Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I thought I would wish everyone reading my blog a Merry Christmas and wish you all the very best for 2007! Its been a great year and I can only hope that it continues into the next year and beyond.

For the second Christmas in a row I will be climbing in another country. Last year I was at Mount Arapiles in Victoria, Australia and this year I will heading back to Joshua Tree National Park for more climbing. Then onto Lake Tahoe, for a bit of skiing, soaking in the hot tub and drinking champagne for New Years....perfect!



My Research, the AGU and Marin Fun

Well since so many people are curious as to what exactly I am really meant to be doing over here, in addition to having the time of my life, I thought I would add a small blurb on my blog. So here goes in layman's terms: "During this postdoctoral research position I am investigating the organic composition of atmospheric aerosol particles. Understanding the organic composition of aerosols are important for two main reasons: (1) many organic compounds are toxic (carcinogenic) to humans and thus have important ramifications for human health and (2) organic compounds, depending on their functionality (loosely in this context - their oxygen content) can influence the ability of aerosols to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and hence they have important effects for the Earths climate as a result of the contribution of clouds to the Earths 'albedo' (or its ability to reflect incoming solar ultraviolet radiation). The organics we can measure can also be used as tracer species for various sources (e.g., levoglucosane, a pyrolysis product of cellulose, is a tracer for wood burning) and for atmospheric oxidation processes. I am working with a novel Thermal desorption Aerosol GC/MS-FID (TAG) instrument developed jointly by the Goldstein group at the University of California – Berkeley and Aerosol Dynamics Inc. (ADI). Recently, this instrument has been used to identify ~300 organic compounds in aerosol particles (diameters less than 2.5 microns) at Riverside, near Los Angeles. A significant focus of my work is also to develop this instrument further by incorporating an additional orthogonal chromatographic separation. The increased resolving power should allow us to to identify ~10000 organic species within the aerosol. The data processing, with an hourly time resolution, will be a unique challenge."

Last week was the American Geosciences Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Fransisco. This conference is huge, ~14000 people, definitely the largest I have ever been too and growing larger each year. This year one of the guest speakers was Al Gore ("the former next president of the USA" - his words not mine). His speech was focused on the role of the media and policymakers in climate change. He's a witty guy, he described his transition from Vice President to now by saying:
"I use to fly on Air Force 2 and NOW I have to take my shoes off to fly!" The conference was good and provided a great opportunity for me to learn a great deal about the aerosol field as well as meeting up with former colleagues and meeting new ones.

Following the conference I spent Sunday at Muir Woods and Muir Beach, with Jen, Liz (UEA) and Matthias (a friend of Liz's from Norway), in Marin County to the North of San Fransisco. Views down the coast towards San Fransisco (top photos) and on Muir Beach (bottom photos) were great.