Six months down; Plenty more research to go!

Hello TUBA followers!

I’m Rhys, member and admin of TUBA, though I am often referred to as “the bone man” among TUBA members, readers, and other research groups. I have been a graduate tutor at Teesside University for six months. During this time, I have been teaching bone labs, writing articles, and researching and designing experiments for my PhD on the processes of diagenesis and preservation in bone. For more information on me, check out the ‘Meet the Team‘ page
For my first blog post, I’m going to share a little of these with you today. Keep tuned for more!

As I hope you know, a lot of our research is based around Vindolanda, the Roman World Heritage site along Hadrian’s Wall. Vindolanda has excellent preservation, and this fantastic blue coating across lots of artefacts.  I had never heard of vivianite, or “this blue stuff”, before coming to Teesside, but I just needed to know what it was, why it was there, and what it meant. And so, I designed some trial microcosm experiments that involve a “Vindolanda burial nexus”. In the world of academia though, we can’t just say:

“Here’s my plan, lemme do it, gimme gimme money”.

With new research projects, we generally have to go through an application and presentation procedure to explain the research, the method, the impact, and future work. And so, I presented my work at the Teesside University Research Day.

After being sat indoors for most of a hot summer’s day, the audience was taunted at the sight of greenery and nature.

And what a success that day was! After validation from my peers, I set to building the microcosms. I brushed the dust off my DIY cap and drilled away, much to the dismay of my neighbours. I also ran a trial to the trial microcosms to make sure that they actually worked. Lo and behold- it did!

Miniature microcosm, from ‘The Trial of Trials’

Absolutely spiffing! Now to make sure all the samples are ready before experiment blast-off.

During my time at Teesside so far, I have also been writing some articles that are due for submission and review soon. One is titled “The Influence of Sex on Bone Remodelling: Implications for the Osteoarchaeologist”, which I look forward to sharing with you soon. Other articles include an ICP-MS analysis of the soil at Vindolanda, and statistical analyses of NGS data from Vindolanda to identify the bacterial community. Those are tales for another day though!

Arrgh, so much R, so much data, not enough screens!

Finally, my role at Teesside University lets me show my love for teaching. I’ve been teaching bone labs and lectures to first students- I’ll never get over their reaction when they first pick up an old, crumbly bone and go:

“Ew, what is it, is that a dinosaur? It smells funny!”

It’s most definitely not a dinosaur.
I also helped to organise and run Pint of Science 2017 for Teesside. This was an excellent three-day experience of talks and demonstrations on Captain Cook and his adventures, on the human body, on cancer and its treatment, and the wildlife of Tees Valley. We also had Bob Fischer from BBC Tees tell us stories all about hobnobbing with the hobs! It was a very successful festival, and the public who attended had a great time. I look forward to bringing this back to Teesside next year!

Fancy going out for a ‘bite’ tonight?
Nah, I think I’ll just ‘hang around’ at Pint of Science.

I hope that was a nice introduction to what I have been doing the past six months, and I look forward to sharing more with you on the microcosm experiments, research, excavations and escapades, and much more.