LIMES 2022 – Nijmegen

What an amazing week attending the LIMES Congress in Nijmegen. This was my first LIMES congress, so not sure what to expect.. so here is a run down of the events and my thoughts.

Day 1 – so many talks, in so many different rooms, what an outstanding start.. so many free books, I had to rethink my packing and this was day one! One of my highlights was seeing ‘The missing dead’ session about reconstructing the past through digital games play at Roman Vindolanda. I will be bias as a Vindolanda Trustee member but the future thinking was a great talking point with the audience.

Day 2 – first day trip… and I mean all day 7.30 start and back at 8pm… but what a day, when walking round the archaeological sites, Roman Castellum, Meinerswijk, Military practice camps, Uedem and Xanten-Furstenberg, before heading to LVR Archaologischen park Xanten, at the end of the day, the exquisite and beautiful museum was just awe inspiring.

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Day 3 – The day I had been waiting for, which included the organic riches session… and it didn’t disappoint, chaired by Carol Van Driel-Murray and speakers including Beth Green showed the importance of understanding our artefacts, the discussion came to end with a query about impacts of climate change upon these artefacts, exactly at the right time for us to say a comment about our climate change work at the Roman site of Magna.

There was an evening visit to Valkhof museum, with of course some special LIMES beer

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Day 4 – second day trip and this was an absolute highlight for me, the Roman Ship at Castellum Hoge Woerd ‘De Meern 1’  and the wonderful world of Archeon Museum park,  walking through from Mesolithic to the Romans and everything in-between. The hospitality was spectacular, and a delicious BBQ to finish the day. Have to mention the heat, at 34o°C… finding shade and heading inside as often as possible was the order of the day.

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Day 5 – Its not the end of the week for us, Fridays talk started with churches in military outposts and a very full session with a talk from CEO Vindolanda Trust – Dr Andrew Birley.

Day 6 – yip still going and it is Saturday, lots of bright early starters to attend the Feeding the Frontier talks, followed by Roman Britian led by Tanja Romankiewicz, as David Breeze said during questions, ‘exceptional’ talk from Tanja – military construction strategies on the Limes: new insights from geoarcheology.

If I didn’t mention your talk, sorry, so much to see, so many pancakes to eat..

Roll on Georgia, what an inclusive, friendly and engaging series of talks and events

Outreach.. Lovely day in the sun

As academics we are good at standing up and talking about our topics, often in a lecture theatre, following a schedule so the students know what we are taking about and know the science behind it.

However, when it comes to public outreach,  you can be faced with an unknown audience, who are not familiar with every detail, which can put you out of your comfort zone.. so why should I be encouraging you to do it and reasons to do outreach sessions.

Here are my 5 top reasons:-

  1. To introduce science to a young or older audience in a meaningful way – recently I spoke to a allotment group about our work at Magna, relating what we are seeing to soil chemistry to what plants they were growing!
  2. Use your audience – you will meet fascinating people doing outreach, whom have a wealth of experience, listen and learn
  3. Use data but don’t simplified explain the facts – science data can sometimes be impenetrable.. the public love data but it must be explain in a meaningful way, also think, why does this matter to them.
  4. Professional development – i have learnt so much about why i do and what i do from engaging in public talks – someone once asked me what drives me and the answer for me is simple, i love learning new things, figuring out problems.. i have not lost that passion for walking into the science in over 20 years and don’t see that stopping anytime soon.
  5. Energised – It is an absolute pleasure being able to talk about your subject and engage, getting others excited but also feeling as even if just a little bit, you have made a difference.

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Over the next few weeks, we are off to LIMES  and EAA, with some museums and adventures on the way, so stayed tuned for updates.

 

 

Researcher Live Event

I have just finished my first podcast! I must admit I was slightly nervous, just me in my office talking to a screen.. but i think with covid restrictions and how we delivered lectures, it was all fine as we are all practiced in this format, so fine infact i got to deliver this podcast with my slippers on!

I created the title months ago.. “Determining mass, why it is important and why it matters”, to be frank i wasn’t sure what to include and in the end had many many slides, I think I wanted to draw attention to our great archaeology work but also to the great work done within the field.. and err that is alot in 1 hr!

If you want to listen.. here is the link

Determing mass, why it is important and why it matters? – Researcher (researcher-app.com)

So what did I learn form my first podcast

  1. Be comfortable
  2. Even if you go off on tangents, that is what podcasts are about, but bring it back to the facts
  3. Don’t prepare too many slides!
  4. KEEP to time.. i did, but i forgot to leave enough time for questions overrun by 4 minutes!
  5. Just do it

Unique signatures

One of the most amazing things I love about research is that you are constantly learning, constantly exploring and driving forward understanding. I am so pleased to share a recent publication entitled Unique chemical parameters and microbial activity lead to increased archaeological preservation at the Roman frontier site of Vindolanda UK.

The paper is open access and free to read, from scientific reports and here are five reasons why you should:-

  1. Microbes are fascinating and we understand so little about how they impact on preservation on artefacts
  2. Inorganic analysis – such as metals, play a huge part in the activity of microbes and thus preservation
  3. The diversity of microbes change depending on archaeological context.. and guess what this will impact on preservation
  4. The graphs are really cool
  5. It shows we need to understand the chemical and microbiological environment to understand our management practices for the future..
Sampling the soil

I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed

It has been a great couple of months for Bioarchaeology research group, we have seen a wide range activities, we presented posters at RAC/TRAC, including winning the student prize – a great showcase for our work with Vindolanda – many congratulations to Rhys Williams, we have welcomed a new started Aboli Valve – whom will be starting work on archaeological fibres, we presented at the annual School research day, successfully completed 10 undergraduate projects, again including one which was awarded the school poster prize, so it is time for a rest!! Not at all, the planning of the instrumentation for the National Horizons Centre is continuing and there will be some exciting news on this in the coming months ahead, if you do want to work with us in the field of proteomics, metabolomics, bio-imaging, chemical characterisation using Raman, FTIR and many more, please do get in touch.

One of my conference highlights this year as group leader, is my attendance at ASMS in San Diego. What a fantastic conference, great location and I just love the American hospitality.

Continue reading “I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed”

I do more than lab work..

As the summer rolls on and it seems to go quicker every year, it gives me time to spend some time outside the lab. I need proof that I do indeed spend sometime outside, as currently, the PhD students do not think I venture out into the field so here are some pictures to prove that I can do more than laboratory work!

In a boat last month – disguised by a silly hat!

ok so this one is a little older.. but I am getting my feet wet!

The research team have a broad remit of understanding bone diagenesis and decomposition, mostly this relates to archaeology, but also to forensic and biomedical applications. check out our sister site of https://blogs.tees.ac.uk/tuhumbugs/, This summer so far has meant learning new techniques, setting up microcosms in the laboratory, developing methods in the laboratory, catching up current research and more importantly writing.. watch this space.

For myself the laboratory is really where I am at home, since working in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Unit, Newcastle University, my passion has always been the development of new methods, especially towards the measurement of amino acids and organic compounds. I spent three fantastic years in Leipzig, Germany at http://www.eva.mpg.de/evolution/index.html where I worked with one of the first LC-IRMS instruments. Since coming to Teesside University, I have built up a research team that investigates bone diagenesis, decomposition and amino acid metabolism for a range of applications. Our department has a strong forensic and biomedical focus and thus the instruments I work with are also applied to drug analysis. The unique opportunity to work on material at Vindolanda, Northumberland has allowed the research team to grow and use our expertise to aid the understanding of preservation mechanisms in waterlogged environments and importantly provide knowledge as to how to preserve and manage these important World Heritage Sites.

As the summer ends and the new term starts we will be bringing you a snapshot of what research we are doing, where we are presenting, what we are publishing and all the great stuff that our research team does.. we may also post some pictures of our holidays!

Graduation Week

Graduation week is always a special occasion in the academic calendar, one of my personal highlights towards this goal occurs in the final year as the science research project – students building confidence through development of laboratory skills and engaging with academic literature. One of the main research areas is decomposition, understanding bone diagenesis and factors which impact on this.

This year one of the Forensic Science students studying the decomposition of blood was Lucy Fox.  Lucy investigated the chemical changed that occur in blood once it has been deposited on a surface, comparing different types of animal blood, such as dog, horse and sheep. Understanding the chemical changes in blood is important to aid investigations in biomedical science and forensic science.

The best part in this report was the comment  ‘I loved being in the labs and particularly the chemistry side of the course.’ if only we could convert everyone to the love of decomposition chemistry..

Lucy Fox

http://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/news/pressreleases_story.cfm?story_id=6603&link=true&this_issue_title=July%202017&this_issue=290