Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES)
Environmental Modelling & Monitoring
Staff: Mike Fowler and Jim Smith
Main Research Themes
- Environmental Impacts of ionising radiation
- Modelling of nutrient transport in rivers and their catchments
Recently completed and current research projects
Environmental impacts of ionising radiation
In collaboration with Dr John Murphy at Queen Mary University, radiation research has focused on the population-level impacts of ionising radiationin aquatic ecosystems affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. We have analysed of the diversity of freshwater macroinvertebrates in lakes of different radioactive contamination densities. The research has shown that – at a population level – there appears to be no impact on macroinvertebrates, with biodiversity indicators similar in highly-contaminated and uncontaminated lakes. Together with scientists at University of the West of England, we have also evaluated a potential mechanism for radiation damage to antioxidant systems in plants and animals. In collaboration with Chiba Institute of Technology, Japan, research is currently focused on evaluating the impacts of the Fukushima accident on freshwater systems (see also Nature editorial on Fukushima)
Transport and biological effects of stable phosphorus in rivers
In collaboration with Dr Mike Bowes at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, stable phosphorus research has focused on identifying the relationship between P concentrations in rivers and algal growth. Novel meso-scale experiments used experimental channels to modify water P concentrations (using P-stripping and P additions) to establish limiting concentrations at which algal growth is inhibited in the River Frome, Dorset. Recent work has also led to the development of the Load Apportionment Model to determine the relative contributions of point and diffuse sources of phosphorus inputs to rivers.
Additional ongoing and future research
Ongoing and future environmental radioactivity research will focus on (1) the biosphere transport of very long-lived radionuclides (129I; 36Cl; 99Tc; Pu isotopes) using both food chain bioaccumulation and (where possible) stable analogue models; (2) the evaluation of radiation doses to aquatic organisms using exposure modelling and measurement by in situ thermoluminescent dosimetry (3) sources and impacts of phosphorus and nitrogen in freshwater systems.
Recent and current research funding sources
A range of consultancy projects to clients including:
- Environment Agency, Food Standards Agency, Radioactive Waste Management Directorate, Japan Atomic Energy Agency
- Thai Government (Office of Atoms for Peace) 2 full-time PhD studentships
- NERC/Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: PhD studentship (joint supervision: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology/Portsmouth University).
Main Research Themes
- Trace metals in the environment
- Speciation and bioaccessibility of trace metals in contaminated soils
- Elemental and isotopic fingerprinting methods of dust source attribution
Current research and consultancy projects
Quantitative assessment of dust propagation from hazardous waste landfill
Collaborators: Prof. G. Walton, H. Datson and B. Williams DustScan Ltd., S. Roscoe, Grundon Waste Management Ltd.
Air Pollution Control (APC) residues derive from incineration of municipal solid wastes, and are rich in lime and carbon used to reduce exhaust acidity and sequester fugitive metals and organic pollutants. Thus, when disposed of to landfill, they represent significant sources of a cocktail of potential toxicants. Since particulate dispersion is an obvious pathway for landfill leakage, it is important to monitor dust levels during and after disposal. This project has developed an empirical fingerprinting methodology that allows the proportion of APC-derived dust to be monitored in directional dust samples taken on a routine basis around one of the largest hazardous waste landfill sites in the country. We are currently developing an interface between the chemical database and computer contouring software to provide periodic maps of dust concentration in the vicinity of the site. These will then be used to test theoretical dust dispersion models and create an integrated modelling package.
This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme (KTP). KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competetiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. KTP is funded by the Technology Strategy Board along with other government funding organisations.
Developments in directional dust monitoring
Collaborators: H, Datson, DustScan Ltd
Finance SE POCKET funding to develop a high-sensitivity passive directional dust sampling head for the DustScan DS100 monitor.
- Fowler, M.B., Datson, H and Newberry, J. (submitted) Quantitative assessment of dust propagation at a hazardous waste landfill. Journal of Environmental Monitoring.
- Datson, H. and Fowler, M.B. 2007. A method for the characterization of ambient dust: Geochemical analysisof directional sticky pad samples. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 101, 413-429.
- Dustscan Ltd. 2005. DustChem research and development project: Wingmoor Farm dust characterisation study: Final Report. 51pp, confidential. For Grundon Waste Management Ltd.
- Hooda, P.S., Henry, C.J.K., Seyoum, T.A., Armstrong, L.D.M. and Fowler, M.B. 2004. The potential impact of soil ingestion on human mineral nutrition. Science of the Total Environment, 333, 75-87.