The Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction – severity, recovery, and biogeography

Is evolution driven primarily by the slow action of everyday processes, or do the rare, extreme events – disasters, catastrophes, and sudden environmental shifts – play the defining role in evolution? Darwin saw evolution playing out gradually, with the slow and steady action of competition, predation, and environmental changes driving evolution. Much as the rain slowly wears away a stone, he saw such changes gradually altering species, generation by generation, across millions of years.

Watching plants drink

Water is essential to life, human health, food production and economic activity. The growth in global population and manufacturing, combined with the impact of climate change, are placing unsustainable demands on water resources. The agricultural sector is the major user of freshwater resources, accounting for >70% of withdrawals globally, and >90% in less-developed countries. By 2050, agriculture must produce 60% more food globally and 100% more in developing countries. The current rate of agricultural water demand is clearly unsustainable.

Book lovers: affect and the history of reading in the late age of print

This research project began one afternoon at my Grandparents’ house. It was raining and I was lazily browsing through the many books on their many bookshelves. And then I found something extraordinary. I found an inscription from my father to my mother, from James to Sally. What was extraordinary was that this inscription was written long before James was my father or Sally was my mother. Not only had Dad inscribed the book, he had highlighted passages and left little messages in the margins. Almost as soon as I started reading them, I slapped the book shut.

Punk, politics and gender in the UK

This research project looks at how cultural production in the UK can be linked to political developments, particularly within feminist punk scenes. At present there is tension within feminist movements, as a new generation’s ideas and practices are pitted against traditional liberal approaches, with wider implications for debates around representation and freedom of speech. These debates sometimes become vitriolic and factionalised as activists conduct their arguments online.

The earliest tetrapods: environment, faunal associations, and terrestrialisation

My project extends research from a four year NERC-funded consortium grant studying the fossil fauna, environment and climate of the earliest Carboniferous Tournaisian stage, between 359 and 342 million years ago (mya). Colloquially known as “Romer’s Gap” because of a long-standing hiatus in the fossil record of tetrapods (vertebrates with limbs and digits leading to and including modern forms such as ourselves). The interval spans the time during which tetrapods must have begun to exploit land living in a serious way.

A new page? Libraries, austerity and the shifting boundaries of civil society

My journey to studying libraries was unexpected. For my doctorate I was exploring young people’s experiences of antisocial behaviour. Within the housing estate where my research was based, I was drawn to the public library, described locally as a hotspot for youth-related crime. It was a contested space in which young people’s behaviour was controlled – but it was also a place where young people choose to be. “It gives the young people a safe space to be” I was told by one librarian. “there are so few spaces where they can just be.

Anatomising the body: art, science and the humanities in modern China, 1851–1949

The discipline of anatomy, situated at the intersection of art, science and medicine, has been a longstanding and well researched topic in the historiography of western art, yet has been largely overlooked in scholarship on Chinese Art. Though a complex and advanced system, Chinese medicine is not predicated on anatomy, and the same goes for Chinese figure painting over the centuries. As a result, the critical role of anatomy in redefining the parameters and possibilities of artistic practice in modern China remains unacknowledged. 

The hatters' blues: a microglobal history of new world dyes in Early Modern Spain

The Atlantic trade in dyes, including some of the most valuable goods from the Indies – Mexican cochineal, Caribbean logwood, and Central American indigo – had a large and lasting impact on the European textile industries, stimulating technological development and contributing to broader transformations within the sector. Yet these changes were neither smooth nor immediate. Over the course of the sixteenth century, increasing access to New World dyes generated enthusiasm, but also resistance and conflict.

Examining Islamic State’s state-building strategy

On 4 July 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended the pulpit of An-Nabi mosque in Mosul, Iraq, and announced the establishment of a new Islamic Caliphate, stretching across 35,000 square miles of territory from Raqqa in Syria to beyond Baghdad in Iraq. The so-called Islamic State (IS) has since expanded significantly across the Middle East, Africa and Asia as eight militant groups have sworn loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and have been accepted as new provinces of the expanded Islamic Caliphate. 


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