Internal Talk – Dr Ernesto Saiz val

The group heard from Dr Ernesto Saiz val, with a talk entitled ‘N-biogeochemistry and new low-cost analytical methods for in-situ environmental monitoring’.

Ernesto’s work focuses on low cost, reliable and portable devices for soil field work, devices to measure pH, ammonia, potassium and nitrate were shown and a great explanation of the future potential of this work.

If you want to know more – see Dr Saiz Val’s research page –

Dr Lauren Rawlins

On 24 January 2024, the Earth & Environment Research Group welcomed external speaker, Dr Lauren Rawlins, who recently completed her PhD at the Department of Environment & Geography at the University of York. Lauren presented her PhD research investigating the impacts of climate change on the glaciers of Greenland. Through remote sensing of the Humboldt Glacier in northwest Greenland, Lauren observed significant seasonal surface melting extending 80 kilometres inland from the coast. The formation of pooled water and drainage networks on the glacier’s surface lowers the surface ‘albedo’ (meaning its ability to reflect incoming solar radiation) and contributes to more melting. The surface meltwater can also infiltrate down to the base of the glacier where it can speed up the ice sheet’s advance toward the comparatively warmer coast, leading to further melting. Lauren’s talk also took us down to SW Greenland where she performed uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys and some remarkable 3-D mapping of the smaller, Russell glacier, to study the distribution and interactions of surface meltwater with ‘cryoconite’ (dark patches containing algae, black carbon, and other dark coloured particulates that reduce surface albedo).

Lauren’s talk was riveting and, her research, scientifically rigorous. Understanding the sensitivity of the Greenland ice sheet to external factors is critical for predicting future change.

At the end of Lauren’s talk, our own Dr Adrian Dye asked her if she could offer any advice to our PhD and prospective PhD students. Amongst several words of wisdom, Lauren emphasised the importance of having a good rapport with your supervisor, ensuring that the University is a good fit, and, once the PhD project is underway, avoid biting off more than you can chew to avoid burnout.

Lauren’s recent publication can be found here For members of the research group who missed Lauren’s talk, you can find the recording on the Teams site.

Welcome New lecturer – Dr Sina Longman

I am a palaeoclimatologist with a special interest in micropalaeontology, using microfossils, such as dinoflagellates and pollen, to reconstruct past oceanographic, terrestrial and climatic changes. More recently, I have expanded my research into vegetation reconstructions using pollen in speleothems (e.g. stalagmites). I am particularly interested in time periods in Earth history that were warmer than present in order to gain insights into environmental changes under continued future warming.

3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference

On 15 November 2023, Teesside University’s School of Health and Life Sciences, spearheaded by its Geoscience cluster, hosted the 3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference. In total, 70 sixth-form students from across the region and their teachers spent the day reviewing the evidence for anthropogenic forcing of climate change and exploring a wealth of options for building sustainable societies in the future.

At the start of the day, Keynote Speaker, Rachel Murtagh, Nature Partnership Manager of the Tees Valley Nature Partnership reflected on significant recent progress in restoring the Tees Valley’s natural environment from the ravages of the industrial era but underscored the need for ongoing and concerted positive action.

“Engaging in nature-based solutions offers numerous opportunities to collaborate with the planet in adapting to and mitigating climate change. Simultaneously, these approaches promote greater biodiversity and enhance human well-being by providing increased access to green spaces.”

Our own TU Earth & Environment Researchers spent the rest of the morning providing the evidence and varied solutions for climate change and, in the afternoon, led sustainability workshops on topics including food systems, renewable energy, and climate change communication.

We welcomed local industry (e.g., Northern Gas Networks, Biffa Waste Management) and charitable trust (e.g., Tees Rivers Trust, Durham Wildlife Trust, Middlesbrough Environment City) representatives who shared their climate-positive agendas with students over lunch. Several TU Environmental Management MSc students presented climate science posters.

The 3rd Annual Tees Valley Youth Climate Conference was highly successful and we look forward to hosting another one next year. If you are interested in booking a place for your students, please contact Kathryn Howard at

Reviewing the triggers of an abrupt climate change event with Durham University’s Professor James Baldini

On 8 December 2023, our Earth & Environment Research Group joined up with Teesside University’s student-led Environmental Research Society, to host a virtual talk by Durham University’s Professor James Baldini. Professor Baldini’s talk entitled ‘Meltwater, meteors, and volcanoes: the elusive cause of the Younger Dryas Event’ tackled the still hotly debated cause of the Younger Dryas Event (YDE).

Following the Last Glacial Maximum, the Northern Hemisphere was steadily warming until an abrupt return to near glacial conditions around 12,870 years ago. This abrupt cold event is a subject of intense debate with three hotly contested theories: glacial meltwater flooding into the North Atlantic, a meteor impact, and a high-magnitude volcanic eruption.

During the talk, Professor Baldini skilfully navigated through the pros and cons of each potential trigger, providing a balanced perspective, and debunking some common misconceptions about the Younger Dryas Event. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast in Earth and environmental sciences or simply curious about our planet’s intriguing history, this talk offers a captivating exploration into not only this, but the many similar events that occurred over the past 80,000 years of Earth’s climate.

The recording of Professor Baldini’s talk is available on our research group Teams site but anyone can catch a similar talk by Professor Baldini on the Northeast Geological Society’s YouTube Channel here Don’t miss the chance to unravel the mysteries of the past and gain a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped our planet.

Northumbrian Water’s ‘Restore and Regenerate’ Strategy: Paving the Way for Sustainable Environmental Management

On October 11, 2023, the TU Earth & Environment Research Group had the privilege of hosting Dr. Zoë Frogbrook, Head of Environment and Sustainability at Northumbrian Water. She unveiled ‘Restore and Regenerate,’ Northumbrian Water’s ambitious environmental management strategy spanning all the way to 2050.

Through this strategy, Northumbrian Water, in partnership with the Coal Authority, the Rivers Trust, and other NE environmental management organisations, are developing ground-breaking nature-based solutions that complement and potentially outperform traditional (end-of-pipe and hard engineering) wastewater management approaches.

During her talk, Dr. Frogbrook stressed the importance of environmental monitoring data to evaluate the effectiveness of nature-based solutions under development, such as those addressing nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution in rivers and flood risk. She also emphasised the need to assess biodiversity at Northumbrian Water sites to establish a baseline for future improvement.

The TU Earth & Environment Research Group explored with Dr. Frogbrook the potential for  PhD funding opportunities through Northumbrian Water. There are also a wealth of potential research projects for our Teesside University students offering real-world employable skills to our future graduates. A partnership between Northumbrian Water and TU Earth & Environment Group promises to advance environmental sustainability within the water industry in the northeast. As Dr. Frogbrook aptly pointed out, ‘sustain’ implies maintaining the status quo, but Northumbrian Water and the TU Earth & Environment Group share a vision of progress to enhance the environment for future generations. There’s no time to stand still.

Visit to National Geographic Headquarters in August

On August 29th, Dr Lisa Baldini visited the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington DC to provide an update on progress since her two-year National Geographic Explorer project began in December 2022. Phase I of the project involved expeditions to karst regions in Nigeria (in April), Gabon (in June) and Cameroon (in August) in search of cave stalagmites for palaeoclimate reconstruction. These were carried out in partnership with local researchers from several institutions in each country. Planning for the Phase II expeditions is currently underway. These will begin after the onset of the Nigerian dry season in February. Project Partner and NGS photographer, Robbie Shone and Lisa are currently pitching a potential National Geographic magazine article or documentary to be photographed/filmed during the 2024 Phase II expeditions.

Follow Lisa’s National Geographic Explorer Project on X (Twitter)   & Facebook.

Magna – Summer progress 2023

At the  start of July, the HLF funded project started at Magna. The £1.6M project was to support excavation and explore the impact of climate change, and awarded to the Vindolanda Trust.

The Teesside University team were involved in the installation of the weather station and monitoring system – VanWalt, which provides data every 15 minutes from a wide range of sensors including pH, temperature, ORP and moisture.

In July, soil monitoring was conducted by Dr Gillian Taylor and Dr Rhys Williams prior to the excavation. You can keep upto date with excavation progress by following the dig diary. The excavation in 2023 focuses on milecastle 46 and already some interesting artefacts such as a steelyard beam.

There is also a wonderful report in current archaeology about Magna and magnifying milecastle 46.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Partnership update: East Durham College

An increasing global population and an increasing demand for animal protein has increased the pressure on commercial farming systems. Efficiency is therefore critical, ensuring appropriate growth, balanced with maintaining high standards of welfare. Animal feed represents a significant outgoing for farmers and many commercially purchased feeds also come at significant environmental cost. Growing crops at distance to the farm increases the carbon footprint and the use of imported soya is problematic. Adapting ways of working is crucial, ensuring a balance between optimum growth rates of livestock, ensuring the health and welfare of the animals is maintained, whilst sourcing feed sustainably and locally, potentially complementing farming practices such as crop rotation. For farmers to have confidence in changing feeding regimes, evidence is required demonstrating that pigs will consume locally grown food and reach weight targets in a timely manner. Furthermore, such a change in diet for the animals should be confirmed to result in no negative impact on consumer experience. 

Together with our industrial partner at East Durham College, we are undertaking a project which aims to showcase the potential benefits of producing animal feed on the same site as the animals are reared.

Any questions to Dr Amy Miller

Contact details and further information here:

Webinar review: Marine Litter

On Thursday 25 May 2023, members of TU Environment Research Group joined the Yorkshire Geological Society’s webinar featuring Professor Richard Thompson who gave a fascinating account of the global environmental challenges surrounding plastic litter. Professor Thompson OBE FRS was the first to coin the term microplastics in 2004 ( and he continues to dedicate his career to researching microplastics in the environment, their impact on marine biota, and identifying sustainable solutions to this increasingly urgent issue. For more on Richard and his research, please see his University of Plymouth staff page at