Coastal heritage at risk: PhD internship diary

Sarah Boyd is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences

In late 2018, the School of History needed a PhD intern to assist in the development of the evidence base for Scotland’s Dynamic Coast by integrating and analysing observed coastal erosion data of archaeological sites and coast edges. They found Sarah Boyd. Here is her account.

From stones to bones: studying Scottish coastal change with Dynamic Coast and the SCAPE Trust

As a second-year geology PhD student in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES), I spend most of my time studying post glacial sediments and land movements around Scotland.

Scrolling through my daily emails, I came across an advert for a GIS (geographical information science) placement focusing on Scottish coastal erosion, funded through the St Andrew Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund.  Interested in expanding my research network, utilising GIS skills that I have gained from my Master’s degree, and the opportunity to learn more about the discipline of archaeology, this seemed like the perfect fit for me.

An example of a salt pan building in Brora that I visited with the SCAPE team in January 2019. Taking advantage of the presence of Jurassic coal and abundance of sea water due to the coastal setting, Brora cultivated an industry in salt production which continued into the 19th century. Due to coastal erosion, this salt industry heritage is fast being lost to the sea. This site is a high priority on the SCHARP database.

From late January to early April this year I undertook the internship with the SCAPE Trust, who are based within the Department of History here at St Andrews.  Additional partners included Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland.

Scotland has a long and varied coastline, and therefore it is vitally important to understand how Scotland’s coast has changed historically and how it could evolve in the future with a changing climate. National models have recently been produced to describe coastal erosion susceptibility of Scotland.

This project involved using a coastal heritage dataset of archaeology sites which are actively eroding to assess two national models of coastal change for the purpose of archaeological management: the Coastal Erosion Susceptibility Model (CESM) and the National Coastal Change Assessment (Dynamic Coast NCCA).  The CESM divides Scotland into a series of 50m grid cells and ranks them from very low – very high erosion susceptibility.  The Dynamic Coast NCCA uses Mean High-Water Spring (MHWS) migration, extracted from historic and modern OS maps, as a proxy for coastal erosion or accretion.

The Scottish Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP) is a SCAPE project which involves surveying and recording archaeological sites around the coast of Scotland which are each assigned a priority rating based on how at risk of erosion the site is.  There are over 13,000 sites recorded, however I focussed my analysis on a shorter list of 122 high priority sites – sites with both a high archaeological significance and high risk of active erosion.

Using GIS, these sites were mapped and intersected with both models to understand where both the models and the sites agree that sections of coast are eroding and where the models and archaeological dataset do not agree.  A case study was carried out on Sanday, Orkney to delve into the details of each model and to develop a complimentary model of coastal change in the form of a vegetation edge analysis.

No model will perfectly describe every small section of the coastline, but the local scale vegetation edge analysis of coastal change had a higher agreement with the eroding archaeology sites than either of the two national models.  When used together, it is possible to achieve a clearer view of which areas are most at risk of erosion and therefore at risk of cultural heritage loss.  By combining results from all the models, the outputs can be used as a starting point for coastal heritage management and to inform future coastal survey.

Example of vegetation edge analysis output for the island of Sanday, Orkney. Areas of coastline in oranges and red indicate stretches of coastline which have seen net erosion between 1900 and 2014 and areas of greens and yellows indicate net accretion. The 25 sites indicate sites which are high priority, both in terms of archaeological significance and risk of erosion.

I didn’t spend all three months indoors and in addition to the main desk-based GIS project I took the opportunity to join the team on fieldwork in Brora, the Solway coast, the East Neuk of Fife and the Wemyss Caves.  These trips spanned a breadth of archaeological time, from Pictish carvings in East Wemyss (check out the 4D Weymss Caves website to have a look at these) to WWII pontoons at Cairnhead Bay which were utilised as part of top-secret D-Day preparations.

One of the main objectives of The KE and Impact Fund PhD internships is to build relationships between external organisations and the university.  This internship was valuable as it not only allowed me to develop links with Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland but also between SCAPE and SEES within St Andrews.

This internship was a great opportunity to use my skills on a different project for a three-month period within my PhD and demonstrated how the skills developed within a PhD can be readily transferable to work on a wide range of research areas.  It allowed me to build upon my GIS skills and add to the conversation of coastal change, as well as learn about the rich and varied archaeology of Scotland!

Sarah Boyd
PhD Candidate
School of Earth and Environmental Science

A public coastal walk allowed me to incorporate some of my own research interests when we discussed coastal changes over the last 8000 years at Redkirk Point on the Solway Firth. This was one of three public walks in the Solway Firth region with SCAPE in collaboration with the Solway Firth Partnership.

 

In defence of the wolf

Wolves are returning to their former ranges across Europe and North America, resurrecting a centuries’ old war with humans. Yet wolves are losing this battle, because in our arsenal we possess not only guns, traps, and poison, but something much more powerful: the human imagination. Despite the fact that wolves are considered one of the most charismatic species on the planet, and scientific evidence proving that they pose very little threat to humans, the ‘Big Bad Wolf’, a bloodthirsty killer, resides in our collective subconscious, creating a fear of wolves that is in-built from childhood. Anti-wolf activists capitalise on this fear to persuade others that wolves and people cannot co-exist, especially when farming is concerned. However, wolves do not know that sheep-hunting is a capital offence, or that there are areas where they are not welcome. They are not ‘bad’, but are simply animals trying to survive in a world in which they are increasingly unwelcome. Read more in The Conversation.

Elizabeth Marshall is a PhD Researcher, Wolves in Anglo-Saxon Literature, School of English

Syrian Stories: Female Voice

On 22 May at 5pm in The Byre Theatre there will be a screening of short films featuring the perspectives and experiences of Syrian women filmmakers followed by a conversation with the Stories Project Mentor, Noe Mendelle.

Women in Syria have not only borne the brunt of the country’s lengthy civil war, they have been marginalised and rendered invisible, despite their huge contribution to the struggle. Yet, few of the stories are told by them. In this collection of short films presented by the Scottish Documentary Institute in collaboration with the British Council and Bidayyat, female Syrian filmmakers share their experience and perspective being a refugee in neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The event is free but ticketed. https://byretheatre.com/events/cinema-documentary-syrian-stories-female-voice/

About Docs@The Byre: Celebrating the Cinematic Documentary

Documentaries don’t just inform us about the world. They inspire, delight, and immerse us in the world.  They engage and exhilarate with their stories, characters, images, and sounds. They take us places we haven’t even imagined of going. And yet, documentary gets a bad rap. People treat it like the broccoli of the film kingdom: good for you but not necessarily pleasurable— more talking heads for the telly than a spectacle at the cinema. By showing compelling documentaries on the big screen and holding conversations with documentary professionals and scholars, Docs@TheByre sets the record straight.  After all, documentaries may have something to teach us but there’s also a lot we can learn about documentary— and should learn in this age of ‘post-truth’.

Organiser: Leshu Torchin, Department of Film Studies, University of St Andrews

Virginia Woolf in Tehran

The novel, ‘Vanessa and Virginia’, by Susan Sellers, a Professor of English at the University of St Andrews, has been translated into Farsi by Zahra Amini, a graduate of the University of Tehran where she studied English Literature. ‘Vanessa and Virginia’ is a fictional portrait of the writer Virginia Woolf and her painter sister Vanessa Bell, and has already been translated into over a dozen languages including Brazilian, Chinese and Japanese.

The Iranian translation is published by Roshangaran, a feminist press in Tehran. The name means ‘the enlightened’. It was founded in the 1980s by Shahla Lahiji, Iran’s first woman publisher, as a response to the discrimination and restrictions imposed on women by the Islamic Revolution. Since then, it has published hundreds of books by women authors as well as books promoting women’s causes, and has received numerous international accolades including the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the International Publishers Association Freedom to Publish Prize, and the Pandora Award for Women in Publishing.

Roshangaran’s pro-women, feminist agenda has however brought it into conflict with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in Iran. Shahla Lahiji has been arrested and imprisoned on charges ranging from working to corrupt women to inciting anti-Islamic feeling. In an interview for the pan-Arabian daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Shahla Lahiji comments: ‘When I entered the publishing industry in Iran, I was the only woman. Now there are about 400 publishing houses owned and run by women. We have established the women publishers association, which is one of the most powerful civil organizations in Iran. I’m optimistic about the future because it is difficult to stop the pressure for advancement.’

The Farsi translation of ‘Vanessa and Virginia’, like all books in Iran, has been subject to the scrutiny of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. In order to obtain the necessary licence for publication, a number of changes to the original novel had to be made. In particular, any reference to extra-marital or same-sex relationships had to be cut since these are forbidden under Iranian Islamic law. Even what might be considered as relatively innocent encounters between the sexes such as dancing was not permitted, while any word that had a sexual connotation such as ‘love-making’ had to be modified. Speaking about these changes, the English author Susan Sellers commented:  ‘Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell were pioneering not only in their chosen art forms of writing and painting, but in terms of the way they chose to live their lives. With their move to Bloomsbury in 1904 they rejected many of the rules that had constrained Victorian women’s existence. In terms of their relationships they valued honesty and enduring friendship above all else, and their at times complicated love lives meant we had to be creative when it came to depicting these in Iran. Some of the changes I made to the text were small and relatively straightforward – for instance, in a description of a Vanessa Bell painting the forbidden word ‘nude’ was replaced with ‘figure’. In several places I was able to rewrite without too much loss of meaning. However, for some sections cutting was often the only viable option. This was particularly the case for passages depicting homosexual love. Of course, all this raises difficult questions about the truth of what is being told.’

About these alterations, translator Zahra Amini comments: ‘Though it was regrettable that certain aspects of the text had to be cut, altered or softened, Iranian readers are perfectly used to reading between the lines and understanding from even small insinuations. It saddens me that most Europeans and Americans mistakenly think Iran is the same as parts of the Arab world such as Saudi Arabia, where women have only recently acquired the right to vote. The women of my country have had the right to vote for over 50 years, and while there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and freedom, women here marry or enter relations as freely as women in Europe or America, study and lecture at universities, have successful careers in almost every field and occupy some of the highest positions in society. We’ve grown up with books that have been heavily censored and this has made us highly attentive as readers.’

At the novel’s launch at the Tehran International Book Fair, Shahla Lahiji and Zahra Amini gave talks about the Iranian translation of ‘Vanessa and Virginia’ and the remarkable sisters who inspired it. Zahra remarks: ‘Virginia Woolf’s writing is well-known in Iran, as is the work of the Bloomsbury Group to which she belonged. Reading Susan’s novel, it was as if I was intimately living moments of Woolf’s life whilst simultaneously tunneling back through my encounters with her writing. I wanted other Iranian readers to share this experience. The fact that Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell, is hardly known at all in Iran outside of art schools and galleries was another motivating factor.’

Commenting on the collaboration, Susan Sellers adds: ‘Reading about and working with women in Iran has been an education. Like most of the rest of the world, Iran has long been a patriarchy, and in this sense it seems little changed for women following the Islamic Revolution forty years ago. Women in Iran are subject to discrimination and constraint in almost every sphere, from unequal pay at work to bias in divorce to the compulsory wearing of the hijab. Gains have been made for women thanks to the stands taken by brave activists, but there is still a long way to go.’

Zahra Amini continues: ‘Women around the world will only have the chance for full equality once the patriarchal contract has been torn up and rewritten. Virginia Woolf knew this and wrote about it in books such as her landmark ‘A Room of One’s Own’. Her sister Vanessa Bell was also a revolutionary. I hope my translation of Susan’s novel about these two pioneering sisters will inspire women in Iran not to lose hope, but to continue to advance and thrive.’

Source for interview with Shahla Lahiji.

Susan Sellers is available for interview. Please email her on scs2@st-andrews.ac.uk to arrange a time to speak.

Lake Victoria research: win-win for human health, food security and economic development

Fisheries researchers from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania processing catch during the fisheries acoustics training course run in Uganda by Andrew Brierley and Roland Proud.
Photo credit: Siân Addison

Fisheries ecologists from the University of St Andrews are working with human-health and fishery partners around Lake Victoria on connected, multidisciplinary projects to sustainably manage fish stocks, and to examine the potential role for ‘biocontrol’ by fish of a debilitating human parasitic infection. Both strands of work are contributing directly to multiple United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in East Africa.

Under the fisheries strand, Prof. Andrew Brierley and Dr Roland Proud, of the School of Biology, have forged links with the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) and with fisheries scientists in each of the three riparian states around Lake Victoria – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. They have held fisheries-acoustics training courses and data-analysis workshops in Uganda, St Andrews and Kenya, and are assisting with the application of advanced data analysis techniques to enable recovery of robust time-series of fish biomass estimates from a decade of acoustic survey data. Biomass time-series are required for development of sustainable fishery management plans to underpin regional food security and income: some 35 million people in the Lake Victoria basin depend on fishing, fish and fish products for protein-rich food and for their economic wellbeing. Funding grants supporting this project are for capacity-building in fisheries-acoustics, and for targeted research on an understudied but economically and ecologically important fish species called ‘dagaa’. The work on dagaa will also draw experts from the University of Aberdeen and the Zoological Society of London in to the collaboration network, to contribute expert statistical training and drone survey technology respectively. From a practical perspective, the St Andrews team has also arranged for a professional Scottish fishing skipper to go to Lake Victoria to provide training on the watercolumn fishing that is required to ‘ground truth’ acoustic surveys.

Health-crae providers from the Vine Trust landing at a remote, island community.
Photo credit: Benet Reid

Under the parasitic infection strand, Prof. Brierley has teamed up with the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Tanzania, the Vine Trust, an Edinburgh-based charity that operates a medical support ship on Lake Victoria, and LVFO. Together the group have won a half-million pound grant from the Royal Society’s Challenge-led scheme for multidisciplinary research towards combatting schistosomiasis. Human populations around Lake Victoria can be heavily infected with the parasitic flatworm that causes schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis – or bilharzia – is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease because it is under-researched and does not attract the funding directed at, for example, malaria.

Andrew Brierley instructing Lake Victoria fisheries scientists in echosounder calibration.
Photo credit: Siân Addison

Schistosomiasis is second only to malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of infection. It is a disease of poverty, and is prevalent in communities living in insanitary conditions close to infected waters. Schistosomiasis infects humans when the larval parasites – which emerge from intermediate-host fresh-water snails – burrow through the skin. Infection is high around Lake Victoria, where lake water is used untreated for drinking, washing, cooking and bathing. Humans later excrete parasite eggs, and if sewage returns to the lake in proximity to snails then the parasite lifecycle can be completed. It has been suggested that fishing may have reduced fish that are predators of snails and that, as a consequence, more snails have led to more infection.

In Senegal reintroductions of prawns that are predatory on snails have led to dramatic reductions in human schistosomiasis infection: we will explore the possibility for ‘biocontrol’ by fish of schistosomiasis snails in Lake Victoria. SFC Global Challenges funding has already enabled us to gather fish samples and commence DNA-based analyses of fish stomachs to look for snail presence. With the Royal Society funding, we will conduct shallow water fish surveys and snail counts adjacent to lakeside communities with differing levels of infection. We will also seek to bolster shallow-water fish abundance to reduce snail predation, perhaps by establishing areas closed to fishing. In the marine realm ‘spill over’ of fish from protected areas closed to fishing in to the wider environment leads to improved fish catches outside closed areas. It is possible that in Lake Victoria closing areas to fishing could deliver the win-win result of increased fish for food AND reduced parasitic infection.

Event: Visualising War in Different Media: interplay and intervention

Registration will soon close for this workshop (Monday 8th April, 2019), looking at the power of different media to generate different responses to war; for more information, please follow this link: https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/visualising-war/events/visualising-war-and-the-expressive-arts/

The workshop will start at 1.30 with a tour of the Conflict Textiles exhibition at the Byre Theatre, led by Dr Lydia Cole: https://byretheatre.com/events/crafting-war-and-conflict-film-event/. Numbers are restricted for this, so only those registered for the workshop will be able to take part in this bespoke tour.

The workshop will end with a concert in St Salvator’s Chapel, 5.30-6.30, featuring music and poetry from the First World War (The Fateful Voyage: see attached advert). This concert is open to the public.

SUII Roadshow – 21 Feb 2019

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII) promotes collaboration and engagement between researchers and wider society, and facilitates knowledge exchange activity that wouldn’t otherwise take place.

Hear about SUII calls for proposals at this informative session.

Thursday 21st February

14:00 – 15:30

Boardroom, Gateway

Here’s the booking link: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/pdms/index.php?Mode=Search&AudienceID=&CourseID=9264

Docs@The Byre: Celebrating the Cinematic Documentary

Documentaries don’t just inform us about the world. They inspire, delight, and immerse us in the world.  They engage and exhilarate with their stories, characters, images, and sounds. They take us places we haven’t even imagined of going. And yet, documentary gets a bad rap. People treat it like the broccoli of the film kingdom: good for you but not necessarily pleasurable— more talking heads for the telly than a spectacle at the cinema. By showing compelling documentaries on the big screen and holding conversations with documentary professionals and scholars, Docs@TheByre sets the record straight.  After all, documentaries may have something to teach us but there’s also a lot we can learn about documentary— and should learn in this age of ‘post-truth’.

Location: Byre Studio

Free but ticketed – see the full list of events below

 

Wednesday, 6 February, 5pm: Donkeyote (Chico Pereira/ 2017/Germany-UK-Spain / 86min)

Manolo has a simple life in Southern Spain and two loves: his animals, in particular his donkey Gorrión (“Sparrow”), and wandering through nature. Against the advice of his doctor, he decides to plan one last walk in the US, the brutal 2200 mile Trail of Tears. But not without his donkey. Overcoming the small obstacle of shipping a donkey, Manolo’s chronic arthritis, a history of heart attacks, and Gorrión’s fear of water are just a few matters to take care of. As their adventure continues, Manolo’s wondrous friendship with his animals finds a beautiful equilibrium. Will they find the American West? More importantly, will they be able to see life as it is, and not as it should be?

WINNER: Best Documentary – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017

NOMINATED: Best Feature – BAFTA Scotland 2017

Q&A with Flore Cosquer (Scottish Documentary Institute)

https://byretheatre.com/events/cinema-documentary-donkeyote/

 

Wednesday, 27 March, 5pm: Time Trial (Finlay Pretsell/ 2018/UK/82min)

Time Trial gives us an exhilarating and terrifying place in the race, providing an immersive experience as close to actually competing as you will ever see on film. David Millar, shrouded in darkness, declares an intention to rise again. A sensory ride through the thrill and hardship of professional cycling. We are hurtled off a hillside, details blurring like watercolours. The euphoria and the fatigue, the highs and the lows. It’s as if it were ourselves struggling through the bumpy roads of France. David bluntly and fearlessly narrates his last season in the saddle, intimate and immediate, along with the intricate relationships of cyclist, road crew, fellow competitors, manic fans, and the media circus surrounding it all.

WINNER: Best Editing-Documentary – RiverRun International Film Festival 2018

NOMINATED: Best Documentary – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018

Q&A with Finlay Pretsell (Director)

https://byretheatre.com/events/cinema-docs-time-trial/

 

Wednesday, 24 April, 5pm: Piano to Zanskar (Michal Sulima/ 2018/UK/86min)

Retired piano tuner Desmond O’Keeffe embarks on a quest to bring an upright piano to a primary school in the isolated village of Lingshed, located in the Himalayas, 14,000 feet about sea level. If successful, it will be the highest piano delivery in history. Join Desmond, his companions, plus some yaks and ponies on this delightful, beautiful, and occasionally harrowing journey.

NOMINATED: Audience Award – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018

Q&A with Michal Sulima (Director) and Jarek Kotomski (Producer)

https://byretheatre.com/events/cinema-docs-piano-to-zanskar/

 

Wednesday, 22 May, 5pm: Syrian Stories: Female Voice (Various/2017/UK-Syria/62 min)

Women in Syria have not only borne the brunt of the country’s lengthy civil war, they have been marginalised and rendered invisible, despite their huge contribution to the struggle. Yet, few of the stories are told by them. In this collection of short films presented by the Scottish Documentary Institute in collaboration with the British Council and Bidayyat, female Syrian filmmakers share their experience and perspective being a refugee in neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Q&A with Programme Mentor, Noe Mendelle (Scottish Documentary Institute)

https://byretheatre.com/events/cinema-documentary-syrian-stories-female-voice/