UCL summer school in China tracks environmental change
3 August 2009
Professor Jonathan Holmes of UCL Geography and two UCL students have spent the week studying lakes in China to track environmental change.
Their activities were part of an advanced summer school held 27-31 July at Lanzhou University, organised by Professor Holmes (Director of the UCL Environmental Change Research Centre) and Professor Fahu Chen (Director of the Centre for Arid Environment and Palaeoclimate Research at Lanzhou University).
Fourteen scientists from the UK and China taught advanced techniques for studying lake sediments to ten PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from UK universities and 20 participants from Chinese universities, who had beaten stiff competition from a large number of applicants to take part.
The summer school was also designed to further research links in environmental change between the UK and China.
Professor Holmes explained the research: "Sediments laid down on the beds of lakes can be retrieved by coring into the lake's bed. By studying the fossil content, chemical composition and other characteristics of lake sediments, we can find out about changing climate over hundreds to many thousands of years - a much longer period than is represented by meteorological records.
"Lakes are surprisingly common in dryland areas such as western China and can be used to help us reconstruct long-term changes in rainfall patterns. Changing rainfall is a major issue for western China, where water is a scarce resource, and becoming all the more scarce as the region's population increases. Understanding natural variability in rainfall patterns from lake sediments will help us to understand how rainfall might change in the future."
The summer school was funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) office in China, the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and Lanzhou University.
Image: Participants in the summer school working on a lake site close to the Yellow River
The UCL Environmental Change Research Centre and the Centre for Arid Environment and Palaeoclimate Research at Lanzhou University have collaborated on research for over ten years.
Their collaboration highlights include:
- the production of a bilingual (English-Mandarin) brochure on water resource sustainability in northwest China for water managers and local officials, based on research on lake sediments
- staff exchanges between UCL and Lanzhou (five staff in each direction)
- UCL PhD students studying in Lanzhou, and Lanzhou MSc and PhD students coming to UCL to study.