New blog location

February 25, 2012

This blog has now moved to the Brunel University Institute for the Environment webpages.

I didn’t think it would be possible to do this on the Brunel website so I set up this wordpress blog. However, the Brunel web team did a really good job in setting in all up.

Hope to see some of you over at our new location!

Lenticular clouds

December 23, 2011

This is a partial re-post of something that Dr. Andy Russell, IfE’s lecturer in climate change, wrote over at his own blog.

Clouds are getting a bit of a day out in the news today because some people photographed some really nice lenticular clouds in West Yourkshire. These crisp and layered lenticular clouds are relatively rare in the UK as they form downwind of mountains or hills.

Lenticular cloud in West Yorkshire on 22/12/2011. Photo from Paul Hudson's blog.

What happens is that the air flowing over the hill gets “knocked” upwards which results in a type of wave forming. The cloud forms on this wave at a point where the flowing air moves upwards and cools to a point where the water vapour condenses into a cloud. So, although the cloud is stationary, there is a constant flow of air going through it. There’s a quick sketch below of what this might look like if you could see the wind.

I really like this sort of image as it’s a nice way that you can talk about physics without people knowing!

“Brain pollution: how common chemicals damage young minds” – Prof. Tom Zoeller’s seminar at IfE

December 21, 2011

On the 9th December IfE hosted a visit and well-attended lecture by internationally recognised brain development researcher Professor Tom Zoeller, from University of Massachusetts in Amherst, USA.

In the course of his lecture, entitled “Brain pollution: how common chemicals damage young minds”, Professor Zoeller explained the pivotal role that the thyroid hormone system plays in development of the brain in humans and animals alike. With examples from historical studies of humans unintentionally deprived of this key developmental hormone through dietary deficiency, it was shown how cognitive abilities throughout life are determined by concentrations of thyroid hormone before and shortly after birth.

Bringing the topic up to date, Prof. Zoeller then showed how a number of modern commonly used chemicals can also disrupt thyroid hormone signalling, with potential to significantly impair human intellectual abilities.

The talk stimulated a number of questions from the audience, asking how chemicals regulators should test for such chemicals, through to how pregnant women can try to avoid exposing their unborn babies to them.

Dr. Dan Pickford (December 2011)

IfE wins Queen’s Anniversary Prize!

December 21, 2011

Ok, so this is slightly old news but it seemed like a good way to get this blog started…

This is taken from the Brunel University news pages, dated 24th November, 2011.

Brunel Institute for the Environment’s research revealing the link between chemicals in rivers and reproductive health has won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

By uncovering a link between exposure to water pollution and sex change in male fish in UK rivers, Professor John Sumpter’s research team provided the impetus for human health research also linking chemical exposure with declining sperm counts, increased incidence of male genital abnormalities, and testicular, breast and prostate cancer in human populations.

This ground-breaking new area of research now shows that a plethora of chemicals in everyday use are inefficiently removed by sewage treatment, passing into rivers and eventually into the drinking water supply. Many of these chemicals, including those found in contraceptive pills and dishwasher tablet ingredients, can interfere with or mimic hormones in the body, leading to problems with reproductive health.

Led by Professor Susan Jobling, the Institute was selected for the Queen’s Anniversary Prize as a leading example of excellence not just in research, but also in the global impact of its work. Through their engagement with policy makers, regulators and industries, the Institute’s researchers have been instrumental in helping to find cost-effective ways of managing the risk posed by these chemicals, including new wastewater treatment processes to remove them or restrictions and bans on their production.

Professor John Sumpter, Brunel University:

The long-term aim of our research and teaching is to ensure that society thinks more carefully about the use of chemicals and the impact they have on the environment. Our health and the health of our rivers are of great importance, so we’re honoured to receive this recognition of our work at the Institute for the Environment.

Professor Chris Jenks, Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University:

Brunel University is delighted to receive this recognition of our globally influential research carried out by the Institute for the Environment. We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of research at Brunel University and the work of Professor John Sumpter and his team is a fine example of our research excellence.