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CAS Visiting Professor from Lancaster University, Nick Ostle's insights on Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry TEXT SIZE: A A A

What are you working on with Professors Luo and Zhang?

We are working together to improve scientific understanding of the controls on soil carbon cycling and CO2release from forest ecosystems in China. The question we want to answer is - how stable and predictable are important soil carbon stocks in contrasting Chinese forests? We will be measuring soil biological and geochemical properties across gradients and experiments to test specific hypotheses. This work is globally relevant, as increasing human influences on climate, vegetation and land use change exert strong effects on terrestrial carbon cycling around the world. The consequences for soil carbon stocks and greenhouse gas CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions to the atmosphere are uncertain and we want this research collaboration to provide new science to plan for future sustainability and economic success.


Why the GIG?

The GIG and Lancaster University have a strong and growing scientific collaboration and international profile. Both research institutes have recognized scientific expertise, credibility and infrastructure that we want to combine to make new discoveries. I am looking forward to use my experience of research in global change and carbon cycling in temperate, tropical, boreal and arctic landscapes with excellent GIG scientists for new research in China.

I will be working closely with Professor Zhang and Professor Luo, and the GIG research team, using a unique and well characterised network of forest sites in China. It’s a famous network with a large gradient and range of climates and land use, with tropical, mediterranean, temperate and cold climate ecosystems represented. There have been many important research papers that have come from this network. We now have an excellent opportunity to capitalize on this knowledge to push at the frontiers of our understanding of forest soil carbon cycling.

The research laboratories and analytical instrumentation located and managed at the GIG represent a rare and internationally relevant scientific capability. For example, the new GIG Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) is a very exciting development. There are not many of these in the world, let alone up-to-date ones. Yet, the GIG has one newly installed! This is an exciting opportunity for international research.

That’s what’s unique about the GIG, great scientists supported by CAS with excellent infrastructure prepared to address fundamental and applied research today.


What’s the difference between working in the GIG and back home in Lancaster University?

Well, the weather is certainly different and I love the Guangzhou food!

In terms of the scientific approach, it’s consistent with Lancaster University, as I would expect, and the scientists in the GIG are evidently very effective and successful. It’s been really interesting for me to see the different GIG research groups and laboratories. The ambition to ensure underpinning research capacity with the best training for the next generation of students to achieve excellent science is evident here in Guangzhou. This is important to me and will be crucial to our future research and training plans between GIG and Lancaster University. 


What’s your overall impression of the GIG?

I really appreciate the welcome, quality of care, time and consideration that has been offered to me and my PhD student, Caley Brown, by Professors Zhang, Luo and all the GIG students, staff and researchers that we have encountered. That’s been very special and makes our positive collaboration a pleasure, we are grateful for that, thank you GIG. The campus is self-contained, busy, active and friendly. Students, staff and visitors live in close vicinity to the labs and offices with all of our everyday needs available and within 5 minutes reach on the campus. This all helps to make working at GIG a positive, productive and enjoyable experience. Altogether, GIG offers a friendly and vibrant research environment.


Expectations of this partnership?

To produce some interesting and novel research, that improves our understanding of the effects of land use and global climate change on forest carbon dynamics. This will help us predict the effects of future change and make scientifically informed choices in the future. Equally important, for me, will be the friendships and science collaborations between Lancaster and GIG scientists and PhD students that we build with this initiative for the future.


Are you happy with what you’ve achieved?

Yes, I think we’ve done a good job so far to plan and prepare our research plans! We are getting the details of ideas of research into place, and the next stage is to implement the science. The initial work will be carried out by a GIG-LU joint PHD student, Caley Brown, mentored by both Professor Luo and me. He is going to set up some very unique field experiments with Professor Luo and her team that have not been done before in China. In the future, we intend to build this research initiative together with more students and scientists from China and Lancaster University to contribute new science that, we hope, will benefit us all.


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