Making Science Count: Evaluating research impact

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The Truth Is Out There, so we put it in a suitcase and brought it home. From the water samples and lake sediment cores we brought back from our expedition to Lake Baikal we are building a picture of how the lake has changed over the last 100 and 1000 years. But what will happen to our results when we publish them? How likely are we to influence the work of others, whether scientists, policy-makers, or conservationists concerned with Lake Baikal? What opportunities and constraints are there for the wider dissemination of our work, and how will it be received by different people?

We’re taking the opportunity of our project to find out more about the how the process of science works, and to learn what more we could do to bring greater attention to our findings, rather than leave the impact of our work to habit, chance, and the Internet. To do this, we’re teaming up with social scientist, Stephan Price, who is going to carry out a survey of people interested in Lake Baikal and paleolimnology. We’d like to know were we fit in communities of scientists and others who take an interest in the lake and this type of research, and what the shape and character of these communities are. How are they linked up? Who is seen as important? What type of interactions do people have, and what views do people hold on our research, science and the environment?

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To answer these questions, the results of the survey will be used to build a network map of the  connections we make with other people through our research, and of the connections of those connections, and so on. One thing that might limit the impact of our research, for example, could be if we are only part of a cosy community of paleolimnological scientists, with no connections beyond the clique. Publishing our work in journals, and on a blog like this can help us to get the message ‘out there’, but personal links can really help to explain the methods and the findings to people and places where it matters. If we are part of a cluster of like-minded scientists, just one weak link outside that clique could make a big difference.

Costing the Earth, Radio 4 today at 15.30

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Just a friendly reminder, that there is a Radio 4 episode of Costing the Earth on today at 15.30. This will outline the aims, objectives and wider context of our ongoing project. Don’t forget to tune in!

Hear all about the expedition we conducted in March as well as catching some amazing sound bites of life on the world’s deepest lake. As well as hearing from our expedition team, have the opportunity to listen to what our colleagues are up to and the type of diverse research that is conducted on the lake each year.

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New team member joins

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Welcome!

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Stephan Price is a researcher within human geography at the University of Southampton. He will be working with us on the NERC Lake Baikal project, and will focus on developing a “network analysis”. This will enable us to investigate the dynamics of how different stakeholders, who have an interest in Lake Baikal, communicate. His research involves assessing social and political influences, analysing social networks, and looking into environmental policy. Stephan will be collaborating with us so that we can better understand these social and political network systems.

Find out more about our new team member…http://www.southampton.ac.uk/socsci/about/staff/shp1g11.page

BBC Radio 4 – Our March expedition

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Want to find out more about Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the most important and interesting lakes in the world?

Well Dr. Anson Mackay has created a compilation of audio recordings for ‘The Deepest Lake on Earth: Exploring the environmental secrets’.

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???????????????????????????????Find out more about our expedition last month by listening to Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4 next week…

Happy Listening!

 

Laboratory work begins!

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Since returning from our March winter expedition, the large amount of laboratory work is now underway. We have collated a large variety of measurements, both physical and chemical, to help us assess the environmental conditions and water quality. These measurements were obtained using a Secchi disk, probes, water sampler and nets to determine the physical and chemical properties of the water. Our overall aim is to build a picture of the algal community activity and water quality conditions in Lake Baikal, and importantly aim to find any localised areas of eutrophication and climate change impacts on this unique ecosystem.

After collating and cataloguing all the water column samples, sediment core material and sediment trap samples the exciting part of science (as well as the incredible fieldwork expedition of course!) now begins. From the three sampling sites, a total of 180 samples where collected from within the water profile alone. The water column was sampled at depths of 1m, 3m, 5m, 10m, 20m, 30m, 50m, 100m and 180m, at sites situated along a transect (from the Neutrino scientific site to a site close to one of the biggest mills in Russia). These were taken for phytoplankton and diatom, total phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon, nutrients and major ions, photosynthetic pigments (carotenoids and chlorophyll a derivatives), zooplankton, chlorophyll a, diatom silicon isotope, diatom oxygen isotope, and anion analyses.

Nutrient concentrations are very low in Lake Baikal, and therefore only small additions of nutrients (Nitrogen, phosphorus and Silicate) can stimulate algal growth and productivity. Currently, water chemistry analysis is underway within the laboratory facilities at the University of Nottingham. To begin with the filtered nutrient and major ion water samples are being analysed on the Ion Chromatography (IC) for Nitrates. In addition to this, the Total Phosphorus and Silicate analyses on the water samples are near to completion.

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From the water samples, the factors driving the modern-day algal community and silicon isotope composition of diatom shells will be investigated, in order to look back through time within the sediment core samples and help us understand past primary productivity (palaeolimnological reconstructions). Thus, the present is the key to the past, and there will be more to follow shortly on our laboratory progress…