SEGH Articles

SEGH2019 Prize Winners Series: Carly Woods

12 August 2019
Carly Woods, a PhD researcher at the University of the West of Scotland, won the second-best overall ECR presentation prize and shares her experience of SEGH2019 with us!

The 35th International Conference on Geochemistry and Health

From 1st -5th July, the 35th International Conference on Geochemistry and Health was held within the Business School building at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Delegates from around the world attended and contributions were made in the form of 6 keynote presentations, platform presentations and poster presentations.  These covered a number of interesting themes which highlighted the core SEGH focus of the link between geochemical environment and health in the broad area of environmental chemistry.


External of the Business building at MMU, site of the 2019 SEGH conference.

The first sessions of the conference were initiated with interesting keynote talks by Prof. David Manning, Newcastle University (Carbon Capture Gardens: a new function for urban wastelands) and Prof. Ricardo Godoi, Federal University of Parana State (Long-term accumulation of perchlorate aerosol combined with geothermal heat flux may contribute to basal ice lubrication at West Antarctica).  These presentations seamlessly integrated with the day’s platform presentation themes of ‘Urban wastelands: potential for enhancing urban resilience’ and ‘Environmental change: impact on the environment & human health’ respectively.

The topics of New Technologies and Environmental Monitoring were represented by various engaging presentations, including those of the keynote speakers: Dr Kirsty Shaw, MMU (Lab-on-a-chip in the environment) and Prof. Stuart Harrad, University of Birmingham (The Organic Flame Retardant Story: Knowns and Unknowns).

Finally, a keynote address by Sarah Dack, Public Health England (The problem of “Background” in contaminated land assessment) lead presentations into the topic of Environmental Health then Dr Haleh Moravej, MMU (Health awareness and wellbeing in Student Population) introduced presentations on Sustainable Nutrition & Agriculture.  Following this, Dr Moravej with some of the team from MetMUnch (MMU based, student-led enterprise promoting sustainable and nutritious food) encouraged full participation in a hands-on workshop of kimchi making to re-inforce the topical conversation of nutrition and food waste prevention.


MetMUnch engagement event, delegates await instruction on food waste tip:  don’t throw away your old food, ferment it to produce long-lasting Korean side dish kimchi.  Image credit: @MetMUnch twitter page.

All presentations evoked interest from delegates of various backgrounds, allowing opportunity for networking and collaborative prospects.  Furthermore, early career researchers were introduced in a specially arranged lunch event.

Additionally to the sessions, the conference had an eventful social programme which included: a welcome mixer; a visit to the much enjoyed Manchester City Football Academy; a formal conference dinner within the luxury Midland Hotel; a pub crawl; and a day trip to the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, giving participants the chance to absorb some of the surrounding Mancunian culture. 


Delegates outside Etihad Stadium, home of the Manchester City football team, post-tour. 


Delegates gathered in front of the Edwardian façade of the prestigious Midland Hotel after enjoying a formal three-course conference dinner. 

At the closing ceremony, it was announced that the 2020 SEGH conferences would be held at two separate events in Kenya and China. 

The closing ceremony initiated with the exciting news that the 2020 SEGH conferences would be held in two separate events in Kenya then in China, whilst Dr Michael Watts (Head of Inorganic Geochemistry at the British Geological Survey) was re-elected as SEGH president with overwhelming support from all delegates.  This session concluded with the prize-giving ceremony and the three Springer prizes were awarded as follows:

  • Tatiana Cocerva (Queen’s University Belfast), Best student oral presentation
  • Carly Woods (University of the West of Scotland), Outstanding student oral presentation
  • Amy Sansby (University of Nottingham), Best student poster presentation


SEGH 2019 prize winners, Tatiana Cocerva (left), Carly Woods (middle), and Amy Sansby, (right) receiving Springer awards from Prof Andrew Hursthouse, UWS.  Image courtesy of SEGH.

To reiterate one of the messages of the conference, SEGH is planning to release a special edition journal following this conference and encourages members to send suggestions for articles to Dr Sanja Potgeiter-Vermaak:

Special thanks to the conference chair, Dr Sanja Potgieter-Vermaak, co-chair Dr David Megson, the organising committee, and the national and international scientific committee members of SEGH for their hard work in making this event a success.  Additional thanks to MMU for hosting this event.

For further information, including the conference programme and abstracts, please see the MMU SEGH Conference Page.

Image credits: @SocEGH twitter page unless otherwise stated.

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Science in the News

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

  • Ecological impact of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin on microbial community of aerobic activated sludge 2019-08-16


    This study investigated the effects and fate of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (CIP) at environmentally relevant levels (50–500 µg/L) in activated sludge (AS) microbial communities under aerobic conditions. Exposure to 500 µg/L of CIP decreased species diversity by about 20% and significantly altered the phylogenetic structure of AS communities compared to those of control communities (no CIP exposure), while there were no significant changes upon exposure to 50 µg/L of CIP. Analysis of community composition revealed that exposure to 500 µg/L of CIP significantly reduced the relative abundance of Rhodobacteraceae and Nakamurellaceae by more than tenfold. These species frequently occur in AS communities across many full-scale wastewater treatment plants and are involved in key ecosystem functions (i.e., organic matter and nitrogen removal). Our analyses showed that 50–500 µg/L CIP was poorly removed in AS (about 20% removal), implying that the majority of CIP from AS processes may be released with either their effluents or waste sludge. We therefore strongly recommend further research on CIP residuals and/or post-treatment processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion) for waste streams that may cause ecological risks in receiving water bodies.

  • Source and background threshold values of potentially toxic elements in soils by multivariate statistics and GIS-based mapping: a high density sampling survey in the Parauapebas basin, Brazilian Amazon 2019-08-10


    A high-density regional-scale soil geochemical survey comprising 727 samples (one sample per each 5 × 5 km grid) was carried out in the Parauapebas sub-basin of the Brazilian Amazonia, under the Itacaiúnas Basin Geochemical Mapping and Background Project. Samples were taken from two depths at each site: surface soil, 0–20 cm and deep soil, 30–50 cm. The ground and sieved (< 75 µm) fraction was digested using aqua regia and analyzed for 51 elements by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS). All data were used here, but the principal focus was on the potential toxic elements (PTEs) and Fe and Mn to evaluate the spatial distribution patterns and to establish their geochemical background concentrations in soils. Geochemical maps as well as principal component analysis (PCA) show that the distribution patterns of the elements are very similar between surface and deep soils. The PCA, applied on clr-transformed data, identified four major associations: Fe–Ti–V–Sc–Cu–Cr–Ni (Gp-1); Zr–Hf–U–Nb–Th–Al–P–Mo–Ga (Gp-2); K–Na–Ca–Mg–Ba–Rb–Sr (Gp-3); and La–Ce–Co–Mn–Y–Zn–Cd (Gp-4). Moreover, the distribution patterns of elements varied significantly among the three major geological domains. The whole data indicate a strong imprint of local geological setting in the geochemical associations and point to a dominant geogenic origin for the analyzed elements. Copper and Fe in Gp-1 were enriched in the Carajás basin and are associated with metavolcanic rocks and banded-iron formations, respectively. However, the spatial distribution of Cu is also highly influenced by two hydrothermal mineralized copper belts. Ni–Cr in Gp-1 are highly correlated and spatially associated with mafic and ultramafic units. The Gp-2 is partially composed of high field strength elements (Zr, Hf, Nb, U, Th) that could be linked to occurrences of A-type Neoarchean granites. The Gp-3 elements are mobile elements which are commonly found in feldspars and other rock-forming minerals being liberated by chemical weathering. The background threshold values (BTV) were estimated separately for surface and deep soils using different methods. The ‘75th percentile’, which commonly used for the estimation of the quality reference values (QRVs) following the Brazilian regulation, gave more restrictive or conservative (low) BTVs, while the ‘MMAD’ was more realistic to define high BTVs that can better represent the so-called mineralized/normal background. Compared with CONAMA Resolution (No. 420/2009), the conservative BTVs of most of the toxic elements were below the prevention limits (PV), except Cu, but when the high BTVs are considered, Cu, Co, Cr and Ni exceeded the PV limits. The degree of contamination (Cdeg), based on the conservative BTVs, indicates low contamination, except in the Carajás basin, which shows many anomalies and had high contamination mainly from Cu, Cr and Ni, but this is similar between surface and deep soils indicating that the observed high anomalies are strictly related to geogenic control. This is supported when the Cdeg is calculated using the high BTVs, which indicates low contamination. This suggests that the use of only conservative BTVs for the entire region might overestimate the significance of anthropogenic contamination; thus, we suggest the use of high BTVs for effective assessment of soil contamination in this region. The methodology and results of this study may help developing strategies for geochemical mapping in other Carajás soils or in other Amazonian soils with similar characteristics.

  • Uptake of Cd, Pb, and Ni by Origanum syriacum produced in Lebanon 2019-08-06


    Trace metals are found naturally in soil. However, the increase in industrial and agricultural polluting activities has increased trace metal contamination and raised high concerns in the public health sector. The study was conducted on Origanum syriacum, one of the most consumed herbs in the Middle East, and was divided into three parts. (1) Pot experiment: to study the effect of Cd, Pb, or Ni levels in soil on their uptake by O. syriacum. (2) Field samples: collected from major agricultural regions in Lebanon to analyze Cd, Pb, and Ni concentrations in soil and leaves. (3) Sale outlets samples: to measure the levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in O. syriacum tissues in the market. Results showed that there was a positive correlation between levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in soil and those in O. syriacum tissues. None of the field samples contained Pb or Ni that exceeded the maximum allowable limits (MAL). Three samples collected from heavily poultry-manured soil contained Cd higher than the MAL. Samples collected from sale outlets did not exceed the MAL for Ni but two exceeded the MAL for Cd and one for Pb. Trace metal contamination is not a major concern in O. syriacum produced in Lebanon. Only one mixture sample from a sale outlet was higher in Pb than the MAL and three samples from heavily manured fields exceeded the MAL for Cd.