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Tracing the Anthropocene, its history and hazards

You have probably heard of the Anthropocene? But, what is it and when did it actually begin? Scientists are certainly still arguing over the second of these questions. The most recent epoch in Earth’s history is defined by the pollution that Man has created – microplastics, technofossils and synthetic chemicals, to name but three. Radioactive pollution during the Atomic Age has been proposed as one of the best ‘markers’ of this pollution. This studentship will focus on the development and application of a method to analyse a radioactive marker to identify environmental materials belonging to the Anthropocene. Cs-135 has been introduced into our environment since 1945 as a product of nuclear energy. It has an extremely long half-life (2.3 million years) so provides an indelible fingerprint of Man’s activities on Earth in recent times. However, it is very difficult to measure because it is present in infinitesimal quantities. As the successful applicant, you will help to develop a method to analyse Cs-135 using our state of the art triple-quadrupole ICPMS, based at the University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington. Having developed the method, you will test it using samples that you will collect around the UK and in Japan, within the Fukushima Prefecture. You will create a unique archive of measurements which will form the basis for the diagnostic use of Cs-135, to fingerprint caesium isotopes from specific nuclear sources and as stratigraphic identifiers of the ‘Atomic Age’ and the Anthropocene. Environmental analysis of Cs-135 offers huge potential as a future marker of Anthropocene sediments as well as offering a means for retrospective analysis of radiocaesium contamination from the earliest days of the nuclear era. This is your opportunity to make your mark on the environment.

Graduate (2.1 or above) in Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geology or cognate discipline.

For more information please contact Professor George Shaw at, Tel. 0115 951 3206.