04 December 2018

Collaborate with the commercial world

I sometimes find it hard to be a micropalaeontologist in a university without a micropalaeontological research group. We are supposed to offer students MSc projects. My specialism is forams, but it's hard to transfer that knowledge to students if you have an empty lab. We don't have a reference collection anymore, and we don't have reference books. James took them!

A bit further up the coast is a commercial company. They used to mainly provide consultancy for the oil industry. And the oil industry does micropalaeontology. They need forams to have a handle on the age of the rocks they are drilling. But this company sees the future and knows it has to divest. So they are thinking of working in environmental consultancy. And they have the micropalaeontological knowledge; that can be applied in the environmental realm too! And they contacted Bangor University to see if they wanted to collaborate. And I did!

After some mailing to and fro we had a meeting: David, from the company; Mike, from our university-meets-commercial-sector branch, and me, the academic. And we had a chat! And we are all quiet keen to push this agenda. I want their help in either using their facilities, or building up our own; Mike wants companies to work with, and David wants universities to work with. Everybody wins! We even already have a draft first project: taking grab samples in transects over two shipwrecks: one clean, and the other expected to be oozing pollutants, and then checking if they have different microfaunal assemblages. Mike has access to a vessel and a grab sampler. And if that works, we can use that approach in many ways! We can also check if the microfauna in wind farms is like that in pristine areas. And we can see if forams react to, who knows, mussel fishing or a nuclear power station and whatnot. I can't wait! But we have to see if students actually pick these projects! But I think they will. What's not to like!

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