Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Five amazing extinct creatures that aren't dinosaurs

Five amazing extinct creatures that aren't dinosaurs

By Charlotte Stephenson, Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, University of Hull

The release of Jurassic World has reignited our love for palaeontology. Many of us share a longing to understand the dinosaurs that roamed the Earth long before we arrived. But palaeontology is a discipline much broader than this.
Dinosaurs dominated the land for 135 million years, but what happened during the rest of the Earth’s 4.6 billion-year history? The role of palaeontologists past and present has been to unravel the mysteries of life on Earth, and in doing so they’ve found a lot more than just dinosaur bones.

1. The spiky-backed ocean dweller

Right side up? Natural Math/flickr, CC BY-SA

Hallucigenia was discovered when a 508 million year old fossil was found in 1911 in the world-famous Burgess Shale fossil site in Canada. Since then, our understanding of this ocean-dwelling creature has changed dramatically.
Its age means it falls into the geological Cambrian period, a pivotal moment for all life on Earth when complex lifeforms started to rapidly evolve. When originally described, Hallucigenia was first thought to have walked along the ocean floor on spiny legs and used tentacles on its back to catch food. Palaeontologists also argued over which end was its head.
But when a similar fossil was found in China, Hallucigenia was re-examined. Palaeontologists then discovered that its “legs” were actually protective spines on its back, and the tentacles formed two rows on its underside enabling it to “walk”. Researchers are still debating many of the features of Hallucigenia today, more than 100 years after it was discovered.

2. (Almost) the first fish out of water

Best foot forward Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA

100 million years on from Hallucigenia, aquatic habitats were thriving, but life on land was still in its earliest stages. Tiktaalik, part fish, part four-legged animal, is believed to be the first creature to develop characteristics that would help animals move out of the water and on to land.
It had gills, fins and scales like a fish, but also evolved features such as a flexible neck and a reptile-like head and lungs, beneficial for life on the ground. Fossils also show Tiktaalik had long fins that acted as legs, meaning it could “walk” along riverbeds as well as swim.

3. The giant Scottish scorpion

Sting in the tail Nobu Tamura, CC BY

Pulmonoscorpius kirktonensis, a 70cm-long scorpion, lived in what we now know as Scotland 340 million years ago. At a length greater than that of the average pet cat, this terrifying creature used its tail to catch and kill its prey.
Pulmonoscorpius also had unusually large eyes compared to its modern relatives, so most likely hunted during daylight hours. Scorpions shed their skin as they grow, so fossils of both the skin and the animal itself have been found.

4. The spiral-lipped shark

Giving some lip Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY-SA

Helicoprion, a shark-like fish alive during the Permian (290 million years ago), had a rather unique dental structure. With a face that baffled palaeontologists for years, this creature had a lower jaw made up of a spiral of teeth, known as a tooth-whorl.
Modern sharks are able to lose and replace their teeth, but Helicoprion kept them all, with older teeth hidden within the inner layers of the tooth-whorl. When it caught its prey (most likely relatives of the squid), it would close its mouth and rotate its tooth-whorl to shred its catch.

5. A tiny, drunk horse

Gone to that big horsey ring in the sky Daderot

The Messel Oil Shale, once a volcanic lake in Germany, has plenty to offer the world of palaeontology. Eurohippus messelensis, was a miniature horse (the size of a modern day fox) originally thought to have died from eating fermented berries and in a drunken stupor, fallen into the lake. It’s now believed the 47 million year old horse actually died from inhaling toxic gas occasionally released from the depths of the lake.
But the misfortune continues, as it was later discovered that the horse was pregnant. Palaeontologists used high-resolution microscopes to identify the bones of a foal within the adult Eurohippus, improving our understanding of foetal development in these animals.
Palaeontology is a career firmly seated on many childhood wish-lists alongside movie stars and astronauts, and rightly so. But it’s important to remember there’s a lot more to palaeontology than the dinosaurs. This list is just the start.

The Conversation
Charlotte Stephenson is PhD candidate, palaeoenvironments & palaeobotany at University of Hull.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Five incredible old English homes built by women

The initials ‘ES’ on the parapets are those of Elizabeth Talbot, who built Hardwick Hall. adteasdaleCC BY-SA

We tend to think of the landowners, architects and builders of the past as men, just as we do its politicians, rulers and artists. Women rarely get a look in. But research is uncovering more and more historical examples of women who played a leading role in society, politics or the arts – and the public, it seems, are fascinated. Take Amanda Vickery’s recent series on The Story of Women and Art for example, or the idea that Bach’s wife composed some of his finest works.

Likewise, my ongoing AHRC-funded research project on 'Elite women and the agricultural landscape' is revealing that women owned far more land than was once thought – and this despite the fact that before the late 19th century the law made it difficult for married women to own property of any sort. As a result, we’re also recognising that women played a far greater role in designing, commissioning and building country houses, gardens and parklands than was once imagined.

The nature of surviving historical sources means that women’s contributions are often poorly recorded, but there are exceptions – and we’re uncovering ever more of them. So as the National Trust and English Heritage open their properties to the public for the summer, why not pop along and visit a country house where the influence of a woman in its past is plain to see? Here are a few suggestions to get you going.


Temple Newsam

This vast Tudor/Jacobean house stands in grounds near Leeds that were landscaped by Capability Brown. Originally built for Thomas, Lord Darcy (who came to a grizzly end after rebelling against Henry VIII), the house was remodelled in the late 18th century by Frances Ingram, Viscountess Irwin, a highly involved female patron.

Her whopping £60,000 dowry – worth more than £7m in today’s money – had been used to fund improvements to the house and grounds in her husband’s lifetime, but it was only after his death that she was really bitten by the building bug. As a widow, she demolished and rebuilt the entire south wing “for the sole pleasure in building [it] up again” – as she put it – and redecorated much of the rest of the house.

Temple Newsam. theracephotographerCC BY-SA



Weston Park

Weston Park is a Palladian-style mansion in Staffordshire largely designed and built by Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham in the 1670s. Weston was her childhood home and while her husband was the legal owner, Wilbraham seems to have retained considerable control of the property during her marriage. We know she was heavily involved in both the design of the new hall and the financial management of the building work, and she’s often hailed as the architect of the house.



A la Ronde

An unusual 16-sided house near Exmouth, A la Ronde was designed by cousins Jane and Mary Parminter in the 1790s. Somewhat unusually for women at the time, the Parminters had spent nearly a decade travelling in Europe and were apparently inspired by a visit to the octagonal chapel of San Vitale at Ravenna (Italy). The Exmouth property was small and there was no tenanted agricultural land, but the cousins also designed and built a chapel, almshouses and school in the grounds just as much wealthier women did on their estates.

A la Ronde. charliedaveCC BY

Hardwick Hall

Built by Elizabeth Talbot, countess of Shrewsbury (better known as Bess of Hardwick) Hardwick Hall is perhaps the most well-known country house in Britain built by a female landowner. Bess was born into a minor gentry family in Derbyshire, but was a woman of great ambition: she married four times, and the property left to her by her four dead husbands eventually made her the richest woman in England.

She oversaw the building of Chatsworth Hall from about 1550 onwards, and later built not one, but two, grand houses at Hardwick. Soon after finishing the Old Hall in 1591, she began to build the adjacent New Hall, a vast house known for its glittering glass façade and unusual floor plan. Visitors should look out for Bess’s initials “ES”, highlighted for posterity in parapets of the towers and elsewhere in the house.



Belvoir Castle

Elizabeth Manners, fifth duchess of Rutland, was credited by contemporaries both as the driving force behind the rebuilding of Belvoir Castle in the 1820s and the principal manager of the family’s Leicestershire estate. As one friend noted at the duchess’s death in 1825, the duke “did nothing for himself, and his estates, his horses, his family, everything was under her rule”.

While it’s unclear how far this was a fair assessment of the duke’s contribution, the duchess certainly oversaw landscaping works to the castle grounds and took an active interest in the agricultural aspects of the property, including designing a model farm. She also made improvements to Cheveley Park (Suffolk) in the early 1800s, oversaw the building works at York House on the Mall for her lover the Duke of York and drew up designs for a new palace for George IV.

The list of such houses is growing. So, while undoubtedly disadvantaged both by the law and by societal expectations of their gender, the wives, widows and single women of the past could – and did – build grand country houses. Not all female landowners had access to the money and resources necessary to re-build or significantly extend their country residence of course, but others re-planned gardens and parklands or improved the large agricultural estates which lay beyond the park boundaries. In doing so, these women and others like them had a far greater impact on the landscapes of early modern and Georgian England than history has so far acknowledged.

Briony McDonagh is Lecturer in Human Geography at University of Hull.

An earlier version of this article was published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
The Conversation

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Let's get serious... and game!

by @SeriousGeoGames (aka @CloudSkinner)

Writing this blog post comes at an exciting time for me. I've been working on a project called 'Humber in a Box' with a group of student developers from SEED (a software development group at the University of Hull), and it is going to make its debut at the Hull University Science Festival this coming weekend. Humber in a Box represents a start for me at looking at using gaming technology and ideas to better communicate research, and I am going to use this post to explain the ethos behind this.

Early development shot of Humber in a Box

Think of gaming, whether on a table, a board or a computer, and you probably won't think about learning. After all, games are supposed to be fun, they're supposed to be entertainment. Learning is not often portrayed as fun, although us academics would take you to task on that. These two things, entertainment and learning, are seldom thought of together outside the use of jargon, like info-tainment or edu-tainment, and things that tend to use these labels are also seldom both.

It is my belief that games can be different, and as Geographers we can use gaming as a tool to educate and to communicate our science. What a game can do, which almost no other medium can, is put a person in the shoes of someone else, place them in a situation (metaphorically) where they have to react or behave in a way they would not normally have to, and through this experience a new dimension to a problem or issue.

For instance, a simple game to run in a classroom would be a debate where opposing sides have to assume certain roles. One I ran recently involved a debate about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", and split the group in three. Group 1 were to be the developers, who wished to explore the shale gas reserves beneath our Geography Department; Group 2 were an environmental pressure group determined to put a stop to this; and Group 3 were those in the Geography Department who would make the decision. Groups 1 and 2 were armed with the same crib sheet of basic facts and some case studies, and each group was given 30 minutes to discuss and research, before Groups 1 and 2 presented their case.

Hydraulic Fracturing, or Fracking, is a controversial practice ideal for classroom debating games (image by US Environmental Protection Agency).

Despite the best efforts of Group 1 to reassure the decision makers, Group 3 voted unanimously against the development. This was also against the group's general support of hydraulic fracturing outside of the game. The purpose of the game was to show that a contemporary issue like this requires both a Human and a Physical Geography response to fully understand it, and how researchers from both need to engage with it and work together. It also highlighted the difficulties of communicating science and research in a live, ongoing debate with many emotive issues also going on (often of far greater importance to the members of the public involved).

The above example is a very quick and simple game that is often used (often without the realisation that what is going is in fact a game), and it is those same principles that can be taken forward and combined with modern and emerging technologies to create something more powerful.

This could be a physically constructed object, like the 'River in a Box' that we have at the University of Hull. This table is boxed and filled with sand, with water pumped into the top allowing it to flow over the surface and down the slope. It is a miniature version of the big flumes used in physical modelling experiments, such as the Total Environment Simulator at The Deep. As the water flows it erodes the sand and produces channels, like a river, only smaller and quicker. On this you can place model houses and let people model defences, or artificial channels, with their hands. It is a very simple, yet very effective way of communicating various aspects of river science, such as geomorphology, flooding and erosion.

There is so much that can be done by tapping into the potential of computer gaming. The gaming industry is worth £59bn worldwide, which is more than the music and film industries, and it is still growing rapidly. It is massive business and it has a huge user base. It should be obvious from the popularity of games like SimCity, Civilization and Minecraft that there is an appetite for games with a learning angle, if they are done correctly.

Hull History Centre is using Minecraft to communicate Hull's heritage (image by Ian S)

Researchers at Hull are already on the curve when it comes to Minecraft. The HullCraft project, run by the University and Hull History Centre, in particular Joel Mills and Hannah Rice, looks to rebuild some of archived architectural plans in the History Centre within the Minecraft engine by enlisting the help of users, many of them young. People take part as it is enjoyable and they can earn badges to display on online profiles, but they learn about the history of Hull and about architecture as they do so.

This is why I started SeriousGeoGames (SGG). I'm not sure what it is just yet, a project I guess is the closest word. I'm not even sure that this rather dull, yet descriptive, name will be its final moniker. It is, however, a medium I am using to explore the potential of modern gaming technology, and other cool pieces of tech, to be turned to a good pedagogical (posh word for teaching style) use. It is very early days, but the first project is underway working with a group of student developers from the University of Hull's software development group - SEED.

Screenshot of Humber in a Box

The project is named 'Humber in a Box' and is using our CAESAR-Lisflood model of the Humber Estuary and placing within the Unity 3D gaming engine. Via an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, the user is put inside the model viewing the topography of the surrounding area in three dimensions, and has the ability to fly around using an Xbox controller. In the background the model is calculating the tides within the estuary and graphically displaying these. To help communicate the dangers of future sea level rises without investment in flood defences, there is an option for the user to increase the water levels up to whatever level they like - but it gets very wet after 5 m! The science behind this is based on the paper featured in this previous blog.

All these cool toys are great but the danger is that they don't transcend that to become more than just toys. The ethos of SeriousGeoGames, whatever becomes of it, will be the communication of the science and research that went into making it. I hope this has given you some introduction to the use of gaming in science and learning - I'm not claiming that this is anything overly new or innovative that I have come up with (not by a long shot!), so, with that in mind, below is a blog roll and twitterati of interesting things to follow (please feel free to comment and suggest others that should make the list -

The SEED team - Johannes Van Rij (@JvanRij), Danny Quarmby, Leo Abbas, Benjamin Allison.

Deltares - Levee Patroller 

University of Hull/Hull History Centre - HullCraft 

Games & Social Networks in Education: Research and Practise - @AlexM11

Games and Learning (Association for Learning Technology Special Interest Group) 

University of Plymouth - Volcano Gameplay @laramani14

University of Leeds - Virtual Worlds Demo

Friday, 13 March 2015

Professor Dame Judith Rees

Guest blog by Pauline Deutz 

Our final 'WOW GESS woman' is Professor Dame Judith Rees. She was Professor of Geography at the University of Hull from 1989-1995, during which time she was also Dean of the School of Geography and Earth Resources (as it was then) and subsequently Pro-Vice Chancellor. This followed a BSc in Economics and MPhil from LSE, and a PhD from the University of London, undertaken whilst an assistant and subsequently lecturer at LSE. After her time in Hull, Judith returned to LSE, where she has held a number of senior leadership roles including directing environmental research institutes and served as Interim Director of the London School of Economics 2011-2012. Judith is currently Vice Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and is the first female President of the Royal Geographical Society. 

Although a relatively brief interlude in a long and distinguished career, Judith’s time in Hull has had a significant and ongoing impact on her subsequent career. Her research has focused on environmental issues, including the management of water resources, environmental risk and adaptation to climate change. Coming from a social science background, it was Judith’s experience in Hull’s Geography department that afforded the opportunity to work with academics researching the physical science aspects of environmental issues. Notably, Judith says that this was her 'first encounter with people discussing and working on climate change, not insignificant to my future career'.

Hull awarded Judith her first Chair, making her the first female Professor of Geography at Hull. Sadly, after 20 years, we have only just appointed our third female Professor of Geography. Judith was the first and so far still the only female head of department. That leadership role, followed rapidly by a PVC appointment, unusually for the time, was supported by management training. 'At Hull', Judith recollects, 'I learnt an immense amount about dealing with people, making hard decisions, learning to compromise and trying to be transparently fair. This Hull experience was very important not only in being invited to become Pro-Director at LSE (first woman) but also to doing the job itself. So Hull formed the basis of my subsequent administrative career'.

A third aspect of Judith’s career has been working closely with government and non-governmental bodies.  She comments that she 'will also always be grateful for the way that the University allowed me to work one day a week for OfWat (the economic regulator for the privatised Water Industry). Long before the impact agenda hit us all Hull understood the importance of academics engaging with practitioners. The OfWat experience then led to the Monopolies and Mergers (then Competition Commission) and subsequently to being on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Water Partnership and then The UN Secretary Generals Advisory Committee in Water and Sanitation'.

Judith’s contribution to environmental research, engagement and university leadership has been recognised by the awarding of an honorary Doctorate from the University of Hull in 2012, and being made a Dame in 2013. 

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. International Women's Day celebrates women's success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The origins of IWD can be traced to the struggle for women to gain the vote in European countries about a century ago. The first International Women's Day event was run in 1911.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

WOW Week of Women in GEES: Lois Latham (1910-1990), regional geographer

by Briony McDonagh (with help from Helen Manning)

Today’s ‘WOW GEES woman’ is Lois Latham, a regional geographer who spent more than 30 years in the Department of Geography here at Hull. She was the first woman to be appointed to a permanent academic post in the department in 1946 and throughout much of her tenure, the only female academic working in the department.

Lois Latham with colleagues at a retirement function in 1989
(l-r: Jay Appleton, Alan Harris, Harry Wilkinson, Lois Latham and George de Boer) 

Latham was born more than a century ago, in Wakefield (West Yorkshire) in 1910, later studying geography at the University of Sheffield and graduating in or around 1932. She served as editor of the Scottish Geographical Magazine between 1936 and 1940 – the third woman in succession to hold the post – and during the Second World War, she contributed to the Admiralty Intelligence Handbooks.

In 1946, she moved to Yorkshire, appointed as a lecturer in Geography in what was then Hull University College. This was a time when the city was still hard hit by its aerial bombardment during the War. As a then colleague of Latham’s in the Department of Economics mentioned to me recently, Hull in the late 1940s and early 1950s was badly ravaged by war with thousands of bombed-out houses and many of the academics at the University working out of army huts!

During her more than 30 years at Hull, Latham was active in the teaching programme and in a range of other roles both within and beyond the University. She was President of the Hull branch of the Geographical Association from 1954 until around 1960 when she handed over the presidency to her colleague in the department George de Boer. She travelled widely and in 1959 to 1960 she spent a year at the University of Zagreb in Yugoslavia and later organised a return visit to Hull by Tomislav Šegota of the Yugoslav Encyclopaedia, an international connection linked closely to her own research interests in the regional geography of the USSR. She also headed the department’s contribution to the second phase of the Land Utilisation Survey of Britain, the behemoth of a mapping project first initiated by Dudley Stamp in the early 1930s. She was by all accounts also an excellent teacher, and the department continued until very recently to award a student prize in her name (funded thanks to a generous bequest in her will).

The huts housing the Department of Geography post WWII. Photo: M. Holliday c. 1963

By the time she retired in 1977, Lois Latham had spent more than three decades as an educator and researcher in the Department of Geography. She had seen the University gain its Royal Charter (and the right to grant degrees in its own name), been part of the move whereby the department relocated back into the space in Cohen it now occupies and witnessed a huge explosion in staff and undergraduate numbers. During all this time she was the only woman to hold a full-time academic position in the department. In fact, it was not until the appointment of Sarah Metcalfe and Judith Rees in the late 1980s that the department ever had more than one woman in full-time permanent posts on the payroll! Today we’re approaching double figures – an achievement indeed in the quarter of a century since 1988.

The Cohen Building in the spring sunshine: GEES's home since the 1960s

But despite both her long-standing service and her role as Hull’s first female geographer, Lois Latham remains a relatively obscure figure. She was not, for example, someone I had heard of when I started my own job at the University, though I knew of other Hull geographers of the period including Herbert King (whose papers at the Hull History Centre I’ve previously consulted) and George Kimble (whose Geography in the Middle Ages I’d recommend to anyone). As Avril Maddrell comments in her recent book, Latham has been ‘expunged from the textual account of the department’s history’ (Complex Locations, p. 235). It’s hard to know whether this was directly as a result of her gender, but as one-time colleague Derek Spooner notes in his contribution to the department’s recent history, Latham was a ‘somewhat marginalised and possibly undervalued figure in the Department’ (Eighty Years of Geography at Hull, p. 14). She did not, for example, publish as much as many of her (male) colleagues and as we all know in academia, it’s publish or perish when it comes to one’s scholarly reputation. Personally I’m sorry she published so little – I’d have liked to have read the work of the Hull’s first female geographer. I’d also like to know which her office was in the Cohen Building. I’m definitely hoping it was mine!

Acknowledgements: This blog post draws on dissertation work by current GEES undergraduate, Helen Manning; Avril Maddrell’s excellent book, Complex Locations: Women’s Geographical Work in the UK 1850-1970 (Wiley/Blackwell, Oxford, 2009); and the recent history of the department, Eighty Years of Geography at Hull, edited by Stephen Ellis (2013). Readers wishing to know more about Lois Latham and her contemporaries at this and other UK institutions are advised to consult the latter two sources. Photos from Eighty Years of Geography except the last which was taken recently by Anna Bird

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. International Women's Day celebrates women's success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The origins of IWD can be traced to the struggle for women to gain the vote in European countries about a century ago. The first International Women's Day event was run in 1911.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

WOW Week of Women in GEES : Dr Eva Crackles, biogeographer

by Jane Bunting and Michelle Farrell

Today's 'WOW GEES Woman' was never employed as an academic or a researcher, but she still made a substantial contribution to her field.  Florence Eva Crackles was born in Hull in 1918, studied Botany, Zoology and Mathematics at the University, and became a school teacher, rising quickly to Head of Biology at Malet Lambert High School in Hull, a position she held until her retirement in 1978.  She carried out botanical research in her spare time, working with Professor Ron Good (a Plant Geographer who was Professor in Botany at the University of Hull 1928-1959) and making substantial contributions to his Atlas of the British Flora.  She also published extensively in her own right, authoring over 90 published articles, and completed an MSc (Hull) in 1978 on the taxonomy and biosystematics of the populations of the grasses Calamagrostis stricta and C. canescens and their hybrid offspring found along the Leven Canal.

cover image of the Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire
Her major work, the Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire, was published by the University of Hull press in 1990.  This represented over 40 years work by Eva and many other enthusiastic local natural historians (many of them introduced to the subject by Eva, who as Vice-County recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles for East Yorkshire ensured that the highest of taxonomic standards were upheld in the area), and contains many maps produced by members of what was then the Geography department showing not just plant distributions but their relationships to the physical geography of the county.  This book is still a very important resource for amateur and professional ecologists alike.

photo of Dr Eva Crackles
Dr Eva Crackles receiving her honorary degree and at work at home, in the early 1990s

Eva's contribution to natural history extended well beyond her own published work.  She was also a major contributor in what we might now call "outreach", both as an active member of organisations such as the Hull Scientific and Field Naturalists’ Club and the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union, through teaching evening classes for the Workers’ Educational Association and via writing the Crackles Country column for the Hull Daily Mail.  Becoming largely wheelchair bound in later life did not stop her enthusiasm for field work; her obituary in the Linnaean Society Journal Watsonia was written by her "honorary wheelchair-pusher", Peter Cook, who accompanied her on many field visits.  Her scientific contributions, her lifetime of teaching and her major contributions to natural history were recognised by an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull in 1991 and an MBE in 1992.

On her death on July 14th 2007, she left generous bequests to both the University of Hull and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.  The bequest to the University supported the "Crackles Bequest Project" (2010-2013), investigating relationships between plants and climate across northern Europe, on which Jane Bunting was the academic lead and Michelle Farrell the post-doctoral researcher, and we will be blogging about the findings here as we write them up, taking extra care with our taxonomy in honour of Eva's lasting contribution to generations of Yorkshire natural historians, to biogeography as a discipline, and to the University of Hull.

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. International Women's Day celebrates women's success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The origins of IWD can be traced to the struggle for women to gain the vote in European countries about a century ago. The first International Women's Day event was run in 1911

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

WOW Week of Women in GEES: Lynne Frostick

Today, our WOW blog features Lynne Frostick, chartered geologist and Professor of Physical Geography here in GEES at Hull. Lynne first studied at the University of Leicester for a BSc Geology degree, before moving to the University of East Anglia to complete her PhD on “Sediment Studies in the Deben Estuary, Suffolk, England”. This began an esteemed career in Sedimentology which saw Lynne take a Senior Lecturer role at Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Reading before joining the University of Hull in 1996.

Lynne’s research focuses on two of the major environmental problems faced today: water and waste. Sedimentology has been a core part of this research, particularly sediment and flow dynamics in rivers and estuaries. In this sense, Lynne is perfectly placed at Hull! Lynne also spent a considerable time in Africa investigating the relationship between river development and tectonics. Lynne has always combined field work and modelling, which culminated in the development of the unique Total Environment Simulator – a large physical modelling flume housed in The DEEP aquarium on the banks of the Humber Estuary. This world-class facility is a career highlight for Lynne. “The work I am most proud of is always the most recent. I am very proud of the Deep flume and leading work on ecohydraulics, particularly the Users Guide to Ecohydraulic Modelling and Experimentation”. Over the last few years, Lynne has also used her expertise to address issues surrounding waste, working in research fields as far reaching as biology, chemistry, microchip technology, regulation and policy.

Lynne and Stuart McLelland setting up an experiment at the TES, The Deep (Photo: http://discoverarmfield.com/en)
Lynne’s work has always had strong links with industry and policy. Whilst at Hull, she began a Centre for Waste and Pollution Research at the University which then evolved into the Environmental Technologies Centre for Industrial Collaboration. Lynne’s research is of particular importance to locations such as Hull, as it often strived to understand flooding and coastal management.  She was a leading member of the 2007 independent Hull Flood Review Group and was a member of the North East Regional Environmental Protection Advisory Committee. This has led to Lynne’s recent appointment (16th March 2015 for three years) to the Board of the Environment Agency as lead member for flood and coastal risk management.

This latest appointment is added to a long list of prestigious positions and awards which have honoured Lynne’s achievements. Lynne was the Pro Vice Chancellor for research at Hull (1999-2004), she followed in the footsteps of Darwin to hold the post of the Honorary Secretary to the Geological Society in 1988 (the first woman to hold this role) and then later in 2008 she became the society’s President. Lynne was the 2nd woman to hold this role, and the last to date. At the same time, Lynne became the chair for the British Society for Geomorphology. In 2005, the Royal Geographical Society awarded her with the Cuthbert Peek Award “for advancing the application of physical modelling to environmental problems”. Most recently, in July 2014, Royal Holloway awarded Lynne with an Honorary Doctorate for services and leadership in British Geology.

Lynne’s biggest challenge in her career was “definitely juggling family and career. I had my kids very late- between ages 40 and 44- and having 3 boys under 4 years and a full time academic career was a real challenge! It is a good job I have a supportive husband”. A supportive husband and a good mentor it seems – her advice to (young) GEES women is to “have confidence in yourself and your abilities” but also to get a good mentor. “Mine was Janet Watson and she was terrific”. Lynne is also a leading voice for women in science careers. She is a member of the Government’s Science for Careers Group, was the chair for the Government’s Expert Group for Women in STEM, and has been a trustee of The Daphne Jackson Trust (a scheme to help STEM women who’ve taken a career break to raise a family). In 2009 she was a recipient of UKRC Outstanding Women of Achievement Award for SET Leadership and Inspiration to Others. Now Professor Emerita, Lynne continues to be an active board member and continuing to do research, and can often be found giving talks about why we need women scientists and engineers.

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. International Women's Day celebrates women's success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The origins of IWD can be traced to the struggle for women to gain the vote in European countries about a century ago. The first International Women's Day event was run in 1911