Derek joins US scientists in key Mars research

Professor Derek Jackson with his wife Sandra, daughter Zoe, and sons Adam and Kyle.
Professor Derek Jackson with his wife Sandra, daughter Zoe, and sons Adam and Kyle.

A PORTADOWN man is working with US scientists on research into dunes on Mars.

Professor Derek Jackson, a former pupil of Killicomaine Junior High School and Portadown College, has joined forces with leading figures in California and Arizona.

He said, “We are now working on a number of locations across the surface of Mars, including Gale Crater - the landing site for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity.

“Working alongside leading US scientists from the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona and the Carl Sagan Centre, California, this represents a new and exciting venture for dune research at Ulster.”

Professional Jackson also highlighted the dangers posed to our costal areas during his inaugural address at the University of Ulster.

An internationally renowned coastal scientist, Mr Jackson says our coastlines are a valuable resource but not enough is being done to manage them.

“Management of the beach and dune zone, however, still lacks proper science-led approaches. The beach-dune interface zone where air, land and sea come together is one of the planet’s most physically diverse zones, creating multiple ways in which a coastline evolves over time and space.

“However, nearly every country in the world that possesses a coastline has artificially altered it in some way to accommodate human activities or habitation.

“Scientifically, we have many research tools at our disposal but the real challenge now is how we manage this important resource in a sustainable fashion.”

Present at the lecture was leading coastal scientist Professor Gonzalo Malvarez from the University of Pablo de Olavide, Spain, who has worked closely with Professor Jackson from the early 1990’s. He said, “Ulster’s research in the coastal arena is internationally renowned and Professor Jackson has helped pioneer many new research themes over the last 20 years and I look forward to continuing our strong collaborative research partnership.”

Professor Jackson graduated with an Honours degree in Environmental Science from the University of Ulster before completing his doctorate studies in aeolian sediment transport dynamics at the University of Ulster.

As a member of Ulster’s Environmental Science Research Institute in Coleraine, his research portfolio has led him to investigate coastal areas from Magilligan to the Carribean and the Great Barrier Reef, eanbling a wide range of coastal behaviours to be examined. He believes people are ill-prepared for the impact of climate change.

“The extent of the impact will vary according the coastline’s position above present sea level and its latitude,” said Professor Jackson.

“One thing that is pretty obvious from my research travels is that a coastline is a precious and fascinating natural resource that more often than not is inadequately protected and managed.

“The scientific approaches are now available to help improve this situation but the reality is that many custodians of the coast are ill-prepared for the consequences of climate change and the alteration in the coastal processes it will bring.”