Ed completed his doctorate in the school in 2012, commencing his current position as Research Fellow in September the same year. His research interests include peatland ecohydrology and carbon cycling, both past and present.
I guess I’ve been driven toward a career in environmental research by a love of the natural world. I initially worked in the chemical and water industries but left to pursue my ambitions in 2005, studying ecology at undergraduate level then moving on to a NERC funded PhD in peatland science… I knew I’d found my direction!
At the moment I’m working on a project in the Flow County in northern Scotland, the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe: peatlands are incredibly important in terms of carbon storage and greenhouse gas cycling. I’m investigating how carbon is processed in both natural pools and artificial ones created through peatland restoration, and what controls the release of CH4 and CO2 from these systems. This work is fundamental to our understanding of the role of peatlands in the global carbon cycle.
As part of my PhD, I examined the palaeohydrology and carbon accumulation rates over the last 2000 years from cores taken at a raised bog in north Yorkshire. The results indicated the relative effects of climate and human influence on the ecohydrology of the site, with interesting conclusions on C accumulation during conditions both warmer and cooler than the present day. The resultant paper has been published this month, which has been a nice start to 2014.
For me, the real privilege of being a research scientist is some of the amazing locations I’ve worked in, including the Amazon rain forest and Iceland. However, the highlight was watching a fantastic display of the Northern Lights over Lake Tornesträsk during a fieldwork trip in Swedish Lapland last year.
You have to love what you do, be tenacious, and be prepared for how competitive it can be. Without this enthusiasm, the long hours spent carrying out fieldwork (often in foul weather and remote places), conducting meticulous experimental work and writing for publication could soon become onerous. Try getting a taste for it first: my first experience was my undergraduate dissertation work, but there are other routes such as volunteer work or short-term field assistant jobs.
“Why?” is probably the most common! Whatever it is I’m working on, someone will ask why I’m doing it, which is great: a bit of self-reflection can be very valuable when occupied on the many facets of a large research project.
I love the mountains, especially in winter – my Christmas presents this year included new crampons and Gore-tex gaiters! I also like cycling, both road and mountain, and motorcycling. I’ve started to learn the harmonica this month too (another present), but I don’t think Bob Dylan is in any danger yet!
For more on Ed's research and publications visit his homepage