Category Archives: Training

A change in the weather and a change of scenery

Glycymeris PB

Glycymeris glycymeris from Faroes Bank. Picture: Paul Butler

Morning of 13th November:  Continuing our shells collection cruise, our next site, a little further south on the Faroes Bank, came up with another surprise: hundreds of live collected specimens of Glycymeris glycymeris.  We know this species (which can live up to 200 years) from St Kilda, the west coats of Scotland and points south, but we weren’t expecting to find it this far west in the north Atlantic and as far as I know it has not been found elsewhere in the Faroes.

Sea PB2

Heavy weather between the Faroes and Viking Bank. Picture: Paul Butler

Shortly afterwards, the weather began to turn, and in the light of predicted bad weather around the Faroes, we decided to head across to our other main area of interest, where we were planning to collect shells for Tamara.  This was Viking Bank in the northern North Sea/Norwegian Sea.  Tamara and Rob planned a full 80 potential stations in three separate areas.  Winds reached force 8 on the journey across to Viking Bank, and we were thankful for the relative stability of GO Sars.  At a session of presentations in the ship’s seminar room, we got a bit of detail about the very promising progress with the ARAMACC projects.

However, when we resumed dredging earlier this morning, the first tow on Viking Bank turned up nothing except a few chunks of mud.

Evening of 14th November:  We’ve worked on two main sites on Viking Bank with variable success.  Modern Arctica islandica here are small compared with specimens from earlier in the Holocene.  This may reflect sea level rise in the area: early Holocene specimens, living when large parts of the North Sea were still dry land, would have been living in coastal environments, with more nutrients, and were therefore able to grow faster than is possible nowadays.  These older shells have the kind of size and thickness that we see nowadays in Arctica from around the UK coast.

While some trawls turned up the older shells in large numbers, more recent specimens, and especially the live animals that Tamara was most interested in seemed to be more elusive.  A small adjustment to the connection between the winch and the dredge may have had the effect of allowing the dredge to dig deeper into the sediment, and the final trawl of the afternoon shift produced about 30 live clams.





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

ARAMACC Training – overview

ARAMACC provides a comprehensive network-wide training programme which will include the full range of skills specific to sclerochronology as well as the complementary generic skills required for a successful career in scientific research (B.3.2).

The experience, expertise and infratsructure of the ARAMACC partners will be exploited through a series of training events, offering a unique and exciting combination of outstanding training opportunities, including active participation in research cruises, use of state-of-the-art analytical geochemical equipment, experience of field and laboratory culturing experiments facilities and exposure to world leading climate modeling expertise.