Monthly Archives: August 2014

Reading between the lines

Irene with dye

Irene Ballesta Artero pouring dye into the clam’s containers before deployment.  The non-toxic dye will mark the shell with the time of deployment.

Here’s the second post in the Discover magazine series on climate work with Arctica islandica off northern Norway.   Al Wanamaker and Michael Carroll are looking for the most northerly populations of Arctica islandica, living at depths up to 180 metres.

Rob Witbaard and Irene Ballesta are also up there, deploying clams wired with activity loggers to look in great detail at the environmental factors driving shell growth.

You can also read about raised beaches, thought to be about 6,000 years old, that are covered with ancient shells.









Rob Witbaard and Michael Carroll help Captain Thorleif Hanssen redeploy Rob’s clam experiment.












The biggest Arctica ever !


Ben Allinson, Sarah Holmes and Stella Alexandroff in the coffee room at School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor with a 130mm Arctica islandica shell.

The other day we received delivery at Bangor of the biggest Arctica islandica shell any of us had ever seen.  To put this in context, up until now I’d thought they couldn’t get bigger than about 122mm at the widest point.  This one came out at a cool 130mm.  It was found on a beach on the Hebridean island of Lewis by Roy Bentham, a retired truck driver who takes a keen interest in our work.

Stella will be working on its sclerochronology, so as and when we measure the growth increments we’ll let you know how long it lived and whether we can fit it into a chronology.

- Paul Butler

Dead Clams Talking

There’s an excellent series in Discover magazine on climate work with Arctica off northern Norway.  ARAMACC ESR Irene Ballesta is out there right now, with Rob Witbaard, Al Wanamaker, Michael Carroll and other researchers from Bates College in the US.

Read the first post here


ARAMNACC student Irene Ballesta and Bates College student Maddie Mette examine specimens of Arctica islandica just collected at the study site off northern Norway


ARAMACC Summer School #1

The ARAMACC Summer School #1 was hosted from 16th May to 23rd May by School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University.  Expert instructors demonstrated and provided hands-on experience in a wide range of skills, some of them related directly to sclerochronology and scleroclimatology, others relevant to the general skills required to become an effective researcher (a gallery of photos from the Summer School is here).

IMG_3776cBefore the School started, the ARAMACC team met for the first time at the ARAMACC inaugural meal, which took place on the evening of Friday 16th May at the Garden restaurant at Plas Cadnant Cottage (home to the ESRs duiring the School).  A gallery from this enjoyable and memorable occasion can be found here.



Summer School (May 17th – May 23rd)

The Summer School included three principle modules:

IMG_3851cModule 1:  Basic shell processing techniques  Days 1, 2 and 3 (May 17th-May 19th)

Co-leaders: ARAMACC Visiting researcher Professor Alan D Wanamaker and Alejandro Roman.

This module was held in the main (Craig Mair) teaching lab at the School of Ocean Sciences. Working in small groups of two or three, the students learnt the basics of how to process shells for sclerochronology.  Some brought their own shells to work on, others used shells from the extensive collection at SOS.  The skills being taught included how to embed shells in resin blocks, how to cut them using a precision saw, how to grind and polish the exposed surface for optimal imaging, and finally how to etch the exposed surface and produce an acetate peel replica of the etched surface that could be viewed under a microscope.  On the Sunday evening, the group took a break from the lab, with a geological field trip to the dramatic scenery of Snowdonia guided by Professor James Scourse (pictures here).


Module 2: Sclerochronology and scleroclimatology  Days 4 and 5 (May 20th-May 21st)

Co-leaders: Professor Alan D Wanamaker and Professor Valerie Trouet                                        

In the second part of the School, the students learnt how to count and measure the growth lines from their shells using bespoke image analysis software, and then how to create chronologies using growth increment series form IMG_3867cmultiple shells.  Finally, guided by leading tree-ring researcher and climatologist Professor Valerie Trouet, the chronologies were compared with local and regional climate records, to try to detect any identifiable environmental signal in your shells.  This was an ‘eventful’ part of the course, with a number of challenging technical; problems that had to be overcome, but it was clear by the end that some interesting connections between shell growth and climate had been established.

On the evening of May 20th, the group came to a very stimulating joint public talk by James Scourse and Valerie Trouet, covering the centennial-scale history of the North Atlantic Jet Stream and the effects of North Atlantic climate on the coastscape of North Wales – see here for the details of this event. 


Module 3:  Research Management   Days 6 and 7 (May 22nd – May 23rd)                                     Co-leaders: Professor Chris Richardson, Professor Alan D Wanamaker and Dr Paul Butler               For the final module the emphasis switched to an introduction to the basic principles of research management, including the maintenance of personal logs and the PCDPs (Personal Career Development Plans) that will be maintained by all the ARAMACC students.  The session included practice at making a cruise plan, and guidance about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.






ARAMACC student accommodation at Plas Cadnant Cottages