However, a yet bigger prize is then at stake. In December, the project gets submitted for a national award: the Dave Johnston prize of the Geological Society’s Tectonic Studies Group (TSG).

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Escaping the pandemic – my experience as an exploration geologist in Yukon

If you had the chance to escape from the ongoing pandemic to a remote exploration geology camp in northern Canada, 150km from the closest town and only accessible by helicopter, would you take it?

I came to Cambridge to start my PhD in January 2020 and, although I was warmly welcomed, things were at first pretty uneventful. However, this changed dramatically with the sudden onset of COVID-19. I chose to return home to Canada where I continued to work on what I still hope to be a lab-based PhD. However, there are, of course, limitations to research from a bedroom 5000km from Cambridge!

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Research in Lockdown: Fieldwork Disrupted

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Java; image credit: NationalGeographic/Manamana

My PhD concerns a longstanding question—how do valuable metals move through volcanic systems? Since starting my PhD in September 2018, I’ve been looking forward to testing my hypotheses on this topic in the field, on a six-week expedition called the Metals in Magmas field campaign. Like many Earth scientists, I spent months planning the project’s logistical and technical details. But, two weeks before the fieldwork was set to begin, the outbreak of the current global pandemic stopped the project in its tracks. My plans are now on hold and my PhD can’t continue as originally billed. In this blog post, I hope to share my perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on my PhD research.

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