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The Open University
Country: United Kingdom
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855 Projects, page 1 of 171
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: RES-451-25-4003
    Funder Contribution: 10,850 GBP
    Partners: OU

    Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/E019021/1
    Funder Contribution: 265,952 GBP
    Partners: OU

    The Deccan Volcanic Province of western India (formed around 65-66 million years ago) is one of the largest continental flood basalt provinces in the world. Such provinces represent the eruption of phenomenal volumes of basaltic lavas, which spread over the surface to fill and occupy hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Understanding how these provinces were formed is of great significance to several topics, including the origins of voluminous volcanism (so-called large igneous provinces - LIPs) on Earth, the storage of magmas beneath the Earth's surface, and mass extinctions. One notable feature of flood basalt provinces is that the vents for the lavas are very poorly understood, as very few examples have been described, and these are all from the same province, the 'small', young (15 million-years-old) Columbia River basalts, USA. In the western Deccan province, such flood basalt lava flows reach exposed thicknesses of well over a kilometre and provide an excellent opportunity to understand many of the outstanding questions pertaining to flood basalt volcanism, including locating the vents and their related volcanic deposits. Our study will investigate the nature of flood basalt vent sites in a certain area of the Deccan province where some examples are already known to exist, and in which there are a number of feeder dykes (high-level, sheet-like intrusions of magma into Earth's upper crust). The dykes are testimony that magma rose towards the surface in this region, and lava vents are related to these dykes. The flows fed by these vents may be some of the biggest volcanic eruptive units on Earth, but this remains to be tested. By combining the expertise of an experienced investigator who has worked on one of the vent systems in the Columbia River flood basalt province with a relatively new Indian researcher with detailed knowledge of the vital part of the Deccan province, we hope to build up a convincing picture of the source region of some of these great lava flows and of the types of volcanoes that may have been built there. Thus, the work proposed will also bear on an old, yet incompletely resolved, issue in geology, that of the nature of the source regions of the flood basalt lava flows. This debate goes back to the 1880s, the main point being whether flood basalt lavas in LIPs were fed from central volcanoes or from widely dispersed fissures. Some LIPs, for example, the CRB province, appear to be entirely fissure-fed, but the Deccan may be different? We have very little direct knowledge about the actual eruptive vent processes in continental flood basalt volcanism because the deposits are so elusive, and this proposed research will try to provide that evidence and also answer some major questions, such as the nature and size of flood basalt eruptions; were they small and frequent or large and infrequent in this region of the Deccan province? The project depends on detailed mapping and collection of field data, without which issues such as understanding the precise eruption style of flood basalts will remain unsolved. Deccan volcanism coincides in time with one of the largest mass extinctions that this planet has ever witnessed, in which the reign of the dinosaurs was ended. But did the volcanism have anything to do with the extinction, or was the extinction largely the result of a meteoritic impact? It has only recently begun to be recognised that flood basalt eruptions feature fire-fountain activity at the vents. It seems unavoidable that sufficiently large fire-fountains must be topped by vigorously rising ash plumes, capable of transporting noxious gases high into the atmosphere. Around the vents, distinctive volcanic deposits develop. Making detailed observations of volcanic vent deposits preserved in this one part of the Deccan lava field will be a major step towards our understanding of the potential for this volcanism to cause regional or global environmental change.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/K015095/1
    Funder Contribution: 98,363 GBP
    Partners: OU

    Molecular recognition (the ability to specifically recognise a chemical compound) is a highly important feature of analytical science. More often than not compound specific recognition comes from biological element such as enzymes, antibodies and DNA. Aptamers are short strands of DNA. Whilst the properties in terms of recognition for biological molecules are excellent, the performance and environmental stability is low and this can compromise their uses. In particular degradation is a major problem. To combat these derogatory issues a new generation of artifical recognition materials have been developed. At the forefront is a technology called Molecular Imprinting. This involves making a small binding pocket in a polymer which is chemically and shape specific for the target compound. These "smart plastics" offer the robustness and the ability to work in extreme environmental conditions but can lack the needed specificity/affinity. This project aims to create a "best of both worlds" scenario. By slightly changing the chemical structure of the aptamer DNA we intend to use the aptamer as the recognition part of a molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP). This will be achieved by making the aptamer polymerisable so it can become part of the polymer structure, incorporating it into the polymer matrix via polymerisable groups on the DNA. In this way we intend to preserve the high affinity and specificity of the aptamer whilst imparting the robustness and added shape specificity generated by the MIP. The presence of the polymer should protect the aptamer from environmental degradation and potentially widen the scope of use of aptamers for recognition.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: ES/S011455/1
    Funder Contribution: 89,536 GBP
    Partners: OU

    As a cultural geographer, I try to understand how people, places, power relations and cultures shape our social life. My research focuses on how people make sense of their lives and their urban environment through gardening in cities. I study the complex field of everyday interactions between people, plants and animals, and thereby further our understanding of how ideas of work and play are formed and redefined in urban gardens. I talk with urban gardeners, join in with their activities and observe what they do over a longer period of time. This in-depth engagement helps to make visible the rich embodied experience of cultivating an urban garden and sheds light on both the hard work of looking after a garden and the sensory and social play of this practice. This research makes a difference by providing a nuanced understanding of the social, environmental and economic implications of urban gardening. It furthermore puts to the fore that allotment, community and guerrilla gardens are important parts of people's everyday lives in cities and makes a case for protecting and enhancing these meaningful places. During the fellowship, the internationally recognised architecture and art studio muf architecture/art and I plan to work together to influence urban policy making in London on themes of sustainability, community and the public realm. This collaboration with muf architecture/art, which as one of the Mayor's Design Advocates has a role in delivering projects championed by the Greater London Authority (GLA), involves disseminating the research results of my PhD thesis and translating these findings into forms that can inform policy making processes. All three case studies for my PhD research were situated in London. The extensive and in-depth study of an allotment site, a community garden and guerrilla garden sites provides a rich evidence base for the formulation of urban policy on green spaces and their socialities. The fellowship will also facilitate an exchange of knowledge between the London context of urban gardening and Berlin, through an overseas research visit to the Technische Universität Berlin. The fellowship will contribute to current debates on urban sustainable futures and the new London Plan; it will argue that allotment, community and guerrilla gardens do not just have an environmental impact, they are not just green spaces that contribute to the city's biodiversity and cleaner air, but that they are specific sites of sociality as well.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/F011598/1
    Funder Contribution: 80,727 GBP
    Partners: OU

    Askja is a huge volcano in Central Iceland. The youngest caldera formed in 1875 when a massive explosion threw rock with a lot of gas in it (rather like the froth on the top of a bottle of fizzy drink) as far as Scandinavia and Scotland. More recently, Askja has erupted lava flows several km long and even now there are hot springs in the caldera. For the last 40 years or so, the centre of the largest caldera at Askja, which is about 10 km across has been sinking at a rate of between 4 and 6 cm per year. This may be because the unerupted magma beneath is cooling and contracting, or because the ground is caving in on top of hollow chambers, or because the unerupted magma is draining away. Using the ground deformation information with my micro-gravity measurements, I have shown that the amount of material beneath Askja is decreasing with time. This is probably because magma is draining away. The big question now is 'where is this magma draining to?' If the magma is draining downwards, it must be accumulating in some big reservoir beneath Askja. I don't think this can be the whole explanation, because we have not found any evidence for deep accumulation. In fact our models show that 2 regions, about 3 km and 16 km depth are actually shrinking. All the time that Askja has been sinking, two other regions, one to the north and the other to the south of Askja have been rising. A volcano called Grímsvötn to the south of Askja erupted beneath Vatnajökull icecap in 2004, and Krafla to the north, erupted between 1975 and 1984. These big 'central' volcanoes in Iceland all have broadly NS trending fissure swarms associated with them and it is possible that magma can travel underground along these fissures between volcanoes. Recent work by colleagues at the University of Cambridge has shown that there are deep earthquakes in a region just to the north of Askja. It may be that these relate to magma moving from Askja, possibly towards Krafla. The main objective of this work is to discover whether magma draining from beneath Askja is travelling north. I then want to find out how much magma is moving and then to see whether I can detect it accumulating beneath Krafla. If this is the case, I will need to consider where and when a future eruption at Krafla may occur as this information is essential for hazard warning and mitigation. Icelandic colleagues have a comprehensive network of GPS stations in the region of interest in the north and central part of Iceland. I have measured micro-gravity changes at some of these stations in the past and aim here to re-occupy these stations and to extend the networks to cover the region where the earthquakes have been detected in more detail. By looking for micro-gravity changes at the places where we have GPS data, I can quantify any mass changes beneath the surface. I will also make continuous gravity measurements at a few key locations so that at these places, I will be able to see the rate of any magma movement. By combining these methods, I will be able to see how much magma is moving, where to and at what rate. I should be able to detect magma leaving the Askja system and accumulating beneath Krafla if this is indeed what is happening. This project is important from a scientific point of view, as we have very little information on how volcanoes of this type work. We do not know much about the processes that occur beneath the surface in advance of an eruption. By understanding these processes better, we will understand many other volcanoes better, including the vast majority of volcanoes which are below sea level. From a hazards perspective, these volcanoes have the power to be devastating locally, but their ash and even acidic haze can reach as far as the UK. They have had environmental and health impacts on the UK in the past. If we can better understand the causes of these eruptions, and predict when they will occur, we will be in a stronger position to mitigate their effects.

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