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A Palaeoenvironmental Investigation of Four Valley Bogs at Hothfield Common, Kent

Hothfield Common is home to the last four valley bogs in Kent. Very little is known about the history of these features and this project is designed to provide us with a greater understanding of these sites from a historical perspective using GIS alongside palaeoecological and archaeological techniques.

Department: Geography & Environmental Science

Supervised by: Mike Simmonds

The Placement Project

The overarching aim of this stand-alone research project is to further our understanding of the palaeoenvironment of Kent. Within Kent, particularly in lowland, inland areas, there is a paucity of published high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records spanning the Holocene period. These four valley bogs provide an opportunity to enhance our understanding of the past environment and landscape of this region, and feed into a wider body of information from across South East Britain. A programme of detailed field sampling from the common will provide samples suitable for laboratory analysis, permitting reconstruction of the sedimentary and vegetation history. Fieldwork will enable the depth, shape and size of the four mire basins to be calculated, and allow for the retrieval of core material to be used for lab analysis. The sediment within these basins, comprising of well-preserved plant and animal micro- and macro-fossils, highlight the potential for generating high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records (temporal resolution of ~20 years/cm) with an accurate and precise chronological framework within and beyond the study area: i.e. across many parts of Southern England. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction using sedimentary descriptions, organic/mineral matter determinations, pollen analysis and charred particle analysis, will permit evaluation of past environmental conditions. Comparison of this environmental data with known archaeological records will allow for development in our understanding of the impact of humans on this landscape through time.

Tasks

Fieldwork – it is expected that up to 4 days in the field may be needed. This will involve coring the four valley bogs, recording the sediment properties and bringing key samples back to the university. Laboratory work – The bulk of time on the project (4-5 weeks) will be spent in the lab. Sedimentological descriptions and Loss-on-Ignition (LOI) will be undertaken on a core from each bog. Sub-sampling will then extract a working set of samples from the most promising cores, which will be processed for pollen and microscopic charcoal analysis. Computer work – Using the information gained from fieldwork, the 3D basin model can be generated using GIS. Results from the laboratory work will need to be drawn up (LOI curves, and pollen diagrams) and interpreted. This is expected to take approximately one week.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Essential Skills: Good oral and written communication skills. Able to research literature and synthesise findings. Good IT skills, including Microsoft Office and ESRI ArcGIS. A basic understanding of the study of Late Quaternary climate change. Experience of carrying out small environmental research tasks. Able to organise own work and prioritise to ensure delivery on time and on specification. Willingness to learn new research techniques. Desirable Skills: Project management skills Some knowledge of satellite imagery and its analysis, particularly using ERDAS. An understanding of the properties of UK vegetation change. Experience of planning and carrying out a small research project.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will gain a wide range of skills from this project. Initially, the student will undertake multiple days of fieldwork, enhancing surveying, GIS and coring skills. Labwork will provide the student with a range of subject-specific skills (sub-sampling, loss-on-ignition, pollen extraction procedures, microscope experience), alongside gaining familiarity with laboratory work including good lab etiquette. Computer skills involving GIS will be developed through the creation of the 3D basin map, and the generation of publication quality maps and figures throughout the project. The student will be involved at all stages in the planning and running of the project, and will be invited to co-author a publication on the results, helping to develop their academic and critical writing skills.

Place of Work

The placement will be based in the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science. Fieldtrips will take place to the site, and I will accompany the student on these trips. A School vehicle will be used for transport. The placement will start in mid-June, with an indicative start date of Monday 13th July, although there is flexibility within this, and I am happy to discuss this further with applicants, including those who may wish to do the work part time across a longer period of the summer.

Hours of Work

9-5

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 13 July 2020 - Friday 21 August 2020

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 24th February and 3rd April 2020. Students should submit their CV and covering letter detailing how they are suitable for the post directly to the Project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will then be invited to interview.


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