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12 Projects

  • Canada
  • 2013-2022
  • UK Research and Innovation
  • OA Publications Mandate: No
  • 2010

10
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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H009914/1
    Funder Contribution: 360,717 GBP

    Modern marine ecosystems were established during the early Palaeozoic radiations of animals, first the 'Cambrian Explosion' and then, some 50 million years later, in the 'Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.' By tracking the details of diversification through this critical interval, it should be possible to reconstruct not only the dynamics early animal evolution, but also the underlying effects of accruing ecological novelty. Unfortunately, the conventional fossil record represents only a fraction of ancient diversity, while famous 'soft-bodied' biotas such as the Burgess Shale are too rare to provide larger-scale patterns. I propose to circumvent these problems by exploiting a new, largely untapped source of palaeontological data: Burgess Shale-type microfossils. Like their macroscopic counterparts these fossils record the presence of non-biomineralizing organisms, but they also extend the view to include previously unrecorded forms and fine features. More significantly, they are proving to be quite common - to the extent that they can begin to be used to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. Systematic analysis of Burgess Shale-type microfossils through the Middle to Late Cambrian will shed fundamental new light on early evolutionary patterns, not least the poorly known interval between the Cambrian and Ordovician radiations. By integrating this enhanced fossil record with the principles of biological oceanography and macroecology, this study will also provide a unique, evolutionary view of how modern marine ecosystems function. This study will focus on the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which contains one of the largest, best preserved and most extensively sampled sequences of early Palaeozoic rocks on Earth. In addition to famously fossiliferous units exposed in the Rocky Mountain Fold and Thrust Belt - including the Burgess Shale itself - strata extend eastwards for over 1000 km in the subsurface, where they have been penetrated by hundreds of petroleum exploration boreholes. These subsurface materials are housed in state-of-the-art storage facilities in Calgary, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan and offer a unique opportunity to sample systematically through the whole of the Middle-Late Cambrian, and across an expansive shallow-water platform into continental-margin environments exposed in the Rocky Mountains. Preliminary work in both subsurface and outcrop occurrences has identified an exquisite range of Burgess Shale-type microfossils. More comprehensive sampling and analysis will substantially advance our understanding of early Palaeozoic diversity, macroevolutionary patterns, and the co-evolution of ecosystem function and environments.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H017348/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,013,550 GBP

    The burning of fossil fuels is releasing vast quantities of extra carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere. Much of this stays in the atmosphere, raising CO2 levels, but much also leaves the atmosphere after a time, either to become sequestered in trees and plants, or else to become absorbed in the oceans. CO2 staying in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, causing global warming; CO2 entering the sea makes it more acidic, and the ongoing acidification of seawater is seen in observational records at various sites where time-series data are collected. The changing chemistry of seawater due to ocean acidification is mostly well understood and not subject to debate. What is much less well known is the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine organisms and ecosystems, on biogeochemical cycling in the sea, and on how the sea interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate. We will look to investigate these questions in terms of how the surface waters of the world's oceans, and the life within, will respond to ocean acidification. Most of what we know about biological impacts, and the source of the current concern about the impact on marine life, comes from experimental studies in which individual organisms (e.g. single corals) or mono-specific populations (e.g. plankton cultures) have been subjected to elevated CO2 (and the associated lower pH) in laboratory experiments. These laboratory experiments have the advantage of being performed under controlled conditions in which everything can be kept constant except for changes to CO2. So if a response is observed, then the cause is clear. However, there are also limitations to laboratory studies. For instance, organisms have no time to adapt evolutionarily, and there is no possibility of shifts in species composition away from more sensitive forms towards more acid-tolerant forms, as might be expected to occur in nature. Another shortcoming is the absence of food-web complexity in most experiments, and therefore the absence of competition, predation, and other interactions that determine the viability of organisms in the natural environment. We seek to advance the study of ocean acidification by collecting more observations of naturally-occurring ecosystems in places where the chemistry of seawater is naturally more acidic, and/or where it naturally holds more carbon,as well as locations which are not so acidic, and/or hold more usual amounts of carbon. By contrasting the two sets of observations, we will gain an improved understanding of how acidification affects organisms living in their natural environment, after assemblage reassortments and evolutionary adaptation have had time to play out. Most of the planned work will be carried out on 3 cruises to places with strong gradients in seawater carbon and pH: to the Arctic Ocean, around the British Isles, and to the Southern Ocean. As well a making observations we will also conduct a large number of experiments, in which we will bring volumes of natural seawater from the ocean surface into containers on the deck of the ship, together with whatever life is contained within, and there subject them to higher CO2 and other stressors. We will monitor the changes that take place to these natural plankton communities (including to biogeochemical and climate-related processes) as the seawater is made more acidic. A major strength of such studies is the inclusion of natural environmental variability and complexity that is difficult or impossible to capture in laboratory experiments. Thus, the responses measured during these experiments on the naturally-occurring community may represent more accurately the future response of the surface ocean to ocean acidification. In order to carry out this experimental/observational work programme we have assembled a strong UK-wide team with an extensive track record of successfully carrying out sea-going scientificresearch projects of this type.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/G018863/1
    Funder Contribution: 231,441 GBP

    Palaeoclimate reconstructions extend our knowledge of how climate varied in times before expansive networks of measuring instruments became available. These reconstructions are founded on an understanding of theoretical and statistically-derived associations acquired by comparing the parallel behaviour of palaeoclimate proxies and measurements of varying climate. Inferences about variations in past climate, based on this understanding, necessarily assume that the associations we observe now hold true throughout the period for which reconstructions are made. This is the essence of the uniformitarian principle. In some northern areas of the world, recent observations of tree growth and measured temperature trends appear to have diverged in recent decades, the so called 'divergence' phenomenon. There has been much speculation, and numerous theories proposed, to explain why the previous temperature sensitivity of tree growth in these areas is apparently breaking down. The existence of divergence casts doubt on the uniformitarian assumption that underpins a number of important tree-ring based (dendroclimatic) reconstructions. It suggests that the degree of warmth in certain periods in the past, particularly in medieval times, may be underestimated or at least subject to greater uncertainty than is currently accepted. The lack of a clear overview of this phenomenon and the lack of a generally accepted cause had led some to challenge the current scientific consensus, represented in the 2007 report of the IPCC on the likely unprecedented nature of late 20th century average hemispheric warmth when viewed in the context of proxy evidence (mostly from trees) for the last 1300 years. This project will seek to systematically reassess and quantify the evidence for divergence in many tree-ring data sets around the Northern Hemisphere. It will establish a much clearer understanding of the nature of the divergence phenomenon, characterising the spatial patterns and temporal evolution. Based on recent published and unpublished work by the proposers, it has become apparent that foremost amongst the possible explanations is the need to account for systematic bias potentially inherent in the methods used to build many tree-ring chronologies including many that are believed to exhibit this phenomenon. This proposal is designed to build on recent innovations in tree-ring chronology production techniques, also developed by the proposers. These new methods will produce tree-ring chronologies whose variability is unbiased, either by temporal changes in the age structure of the constituent sample series, or by any distortion in the data that can arise when using the previously applied techniques. The extensive reprocessed and improved data sets will then form the basis for many detailed, site-by-site comparisons of local climate and various tree-growth parameters in order to re-characterise the nature, strength and temporal stability of the climate/growth associations. This will represent a systematic and objective re-assessment of the evidence for divergence in different forest contexts. The project will then explore all of the current theories for the cause(s) of divergence employing both statistical and process-modelling techniques. The project will go on to use the reprocessed tree-ring data sets to re-calibrate many important climate reconstructions, with varying levels of spatial detail, and carefully assess the implications of the divergence effect, as newly characterised, on reconstruction uncertainty. This project will provide results that will inform the international scientific debate and widespread public perception of the reliability of tree-ring-based climate reconstructions in particular, but also our current understanding of the reliability of current evidence for high-resolution temperature changes during the late Holocene.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H002529/1
    Funder Contribution: 271,549 GBP

    The global semiconductor market has a value of around $1trillion, over 90% of which is silicon based. In many senses silicon has driven the growth in the world economy for the last 40 years and has had an unparalleled cultural impact. Given the current level of commitment to silicon fabrication and its integration with other systems in terms of intellectual investment and foundry cost this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Silicon is used in almost all electronic circuitry. However, there is one area of electronics that, at the moment, silicon cannnot be used to fill; that is in the emission of light. Silicon cannot normally emit light, but nearly all telecommunications and internet data transfer is currently done using light transmitted down fibre optics. So in everyones home signals are encoded by silicon and transmitted down wires to a station where other (expensive) components combine these signals and send light down fibres. If cheap silicon light emitters were available, the fibre optics could be brought into everyones homes and the data rate into and out of our homes would increase enormously. Also the connection between chips on circuit boards and even within chips could be performed using light instead of electricity. The applicants intend to form a consortium in the UK and to collaborate with international research groups to make silicon emit light using tiny clumps of silicon, called nanocrystals;. These nanocrystals can emit light in the visible and can be made to emit in the infrared by adding erbium atoms to them. A number of techniques available in Manchester, London and Guildford will be applied to such silicon chips to understand the light emission and to try to make silicon chips that emit light when electricity is passed through them. This will create a versatile silicon optical platform with applications in telecommunications, solar energy and secure communications. This technology would be commercialised by the applicants using a high tech start-up commpany.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H008187/1
    Funder Contribution: 324,216 GBP

    By modifying the amount of solar radiation absorbed at the land surface, bright snow and dark forests have strong influences on weather and climate; either a decrease in snow cover or an increase in forest cover, which shades underlying snow, increases the absorption of radiation and warms the overlying air. Computer models for weather forecasting and climate prediction thus have to take these effects into account by calculating the changing mass of snow on the ground and interactions of radiation with forest canopies. Such models generally have coarse resolutions ranging from kilometres to hundreds of kilometres. Forest cover cannot be expected to be continuous over such large distances; instead, northern landscapes are mosaics of evergreen and deciduous forests, clearings, bogs and lakes. Snow can be removed from open areas by wind, shaded by surrounding vegetation or sublimated from forest canopies without ever reaching the ground, and these processes which influence patterns of snow cover depend on the size of the openings, the structure of the vegetation and weather conditions. Snow itself influences patterns of vegetation cover by supplying water, insulating plants and soil from cold winter temperatures and storing nutrients. The aim of this project is to develop better methods for representing interactions between snow, vegetation and the atmosphere in models that, for practical applications, cannot resolve important scales in the patterns of these interactions. We will gather information on distributions of snow, vegetation and radiation during two field experiments at sites in the arctic: one in Sweden and the other in Finland. These sites have been chosen because they have long records of weather and snow conditions, easy access, good maps of vegetation cover from satellites and aircraft and landscapes ranging from sparse deciduous forests to dense coniferous forests that are typical of much larger areas. Using 28 radiometers, and moving them several times during the course of each experiment, will allow us to measure the highly variable patterns of radiation at the snow surface in forests. Information from the field experiments will be used in developing and testing a range of models. To reach the scales of interest, we will begin with a model that explicitly resolves individual trees and work up through models with progressively coarser resolutions, testing the models at each stage against each other and in comparison with observations. The ultimate objective is a model that will be better able to make use of landscape information in predicting the absorption of radiation at the surface and the accumulation and melt of snow. We will work in close consultation with project partners at climate modelling and forecasting centres to ensure that our activities are directed towards outcomes that will meet their requirements.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H023321/1
    Funder Contribution: 100,759 GBP

    Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a vital analytical tool across science. NMR is most usually applied to substances dissolved in solution since this considerably simplifies the interpretation of the results (spectra) that are obtained; molecular motion averages out interactions, such as the dipolar (through space magnetic) interaction between the magnetic nuclei. However, in many applications, particularly in materials chemistry and biology, it is impossible or inappropriate to apply NMR to samples in solutions and it is necessary to work with solid samples. This creates particular difficulties for studies using hydrogen (1H) NMR which is otherwise the most widely used form of NMR (including in medical imaging applications). Typical organic (carbon-containing) molecules contain high densities of hydrogen nuclei. Although an advantage in terms of the strength of the NMR signal, the multiple magnetic (dipolar) interactions between the hydrogen nuclei cause the NMR signal to decay quickly and broaden the NMR lines into uninformative broad features. This problem has traditionally been tackled in a couple of ways. Firstly by spinning the sample (magic-angle spinning), but unfeasibly high spinning rates would be required to completely remove the dipolar interactions. Secondly using radio-frequency irradiation to average out the dipolar interactions, but this can be technically complex and the results are very susceptible to experimental deficiencies. Since the line-broadening involves the interactions of multiple nuclear spins it has been difficult to model computationally and to investigate mathematically. As a result, progress in improving 1H NMR spectra in solids has been rather fitful.This project will tackle this bottle-neck for the development of solid-state NMR. Firstly by putting together a consortium of international research groups with complementary expertise (experimental, computational and theoretical) and equipment (including NMR spectrometers operating at some of the highest magnetic fields available worldwide) we will be able to tackle the problem simultaneously and systematically from different directions. Secondly, recent advances in spectrometer hardware, simulation and NMR theory mean that the individual tools are in place to make concerted progress. Finally we will be focussing on one parameter, the decay rate of the magnetisation, which is the key limiting factor. Previous work has addressed final NMR spectra, but since these are affected by a number of additional factors, this has tended to confuse the underlying issues. The large discrepancies between simulations and current experiments suggest that potentially major improvements are possible.Finding routes to producing high-quality NMR spectra of hydrogen-containing organic solids in a routine fashion will have a major impact on the practice of solid-state NMR. Some experiments which are currently impractical due to the length of time they would take will become practical and narrowing the NMR lines will allow new, finer spectral detail to be measured, such as weak interactions across hydrogen bonds connecting different components of crystal structures. As a result this proposal is being supported by a wide range of scientists, varying from users of solid-state NMR to manufacturers of pharmaceutics to suppliers of NMR equipment.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H010262/1
    Funder Contribution: 297,055 GBP

    This project studies development of high power DC transmission networks. There is currently significant interest in developing technologies that will enable interconnection of distributed DC sources to DC networks in multi MW power sizes. The application fields include offshore renewable power parks, North Sea Supergrid, subsea power supplies in oil industry and many more. A medium power DC network test rig will be developed at Aberdeen University which will include DC transformers and fault isolation components. The project will investigate efficient, light-weight DC transformer topologies that will enable cost-effective power exchange between DC systems at wide varying voltage levels. The DC test rig will enable practical testing of DC circuit breaker which will be one of the crucial enabling technologies for DC networks. The project further investigates the operational and control principles of future large DC power networks. This project strengthens collaborative links between University of Aberdeen and Ryerson University LEDAR laboratory.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/G015732/1
    Funder Contribution: 447,592 GBP

    The oceans play a central role in the global carbon cycle, and have taken up ca. 30-40% of the anthropogenically produced CO2. It has long been known that ocean biota play a major role in sequestering CO2 on very long time scales (>1000 y). Recent evidence also suggests that the ocean biota play an important role on shorter time scales (10-100 y). The balance between phytoplankton photosynthesis and community respiration determines the ability of the oceans to take up CO2. Nitrogen (N) is generally considered to be the nutrient that limits phytoplankton photosynthesis. However, it is unclear what controls the amount of N in the ocean. Unlike most phytoplankton, which are N-limited, N2 fixing cyanobacteria (diazotrophs) have an unlimited supply of N in the form of N2 gas. N2-fixers play a significant role in ocean nutrient and biogeochemical cycles as they are a major source of N, providing N for up to 50% of primary productivity in nutrient poor oceanic regions. N2 fixation is a key process that modulates the ability of the oceans to sequester CO2 on time scales of 10 to 10,000 y. Limitation of N2 fixation results in lowered N availability for other primary producers reducing the potential of oceans to sequester carbon. Whilst the colony forming Trichodesmium is considered the most important oceanic diazotroph, recently a range of new diazotrophs have been discovered in the ocean. This brings us to the questions of 'what constrains the amount of N2 fixation in the ocean?', and 'what determines the species distribution of diazotrophs in the ocean?' Iron appears to be the key environmental factors constraining N2 fixation based on a recently observed direct link between Fe and N2 fixation in the Atlantic, with Fe determining surface ocean P cycling. The goal of this project is to investigate quantitatively the link between iron supply and N2 fixation in the Atlantic, and for this it is essential to understand the importance and strengths of various iron sources. The iron sources are considered to be atmospheric dust deposition and low oxygen shelf sediments in the NW African upwelling region. The strengths of these sources are expected to change in future with changes in dust deposition and expansion of the oxygen minimum zones in the oceans. Identification and quantification of the sources is hence key to undertake model estimates of N2 fixation under future climate scenarios. This proposal will relate the supply and biogeochemical cycling of Fe and P to N2 fixation and the community structure of diazotrophs in the (sub)-tropical Atlantic Ocean. We will undertake this research using a combination of ship-board observations and radiotracer uptake experiments, and modeling activities involving nutrients and Fe. We will quantify sources of these elements for the diazotroph community from the atmosphere and ocean circulation, and by use of chemical source tracers. We will link the supply of nutrients and Fe to the activity and species distribution of diazotrophs. Molecular techniques will be used to determine the different diazotrophs in the study region. We will undertake the work on a dedicated cruise in the (sub)-tropical Atlantic which involves east-west transect from the African shelf to characterise the trace element gradient in the oxygen minimum zone and thus the potential for lateral advection from the shelf. The cruise will also traverse the dust/redox plumes in the study region and characterize the horizontal trace element gradients along the edges of the dust/redox plumes. We will sample the common diazotroph Trichodesmium and study its uptake of Fe and P using radiotracers. We will use a circulation model to provide a large scale context for the programme, with sources and cycling of nutrients and Fe adapted according to the observational studies. This research will ultimately assist with oceanographic studies on nutrient cycling and modeling with a view on the future importance of the oceans as C sink.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H009620/1
    Funder Contribution: 434,676 GBP

    Antarctic sea ice thickness is arguably the largest gap in our knowledge of the climate system. While rapid changes in ice extent are evident in satellite imagery collected over the last three decades, we have little information with which to assess the thickness of the ice. Knowledge of the thickness distribution of sea ice and its snow cover is critical in understanding a wide range of air-sea-ice interactions. It's evolution over time provides a sensitive measure of the response of the polar regions to climate change and variability, and it controls the fluxes of heat, salt, and freshwater that govern air-sea interactions and water mass transformation. Whilst we are moving closer to the 'holy grail' of measuring Arctic sea ice thickness from space, such methods are severely limited in the Antarctic due to the deep snow cover. Moreover, our understanding of the processes that control Antarctic snow and ice thickness is inadequate. This proposal has two complementary lines of investigation: (1) To determine robust statistical relationships between snow depth, ice thickness, and freeboard distribution for a range of ice classes. Understanding these relationships is critical if we are to be able to determine either snow depth or ice thickness from space - the only viable means of determining large-scale snow and sea ice thickness, trends, and variability. (2) To quantify the role that key Antarctic sea ice processes play in controlling the ice thickness evolution and its response to climate forcing. This can only be achieved through detailed simultaneous measurements of both the surface topography and ice underside. We will obtain, for the first time anywhere, coincident 3D topography maps of both the surface (from airborne Lidar) and underside (from AUV mounted multibeam sonar) for a variety of ice types and conditions. With over 1 million individual measurements per sampling station, the richness of the data set will be several orders of magnitude more than is possible with traditional methods. This will allow us to determine, for the first time, robust statistical relationships between snow depth and ice thickness spatial variability. These data will allow a definitive assessment of the feasibility and accuracy of satellite methods for estimating Antarctic sea ice thickness and snow depth for a range of ice conditions. In addition we will deploy an unprecedented number (20) of novel ice mass balance buoys (IMBs) to monitor the evolution of the snow and sea ice throughout the annual sea ice cycle. The large number of IMB deployments will allow the first regional assessment of snow accumulation rates and ice mass balance of Antarctic sea ice. To achieve these goals we have secured a 30-day dedicated cruise aboard the James Clark Ross, scheduled for November 2010, as well as use of a BAS Twin Otter for airborne Lidar missions over ice stations and the surrounding region. These platforms, provided as part of the BAS core programme, along with support and instrumentation provided by project partners at no cost, represent a unique opportunity, and a significant leverage of over £1,000,000 of in-kind contribution. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the UK to lead a coordinated campaign to produce a definitive picture of snow and sea ice thickness distribution, and to continuously monitor the processes that control these distributions throughout the annual cycle. Our programme will deliver a major step forward in our knowledge of the snow and ice thickness distribution. It will advance our understanding of Antarctic sea ice processes and improve our ability to monitor the evolution of the ice cover and air-ice-ocean interactions on a large scale. This will allow improved representation of sea ice in large-scale and global climate models, and ultimately improve our understanding of the response of the Antarctic ice cover to current and future climate change and variability.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H000844/1
    Funder Contribution: 369,354 GBP

    The global semiconductor market has a value of around $1trillion, over 90% of which is silicon based. In many senses silicon has driven the growth in the world economy for the last 40 years and has had an unparalleled cultural impact. Given the current level of commitment to silicon fabrication and its integration with other systems in terms of intellectual investment and foundry cost this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Silicon is used in almost all electronic circuitry. However, there is one area of electronics that, at the moment, silicon cannnot be used to fill; that is in the emission of light. Silicon cannot normally emit light, but nearly all telecommunications and internet data transfer is currently done using light transmitted down fibre optics. So in everyones home signals are encoded by silicon and transmitted down wires to a station where other (expensive) components combine these signals and send light down fibres. If cheap silicon light emitters were available, the fibre optics could be brought into everyones homes and the data rate into and out of our homes would increase enormously. Also the connection between chips on circuit boards and even within chips could be performed using light instead of electricity. The applicants intend to form a consortium in the UK and to collaborate with international research groups to make silicon emit light using tiny clumps of silicon, called nanocrystals;. These nanocrystals can emit light in the visible and can be made to emit in the infrared by adding erbium atoms to them. A number of techniques available in Manchester, London and Guildford will be applied to such silicon chips to understand the light emission and to try to make silicon chips that emit light when electricity is passed through them. This will create a versatile silicon optical platform with applications in telecommunications, solar energy and secure communications. This technology would be commercialised by the applicants using a high tech start-up commpany.

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The following results are related to Canada. Are you interested to view more results? Visit OpenAIRE - Explore.
12 Projects
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H009914/1
    Funder Contribution: 360,717 GBP

    Modern marine ecosystems were established during the early Palaeozoic radiations of animals, first the 'Cambrian Explosion' and then, some 50 million years later, in the 'Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.' By tracking the details of diversification through this critical interval, it should be possible to reconstruct not only the dynamics early animal evolution, but also the underlying effects of accruing ecological novelty. Unfortunately, the conventional fossil record represents only a fraction of ancient diversity, while famous 'soft-bodied' biotas such as the Burgess Shale are too rare to provide larger-scale patterns. I propose to circumvent these problems by exploiting a new, largely untapped source of palaeontological data: Burgess Shale-type microfossils. Like their macroscopic counterparts these fossils record the presence of non-biomineralizing organisms, but they also extend the view to include previously unrecorded forms and fine features. More significantly, they are proving to be quite common - to the extent that they can begin to be used to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. Systematic analysis of Burgess Shale-type microfossils through the Middle to Late Cambrian will shed fundamental new light on early evolutionary patterns, not least the poorly known interval between the Cambrian and Ordovician radiations. By integrating this enhanced fossil record with the principles of biological oceanography and macroecology, this study will also provide a unique, evolutionary view of how modern marine ecosystems function. This study will focus on the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which contains one of the largest, best preserved and most extensively sampled sequences of early Palaeozoic rocks on Earth. In addition to famously fossiliferous units exposed in the Rocky Mountain Fold and Thrust Belt - including the Burgess Shale itself - strata extend eastwards for over 1000 km in the subsurface, where they have been penetrated by hundreds of petroleum exploration boreholes. These subsurface materials are housed in state-of-the-art storage facilities in Calgary, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan and offer a unique opportunity to sample systematically through the whole of the Middle-Late Cambrian, and across an expansive shallow-water platform into continental-margin environments exposed in the Rocky Mountains. Preliminary work in both subsurface and outcrop occurrences has identified an exquisite range of Burgess Shale-type microfossils. More comprehensive sampling and analysis will substantially advance our understanding of early Palaeozoic diversity, macroevolutionary patterns, and the co-evolution of ecosystem function and environments.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H017348/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,013,550 GBP

    The burning of fossil fuels is releasing vast quantities of extra carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere. Much of this stays in the atmosphere, raising CO2 levels, but much also leaves the atmosphere after a time, either to become sequestered in trees and plants, or else to become absorbed in the oceans. CO2 staying in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, causing global warming; CO2 entering the sea makes it more acidic, and the ongoing acidification of seawater is seen in observational records at various sites where time-series data are collected. The changing chemistry of seawater due to ocean acidification is mostly well understood and not subject to debate. What is much less well known is the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine organisms and ecosystems, on biogeochemical cycling in the sea, and on how the sea interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate. We will look to investigate these questions in terms of how the surface waters of the world's oceans, and the life within, will respond to ocean acidification. Most of what we know about biological impacts, and the source of the current concern about the impact on marine life, comes from experimental studies in which individual organisms (e.g. single corals) or mono-specific populations (e.g. plankton cultures) have been subjected to elevated CO2 (and the associated lower pH) in laboratory experiments. These laboratory experiments have the advantage of being performed under controlled conditions in which everything can be kept constant except for changes to CO2. So if a response is observed, then the cause is clear. However, there are also limitations to laboratory studies. For instance, organisms have no time to adapt evolutionarily, and there is no possibility of shifts in species composition away from more sensitive forms towards more acid-tolerant forms, as might be expected to occur in nature. Another shortcoming is the absence of food-web complexity in most experiments, and therefore the absence of competition, predation, and other interactions that determine the viability of organisms in the natural environment. We seek to advance the study of ocean acidification by collecting more observations of naturally-occurring ecosystems in places where the chemistry of seawater is naturally more acidic, and/or where it naturally holds more carbon,as well as locations which are not so acidic, and/or hold more usual amounts of carbon. By contrasting the two sets of observations, we will gain an improved understanding of how acidification affects organisms living in their natural environment, after assemblage reassortments and evolutionary adaptation have had time to play out. Most of the planned work will be carried out on 3 cruises to places with strong gradients in seawater carbon and pH: to the Arctic Ocean, around the British Isles, and to the Southern Ocean. As well a making observations we will also conduct a large number of experiments, in which we will bring volumes of natural seawater from the ocean surface into containers on the deck of the ship, together with whatever life is contained within, and there subject them to higher CO2 and other stressors. We will monitor the changes that take place to these natural plankton communities (including to biogeochemical and climate-related processes) as the seawater is made more acidic. A major strength of such studies is the inclusion of natural environmental variability and complexity that is difficult or impossible to capture in laboratory experiments. Thus, the responses measured during these experiments on the naturally-occurring community may represent more accurately the future response of the surface ocean to ocean acidification. In order to carry out this experimental/observational work programme we have assembled a strong UK-wide team with an extensive track record of successfully carrying out sea-going scientificresearch projects of this type.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/G018863/1
    Funder Contribution: 231,441 GBP

    Palaeoclimate reconstructions extend our knowledge of how climate varied in times before expansive networks of measuring instruments became available. These reconstructions are founded on an understanding of theoretical and statistically-derived associations acquired by comparing the parallel behaviour of palaeoclimate proxies and measurements of varying climate. Inferences about variations in past climate, based on this understanding, necessarily assume that the associations we observe now hold true throughout the period for which reconstructions are made. This is the essence of the uniformitarian principle. In some northern areas of the world, recent observations of tree growth and measured temperature trends appear to have diverged in recent decades, the so called 'divergence' phenomenon. There has been much speculation, and numerous theories proposed, to explain why the previous temperature sensitivity of tree growth in these areas is apparently breaking down. The existence of divergence casts doubt on the uniformitarian assumption that underpins a number of important tree-ring based (dendroclimatic) reconstructions. It suggests that the degree of warmth in certain periods in the past, particularly in medieval times, may be underestimated or at least subject to greater uncertainty than is currently accepted. The lack of a clear overview of this phenomenon and the lack of a generally accepted cause had led some to challenge the current scientific consensus, represented in the 2007 report of the IPCC on the likely unprecedented nature of late 20th century average hemispheric warmth when viewed in the context of proxy evidence (mostly from trees) for the last 1300 years. This project will seek to systematically reassess and quantify the evidence for divergence in many tree-ring data sets around the Northern Hemisphere. It will establish a much clearer understanding of the nature of the divergence phenomenon, characterising the spatial patterns and temporal evolution. Based on recent published and unpublished work by the proposers, it has become apparent that foremost amongst the possible explanations is the need to account for systematic bias potentially inherent in the methods used to build many tree-ring chronologies including many that are believed to exhibit this phenomenon. This proposal is designed to build on recent innovations in tree-ring chronology production techniques, also developed by the proposers. These new methods will produce tree-ring chronologies whose variability is unbiased, either by temporal changes in the age structure of the constituent sample series, or by any distortion in the data that can arise when using the previously applied techniques. The extensive reprocessed and improved data sets will then form the basis for many detailed, site-by-site comparisons of local climate and various tree-growth parameters in order to re-characterise the nature, strength and temporal stability of the climate/growth associations. This will represent a systematic and objective re-assessment of the evidence for divergence in different forest contexts. The project will then explore all of the current theories for the cause(s) of divergence employing both statistical and process-modelling techniques. The project will go on to use the reprocessed tree-ring data sets to re-calibrate many important climate reconstructions, with varying levels of spatial detail, and carefully assess the implications of the divergence effect, as newly characterised, on reconstruction uncertainty. This project will provide results that will inform the international scientific debate and widespread public perception of the reliability of tree-ring-based climate reconstructions in particular, but also our current understanding of the reliability of current evidence for high-resolution temperature changes during the late Holocene.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H002529/1
    Funder Contribution: 271,549 GBP

    The global semiconductor market has a value of around $1trillion, over 90% of which is silicon based. In many senses silicon has driven the growth in the world economy for the last 40 years and has had an unparalleled cultural impact. Given the current level of commitment to silicon fabrication and its integration with other systems in terms of intellectual investment and foundry cost this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Silicon is used in almost all electronic circuitry. However, there is one area of electronics that, at the moment, silicon cannnot be used to fill; that is in the emission of light. Silicon cannot normally emit light, but nearly all telecommunications and internet data transfer is currently done using light transmitted down fibre optics. So in everyones home signals are encoded by silicon and transmitted down wires to a station where other (expensive) components combine these signals and send light down fibres. If cheap silicon light emitters were available, the fibre optics could be brought into everyones homes and the data rate into and out of our homes would increase enormously. Also the connection between chips on circuit boards and even within chips could be performed using light instead of electricity. The applicants intend to form a consortium in the UK and to collaborate with international research groups to make silicon emit light using tiny clumps of silicon, called nanocrystals;. These nanocrystals can emit light in the visible and can be made to emit in the infrared by adding erbium atoms to them. A number of techniques available in Manchester, London and Guildford will be applied to such silicon chips to understand the light emission and to try to make silicon chips that emit light when electricity is passed through them. This will create a versatile silicon optical platform with applications in telecommunications, solar energy and secure communications. This technology would be commercialised by the applicants using a high tech start-up commpany.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H008187/1
    Funder Contribution: 324,216 GBP

    By modifying the amount of solar radiation absorbed at the land surface, bright snow and dark forests have strong influences on weather and climate; either a decrease in snow cover or an increase in forest cover, which shades underlying snow, increases the absorption of radiation and warms the overlying air. Computer models for weather forecasting and climate prediction thus have to take these effects into account by calculating the changing mass of snow on the ground and interactions of radiation with forest canopies. Such models generally have coarse resolutions ranging from kilometres to hundreds of kilometres. Forest cover cannot be expected to be continuous over such large distances; instead, northern landscapes are mosaics of evergreen and deciduous forests, clearings, bogs and lakes. Snow can be removed from open areas by wind, shaded by surrounding vegetation or sublimated from forest canopies without ever reaching the ground, and these processes which influence patterns of snow cover depend on the size of the openings, the structure of the vegetation and weather conditions. Snow itself influences patterns of vegetation cover by supplying water, insulating plants and soil from cold winter temperatures and storing nutrients. The aim of this project is to develop better methods for representing interactions between snow, vegetation and the atmosphere in models that, for practical applications, cannot resolve important scales in the patterns of these interactions. We will gather information on distributions of snow, vegetation and radiation during two field experiments at sites in the arctic: one in Sweden and the other in Finland. These sites have been chosen because they have long records of weather and snow conditions, easy access, good maps of vegetation cover from satellites and aircraft and landscapes ranging from sparse deciduous forests to dense coniferous forests that are typical of much larger areas. Using 28 radiometers, and moving them several times during the course of each experiment, will allow us to measure the highly variable patterns of radiation at the snow surface in forests. Information from the field experiments will be used in developing and testing a range of models. To reach the scales of interest, we will begin with a model that explicitly resolves individual trees and work up through models with progressively coarser resolutions, testing the models at each stage against each other and in comparison with observations. The ultimate objective is a model that will be better able to make use of landscape information in predicting the absorption of radiation at the surface and the accumulation and melt of snow. We will work in close consultation with project partners at climate modelling and forecasting centres to ensure that our activities are directed towards outcomes that will meet their requirements.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H023321/1
    Funder Contribution: 100,759 GBP

    Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a vital analytical tool across science. NMR is most usually applied to substances dissolved in solution since this considerably simplifies the interpretation of the results (spectra) that are obtained; molecular motion averages out interactions, such as the dipolar (through space magnetic) interaction between the magnetic nuclei. However, in many applications, particularly in materials chemistry and biology, it is impossible or inappropriate to apply NMR to samples in solutions and it is necessary to work with solid samples. This creates particular difficulties for studies using hydrogen (1H) NMR which is otherwise the most widely used form of NMR (including in medical imaging applications). Typical organic (carbon-containing) molecules contain high densities of hydrogen nuclei. Although an advantage in terms of the strength of the NMR signal, the multiple magnetic (dipolar) interactions between the hydrogen nuclei cause the NMR signal to decay quickly and broaden the NMR lines into uninformative broad features. This problem has traditionally been tackled in a couple of ways. Firstly by spinning the sample (magic-angle spinning), but unfeasibly high spinning rates would be required to completely remove the dipolar interactions. Secondly using radio-frequency irradiation to average out the dipolar interactions, but this can be technically complex and the results are very susceptible to experimental deficiencies. Since the line-broadening involves the interactions of multiple nuclear spins it has been difficult to model computationally and to investigate mathematically. As a result, progress in improving 1H NMR spectra in solids has been rather fitful.This project will tackle this bottle-neck for the development of solid-state NMR. Firstly by putting together a consortium of international research groups with complementary expertise (experimental, computational and theoretical) and equipment (including NMR spectrometers operating at some of the highest magnetic fields available worldwide) we will be able to tackle the problem simultaneously and systematically from different directions. Secondly, recent advances in spectrometer hardware, simulation and NMR theory mean that the individual tools are in place to make concerted progress. Finally we will be focussing on one parameter, the decay rate of the magnetisation, which is the key limiting factor. Previous work has addressed final NMR spectra, but since these are affected by a number of additional factors, this has tended to confuse the underlying issues. The large discrepancies between simulations and current experiments suggest that potentially major improvements are possible.Finding routes to producing high-quality NMR spectra of hydrogen-containing organic solids in a routine fashion will have a major impact on the practice of solid-state NMR. Some experiments which are currently impractical due to the length of time they would take will become practical and narrowing the NMR lines will allow new, finer spectral detail to be measured, such as weak interactions across hydrogen bonds connecting different components of crystal structures. As a result this proposal is being supported by a wide range of scientists, varying from users of solid-state NMR to manufacturers of pharmaceutics to suppliers of NMR equipment.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H010262/1
    Funder Contribution: 297,055 GBP

    This project studies development of high power DC transmission networks. There is currently significant interest in developing technologies that will enable interconnection of distributed DC sources to DC networks in multi MW power sizes. The application fields include offshore renewable power parks, North Sea Supergrid, subsea power supplies in oil industry and many more. A medium power DC network test rig will be developed at Aberdeen University which will include DC transformers and fault isolation components. The project will investigate efficient, light-weight DC transformer topologies that will enable cost-effective power exchange between DC systems at wide varying voltage levels. The DC test rig will enable practical testing of DC circuit breaker which will be one of the crucial enabling technologies for DC networks. The project further investigates the operational and control principles of future large DC power networks. This project strengthens collaborative links between University of Aberdeen and Ryerson University LEDAR laboratory.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/G015732/1
    Funder Contribution: 447,592 GBP

    The oceans play a central role in the global carbon cycle, and have taken up ca. 30-40% of the anthropogenically produced CO2. It has long been known that ocean biota play a major role in sequestering CO2 on very long time scales (>1000 y). Recent evidence also suggests that the ocean biota play an important role on shorter time scales (10-100 y). The balance between phytoplankton photosynthesis and community respiration determines the ability of the oceans to take up CO2. Nitrogen (N) is generally considered to be the nutrient that limits phytoplankton photosynthesis. However, it is unclear what controls the amount of N in the ocean. Unlike most phytoplankton, which are N-limited, N2 fixing cyanobacteria (diazotrophs) have an unlimited supply of N in the form of N2 gas. N2-fixers play a significant role in ocean nutrient and biogeochemical cycles as they are a major source of N, providing N for up to 50% of primary productivity in nutrient poor oceanic regions. N2 fixation is a key process that modulates the ability of the oceans to sequester CO2 on time scales of 10 to 10,000 y. Limitation of N2 fixation results in lowered N availability for other primary producers reducing the potential of oceans to sequester carbon. Whilst the colony forming Trichodesmium is considered the most important oceanic diazotroph, recently a range of new diazotrophs have been discovered in the ocean. This brings us to the questions of 'what constrains the amount of N2 fixation in the ocean?', and 'what determines the species distribution of diazotrophs in the ocean?' Iron appears to be the key environmental factors constraining N2 fixation based on a recently observed direct link between Fe and N2 fixation in the Atlantic, with Fe determining surface ocean P cycling. The goal of this project is to investigate quantitatively the link between iron supply and N2 fixation in the Atlantic, and for this it is essential to understand the importance and strengths of various iron sources. The iron sources are considered to be atmospheric dust deposition and low oxygen shelf sediments in the NW African upwelling region. The strengths of these sources are expected to change in future with changes in dust deposition and expansion of the oxygen minimum zones in the oceans. Identification and quantification of the sources is hence key to undertake model estimates of N2 fixation under future climate scenarios. This proposal will relate the supply and biogeochemical cycling of Fe and P to N2 fixation and the community structure of diazotrophs in the (sub)-tropical Atlantic Ocean. We will undertake this research using a combination of ship-board observations and radiotracer uptake experiments, and modeling activities involving nutrients and Fe. We will quantify sources of these elements for the diazotroph community from the atmosphere and ocean circulation, and by use of chemical source tracers. We will link the supply of nutrients and Fe to the activity and species distribution of diazotrophs. Molecular techniques will be used to determine the different diazotrophs in the study region. We will undertake the work on a dedicated cruise in the (sub)-tropical Atlantic which involves east-west transect from the African shelf to characterise the trace element gradient in the oxygen minimum zone and thus the potential for lateral advection from the shelf. The cruise will also traverse the dust/redox plumes in the study region and characterize the horizontal trace element gradients along the edges of the dust/redox plumes. We will sample the common diazotroph Trichodesmium and study its uptake of Fe and P using radiotracers. We will use a circulation model to provide a large scale context for the programme, with sources and cycling of nutrients and Fe adapted according to the observational studies. This research will ultimately assist with oceanographic studies on nutrient cycling and modeling with a view on the future importance of the oceans as C sink.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H009620/1
    Funder Contribution: 434,676 GBP

    Antarctic sea ice thickness is arguably the largest gap in our knowledge of the climate system. While rapid changes in ice extent are evident in satellite imagery collected over the last three decades, we have little information with which to assess the thickness of the ice. Knowledge of the thickness distribution of sea ice and its snow cover is critical in understanding a wide range of air-sea-ice interactions. It's evolution over time provides a sensitive measure of the response of the polar regions to climate change and variability, and it controls the fluxes of heat, salt, and freshwater that govern air-sea interactions and water mass transformation. Whilst we are moving closer to the 'holy grail' of measuring Arctic sea ice thickness from space, such methods are severely limited in the Antarctic due to the deep snow cover. Moreover, our understanding of the processes that control Antarctic snow and ice thickness is inadequate. This proposal has two complementary lines of investigation: (1) To determine robust statistical relationships between snow depth, ice thickness, and freeboard distribution for a range of ice classes. Understanding these relationships is critical if we are to be able to determine either snow depth or ice thickness from space - the only viable means of determining large-scale snow and sea ice thickness, trends, and variability. (2) To quantify the role that key Antarctic sea ice processes play in controlling the ice thickness evolution and its response to climate forcing. This can only be achieved through detailed simultaneous measurements of both the surface topography and ice underside. We will obtain, for the first time anywhere, coincident 3D topography maps of both the surface (from airborne Lidar) and underside (from AUV mounted multibeam sonar) for a variety of ice types and conditions. With over 1 million individual measurements per sampling station, the richness of the data set will be several orders of magnitude more than is possible with traditional methods. This will allow us to determine, for the first time, robust statistical relationships between snow depth and ice thickness spatial variability. These data will allow a definitive assessment of the feasibility and accuracy of satellite methods for estimating Antarctic sea ice thickness and snow depth for a range of ice conditions. In addition we will deploy an unprecedented number (20) of novel ice mass balance buoys (IMBs) to monitor the evolution of the snow and sea ice throughout the annual sea ice cycle. The large number of IMB deployments will allow the first regional assessment of snow accumulation rates and ice mass balance of Antarctic sea ice. To achieve these goals we have secured a 30-day dedicated cruise aboard the James Clark Ross, scheduled for November 2010, as well as use of a BAS Twin Otter for airborne Lidar missions over ice stations and the surrounding region. These platforms, provided as part of the BAS core programme, along with support and instrumentation provided by project partners at no cost, represent a unique opportunity, and a significant leverage of over £1,000,000 of in-kind contribution. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the UK to lead a coordinated campaign to produce a definitive picture of snow and sea ice thickness distribution, and to continuously monitor the processes that control these distributions throughout the annual cycle. Our programme will deliver a major step forward in our knowledge of the snow and ice thickness distribution. It will advance our understanding of Antarctic sea ice processes and improve our ability to monitor the evolution of the ice cover and air-ice-ocean interactions on a large scale. This will allow improved representation of sea ice in large-scale and global climate models, and ultimately improve our understanding of the response of the Antarctic ice cover to current and future climate change and variability.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/H000844/1
    Funder Contribution: 369,354 GBP

    The global semiconductor market has a value of around $1trillion, over 90% of which is silicon based. In many senses silicon has driven the growth in the world economy for the last 40 years and has had an unparalleled cultural impact. Given the current level of commitment to silicon fabrication and its integration with other systems in terms of intellectual investment and foundry cost this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Silicon is used in almost all electronic circuitry. However, there is one area of electronics that, at the moment, silicon cannnot be used to fill; that is in the emission of light. Silicon cannot normally emit light, but nearly all telecommunications and internet data transfer is currently done using light transmitted down fibre optics. So in everyones home signals are encoded by silicon and transmitted down wires to a station where other (expensive) components combine these signals and send light down fibres. If cheap silicon light emitters were available, the fibre optics could be brought into everyones homes and the data rate into and out of our homes would increase enormously. Also the connection between chips on circuit boards and even within chips could be performed using light instead of electricity. The applicants intend to form a consortium in the UK and to collaborate with international research groups to make silicon emit light using tiny clumps of silicon, called nanocrystals;. These nanocrystals can emit light in the visible and can be made to emit in the infrared by adding erbium atoms to them. A number of techniques available in Manchester, London and Guildford will be applied to such silicon chips to understand the light emission and to try to make silicon chips that emit light when electricity is passed through them. This will create a versatile silicon optical platform with applications in telecommunications, solar energy and secure communications. This technology would be commercialised by the applicants using a high tech start-up commpany.

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