Thursday, 19 January 2017

Dr Christian Dunn on Twitter

I try to keep my Twitter feed regularly updated so please follow me there and get in-touch.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Writing for BBC Wildlife Magazine

I've started writing for the BBC Wildlife Magazine as one of their 'experts' answering questions.

So far I've written about the following:
  • How wet are wetlands?
  • Could mangroves grow in the UK?
  • How have wolves changed the flow of rivers? 
I've got some more questions to come and it's a real pleasure to write for the magazine that helped inspire my interest in natural history.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

BBC Science Cafe - review of the year 2015

At the end of last year I was invited by BBC Wales' Science Cafe to review some of the big science news stories of 2015. 

The programme's presenter, Adam Walton, spoke to myself Dr Stephanie Wilson, also from Bangor University, and Dr Chris North from Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy.

For more details on the show visit the page on the BBC Science Cafe website.

I spoke about the peat forest fires in Indonesia, the recent flooding in the UK and COP21.

It's always great to help with the Science Cafe series though I wasn't quite sure how to take being introduced by Adam as 'the Mud Doctor'!

Follow the link the listen to BBC Science Cafe - review of the year 2015.

Monday, 16 November 2015

BBC Science Cafe visit the Migneint blanket bog

I recently appeared on a programme for BBC Radio Wales' Science Cafe series, in which I talked about the Migneint blanket bog in Snowdonia.

It was a really fun show to be involved with as I got to walk around the site with the presenter, Adam Walton, and explain about the importance of such ecosystems.

The idea for the Migneint programme came after a conversation between myself and the producer of the Science Cafe, so it was great to be involved with it from the start.

You can listen to the programme here: BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe

I also wrote a press release for Bangor University, which can be read below, or by following the link:

Bangor University wetland scientists star in BBC show

Wetland scientists from Bangor University have featured in a BBC show on one of Wales’ most important habitats.

Two members of the Bangor Wetlands Group at the  School of Biological Sciences appeared on BBC Radio Wales’ popularScience Café series.

Prof Chris Freeman and Dr Christian Dunn spoke to the programme’s host, Adam Walton, about the importance of the Migneint – a vast area of blanket bog in North Wales.

Dr Christian Dunn, who runs the Wetland Science and Conservation MSc at Bangor University said:
“It was great that Adam and the Science Café team were interested in seeing the Migneint.

“These areas of peatlands, which literally blanket some of our mountains, often get overlooked but they’re incredibly important wetlands for a whole host of reasons.

“Not only do they provide unique habitats for animals and plants but they can help prevent flooding, affect the quality of our drinking water and even control climate change – due to the amount of carbon stored in them.”

Prof Chris Freeman, who is the head of the School of Biological Sciences, said: “It’s always good to show people just how important our peatlands are and to highlight some of the work we’re doing here at Bangor University on the subject.

“The Migneint is a stunning place and a lot of important research has been done there.”

“It does obviously rain there quite a bit though; fortunately the weather was great when the Science Café came so they had a great day exploring the site and no-one got their feet too wet!” he added.

The programme is available to listen to from the BBC Science Café website:

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Make an affordable desktop aquaponic system

Aquaponics is the process of growing plants using water from a stock of fish - crucially the plants act as filter, cleaning the water so it can be returned to the fish.

This creates a self-sustaining cycle with the dirty water from the fish tank feeding the plants and the returned  clean water keeping the fish healthy.

In terms of growing plants, aquaponics is basically just a standard hydroponic system using the waste water from a fish tank as the nutrient solution.

I'd read about aquaponic systems but never really seen one working, so I decided to build one myself.

I wanted to make a small system which could fit on my desk, be cheap and relatively portable incase was needed it for lectures or demonstrations.

The design I came up with was really simple, affordable and quick to make, and involved using two stackable plastic storage containers.
The containers needed to set-up a desktop aquaponics system
Stackable plastic storage containers used to make the
desktop aquaopnics system

The fish would be in the bottom container and the plants, growing in gravel, in the top.

I drilled a hole in the top container and attached some simple plumbers' pipe, which allowed me to adjust the level of the water reservoir in this container.

Gravel was added to the top container to such a depth it was about 2cm above the new outlet pipe.

I put a simple plastic container over the outlet pipe which still allowed water to flow out, but stopped any gravel blocking the outlet or falling down it.

A pump was then used to move a steady stream of water from the bottom container to the top one.

Although the constant trickle of water from the outlet pipe of the top container, may have been enough to oxygenate the water for the fish I added an additional air pump to the bottom container, just in case.

The outlet in the top container of the
desktop aquaponics system
After letting the system settle for a while I bought two goldfish and a pot of basil - a plant which apparently does well in these systems.

I added the fish to the bottom container, rinsed the soil off the basil and planted it in the gravel and that was it.

Altogether the whole aquaponics system has cost around £30 (about $50) and is pretty compact and portable.

The system has now been running for just under four weeks on my desk near a large window and I'm amazed at how successful it's been so far.

The water in the bottom container looks relatively clear, the fish seem healthy and the basil is flourishing.

The ease and success of such an aquaponics system has really got me thinking about the potential of aquaponics, in terms of providing a relatively sustainable source of food and their use in urban farming.

Although I'm still debating whether an aqaupnoics system could be classified as a wetland - I certainly think they need some more research!

Desktop aquaponics system - after set-up 
Desktop aquaponics system - four weeks after set-up. Fish and plants doing well.  

Monday, 30 March 2015

Wetland conservation at Countess of Chester Country Park

I recently visited the Countess of Chester Country Park and was delighted to see areas of wetlands featuring so heavily there.

The park is just next to Chester's main hospital and was officially opened last year.

Whilst my eldest daughter was receiving some treatment the other week I went for a walk and found that the designers of the park have included plenty of wetland areas.

I think this is absolutely fantastic and shows that we really are starting to appreciate our wetlands nowadays.

The wetland areas aren't huge and could easily have been drained but they haven't, instead they've been preserved, protected and even enhanced.

It's fantastic that wetland conservation is now being considered and taken seriously on so many levels.

These wetlands will provide a great habitat for many different plants, birds and animals and the clever design of the park means that visitors will be able to get really close to them without getting their feet wet.

Those of us involved in wetland science and wetland conservation are often explaining the value of the ecosystem services provided by wetlands.

Maybe one of those overlooked services is the importance for human health and well being, which walking around such special places can have on us.

Wouldn't it be great to think that spending time around the nearby wetlands could help improve the recovery of some of the hospital's patients?

My praise for the wetlands at the Countess of Chester Country Park in the Chester Chronicle

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Constructed Farm Wetlands (CFW) research

One of the latest research projects I've set-up at Bangor University combines two of my interests - wetlands (obviously!) and agriculture - by investigating the use of Constructed Farm Wetlands (CFWs)

The work is being supported by some great folk at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and aims to ensure farmers and policy makers in Wales are better informed about the use and application of CFWs.

As the name suggests Constructed Farm Wetlands are a type of treatment wetland which can be used by farmers to help clean-up surface run-off water from farmyards and fields, before it enters the watercourse.

There's even evidence they can be used to store carbon and improve soil fertility, which could be one of the angles we study as the project develops.