Sunday, 19 January 2020

Life Beyond The STARS! A Forward Look to the STARS 2020 Annual Conference

Exciting!  It is the eve before the STARS Annual Conference and it promises to be a special meeting.  We will have the pleasure of marking the graduation of some of our early cohort STARS students who are now starting to emerge from the work of the STARS CDT.  Some are now starting to make their way out of the CDT and into the wider world, to a life beyond the STARS!   In order to mark the occasion, for the annual meeting this year, the STARS students have chosen the topic Soil Science
In Policy, Industry & The Media, attempting to give a much – needed recognition to the practical, strategic and applied aspects to their training in the fields of soil science.  This also has the hope of providing the students with some ideas for future framing of their studies as they plan to launch themselves – literally - beyond STARS and into the outside world. 

To deliver this vision the student team have invited an array or inspirational visitors.   We have Jessica Bellarby from the Environment Agency Policy team, Vicky Robinson from the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust and celebrity journalist Caz Graham to provide role models and thoughts for where the discipline of soils may manifest in the twists and turns of life outside of STARS. 

We are delighted to welcome Dan Evans launching his role as the Legacy fellow to the delivery team, who will be seeking your input.  Dan is actually just in the process of completing his own soils PhD as a member of STARS and will be leading out his vision, with the students, to provide a legacy of the STARS CDT that intends to exist long after the last student has graduated.  One of the exciting examples of our legacy is the recent completion of full-length professional soil documentary on soil formation, that will be premiered at our event with Film Maker Roger Appleton from Brightmoon Media.  This is an aspect of the program not to be missed!   And we also have (on request of the students) a fabulous 5-piece Ceilidh band which also has roots in Soils Science (I will leave you to find out the links yourself). 

Thanks to the team of students who have worked with us to pull together this program, and special thanks to the CDT Administrator Olivia Lawrenson who has done such a great job in cementing together the ideas and linking with the students and staff to deliver the program.  

The full link to the program and the activites can be found here Enjoy Life Beyond The Stars 
and remember to use #STARsoil2020!

Best wishes,


Friday, 10 January 2020

#EGU2020 Phosphorus cycling: interdisciplinary results linking phosphorus and other element cycles

Please consider submitting a talk to our #EGU2020 phosphorus session called Phosphorus cycling: interdisciplinary results linking phosphorus and other element cycles the deadline is the 15th January!

The full details of the prgram are:

Convener: Marc Stutter | Co-conveners: Phil Haygarth, Tom Jilbert, Federica Tamburini

Phosphorus (P) is essential to life, and as a key limiting nutrient, regulates productivity in terrestrial and aquatic systems. Strong geochemical interactions between P and other elements control the mobility and bioavailability of P in the environment, necessitating a coupled understanding of element cycles influencing P. At the same time P provides perhaps the most topical example of a critical resource element whose use is currently inefficiently managed. Leakage of mined P into the environment through a variety of processes (e.g. excess chemical fertiliser usage, or effluent discharges) is responsible for eutrophication and the acceleration of natural P cycling in terrestrial and aquatic systems. This puts P at the forefront of environmental and societal concerns and demands that our biogeochemical knowledge of P cycling ought to be developed through interdisciplinary research. This session aims to explore biogeochemical P cycling in the context of benefitting ‘systems understanding’ spanning terrestrial and aquatic compartments.
Topics included should explore:
• Links between P and wider element cycles, for example with other macro- and micro- nutrients and controls of P availability through geochemical parameters such as Fe;
• P cycling studies that bring into focus the interplay of biotic and abiotic controls within, and between, environmental compartments;
• Drivers of change (climate, management, societal) acting on the coupling of P with other element cycles.
• Processes, modelling and management against a background of the key issues for: P release from soil to plants; P release from soil to water; long term P supplies and the global P cycle.

Monday, 6 January 2020

A new decade's (phosphorus) resolution....

Happy New Year Folks.  Welcome to the 20s (and the hidden phosphorus crisis).

My new decade's resoultion is to try to raise phosphorus and climate change challenge up the global agenda, for too long now it has seemed like a burried or hidden issue, perhaps not as all pervading as the Thunberg-led Climate problem, or as visual as the Attenborough-led plastics issue.  Who can do this for phosphrous?

Well I don't think I am the person who can do this and certainaly not alone, but as a small contribution here is a video that has just emerged from the Catchment Science 2019 conference that I attended in November.


Tuesday, 6 August 2019

#Phosphorus350 Event - A Turning Point in Phosphorus Stewardship

Annoncing a special Phosphorus Workshop in Lancaster October 2019

The alchemist Hennig Brand accidentally discovered phosphorus 350 years ago, in his unsuccessful quest for the Philosopher’s Stone. Phosphorus been essential for supporting life on Earth but since its discovery human society has become increasingly reliant and increasingly wasteful of this finite resource. This symposium will explore different phosphorus stories including its history, its essential role in food production, and impacts on water-quality. This event will provide a platform to discuss how society can improve phosphorus sustainability from both environmental and resource perspectives.

Can this be a turning point for phosphorus stewardship?
Keynote Speaker: Prof Jim Elser, University of Montana USA and Director and Founder of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, USA

This event will start on the evening of the 8th October with a public Café Scientifique event “Phosphorus stories: from a quest for the Philosopher's Stone to a sustainable food future” at the Storey Institute in Lancaster City Centre. Join us for complementary drinks and birthday cake as we share phosphorus stories and debate how society can move towards a sustainable phosphorus future. For catering purposes please confirm your attendance at this part of the event during online registration.

Café Scientifique (Tue 8th October 6:30-9 pm)
Symposium Event (Wed 9th October starting at 8.45 am at Lancaster House Hotel)

Pleaces are free but limited so you need to register by clicking here!

Hotel rooms are available at the Lancaster House Hotel and on Lancaster University Campus. There is also accommodation in Lancaster city centre, which is a short bus or taxi ride away.
This event is being organised and funded by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, N8 AgriFood and Lancaster University. Organising committee: Prof Phil Haygarth, Prof Helen Jarvie, Prof Ian Dodd, Dr Bryan Spears, Dr Shane Rothwell, Dr Ali Birkett, Dr Rachel Marshall.

Friday, 21 December 2018

#STARsoil #soil An introduction to soil science: soil description, soil quality monitoring and assessment

29th April – 3rd May 2019

Aimed at PhD students needing a grounding in soil science, this course is now in its 4th year and was
previously only available to students within the STARS Centre for Doctoral Training.

The course starts at Lancaster University, with an introduction to research level issues in
contemporary soil science by leading soil scientists. Day 2 sees input from the British Society of SoilScience (BSSS) soil profile experts, who will provide training in “Exposing and describing a soil
profile”. This is a fundamental foundation skill for all soil scientists. Training will take place in the
laboratory and in the field at Myerscough College, a few miles south of the Lancaster University
Campus. Day 3 sees a shift to Bangor University’s Henfaes Experimental Station. The station was
chosen due to its classic altitudinal soil sequence (called a catena) which contains almost all the
common soil types found in the UK. Transported by Landrover to just below 2000 feet you will
descend through each dominant soil type carrying out basic soil quality field tests and collecting
samples for later laboratory analysis. This work will continue on Day 4, followed by laboratory
analysis. Day 5 will consist of collation of group results and a discussion about findings, in the
context of ecosystem services as well as traditional soil science.

The course is open to all PhD students on a first come first served basis. The cost is £450, which
includes all training, refreshments, lunches and transport around the field sites. It does not cover
transport between Lancaster and Bangor, overnight accommodation or evening meals.

For further information, please contact the STARS CDT office,

#CelebrateSTARS #starSOIL legacy filming opportunity

Invitation to make a Soil Science Film at the STARS Conference

In order to help create a lasting legacy from the #STARSoil College, we are providing the opportunity to #CelebrateSTARS and make some short Soil Science films with a professional film team led by Roger Appleton.

Roger and his team will be at the conference Tuesday morning until Thursday lunchtime and will be based in a room close to the conference action.  We are looking for volunteer small groups of say 2-6 all of you to self-organise and form around thematic areas of your passion and choice.  In the groups we want it to be a mix of students with more experienced scientists together and we wish to film you sitting around a table, talking, reflecting and debating on your chosen topic.  It may be for example - say soil erosion, soil carbon - or anything soil related indeed that lights your fire.  One dynamic that Roger thinks works well is when earlier career scientists quiz the older scientists.  Roger’s experience says that you don’t need to worry too much about scripting and planning, it works well if perhaps the a few questions are planned in advance, but mostly natural free flowing conversation works best.  A filming session may take about 30-45 minutes maximum with a final film of about 5-10 minutes.  You will have full opportunity to see the draft before it is published on the web.

So, we are calling for volunteers, maybe 4 or 5 groups over the duration of the conference. You will have to work out a best time to fit the session in or around the conference schedule, but we are hoping this will be a great opportunity to create an inspiring legacy!

If you have alternative approaches you would like to suggest, your ideas are welcome too.

Please see Phil Haygarth, Roger Appleton or Olivia Lawrenson if you are interested at the meeting - or email before



Announcing a #STARSoil Special Issue #CelebrateSTARS

Announcing a Special Issue for the STARS CDT in the European Journal of Soil Science

“Innovations in Soil Science to address Global Grand Challenges”

Editors Phil Haygarth, Guy Kirk and Davey Jones


The Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) is a UK NERC and BBSRC funded consortium of eight universities and research institutes from around England, Scotland and Wales training the next generation of soil scientists. We have just entered the peak phase where we have 40 PhD students in the college and in January we will be celebrating this with a three-day conference to be held at the Low Wood Hotel, Lake Windermere (Lake District), with organization and presentations from students as well as a number of international guest speakers. This provides the perfect timing and opportunity to propose a special issue to be published in EJSS because it is a BSSS journal working with the British Soils CDT. Volunteer papers comprised of teams of students and supervisors are now encouraged around the theme of the STARS CDT ‘Innovations in Soil Science to address Global Grand Challenges’ and around the STARS sub themes

- 1. Understanding the soil–root interface
- 2. Soils and the delivery of ecosystem services
- 3. Resilience and response of functions in soil systems
- 4. Modelling the soil ecosystem at different spatial and temporal scales

The timetable:

End December 2018: STARS and EJSS reach agreement on principle and agree modus operandi; start to form the Editorial team. DONE
Early January 2019: Launch concept by email and ask for proposed authors to signal intent and title DONE
Mid-January 2019: Promotion at STARS conference.
End January 2019: Corresponding authors send provisional papers titles and author list to
April–June 2019: Window for receipt of papers.
End December 2019: Reviews, responses, revision and resubmission to be complete.

All papers will be subject to strict independent peer review. It is primarily open to STARS PhD students and supervisors in the first instance, but other relevant soils PhD students are welcome to enquire