My name is Hamish and I grew up in a fairly agriculturally-intensive area in Cheshire, where I gained a first-hand awareness of environmental problems such as eutrophication, soil erosion and volatile emissions. My GCSE studies of environmental science provided context to these environmental processes and more, which lead me to pursue an MSci in Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Lancaster. During my degree I really became interested in geology and the subsurface, and how scientists’ model / simulate environmental processes such as groundwater flow and nutrient cycling.
About half-way through my degree I had decided that I would like to pursue a PhD to continue learning about science and nature, knowing that the qualification would allow me to pursue a career in research. I found a project offered by the QUADRAT DTP in groundwater and nutrient dynamics in agricultural catchment areas, which seemed to perfectly combine my interests in hydrogeology and biogeochemistry. The project will involve the use of both geophysics and isotope geochemistry to conceptualise the field sites, followed by distributed numerical modelling to understand the dynamics and behaviour of the system, and see how it responds to climate change perturbations.
My primary supervisors are Dr Jean-Christophe Comte and Dr Ulrich Ofterdinger, who both have experience in characterising these hard-rock, post-glacial environments with geophysics and isotope geochemistry (they published the book! https://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/479/1/1.1) and modelling heterogenous groundwater systems. I am also lucky to be co-supervised by Dr Rachel Cassidy and Dr Mads Troldborg who will be collaborating externally through Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and the James Hutton Institute, respectively.
I chose the University of Aberdeen as my host institution as I felt that the “granite city” / “offshore oil capital of Europe” seemed like the best place to study geology, albeit the environmental implications of the latter! I really like all the wild deer and foxes here too, which fit in with the Hogwarts vibes of the King’s College campus.
I am now 4 months into my PhD project currently stationed at the University of Aberdeen and have been doing a lot of reading as you can imagine. I have been particularly focused on the geophysics component of the project which focuses on the 1st stage of the project – building 3D models of the subsurface of the field sites. I recently attended a conference hosted by the Geological Society, London “Geophysics in the Critical Zone: Modern Approaches to Characterising Near-Surface Materials”, where I got to meet some academics and industry leaders using geophysics for all kinds of environmental, civil and geotechnical engineering applications.