The team got together on Thursday 8th May for the Rick Battarbee Lecture Series at UCL where Professor Sheri Fritz (from the University of Nebraska, USA) presented a talk on diatoms and climate: ‘From Microscopic to Macroscopic: Climate Variation Through Time as Viewed Through the Lens of the Diatoms.’ Sheri Fritz discussed the work carried out on diatom-inferred salinity and climate reconstructions from continental lakes and the role of ionic concentrations within saline lakes on diatom distributions. Palaeoclimatic records from lakes in the Northern Great Plains were presented, along with research into medieval mega droughts and the formation of Nebraska diatomites during Marine Isotope Stage 3. This was an excellent talk, and the extensive diatom research was inspirational.
The following day, the baikal team (Prof Anson Mackay, Dr George Swann, Dr Suzanne McGowan, Prof Neil Rose, Dr Virginia Panizzo, Jen Adams and Sarah Roberts) gathered for the first project meeting in 2014 at UCL. The meeting began with Jen Adams, Sarah Roberts and Ginnie Panizzo discussing their research findings so far, presenting data from contemporary limnological studies and sedimentary records. Jen presented results from High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) aided algal pigment analyses and Loss-on-ignition analyses (a measure of organic content) from two catchment lakes; Black Lake and Selenga Delta Lake 1. Sarah presented work on lake-water profile and catchment nutrient concentrations (total phosphorus, silicate and nitrate concentrations), Dissolved Organic Carbon (analysed at Loughborough University), Mercury concentrations (in lake-waters and sediments analysed by Dr. Handong Yang at UCL), HPLC algal pigments and carbon isotopes (analysed at the British Geological Survey). Ginnie presented the Silicon isotope results from all the lake water profiles and catchment sites.
The project meeting was a great opportunity to explore data interpretations amongst the group and discuss potential publications and forthcoming opportunities to present the project work at conferences- thanks all for an excellent meeting and looking forward to the next one!
It seems like only a few weeks ago since we were last in Russia working on Lake Baikal, collecting water and sediment samples whilst standing on the frozen lake. Since our return at the end of March we’ve been busying analysing the samples that we collected both at the University of Nottingham and University College London, as well as at the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory at the British Geological Survey.
Following our departure, conditions in the region became gradually warmer as spring arrived, with clear (ice-free) water appearing in the South Basin in late April. However, it wasn’t until early June that the lake was completely free of ice in the North Basin. Now, with the university term and other teaching commitments finished, it’s time for us to return for our summer expedition when we fly out to Irkutsk in a weeks time. However unlike last time when temperature plunged as low as −30°C, for this trip we can expect temperatures to be c. +20°C or higher!
Of the original expedition in March, four of us will be taking part in this summer trip: Anson, Ginnie, George and Sarah. Suzanne will unfortunately miss this trip as she’s currently moving to the University of Nottingham’s Malaysian campus in Kuala Lumpur (www.nottingham.edu.my) as part of a two year position. In Russia we’ll be working with our colleague Elena Vologina at the Institute of the Earth’s Crust, Russian Academy of Science (www.en.crust.irk.ru). We’ll also be joined by two American school teachers (Alison Ball and Julia Lehman) from the Urban Promise Academy in Oakland, California, who are currently working their way across China and Mongolia into Russia.
We will be working in and around Lake Baikal for a month to enable us to collect water and sediment samples from parts of the lake that were inaccessible due to the ice and snow earlier in the year. We’ll also return to the sites we visited in March to assess what has changed in the intervening months, as well as travelling around the lake’s catchment to collect samples from rivers that flow into the lake. This includes an extended trip down the Selenga Delta and river towards Mongolia when we’ll be collecting water samples at key sites as well as coring some wetland lakes and a Ramsar site to provide a further perspective on environmental change in the catchment. This is an important component of the project as the region contributes 60% of the annual river flow into Lake Baikal and is an area that has undergone significant agricultural, urban and industrial development in recent years.
Due to the amount of work to be done, we’ll be splitting into two groups. George, Sarah, Lena, Alison and Julia will be working on the boat “Geolog”, visiting and collecting samples marked in orange on the map above, whilst Ginnie and Anson will be travelling around the catchment (blue sites on map). The range of water and sediment samples that we’ll be collecting on this expedition will be similar to that collected early in the year. Together these samples will allow us to further assess how climate and environmental changes in the region are affecting the chemistry and ecosystem of the lake. Over the past week we’ve been packing up our equipment and everything we’ll need whilst we’re away. We’ll be taking twelve large suitcases/rucksacks from the UK, each of which will be packed up to the maximum weight limit allowed by the airlines. All we need now is to get our visas from the Russian embassy in London!
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?
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.
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.
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
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’.
Find out more about our expedition last month by listening to Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4 next week…
We have just met with the director of the Institute of the Earth’s Crust, Russian Academy of Science, Irkutsk, Russia to discuss a collaboration agreement with the University of Nottingham. Our collaborative partner is Elena G. Vologina, a sedimentologist who has worked extensively on Lake Baikal.
Thanks for looking after us in the field Elena and looking forward to working with you.