SEGH Articles

The new SEGH President: Andrew Hursthouse

08 September 2013
Professor Andrew Hursthouse formally took over the position of President of SEGH in August 2013 following election by the SEGH board.

Professor Andrew Hursthouse takes over from Professor Xiang-dong Li who has served as President of SEGH from 2011.  Andrew has been involved in the SEGH for over 20 years as a member, regional representative of Europe and International Board member.

Professor Andrew Hursthouse is Head of Physical Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland, based in Paisley near Glasgow, Scotland. He obtained a BSc in Geochemistry from the University of Reading followed by a PhD in Environmental Radioactivity from the University of Glasgow. His research interests cover geochemical contributions to assessing the degradation of environmental quality in urban environments, the remediation of soils and sediments and waste management, nutrition and health as well as the link between science and environmental regulation and policy. Professor Hursthouse has published more than 130 peer reviewed journal articles, proceedings and reports for industry and government organizations. He has worked extensively with small and large businesses on environmental management and impact issues. The current focus of his research is on risk assessment in urban agriculture and improving our understanding of geochemical controls in waste regulation for the steel industry.  

We take the opportunity to ask a few questions of Andrew to gain an insight into his experience as an environmental scientist, member of SEGH and his hopes for the future of SEGH.

What are your hopes for the future of SEGH and how do you intend to lead the SEGH forward as the new President?

I hope we can sustain recent growth in interests and membership of the Society, ensuring a regular series of meetings across our regional networks. Some geographical areas have been extremely active, whilst others less so. We have interests from developing as well as strongly growing economies. I intend to work hard to encourage activity in all regions and identify individuals and groups to lead this. During the Presidency of Professor Li, we have already established strong communication structures with our collaborating organisations (IMGA, IAGC) to ensure the International Symposium for Environmental Geochemistry, has a regular and identifiable planning mechanism. Our journal Environmental Geochemistry & Health continues to grow in impact through the efforts of the Editor in Chief Prof Ming Wong, the publisher Springer, and editorial board members. The SEGH Board has a role in ensuring the excellent science undertaken by our members has an opportunity to be presented at high visibility meetings and in our journal, which I intend to promote. Ensuring regular SEGH meetings, encouraging early career researchers to participate and develop their careers with SEGH support must be a central aim of our organisation and the focus of board members.

 

What are the important challenges that face SEGH in the future?

Collaboration between different specialities is at the heart of SEGH and was one of the founding principles of the organisation. Meetings and discussions are enriched by this fact and have provided us with opportunities not often encountered in single discipline groups. The efforts of SEGH members to encourage and sustain this interaction is a key challenge – the contributions from disciplines unquestionably provide a greater understanding of current issues, but also presents some difficulties in sharing understanding in some areas as the scientific language and approach can vary. The role SEGH meetings have in providing a platform for those discussions to take place and collaborations to develop, should not be underestimated. Expanding this activity, across our regional networks, is a key challenge for the future. We need to ensure our organisation has a balanced representation across scientific disciplines as well as strong organisational structures to maintain the frequency of our meetings and opportunities for scientists from all stages in their careers to interact.

 

With the advent of communications technology and increasing globalisation, how do you think SEGH could reach out to the developing countries with limited resources and the emerging economic powerhouses to promote scientific collaboration across boundaries?

We are already doing a lot to encourage this. Our regional meetings have benefited from participation by scientists from developing countries and the organisers of our events have been very supportive in reducing financial burdens and providing access to low cost facilities. Our journal publisher, Springer has put in place schemes to help institutions in developing regions to access journals and SEGH membership offering additional access encourages this to be taken up by individuals. We can offer further support to scientists in these regions, through the SEGH board members. This can, and has included discussions and advice to support the development of regional groups, educational development in higher education institutions and their teaching programmes. To encourage future environmental geochemists and health professionals to engage with SEGH beyond meetings and events we can provide support for the development of robust research programmes and help to identify opportunities for financial support.

 


What do you think are the major scientific issues facing the society’s area of research and how could SEGH take a lead role in these?

As the human population and economies grow, there are considerable pressures on natural resources and with increasing urbanization, human populations are concentrated and their activities often over exploit resources. This leads to increased exposure at both local and regional level, to a range of common pollutants and many new or emerging substances. Environmental geochemistry as a scientific discipline has a key contribution to understanding the impact from chemical substances and with health professionals the consequences for the human population. Future challenges will be in how this rebounds on human behaviour, in light of other drivers, e.g. developing economies and social systems, climate change, which may alter the nature of exposure and affect risk assessments. SEGH must ensure it leads discussions and its meeting organisers encouraged to deal with these topics in session themes and invited keynote speakers. The SEGH board can do a lot to encourage this activity and promote discussion of emerging challenges.


During your scientific career, how has your membership of SEGH benefited you personally? What do you think are the advantages of early – mid – late career scientists joining SEGH?

I have been a supporter of SEGH ever since I participated in my first SEGH conference in the early 1990’s. The meetings have always been lively and broad in content as well as highlighting topical issues. This has helped to encourage me to pursue my research programme, often through difficult financial and organizational periods, where sustaining activities has been a challenge. SEGH has provided external points to help justify my efforts to my peers and mangers. Association with a successful and active scientific organisation has always benefited my career path. My research students have been able to interact with senior scientists and their own peer group. Exchanging experience and finding out about wider scientific community is always a benefit. For early career scientists, it helps to make new contacts and to provide that first step in raising your own research profile. Mid career SEGH offers a chance to find new collaborations, strengthen your research plans and get feedback on your research ideas in a friendly and supportive environment. Those late career scientists will always benefit from engaging with early and mid-career scientists – discussing new ideas as well as offering support to enthusiastic scientists of the future. The SEGH meetings have always provided this – excellent science, good discussion and debate, well organised and new opportunities for your research.

 

Further details will be announced for the regional structure of SEGH.

Interview by Michael Watts

SEGH Webmaster

Keep up to date

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Fate and partitioning of heavy metals in soils from landfill sites in Cape Town, South Africa: a health risk approach to data interpretation 2019-06-14

    Abstract

    The fate and persistence of trace metals in soils and sludge from landfill sites are crucial in determining the hazard posed by landfill, techniques for their restoration and potential reuse purposes of landfill sites after closure and restoration. A modified European Community Bureau of Reference’s (BCR) sequential extraction procedure was applied for partitioning and evaluating the mobility and persistence of trace metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Zn) in soils from three landfill sites and sludge sample from Cape Town, South Africa. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy was used to analyze BCR extracts. The mobility sequence based on the BCR mobile fraction showed that Cu (74–87%), Pb (65–80%), Zn (59–82%) and Cd (55–66%) constituted the mobile metals in the soils from the three sites. The mobility of Cu, Zn and Ni (> 95%) was particularly high in the sludge sample, which showed significant enrichment compared to the soil samples. Geo-accumulation index (Igeo) and risk assessment code were used to further assess the environmental risk of the metals in the soils. Exposure to the soils and sludge did not pose any non-cancer risks to adult and children as the hazard quotient and hazard index values were all below the safe level of 1. The cancer risks from Cd, Cr and Ni require that remedial action be considered during closure and restoration of the landfill sites.

  • An investigation into the use of < 38 µm fraction as a proxy for < 10 µm road dust particles 2019-06-13

    Abstract

    It is well documented that a large portion of urban particulate matters is derived from road dust. Isolating particles of RD which are small enough to be inhaled, however, is a difficult process. In this study, it is shown for the first time that the < 38 µm fraction of road dust particles can be used as a proxy for road dust particles < 10 µm in bioaccessibility studies. This study probed similarities between the < 10 and < 38µm fractions of urban road dust to show that the larger of the two can be used for analysis for which larger sample masses are required, as is the case with in vitro analysis. Road dust, initially segregated to size < 38 µm using sieves, was again size segregated to < 10 µm using water deposition. Both the original < 38 µm and the separated < 10 µm fractions were then subject to single particle analysis by SEM–EDX and bulk analysis by ICP-OES for its elemental composition. Dissolution tests in artificial lysosomal fluid, representative of lung fluid, were carried out on both samples to determine % bioaccessibility of selected potentially harmful elements and thus probe similarities/differences in in vitro behaviour between the two fractions. The separation technique achieved 94.3% of particles < 10 µm in terms of number of particles (the original sample contained 90.4% as determined by SEM–EDX). Acid-soluble metal concentration results indicated differences between the samples. However, when manipulated to negate the input of Si, SEM–EDX data showed general similarities in metal concentrations. Dissolution testing results indicated similar behaviour between the two samples in a simulated biological fluid.

  • Degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in unsaturated soil and effects on subsequent biodegradation by potassium permanganate 2019-06-13

    Abstract

    To date, the oxidation of petroleum hydrocarbons using permanganate has been investigated rarely. Only a few studies on the remediation of unsaturated soil using permanganate can be found in the literature. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first study conducted using permanganate pretreatment to degrade petroleum hydrocarbons in unsaturated soil in combination with subsequent bioaugmentation. The pretreatment of diesel-contaminated unsaturated soil with 0.5-pore-volume (5%) potassium permanganate (PP) by solution pouring and foam spraying (with a surfactant) achieved the total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) removal efficiencies of 37% and 72.1%, respectively. The PP foam, when coupled with bioaugmentation foam, further degraded the TPH to a final concentration of 438 mg/kg (92.1% total reduction). The experiment was conducted without soil mixing or disturbance. The relatively high TPH removal efficiency achieved by the PP–bioaugmentation serial foam application may be attributed to an increase in soil pH caused by the PP and effective infiltration of the remediation agent by foaming. The applied PP foam increased the pH of the acidic soil, thus enhancing microbial activity. The first-order biodegradation rate after PP oxidation was calculated to be 0.068 d−1. Furthermore, 94% of the group of relatively persistent hydrocarbons (C18–C22) was removed by PP–bioaugmentation, as verified by chromatogram peaks. Some physicochemical parameters related to contaminant removal efficiency were also evaluated. The results reveal that PP can degrade soil TPH and significantly enhance the biodegradation rate in unsaturated diesel-contaminated soil when combined with bioaugmentation foam.