About me

I’m Gavin Simpson. For a long time I was a research associate/fellow/‘whatever they decided to call us’ in the Environmental Change Research Centre at UCL. As of Feb 2013 I’ve moved to the Department of Biology at the University of Regina where I have the grand title of Quantitative Environmental Scientist!

My work revolves around lakes and how global environmental changes affect aquatic ecosystems across a range of time-scales. I’m particularly interested in biogeochemistry, especially carbon and nitrogen cycling in upland and remote lakes, and climate change impacts on lakes.

I am a palaeolimnologist by training. Palaeolimnologists study the mud in the bottom of lakes for a wide variety of compounds and remains of plants, algae and animals, to attempt to understand how lakes have evolved over thousands of years and how they respond to environmental change. Despite this background as a palaeolimnologist, most of my current work has involved a large amount of contemporary limnology investigating nitrogen biogeochemistry in upland lakes in the UK and Greenland.

Not by design — for a while maths and I didn’t see eye-to-eye that much at school — I’m also a quantitative (palaeo)ecologist, meaning I have the strange skill of vaguely understanding statistical methods and how these techniques can be applied to answer ecological questions. I develop software in the R language that implements the specialist techniques ecologists and palaeoecologists use to torture their data into submission.

About this blog

Well, that’s enough about me; what’s this blog all about? As I write this, I’m not exactly sure, which will, no doubt, fill you with confidence! I can be an opinionated so-and-so at times and I wanted an outlet for those opinions. Hence this blog. I’ll use it as an a place to air my views about science, the environment and my research, about R and useful tips and tricks I’ve developed or come across over the years, about computing and opensource. From time to time I may even comment on life outside academe. Let’s see how we get on…

This is my personal blog. Anything I post here does not in any way represent the views of my employer, the University of Regina.

Why from the bottom of the heap?

Whilst reading Fred Pearce’s book “Climate Files”, I came across a quote from Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT. A global-warming sceptic and critical of the IPCC, Lindzen described them as being dominated by “guys from the bottom of the heap, such as geographers”. I have an honours degree and PhD in Geography; what better title for my blog?

Why ucfagls?

Well, that’s the userid I had when I was a student at UCL for my first degree. I’ve had that moniker ever since, having never ventured further afield than the corridors of UCL in the past decade and a half. ‘Simpson’ is a fairly common name and there are several ’Gavin Simpson’s out there in the interweb already, so getting a good username etc was proving somewhat complicated unless I wanted to be gavinsimpson134! So ucfagls it is.