I am a numerical modeller with experiences ranging from hydrometeorology to geomorphology, and am interested in how sediment processes contribute to the evolution of flood risk. I'm also a keen science communicator and I lead the SeriousGeoGames Lab which uses new and emerging technologies to share research. My Fellowship will draw on all this experience to look at the links between sediment processes and flood resilience, developing a novel modelling framework able to forecast the impacts of sediments on flood risk, and bringing this to the people who need to know.
We have some exciting news! We have teamed up with the Environment Agency and sociologists at Lancaster University to create a brand new 360 experience. The new video will tell the story of Callum, a young boy whose house was flooded, using his own words, and seeing through his eyes.
Often the story of flood recovery is an untold one. Houses and streets underwater make good headlines but once the water has drained away, who is left to tell the story of those left behind to try and rebuild their lives? A recent survey of those impacted by flooding in Hull in 2007, conducted by the Energy and Environment Institute and commissioned by the Living with Water Partnership, highlighted the issues of flood recovery, finding that 90% of those affected suffered additional health and wellbeing impacts. A crucial way of improving this is to tell the stories of flood survivors.
Children and young people can be severely affected by flooding. They are seldom given the tools to know what to do in a flood or how to cope with being uprooted from their homes, schools, and friends for a long time. Researchers at Lancaster University developed creative workshops with flood-affected children to help them tell their stories.
One of those stories, Callum’s, is the basis of the new video. Working with developers Lampada Digital Solutions we will put you into Callum’s situation as he and his parents have to deal with flooding in their home. It will help you see the world through the eyes of a young person, helping you understand the unique difficulties children have to deal with, and help you sense the fears and loneliness they feel. Throughout the video we offer pauses for reflection and ask what would you do to help Callum in this situation.
The ability of 360 video to immerse you into a scene combined with a powerful true narrative we hope will spread Callum’s story far and wide – for example, our Inundation Street video has been viewed over 800,000 times in little over six months. We will also be using innovative technology to produce an interactive version to use with our Earth Arcade VR headsets.
Development of the Help Callum experience has started and is due to be completed in early September 2020. Keep an eye of the SeriousGeoGames and Lancaster Twitter accounts to keep up to date with the latest news.
Rainfall is a slippery thing. For those of us in the UK, we are very much aware that it can be raining one minute and then sunny the next, or it can be raining over your house but not over your friend’s house just a few streets away. This makes it a difficult thing to measure accurately and consequently meteorologists use several methods to try and do so.
The simplest way is to use a rain gauge. There are many different designs but, essentially, they are mostly all glorified buckets that fill with water as it rains, although some do take different approaches. They generally give us a good idea of how much rain has fallen at that spot between the times readings are taken. By automating the readings we can get a good idea of how the rainfall rate has changed over time.
Rain gauges cannot tell us how much rain has fallen outside the bucket. This is generally ok if you are still close to the bucket but the further away you get, the more of a problem this becomes. By using lots of rain gauges we can get a better idea of how the rainfall is varying across an area and we can use geostatistics to try and fill the gaps. However, the results will be different depending on the geostatistical method you decide to use.
Weather radar on the other hand is able to tell us the relative intensity of rainfall over an area. The radar sends out signals that are bounced back to it by rain and depending on the timing and strength of that signal we can tell where it is raining, and the areas it is heaviest. It does not directly measure the rain though and it needs calibrating against a reference point. This calibration may be less accurate as you move away from the reference point or if conditions change over time.
The consequence of this is the availability of different methods to measure rainfall, the results of which we call products. Each product will be different in its estimation of where, when, and how much rain has fallen and with many computer models of rivers relying on a measurement of rainfall as an input, the choice of product can have a big influence on the results from the model.
Landscape evolution models (LEMs) are designed to model changes to the Earth’s surface, usually over large areas and long time periods (at least one hundred years). Some of these models have become sophisticated and fast enough they can be used to explore more local and shorter-term changes. They need to use a rainfall product to run yet only rarely does a product exist that has a record long enough to cover the time scales simulated. Instead, we can use weather generators that take the characteristics of rain as recorded by a product to create long records of rainfall that are possible and likely based on the data.
In newly published led by EEI Research Fellow, Chris Skinner, a weather generator was used to produce long rainfall records based on different rainfall products, as well as a combination of information taken from each product. These synthetic records of rainfall were used to run a landscape evolution model for periods of 50 and 1500 years, finding that the patterns of erosion and deposition varied along a river depending on which product was initially used.
Due to the relationship between river flows and the movement of sediment in rivers, something known as the geomorphic multiplier, a small increase in river flow can result in a large increase in the amount of material eroded and transported by the river. This makes models of erosion and deposition extremely sensitive to changes in rainfall and consequently, the initial choice of rainfall product used can have a big influence on the model results.
As these modelling approaches are increasingly used to help understand the impacts of climate change or to help predict flood risk, understanding how the choice of rainfall product can impact results is crucial and needs to be properly managed by modellers.
Last week we launched our new game, Crabby’s Reef, in time for World Ocean’s Day. Since then it has been played hundreds of times through our website, yet still no one has managed to beat my top score!
For an extra fun way to play the game, you can actually use bananas instead of your keyboard buttons. Yes, you read that right, you can play using bananas!
It is quite appropriate, as everyone knows Bananaman is the greatest superhero.
All you need is a Makey-Makey and some bananas* – hook everything up making sure you remember which banana controls what, and off you go.
Show us your attempts on Twitter and let us know if you get on the Leader’s Board!
Today is World Oceans Day, a day to reflect on the importance of the oceans and marine life. Sadly, it is also a day to reflect upon the damage we are doing them. We are all aware of the dumping of plastics into the ocean and the spread of micro-plastics, however, most of us are probably not aware of the hidden impacts of climate change on the oceans – ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is caused when CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. The CO2 reacts with sea water creating carbonic acid. The large quantities of CO2 human activity is dumping into the atmosphere is increasing the amount absorbed by the oceans, causing the ocean waters to become more acidic over time. This all has impacts on ocean environments, like reefs, and can cause marine mammals difficulties in finding food and shelter.
Despite the potentially devastating impacts of ocean acidification, a study found that almost 75 % of the British public had never even heard of it.
Dr Christina Roggatz is a researcher at the Energy and Environment Institute and her work has been highlighting the impacts ocean acidification has on marine life, such as crabs. She has been taking her research into schools and providing students the opportunity to conduct their own experiments to better understand the issue. We worked together, supported by our friends at BetaJester, to produce our new game, Crabby’s Reef.
Crabby’s Reef is our first classic arcade-style game. You play as Crabby, a crab, and you need to collect food to keep your health up. You also have to avoid the octopuses that would make you dinner. The game play should be familiar but there is a twist – with each new level the acidification of the water increases a little, dampening your senses, making it harder to find food and avoid predators.
The game is not meant to teach you everything about ocean acidification, although there is more information on our game page, but we hope it will introduce the issue more widely and start some conversations. We also hope you have fun.
Crabby’s Reef is available to play on PC now on our site – visit the game page here.
This World Oceans Day we encourage you to support The Deep. The Deep is an international player in marine conservation, working on pioneering research schemes to protect the future of our oceans. Conservation is at the heart of everything they do. Without visitors during the Covid-19 lockdown, The Deep have lost valuable income required to continue this work. We urge you to please support them in any way you feel appropriate – visit their site – buy from their gift shop – donate directly.
We have big plans for Crabby’s Reef. We have secured funding from the European Geoscience Union to construct an arcade booth to house the game so once public events begin once more, we will be able to take Crabby on tour. The aim was always to make a virtual reality game for Crabby, a game that would show you the impact on Crabby’s world first-hand – this is the next step for the project and something we are currently seeking funding for.
Hope you enjoy the game, please don’t beat my high score!
The annual General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union, or EGU, sadly is not meeting in Vienna this year. However, the organisers have pulled off no less than a miracle, transferring a conference of ~16,000 people to 100% online in less than five weeks. It’s an amazing feat, and surely will help reduce the carbon footprint, and democratise, the sharing of the science in the future. The conference started this week and is free to attend – check out the website for more.
The SeriousGeoGames Lab is involved in a number of presentations and activities across the week, and I just want to highlight some of these here.
First, the Geoscience Games Night is back in an online format on Wednesday 6th May, 16:15 CEST (15:15 in the UK). Last year we had over 300 people attend the physical event so hopefully many will tune in to watch the crew play games together online and chat about geoscience, games, and where they intersect. Find out more here.
The Games for Geoscience science session is scheduled for a chat on Thursday May 7, starting at 18:15 CEST (17:15 in the UK). You can view and comment on the display materials now, until the end of May. Find out how researchers are using games to aid and share their work.
Research featuring members of the Energy and Environment Institute is being shared across the week. All these displays are open for comments outside of the chat sessions right up until the end of May, so don’t worry if you’ve missed them –
We hope you are all keeping yourselves as safe as possible during the current period. We are very much missing being out and about and sharing our games and activities with everyone. To help share some of our work, Chris will be making short video tutorials and the first revisits the very beginnings of the SeriousGeoGames Lab and how we model the impacts sea level rise will have on flood risk.
The model used by Chris in the video is the Beta version of Humber in a Box (our first virtual reality activity) as used at Hull SciFest in 2014. The model code and data from this model were used by the developers to build into Unity-3D and add the beautiful, immersive, graphics. Sadly, Humber in a Box can no longer be used but you can get an idea of what it was like in the video below.
To go alongside the new tutorial, we are making the files for Humber in a Box Beta available so you can try it at home. It should run reasonably well on any modern PC. For a guide on how to get it running, skip to 10 minutes through the tutorial. Files can be downloaded from here.
Don’t forget to check out our previous post on how to use Flash Flood! from home too.
We find ourselves in difficult and testing times. We would love to be out there and sharing our games and virtual reality simulations with everyone but we at home doing the right thing. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot share some of games with you and we’ll be sharing these as we can.
Flash Flood! has been our flagship activity for many years and has seen several iterations. There are several ways you can enjoy it from home, the easiest being the 360 videos available on YouTube. These can be viewed on a Desktop, where you can navigate the direction of view using your mouse, but are best viewed on a Tablet or Phone (via the YouTube app NOT a browser) where you can change the direction of view by moving your device.
There are two versions. One with narration to guide you through –
And one with just sound effects intended for use in classes where someone will guide the group –
If you’re viewing on a phone and have a cardboard headset, click the google icon on the screen and place your phone into the headset for a VR-like experience.
Obviously, the best way to experience Flash Flood! is to play it. You can do this too by downloading the Desktop version. This was designed to work on a reasonably low spec of PC and can be operated with either an XBOX controller or just a keyboard and mouse.
Download the files from SourceForge here. If you have an XBOX controller choose FlashFloodDesktopInstall.exe and FlashFloodDesktopNoRadialsInstall.exe if you do not. Controls can be found in the Flash Flood Quick Start and Controls PDF document.
Whichever method you choose, the Living Manual (also in SourceForge) provides some background information, guidance for using it, and advice for using it in teaching. This document has not been updated for a while and we will be reviewing it in the next few days. We welcome submission of ideas of how to use these simulations to include in the Living Manual, if you’d like to contribute please contact us at seriousgeogames at hull dot ac dot uk.
We’d also love to hear your suggestions for content you’d like to see from us, feel free to ask and we’ll try our best. Keep yourselves safe and happy.
The Games for Geoscience sessions have been a huge success for the last two years at the European Geoscience Union General Assembly, with packed out science sessions and awesome Geoscience Games Nights. Don’t believe me, then check out this EGU blog on the 2019 EGU Games Day. This year we’ve decided to share this awesomeness across the pond and are bringing the Games for Gesocience sessions to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting for the first time.
Geoscience Games Night – Monday 9 the December 18:30 – 20:00 – Moscone South, Student and Early Career Scientist Lounge, Moscone South 5-6
Just like at the EGU, the Geoscience Games Night is community led and relies on people bringing their own games to play and share, so we really encourage you to do this – especially if they help us learn about and understand geoscience and environmental issues! We can help you publicise your games too, just drop me a message.
Hope you all have fun in San Francisco and make sure you share your thoughts, and photos, using #Games4Geo so I can follow along from home. Oh, and don’t forget, the call for abstracts for Season 3 of Games for Geoscience EGU is now open.
Freedom Festival is THE event in Hull. It all began in 2007 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, an act passed after decades of work by Hull-born independent MP, William Wilberforce. Since 2007 it has grown massively, and in 2018 the festival had over 130,000 visitors.
“Excellent arts and culture can change lives and communities, by transmitting fundamental human values and inspiring all ages to embrace and celebrate freedom. We’ve seen it. It may be no surprise then that our ambition is founded on the legacy of Hull-born freedom advocate, William Wilberforce” – Freedom Festival website.
Chris demoing Humber in a Box at Freedom Festival 2015
SeriousGeoGames has been involved in three previous Freedom Festivals, starting in 2015 when we demoed Humber in a Box, and including 2016 when the virtual reality version of Flash Flood! was demoed to the public for the first time. With the Earth Arcade, we have the perfect opportunity to take things to the next level, and the Earth Arcade at Freedom Festival really will be something special.
The name Earth Arcade is meant to loosely evoke a sense of Arcadia – a mythical utopia where human society and the natural world live together in harmony. This is the future we hope for, the future we are striving to build, and we hope to inspire others to come with us on that journey. To create our mini-Arcadia we have teamed up with colleagues from the University’s School of the Arts to design the exhibit.
We will be exploring the impacts of the world’s most pressing environmental issues through our activities Flash Flood! Vol.2, Plastic Fishing, Top Trumps: Rivers, and small games on our Ipad stations. You will be able to find out how climate change and sea level rise will impact our city, Hull, and the wider Humber through our new and improved Rising Tide game on our big screen.
Freedom Festival will also see the debut of an exciting new activity space. The Forest is something a bit different to the rest of the Earth Arcade, and sci-comm in general. It is a quieter, reflective, and mindful space where people can sit and think about nature, with a small library of stories and ideas and crafts and workshops to inspire people to engage with nature more. We will be using theatrical and scenographic techniques to help people engage, such as interactive soundscapes.
Finally, we will be offering advice on how people can respond to the environmental issues explored, offering them the chance to sign up to becoming an Earth Arcade Champion by committing to making small changes in their own lives.
It is going to be brilliant and we hope to see you there!
The Prague Quadrennial of Scenography and Design is a conference for theatre makers, unsurprisingly held in Prague every four years. Over 11 days, 15,000 people will attend the conference, making it a huge event. My wife, Amy, is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance and was chairing a panel at the conference, so I decided to tag along – I did so four years ago and found it inspiring, check out my previous blog from then.
We have been conscious about our carbon budget so decided we would take the train instead of flying. Unfortunately, unless you pay out for an expensive sleeper train, the journey from Hull to Prague is a little too long to do in one day so we split our journey via Brussels. Our planned route was: Hull – London – Brussels – Frankfurt – Nurnberg – Cheb – Prague.
Our route plan for Hull to Prague
Day 1 went ok, but our first train on Day 2 inexplicably terminated at Koln. A guard suggested another route and marked our tickets as no longer having restrictions. Our new route involved a near seven hour train from Koln to Dresden, before a train on to Prague. We settled into our new train and enjoyed seeing a cross-section of Germany, including places like Dortmund and Hannover. All was fine until 40 minutes from Dresden when the train suddenly stopped outside Leipzig. We stayed, electric off, in silence for nearly an hour, missing our connection in Dresden, before limping back to Leipzig and being herded onto an overcrowded train to Dresden.
The view from the train, outside Leipzig
We arrived at Dresden to see the last train to Prague pull out of the station. The nice woman at Passenger Information pointed us towards the coaches and we ended up on a Flix Bus – the bus service for backpackers, we were the oldest ones on there. We arrived in Prague just after midnight. Thankfully, our return journey along the planned route but in reverse went without a hitch, with all six trains on perfect time – a surprise considering the atrocious weather across the UK at that time.
It was stressful and long, but watching the beautiful European countryside whizz by the window was nice, especially across the Czech Republic. The journey took a lot longer than flying and did cost more, so I appreciate that it is a privilege that we were able to travel this way. However, it does allow us to reduce the impact on the environment and society from our travel quite significantly – according to ecopassenger.org we reduced the CO2 we produced by nearly 348 kg, producing less than 24 % than if we flew.
The environmental concern did not end once in Prague – the city has excellent public transport and we travelled everywhere by trams and buying tickets via an App was super easy and convenient. Keep-cups and reusable water bottles are popular, and local shops have plastic bottle deposit schemes. We saw school students participating in the climate strikes, and public areas had information boards highlighting water issues in the country and worldwide.
Climate protests in Prague
Information boards in central Prague showcasing water’s importance to society
At the Prague Quadrennial, or PQ, countries (and regions, like Quebec) are invited to exhibit the best in their scenography and design over the past four years in about a 6m x 6m space. How they choose to do this is up to each country and there is a lot of variance and creativity on display. I was pleased to see several of the exhibits making use of VR but was a little disappointed that most did little more than show flat, low resolution, 360 videos on them – Ireland’s was notable as using high resolution, stereoscopic video, interlaced with graphics (including a creepy eyeball) to show the work of some of their best designers.
Several of the exhibits featured virtual reality, including some with modified headsets
Several of the exhibits chose environmental themes. I was taken by China’s exhibit as it revolved around a long distance train journey Chinese designers travelled to get to past PQ’s – in contrast to today, it was more expensive to fly so had to go by train.
China’s exhibit used lighting, projection, and mobile phones to showcase design inspired by a long distance train journey from China to Prague
Quebec explored whether reducing our use of resources was at odds with creative freedom, and asked whether the performing arts holds the key to renewed environmentalism. They showcased the best in eco-scenography and invited visitors to complete a questionnaire whilst powering a pedal-powered propeller.
Quebec’s exhibited highlighted their designs and use of eco-scenography
Switzerland used a ski-lift carriage and a canvas held on hydraulic rods to visualise snow depth data in three dimensions, responding dynamically as the data changed resolution on the screen – you had a different perspective whether you were on the ground or one the lift.
Switzerland’s ski-lift could visualise environmental data dynamically and in three dimensions
France was one of the winning exhibits and several I spoke to said that it had moved them to tears. On the outside, harsh lights displayed the warning “No Nature, No Future” and on the other side a smoke-filled room with haunting piano music was inhabited by shaking and shivering figures made of the waste of man-made materials. It was bleak and dystopian.
The conference itself engaged with environmentalism, with espresso-sized Keep Cups for sale, and an awesome scheme where if you bought a plastic bottle then Soda Stream, one of the sponsors, would refill it for free with fizzy, flavoured water – this was 200 czk (about £7) well spent, and I really want to buy a Soda Stream now!
The way the exhibits are put together is really inspiring and I have come away with lots of ideas which I will try and use in the Earth Arcade. Portugal’s exhibit, Windows, featured mirrored metal boxes with small holes to peer through – inside were lit up models of stage designs. I would love to use this to hide away scenes of possible futures based on climate scenarios – dare you look inside?
Portugal invited you to spy on miniature design scenes through small windows
Cyprus featured a board room table with a bubbling pool of water in the middle – what about hosting a dinner around this where the water rises and falls, occasionally floods, and dinner guests can choose to purchase food, wooden blocks to hold back water, or extra place mats to raise their dinner?
A board room with a risk of flooding, from Cyprus
In Hungary’s student exhibit you had to walk through hanging plastic sticks and as they cascaded against each other it sounded like rain – through the clear floor beneath your feet were examples of design, details you cannot see outside of the ‘storm’. This was so simple, yet so effective.
I was sad to leave Prague and PQ. It’s a shame it comes around only every four years and I’ll have to wait until 2023 to go again – maybe this artists’ conference wants a resident scientist?