What's happening in the College of Science & Engineering

The Centre for Sustainable Solutions is is bringing together what's happening across campus around environmental sustainability, climate change, and the UN Strategic Development Goals.

Ultimately the full results of this audit will be made available to search and browse, so you can find potential collaborators, supervisors, courses, or activities to join in with.

For now, here's a taster of some of the exciting research happening in the College of Science & Engineering. If you would like to let us know about your own work, please drop an email to sustainable-solutions@glasgow.ac.uk.

Dr Mark Garnett and the PRIMETIME project

Dr Mark Garnett, Deputy Head of the NEIF Radiocarbon Laboratory*, is part of a joint UK / Swedish team working on the PRIMETIME project, which aims to understand whether increasing trees and shrubs in the Arctic will change the amount of carbon stored in the soil. Mark's role is to oversee the radiocarbon analytical aspects of the project.

PRIMETIME experiments with plants outdoors

Some recent papers:

Street, L. E., Garnett, M. H. , Subke, J.-A., Baxter, R., Dean, J. F. and Wookey, P. A. (2020) Plant carbon allocation drives turnover of old soil organic matter in permafrost tundra soils. Global Change Biology, (doi: 10.1111/gcb.15134) (Early Online Publication)

Briones, M.J.I., Carrera, N., Huang, J., Barreal, M.E., Schmelz, R. and Garnett, M. H. (2020) Substrate quality and not dominant plant community determines the vertical distribution and C assimilation of enchytraeids in peatlands. Functional Ecology, 36(6), pp. 1280-1290. (doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.13537)

*The National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF) Radiocarbon Laboratory (formerly the NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride)) is part of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC).

Photo © Dr Tom Parker, used with permission.

Technology for sustainability

Prof Gioia Falcone and the Energy and Sustainability Research Group

Prof Gioia Falcone, Rankine Chair of Energy Engineering, is Head of the Energy and Sustainability Research Group in the James Watt School of Engineering. With over a dozen members across a range of specialisms, the Group takes "a pragmatic view of the rapidly-evolving energy sector globally and regionally – not least the ambitious ‘net zero’ emissions strategies being pioneered in Scotland – we address both development / deployment of renewables and the most responsible further uses of conventional energy resources as bridges to a sustainable future".

One of many recent publications by Prof Falcone, written for the Science in Parliament journal of The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee:

Falcone, G. (2020) Can the offshore energy sector be transformed to help the UK become a net-zero nation? Science in Parliament, 76(1), pp. 16-20.

"In June 2019, the UK became the 1st major economy to legislate for net zero by 2050. In September 2019, Scotland committed to be net zero by 2045. This article presents the current UK offshore energy picture, discussing future challenges and opportunities towards a just energy transition."

Dr Nick Kamenos and the Marine Global Change Group

Underwater scientist saving samples

Dr Nick Kamenos, Reader in Global Change in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, heads up the Marine Global Change Group.

"The oceans are a critical global resource which is changing. Change is both natural but also, in recent times, has become anthropogenically driven. My group's research asks questions about how the oceans are altered by the synergy between natural and anthropogenic change while better determining the actual extent of global change." 

The Group has published over 60 papers and book chapters on marine global change biology and biogeochemistry. They conduct their research in polar, temperate and tropical areas using SCUBA as well as in the Marine Mesocosm Facility, which has 128 remotely monitored mesocosms for exploring the impacts of CO2-associated global change on marine biotic and geochemical systems.


Photo from MGCG website, used with permission.

Prof Jaime Toney and the Biomarkers for Environmental and Climate Science research group

Prof Jaime Toney not only heads up the BECS research group, she manages their lively website and Twitter account and develops projects and resources for children and educators alongside her scientific work.

For example, the image below is from the Pot-in-Pot Lesson Plan, "an example of a lesson that we have adopted and modified for use in the classroom. By building a simple evaporative refrigerator, students will understand why evaporation causes cooling and distinguish among heat transfer via conduction, convection and radiation."

Studying planting in pots

For the academic-level scientifically minded:

"I use organic geochemistry as a tool to understand how the Earth system responds to climate change. Molecular fossils, or biomarkers, are ubiquitous in sedimentary deposits and can often be applied in both marine and terrestrial environments, making them useful proxies for reconstructing environmental change. As an organic geochemist I collaborate with researchers in a number of different fields to generate multiproxy climate records. I also work with bioscientists to understand how/why organisms produce biomarkers and how those biomarkers relate to modern environmental parameters. In addition to applications to paleoclimate problems, my research extends into areas of astrobiology, archaeology with organic residue analysis and algal biofuels."


Photo from BECS website, used with permission.