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Research Fellows Directory

Barbara Maher

Professor Barbara Maher

Research Fellow


Lancaster University

Research summary

Magnetic tracing of traffic-derived pollution: we have published new research showing that magnetic measurements of tree leaves can provide a robust and quantitative proxy for particulate pollution concentrations, whether at the roadside or around industrially-sourced pollutant plumes. These new magnetic leaf data are being used by the Environment Agency to assess possible pollution exceedances by industry (both in S. England and S. Wales) and identify the source(s) requiring active mitigation. By extending our roadside data (mostly from Lancaster at present) we can provide new, essential data on the damaging effects of breathing in PM10, to help identify how much exposure leads to which specific health impacts.

Water purification: I have been working with engineers at Daresbury to build prototype flow rigs to test the commercial potential of my synthetic magnetic particles (‘Magimix’) as adsorbers of contaminants (e.g. dissolved organic carbon, salt) in drinking water supplies. I have established collaborative links with most of the UK water companies in order to test ‘Magimix’ in a range of water contamination issues.

Dust and climate: I lead an international working group ('DIRTSPEC'), examining the fluxes, sources and climate impacts of windblown dust at the present day and at the last glacial and deglacial stage. I have also completed magnetic analyses of sediments from the Southern Ocean, and potential S. American dust and sediment sources, to identify the sources and rates of dust flux to Antarctica over past climate stages. These data are key for atmospheric and climate modelling and for ocean biogeochemists studying iron fertilisation of the Southern Ocean.

Grants awarded

Environmental magnetism: innovative problem-solving in climate change/pollution.

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Sep 2006 - Aug 2012

Value: £90,000

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