Why do I do what I do?

The Curiosity rover is currently trundling its way across the surface of Mars in a quest to understand if Mars was ever able to support life and perhaps even detect evidence of past life. We’ve come a long way from fearing an attack from a hostile Martian civilisation. The Earth is at no risk from Martian rockets, heat rays or tripods. Mars, like our other nearest Solar System neighbour Venus, is a barren world devoid of any life. Why is the Earth the way it is and not more like Mars or Venus?

Photo: JPL / NASA

Prior to joining the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation at the University of Southampton I thought about this question rather a lot. It was a central part of my previous job as a member of the Helmholtz Alliance funded Planetary Evolution & Life project that I worked on at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena.

But my interest in this question predates my time in Germany. Continue reading

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Read all about it!

I currently have a few papers in press or recently published, so I thought I would briefly mention them and see if I can convince you to  invest the time on clicking on a download link and having a look to see what they are about.

Data, data everywhere…

We are producing more data about the Earth. More satellites in space looking down and charting the changes in the planet. More high altitude balloons. Aircraft based sensors. Flux towers. And people in the field. Struggling and sweating their way through rain forests collecting bugs and measuring the thickness of tree trunks.

Unfortunatey all this new data doesn’t immediately translate into new knowledge. In fact at times it seems as if we are drowning in data. Last year I was very fortunate to work with a group of very clever folk with the aim of trying to develop a new method for using some of this data to make better models of vegetation coverage. Continue reading

Cafe Scientific August 13th

I will be giving a Cafe Scientific talk at the Southwestern Arms, Southampton on Monday 13th August. I think things kick off around 7pm. Perhaps it depends on how much people have been drinking! I’m going to be talking about peak phosphorus and so will include some material from a previous post.

Come along and find out if I got round to producing more than a title slide.

Winchester Science Festival Video

I have finally finished editing and uploading my talk at the Winchester Science Festival.


I was right in that the venue wasn’t exactly packed. But I was wrong with how enthusiastically the talk was received. Before a talk or lecture I spend a not inconsiderable amount of time thinking about how I would answer potentially agressive questions. So I’m very pleasantly surprised when people give every indication that they agree with me and that their questions lead onto very enjoyable conversations!

Many thanks to the organisers of the festival. It’s the first time the event has run and whilst they didn’t have much money they put together a very impressive line up that generated huge amounts of enthusiasm for all things science. Hurrah!