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The Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences includes staff with interests in biological sciences, conservation, ecology, environmental sciences, environmental statistics, geography and waste management. We offer a range of degree programmes and have a number of postgraduate research students. For more information about studying with us please visit http://www.northampton.ac.uk/.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The International Association for Sediment Water Science Conference, South Africa 2014

Mattie Biddulph

In July this year I travelled to Grahamstown, on the Eastern Cape of South Africa for an international conference indulging purely in sediment water science. I had never been to such a specific conference before, so was looking forward to perhaps understanding most of what was going on for a change! Myself, Simon Pulley and Ian Foster took the long journey down south (two planes and many, many hours of waiting in airports) to arrive in a freezing cold but bright and sunny South African winter, which suited Simon and I just fine, as that’s when the spiders decide to stay hidden… Rhodes University had a beautiful campus, and the town itself was a quirky mix of South African and British settlers.

The conference itself was slightly daunting as we both had to chair a session, as well as presenting. Themes covered: sediment fingerprinting, vegetation-sediment relationships, biogeochemistry, connectivity and catchment scale processes, finishing with “framework and tools for management”, which is where my talk slotted in. I presented my PhD research on finding the best methods for testing the effectiveness of mitigation measures, which have been put in place to reduce agricultural sediment pollution and their associated pollutants in England and Wales. River systems in South Africa and the UK are very different, particularly due to climate and geology; despite this, there were some useful ideas to be shared, as there is a strong argument for landowner control, using cheap, sustainable materials and low maintenance methods.

For one day of the conference, it was “fieldtrip day”. Simon and I chose to go on the trip to Addo Elephant Park, where we drove around the game reserve and were lucky enough to see dozens of animals that we definitely would not see at home, including: meerkats, warthog, zebra, kudu, springbok, giraffe and of course, elephants. It was a lovely day out, and apparently Ian’s boat trip along the Mansfield River was equally enjoyable.
Elephants at Addo Elephant Park

We were lucky enough to join some postgrads (Kat and Jordan) and Bennie, a PhD student, for a trip to Compassberg and Nieu Bethesda, a beautiful part of the country where you can be the only souls for at least 10 km around you. It was very interesting to work on some unfamiliar river systems and geomorphological features. We also did some sample collection for Ian’s research, followed by a night in a farmhouse without electricity but a very warm fire and a bottle of brandy! 

Ian testing the nitrate and phosphate of this incredible clean river near Nieu-Bethesda
Bennie, Jordan and Kat from Rhodes University, after some disturbance experiments

It was a fantastic experience, so much so that Simon is still out there, about to begin his post-doc. So far he’s learnt how to use a washing machine but has been without water for 4 days!