Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Earthslides lab - the final stages!


It's been a frustratingly long process, but we have finally been given an end date for the set up of the new Earthslides lab at Newcastle - I am pleased to say that it will be up and running by the 22nd December. I started discussions about acquiring Earthslides way back at the end of 2017, when previous owner Julie Boreham announced her retirement. It wasn't until April that I mentioned this on my blog, which is about the time it took to put forward a proposal to the university to purchase the equipment/business, and to secure the funding. After getting an agreement in principle the next major hurdle was finding a space to house the new lab. Space is always an issue, but we managed to find a room in the same building as our existing Wolfson lab, which is ideal. However, as the room was currently a tea room/storage area, it has required a complete refurbishment to make it suitable to use as a lab, hence the rather long delay in the whole process.

I have never been in a position before to design a lab from scratch - usually it's a case of being given an old space and making do with whatever the current layout and facilities are. So it was actually quite exciting to be able to put together a plan for the 'ideal' thin sectioning lab, and to choose benches and fume hoods. We also have a smaller side room that will be 'dust free' for microfossil work.

It has definitely been a huge learning experience for me, and I now have a very good insight into how other parts of the university (i.e. estates planning) work. Any future endeavours like this I will certainly be more prepared for the length of time the whole process takes, and the many levels of approval that need to be obtained to get this sort of thing up and running. Although the lab will be functional by the end of the year, I imagine it will take another couple of months for staff and students to become familiar with how everything works.

In related news, the establishment of the facility has already led to two collaborations with colleagues in the Department of Archaeology at Durham, on jointly supervised PhD projects in geoarchaeology. The first is on fuel use in the Bronze Age and environmental impacts of pottery production, and the second is a landscape geoarchaeology of Lindisfarne. Both PhDs are linked to larger projects, and the succesful students will be learning how to make sediment thin section slides in the Earthslides lab. I am very excited that the new lab is already going to be getting lots of use!

production of pottery using different fuel types, and characteristing the fuels and ceramics using a range of geoarchaeological methods. This includes a placement with Zeiss microscopy.

PhD2: ‘Lindisfarne Landscapes: Geoarchaeological Approaches to Human-Environment Relations’ will be using sediment micromorphology, phytolith analysis and a range of other geoarchaeological techniques to understand the landscape of Holy Island during the Anglo Saxon period. This includes a placement with Dig Ventures.