REPs 2015

4 REPs were awarded  this year:

University of Bath – Algal bioreactors for nutrient capture from waste water : Supervisor – Prof Rod Scott

The project aligned with a joint research programme with Associate Partner Wessex Water, evaluating the potential for algal bioreactors for nutrient removal from treated waste water. Tightening environmental legislation, and rising energy / chemicals costs drive the search for more sustainable methods of nutrient capture / removal from waste water. The AIM of the REP was to evaluate native algal strains, isolated from two waste water treatment works. This will involve batch algal growth on treated waste water, and analysis of the time profiles of algal cell number / mass, and the nutrients (NH4, NO3, NO2, PO4).

Quantitative analysis of the data involved the estimation of kinetic parameters of algal growth, and stoichiometry of algal biomass formation from nutrients and carbon dioxide, using Matlab. The rate of algal biomass settling at the end of the batch cycle will be evaluated – this is important for the release of treated water, and if the algal biomass is to be used for any other purpose, e.g. fertilizer. The kinetic and stoichiometric data will be used to scope a design for a pilot scale algal bioreactor, which will support the longer term work being conducted with Wessex Water, providing the student with insight into the aims of the industry.

University of Bristol – Statistical Learning Techniques for Improved Earthquake Forecasts: Supervisor – Dr Max Werner

The central challenge in earthquake science is to accurately estimate future seismic hazard. Myriads of hypotheses and models of future earthquake potential have been proposed and are now being evaluated in a recent global initiative by the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability (CSEP). CSEP’s goals are to provide independent evaluations of earthquake forecasting methods and to help government agencies assess the utility of earthquake forecasts for risk mitigation. Over 450 forecast models are now under testing within CSEP, and many are evaluated using multiple tests on a daily basis. The project aimed to introduce new statistical learning and testing methods within CSEP that are designed to handle the large numbers of models, data and results.

The student reviewed and evaluated multi-model ensemble strategies and multiple-testing methods for their adequacy for CSEP. Promising methods will be prototyped and applied in the context of the devastating 2010-12 Canterbury, New Zealand, earthquake sequence. Fourteen earthquake forecast models have been developed by groups around the world to forecast the evolution of this complex earthquake cascade over multiple time periods, and multi-model ensembles may improve the estimated hazard in the region over the next decades.

University of Exeter – Linking the terrestrial and aquatic carbon cycles to improve global Earth Systems Models: Supervisor – Dr Jeroen Meersmans

Quantifying lateral fluxes of carbon from land to ocean is critical for the understanding of the global carbon cycle. However, the crucial role of rivers in receiving, transporting and processing carbon has only recently been recognised. Hence, a mechanistic understanding of the processes involved in the loss and sequestration of carbon across the terrestrial-aquatic continuum is required to refine current global C budgeting and climate change feedback predictions.

The internship supported a cross-disciplinary pilot-project, which aims to develop a methodological framework for investigating the magnitude of the lateral fluxes of carbon at the catchment scale in order to improve the estimation of anthropogenic perturbations to the global carbon cycle in Earth Systems Models (i.e. a collaboration between scientists with ecological, geomorphological, hydrological and paleo-environmental expertise: Dr. Meersmans, Prof. Quine, Dr. Jones, Prof. Hartley, Dr. Glendell, Dr. Yvonne-Durocher (University of Exeter) and Dr. Dungait (Rothamsted Research)).

The student helped with the collecting of samples at the project’s study site in Cornwall (Loe Pool) that involved aquatic & soil respiration measurements and lake coring. Laboratory analysis included radiometry (137Cs) to estimate soil erosion, C/N analysis and mass-spectrometry to trace the origin of organic matter using stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N).

British Antarctic Survey – Looking for clouds: Creating a new cloud observations dataset : Supervisor – Dr Tracy Moffat-Griffin

The project involved working with our new all-sky camera; helping to set it up at BAS and developing software that will utilize its data to determine cloud cover during high and low light levels. This data will be used in conjunction with other datasets from meteorological instruments also based here at BAS (e.g. ceilometer) to examine the local variations in cloud levels and potentially their properties. The software will be used to determine cloud levels, in conjunction with other instruments, when the new all-sky cameras are deployed to Antarctica this coming season. The project provided hands on experience of working with instrumentation, familiarisation with common meteorological instrument data and developing software for specific analysis tasks.


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