Heritage scientists are recognising that with the prevalent onset of climate change, there will be significant increases in the chemical weathering of stone heritage monuments in ways that are currently unknown. Sandstones are considered to be particularly susceptible to chemical weathering change and are especially important to the heritage of Scotland, resultantly, my PhD project will undertake a series of climatically controlled experiments on contrasting sandstone types, including those associated with Neolithic and Iron Age sites in Orkney and Shetland (UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Tentative Listed World Heritage Sites - Middle Old Red Sandstones).
The work will first appraise stone quality in the field through high resolution ortho-corrected photography and then proceed at the Environmental Control Laboratories at the University of Stirling (with field-based control). This will allow systematic acceleration of climate change parameters together with their seasonal and annual cycles. A particular innovative feature of this work will be the testing of conservation interventions, including testing scale models of coverings that are being proposed for both Iron Age and carved stone sites. Once these experiments are complete micromorphological and micro-chemical analyses will be undertaken at the Micromorphology Laboratory, University of Stirling. The stone material will be manufactured as thin sections and changing micro-stratigraphic architecture quantitatively assessed by image analyses. Associated chemical weathering patterns expressed in changes in elemental and compound composition will be assessed through scanning electron microscope with emission dispersive spectroscopy. This programme of research is a key part of the University’s Environment, Heritage and Sustainable Futures research theme.
The programme is in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the lead public body with responsibility for the management and conservation of the historic environment in Scotland. The programme will identify optimum conservation solutions for sandstone monuments providing improved decision making for heritage managers and conservation professionals. In doing so it will support economic value through the visitor economy in rural areas, and bring social benefit through our ongoing work with local community groups in the study areas.