Water Wednesday: Unconventional Gas seminar presentations now online.

WRC

The presentations from the Water Wednesday on June 18 are now online.

The seminar was presented by The Water Research Centre in conjunction with SA Branch of the Australian Water Association and showcased presentations from Professor Martin Kennedy, Mr Colin Cruickshank and Prof Craig Simmons.

Professor Martin Kennedy from the Environment gave a presentation entitled “Finding and Developing Unconventional Gas Sources and Minimising Impacts of Extraction.”

This and the other presentations by Mr Colin Cruickshank and Prof Craig Simmons as well as bios of the speakers can be found on the Environment Institute Event Page.

 

New clues to evolution dug up from world’s largest human fossil collection

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The skulls of a modern human (Cro-Magnon 1, far left) and a Neandertal (La Ferrassie 1, center left) Credit: SciencE Mag/FOSSIL SKULLS AND CHIMPANZEE/J.-J. HUBLIN; BONOBO/ROYAL MUSEUM FOR CENTRAL AFRICA, TERVUREN, BELGIUM

The Sima de los Huesos (pit of bones) is a cave in northern Spain from which 6500 human fossils from at least 28 individuals have been recovered to date. Analysis of skulls from the earliest humans with Neandertal-like features reassigned the age of the fossils to about 430 000 years ago.

Dr Lee Arnold, from the Environment Institute at Adelaide University, was one of the lead authors on the research paper published in the journal ScienceThe research addresses controversy associated with human evolution during the Middle Pleistocene period, in particular the origin of Neandertals and modern humans.

Previous studies of fossils in the cave in the Atapuerca Mountains reported the age of the skulls at more than 530 000 years old. Dr Lee Arnold is a geochronologist and led the dating part of the study. He conceded that “This age range is one of the most difficult to date”. However, Arnold says that to arrive at the new date range: “rather than relying on a single dating technique, we used six different techniques to produce a robust chronological study which would not have been possible a few years ago”.

At the Sima de los Huesos. Credit: Science Mag/JAVIER TRUEBA/MADRID SCIENTIFIC FILMS

At the Sima de los Huesos. Credit: Science Mag/JAVIER TRUEBA/MADRID SCIENTIFIC FILMS

The result is more compatible with morphological and genetic evidence for human evolution of the time. “We’ve resolved the age of the fossils at 100,000 years younger than previously reported, which makes them the oldest reliably-dated humans to show clear Neandertal morphology.” Dr Arnold and Dr Martina Demuro, geochronologists from Adelaide University’s Environmental Luminescence group, conducted dating of the site while at Spain’s National Research Centre for Human Evolution (CENIEH).

Along with a more accurate age of the fossils, studies of the specimens cranial, facial, and dental features of the Atapuerca hominins allows more precise evolutionary positioning of these Neandertal ancestors. The analysis has allowed for testing of the “accretion” model which proposes that Neandertal features appeared separately rather than at the same time. For example the facial features evolve at a different time to the neocranium.

The skulls from this population show jaws and teeth which are more typically Neandertal and upper cranial features more like Homo heidelbergensis, suggesting the fossils may belong to a new species or sub-species. “A picture is emerging of human evolution which is way more complex than has been considered over the past couple of decades,” says Dr Arnold.

More skulls of extinct human species have been found at the Sima archaeological site than anywhere else in the world. “This collection of bones, which is expected to continue growing in the coming years, is becoming increasingly important for the study of human evolution.” says Professor Juan Luis Arsuaga, from Madrid’s Complutense University and the ISCIII Joint Centre for Evolution and Human Behaviour in Spain.

Obtaining the fossils is difficult, with access limited to a 500 metre crawl through underground caves and a 13 metre abseil down a deep vertical shaft. A career as a research scientist really can take you to some amazing places!

Hear Dr Lee Arnold speak on ABC Radio National or read the transcript.

Warming and ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula – Dr Nerilie Abram Presentation now online

The presentation by Dr Nerilie Abram (ANU), entitled: Warming and ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsulapresented by the Sprigg Geobiology Centre is now online.

Abstract
The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than any other region of the southern hemisphere over the past 50 years. But the short observational records of Antarctic climate don’t allow for an understanding of how unusual this recent climate warming may be. In this seminar I will present reconstructions of temperature and melt history from a highly resolved ice core record from James Ross Island on the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. The isotope-derived temperature reconstruction gives a statistical framework to assess the rapid recent warming of the Antarctic Peninsula, and in conjunction with a spatial network of proxy records provides insights into the underlying climatic drivers. Visible melt layers in the James Ross Island ice core also yield a unique insight into the response of ice melt to changing temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last 1000 years, with implications for future ice shelf and ice sheet stability in the region.

Biography
After her undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney, Nerilie studied for her PhD at the Australian National University where she used corals from Sumatra to learn about climate variability in the tropical Indian Ocean. She then worked for seven years as an ice core researcher at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, which included fieldwork on James Ross Island on the Antarctic Peninsula and for the NEEM deep ice core in Greenland. In 2011 Nerilie returned to ANU as a QEII research fellow awarded by the Australian Research Council. Nerilie’s research focus now spans from the tropics to Antarctica with the goal of improving understanding of the climate processes that affect Australia’s rainfall patterns. Nerilie has recently returned from a two month field season in east Antarctica where she was involved in a multinational project lead by the Australian Antarctic Division to retrieve a new 2000-year ice core climate record from Aurora Basin.

Nerilie Abram working on the ice core. Image: Paul Roger

Nerilie Abram working on the ice core. Image: Paul Roger

 

 

Impacts of Explosive Road Expansion on Global Ecosystems and Biodiversity: William F. Laurance

William F. Laurance will deliver a free public presentation at the University of Adelaide on the 26th of June entitled: “Impacts of Explosive Road Expansion on Global Ecosystems and Biodiversity”.

220px-BillprofileWilliam is Distinguished Research Professor at James Cook University, Cairns, and has received one of Australia’s highest scientific honours, the Australian Laureate Award. He also holds the Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation at Ultrecht University, Netherlands.

Professor Laurance has authored eight books and over 400 scientific and popular articles. He is in the top 0.001% of cited scientists globally, in the fields of ecology and environmental science.

His scientific interests include assessing the impacts of deforestation, logging, hunting, bushfires, road expansion and climatic change on tropical ecosystems and biodiversity.

Abstract

We live in an era of unprecedented road expansion, with new roads now penetrating into most the world’s surviving wildernesses.  Such roads often unleash a Pandora’s Box of environmental problems, such as illegal colonisation, deforestation, hunting, and land speculation.  By the year 2050, it is expected that Earth will have 25 million kilometres of additional roads and highways—enough to circle the planet over 600 times.  Ninety percent of these new roads will be in developing nations that sustain the bulk of Earth’s biodiversity.  I will highlight the impacts of rapid road expansion on native ecosystems and wildlife, and then describe an ambitious effort I am leading to devise a ‘Global Roadmap’–an innovative zoning scheme to define where on Earth future roads should and should not go.

When: 3pm, 26th June
Where: Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre, Adelaide University

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from a world leading environmental scientist.

Read Professor Laurance’s most recent article for The Conversation: “Boycotts are a crucial weapon to fight environment-harming firms

Longest-lived animal survivor known to science now under threat

The Nautilus has long been prized for its unique shell, to be found in Renaissance Cabinets of curiosities and now sold on eBay for as much as AU$200.

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Peter Ward diving at Osprey Reef, off the Great Barrier Reef. Source: Nautilus Magazine

It isn’t hard to see why. Aside from the inherent beauty of the Nautilus, the shell has some enigmatic features that only add to the aesthetics. When cut away, one of the finest natural examples of a logarithmic spiral can be seen. The Nautilus uses these chambers to adjust its buoyancy, by pumping water in and out of the chambers with different salt content and therefore density via osmosis.

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Cut away of the Nautilus shell showing the logarithmic spiral. Image: Wikipedia

Professor Peter Ward, on the Environment Institute at Adelaide University, is an internationally renowned palaeontologist and world authority of the Nautilus. He has called for a global ban on the trade of the Nautilus seashell.

“Nautilus has survived every single mass extinction event that’s been thrown at it over half a billion years, now it’s being wiped out by humans to sit on a bathroom shelf or as a pretty button on someone’s shirt,” he says.

Ward has just returned from an expedition in the Philippines where he discovered the Nautilus was close to extinction at known Nautilus fishing sites.

“The Nautilus situation we found in the Philippines was mind-boggling,” says Professor Ward. “The Philippines have been at the centre of Nautilus fishing for decades. Now it is just about extinct there. And it is not just Nautilus.  In the same environments we found almost no larger fish at all where there should be large schools of many different species.”

Professor Ward says there is good reason to be concerned about the Nautilus in Western Australian deep reefs, as the largest Nautilus in the world comes from there. “We are seeing them being sold on eBay even though there is supposed to be regulation in Australia”.

Nautilus is the ‘canary in the coalmine’ of the deep reef environment,” he says. “It tells us about the health of our deeper reefs where little ecological study is done. When Nautilus isn’t there, we know that the other fish at those depths are also at risk from overfishing or other environmental factors. We cannot rule out high acidity and warming of these formerly cool, deep waters caused by climate change, and from rising levels of silt caused by nearby deforestation.”

In the past few years Peter Ward has contributed to the breakthrough discovery that ancient Nautilus pompilius is in fact many separate species, which has overturned the widespread reference to it as a “living fossil.” Ward laments that the human toll on the nautilus may be the last discovery that he ever makes about this remarkable animal.

In his surprisingly emotive piece about a creature for a magazine of the same name, the Nautilus, Ward tells the story of his scientific career researching a creature that has prevailed for 500 million years. It began with his entrancement with the Nautilus shell after first seeing one in a shell shop in Hawaii as a young boy. It ended, albeit only temporarily, with the tragic death of a friend on a diving expedition in New Caledonia.

“Looking back at the myriad decisions, tests, detours, and the rest of the messy contradiction and actions that we call life, I have to marvel at the waves of chance that swept the nautilus and me into its rough seas.” Ward muses.

Ingenious: Peter Ward from Nautilus on Vimeo.

Read more about Peter Ward on the Environment Institute blog here.

Warming and ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula – Dr Nerilie Abram

The Sprigg Geobiology Centre welcomes you to attend a seminar by Dr Nerilie Abram (ANU), entitled: Warming and ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula

Nerilie Abram working on the ice core. Image: Paul Roger

Nerilie Abram working on the ice core. Image: Paul Roger

Abstract:
The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than any other region of the southern hemisphere over the past 50 years. But the short observational records of Antarctic climate don’t allow for an understanding of how unusual this recent climate warming may be? In this seminar I will present reconstructions of temperature and melt history from a highly resolved ice core record from James Ross Island on the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. The isotope-derived temperature reconstruction gives a statistical framework to assess the rapid recent warming of the Antarctic Peninsula, and in conjunction with a spatial network of proxy records provides insights into the underlying climatic drivers. Visible melt layers in the James Ross Island ice core also yield a unique insight into the response of ice melt to changing temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last 1000 years, with implications for future ice shelf and ice sheet stability in the region.

Biography:
After her undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney, Nerilie studied for her PhD at the Australian National University where she used corals from Sumatra to learn about climate variability in the tropical Indian Ocean. She then worked for seven years as an ice core researcher at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, which included fieldwork on James Ross Island on the Antarctic Peninsula and for the NEEM deep ice core in Greenland. In 2011 Nerilie returned to ANU as a QEII research fellow awarded by the Australian Research Council. Nerilie’s research focus now spans from the tropics to Antarctica with the goal of improving understanding of the climate processes that affect Australia’s rainfall patterns. Nerilie has recently returned from a two month field season in east Antarctica where she was involved in a multinational project lead by the Australian Antarctic Division to retrieve a new 2000-year ice core climate record from Aurora Basin.

When: Friday, May 30, 12:10pm
Where: Mawson Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide

If you would like to meet with Nerilie during her visit, please contact her hosts: Jonathan Tyler jonathan.tyler[at]adelaide.edu.au or John Tibby john.tibby[at]adelaide.edu.au.

 

 

Water Wednesday: Unconventional Gas – where to from here?

WRCThe Water Research Centre in conjunction with SA Branch of the Australian Water Association would like to invite you to the next Water Wednesday entitled: Unconventional Gas- where to from here?  

The global demand for energy will drive the exploitation of numerous forms of fossil fuel. Australia is well placed to supply some of these resources including currently explored unconventional gas. Unconventional gas includes shale gas, shale oil, coalbed methane, tight oil and tight gas, all classified as ‘natural’ gas or derivatives.

The media has highlighted concerns surrounding the extraction of some of these unconventional gases, particularly with respect to impacts on water resources. Are the risks real or perceived and how is the industry moving to mitigate these risks?

This forum will explore past learnings, current knowledge and future options for the sustainable management of alternative energy sources while ensuring minimal impact on water resources.

Guest Speakers:

  • Finding and Developing Unconventional Gas Sources
    Professor Martin Kennedy is the director of the Sprigg Geobiology Centre at the University of Adelaide. His research centres on the mechanisms and influence of carbon burial on the biogeochemical cycles of earth and its implication for the biosphere. He has 15 years of experience with hydrocarbon producing shales that comprise a broad class of unconventional gas systems dating back to the beginning of the gas shale revolution in the USA as a senior research geologist at ExxonMobil and extending to his present lead of an ARC – Industry supported consortium focused on improved prediction of gas shale distribution. His recent work is exploring another aspect of the unconventional boom, the potential effects on greenhouse gas contribution of fugitive emissions of methane lost during drilling operations. This work brings data from new, highly sensitive trace gas measurement equipment to the unconventional debate, placing these operations in context with other sources of methane produced by industrial and agricultural activities. Before returning to Australia in 2010, Martin was Professor of Sedimentary Geochemistry at the University of California and director of the Graduate Program for Global and Environmental Change. He has published extensively on the carbon cycle, biospheric triggers for animal evolution, and geologic mechanisms influencing climate change. Martin will provide a general geologic background of unconventional reservoirs and how they differ from standard oil and gas plays, what potential resources exist in South Australia and trends in shale gas development in the USA, and discuss the potential effects of fugitive emissions on sustainable development
  • Finding Innovative Solutions for Viable Gas Extraction with Minimum Impact
    Colin Cruickshank has over 29 years oil and gas exploration and production industry experience in a variety of technical and leadership roles, including drilling and completions, facilities, business planning, project engineering, reservoir engineering, producing operations and development planning. His current role is General Manager Unconventional Resources and Exploration for Santos’ Eastern Australia Business Unit where he is responsible for the exploration and appraisal of Santos’ onshore assets in South Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory for both conventional and deep unconventional hydrocarbons including shale and tight gas.
  • Unconventional gas and groundwater: Challenges and Opportunities
    Professor Craig Simmons is Schultz Chair in the Environment at Flinders University and Director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (Australia). One of Australia’s foremost groundwater academics, Professor Simmons has been a significant contributor to global advances in the science of hydrogeology for many years and has published widely in areas including variable density groundwater flow, surface water – groundwater interaction, fractured rock hydrogeology, aquifer storage and recovery, and groundwater flow and solute transport modelling. He is a member of the Statutory Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development. His work has been recognised by numerous national and international research and teaching awards including the Anton Hales Medal for outstanding research contributions to the Earth Sciences by the Australian Academy of Science. Professor Simmons has served as an Editor and Associate Editor for numerous major international journals including Hydrogeology Journal (Editor), Water Resources Research, Environmental Modeling and Assessment, Journal of Hydrology, Groundwater and Vadose Zone Journal.

When: Wednesday 18th June 2014, 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Where: The Braggs Lecture Theatre, North Terrace, University of Adelaide.

Registration Essential by 16th June.
Please be seated by 5:30 pm.
There will be an opportunity for networking afterwards.

Download the Water Wednesday June 18 Flyer.

Download the May 2014 Water Research Centre Newsletter.