Water research at the University of Glasgow

Environment – Current

Prof Marian Scott wins £1.4M EPSRC grant for water, energy and food systems research

Scientists from the University of Glasgow are setting out to help the planet’s population meet its growing demands for water, energy and food.

The University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics has received £1.4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to tackle the challenge.

With the world’s population due to grow to eight billion by 2030, humanity is facing a crisis with predictions of increasing demand and shortages of water, energy and food.

Water and energy are needed to produce food; water is needed to produce energy and, with the advent of biofuels, energy and food are increasingly competing for land. This means that any shortage or disruption of one resource will impact on the other This unbreakable link between all the resources is known as the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus.

The WEFWEBs project will examine data and evidence around the water, energy and food systems, including social, economic, political, institutional and environmental components, and their interactions and dependencies at local, regional and national scales.

The project will use case studies based in Oxford, the Tamar Estuary, Devon and in London to explore the interdependencies in practice.

The researchers will work together with food producers, retailers, utility companies, environmental agencies, local authorities and the public to develop new data and new understandings.

Marian Scott, Professor of Environmental Statistics at the University of Glasgow, will lead the project in partnership with researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Newcastle and Oxford, University College London, Imperial College London, the School of Oriental & African Studies and Rothamsted Research.

Professor Scott said, “The WEFWEBs project will examine the data and evidence for the water, energy and food systems and their interactions and dependencies within the local, regional and national environment. We need to maintain a balance between the sometimes opposing directions that our primary systems are moving in to ensure that we safeguard our ecosystems, while still being able to live sustainably, in a world where demands are increasing.

“To study these systems and their dependencies and interactions, we need to bring together a multitude of different disciplines from the physical, environmental computational and mathematical sciences, with economics, social science, psychology and policy.

“The impact of the work will be to improve the sustainability of our society and provide an improved understanding of the consequences of the choices we make as citizens or as a society.”

The project is one of three funded by £4.5m from EPSRC’s Living with Environmental Change sandpit to support multidisciplinary groups of scientists, with additional support from STFC’s Scientific Computing Department. The other projects are led by the University of Manchester and the University of Southampton.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC said, “This is one of the most important challenges facing the human race, and one of the most complex. The uniqueness of these projects comes from studying all three problems together, something that hasn’t been done before.

 

“These projects are a great opportunity for scientists with expertise in different disciplines to come together to find solutions”.

River network modelling

Here we work with the Environment Agency exploring spatiotemporal modelling of hydrological catchments (Kelly Gallacher) and use high frequency monitoring data to network data statistical models for sensor network data (Amira Elayouty, Glasgow University sensor studentship).

Investigators: Prof Marian Scott; Dr Claire Miller; Prof Susan Waldron

Water quality – data to knowledge

This EPSRC and Scottish Water funded project has used Scottish Water’s extensive monitoring and water quality data to explore data linkages and how statistical modelling can identify effective management strategies and target future management.

Investigators: Prof Marian Scott; Dr Claire Miller; Prof Susan Waldron

Making sense of the environment

This Scottish Sensor System Centre (SSSC) funded project created a river network model, and explored models for high frequency data.

Globolakes

Globolakes

This NERC funded project uses satellite and in-situ monitoring to build a global picture of lakes, assessing quality and coherence of temporal signals. Glasgow have one PDRA, two related PhD studentships and collaboration with Francesco Finazzi, University of Bergamo, Italy.

Find out more: www.globolakes.ac.uk

Investigators: Prof Marian Scott; Dr Claire Miller

Developing a Dissolved Organic C Sensor

This ACTF/NERC-funded studentship explores sensor technology for the development of continuous profiles of dissolved organic C export.

Principal Investigator: Prof Susan Waldron

UKLEON: United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network

UKLEON: United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network

This NERC_funded United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network uses automated sensor technology to collect high frequency data from 11 lakes within the UK. The aim of the project is to provide means for real-time forecasting of algal blooms, to understand the effect of meteorology on carbon dynamics and to understand the coherence in lake responses across the network.

Find out more: UKLEON webpage

Principal Investigator: Prof Susan Waldron

AMAZONICA

AMAZONICA

This NERC funded research project seeks to identify the sources and sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide over the Amazon basin. This is done neatly by measuring the atmospheric CO2 concentration in the high atmosphere before the air enters the Amazon, and after when it is deflected by the Andes and exits in SE Brazil.

Find out more: Amazonica webpage

Principal Investigator: Prof Susan Waldron

Understanding the Impact of Climate Change on Human Health – Using Remote Sensing to Define Associations between Environmental Parameters and Vector-Borne Diseases

This Lord Kelvin-Adam Smith University of Glasgow-funded scholarship uses remotely-sensed data to investigate links between environmental variables (particularly aquatic) and vector and human population dynamics. The resulting disease transmission risk we will incorporate into a GIS predictive tool to document landscape epidemiology and project the relationship between climate change and disease patterns.

Principal Investigator: Dr Rhian Thomas

The Impacts of Small-Scale Hydroschemes on Aquatic Communities

The Impacts of Small-Scale Hydroschemes on Aquatic Communities

Whilst the environmental impacts of large schemes have been well documented, our knowledge of the environmental impact of micro- and small-scale hydropower schemes is limited. This IBIS–funded studentship is addressing this lack of evidence, particularly considering the impacts of novel turbine types upon fish.

Principal Investigator: Dr Rhian Thomas

Nanograb

Nanograb

While manufactured nanoparticles can be utilized in a diverse array of beneficial processes, some exhibit toxicity. Thus, to realise the full potential of nanoparticles we must also develop technologies which prevent their contamination of the natural environment. In response to this need, we are examining how nanoparticle pollutants can be captured and removed from water and wastewater.

Our current research focuses around two key themes:

  1. Development of microbially-driven mineral precipitation to trap nanoparticles within the solid mineral phase.
  2. Attachment of nanoparticles onto the surfaces of biofilms (microbial cities) in the natural environment and in engineered wastewater treatment systems.
Funded By: EPSRC DTA
Principal Investigator(s): Dr Vernon Phoenix

The Black Box Opened: Non-Invasive Imaging of nanoparticle transport in rock pore systems

The Black Box Opened: Non-Invasive Imaging of nanoparticle transport in rock pore systems

The market for nanomaterials continues to grow rapidly with a projected global value of $1 trillion by 2015. Such large scale production and use of manufactured NPs will inevitably lead to release to the environment, including directly and indirectly into groundwater.

To protect groundwater from this new pollutant we must be able to develop nanoparticle transport models which predict nanoparticle movement within the aquifer. We are achieving this using a novel combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic susceptibility measurements (MSM) which enable us to look inside rock and image the movement of the nanoparticle pollutants within. These considerably enhanced datasets will enable us to test and develop the much needed nanoparticle transport models required for effective risk assessment and management of groundwater resources.

This project is a joint proposal with the University of Birmingham.

Funded By: EPSRC
Principal Investigator(s): Dr Vernon Phoenix

Rivers as agents of landscape evolution

Rivers as agents of landscape evolution

River incision is a slow process driven by interaction between mobile material and the underlying bedrock. The Yangtze River has cut gorges through several mountain ranges, but over geological timescales significant changes in river course have occurred. Dating these changes of course and linking them to the uplift of the surrounding rocks enables landscape history to be determined. This is of significance for our understanding of landscape processes and the development of mountain ranges, but also provides constraints on upscaling modern process rates to much longer timescales. Samples collected from the modern river, its tributaries and terraces of the palaeo-Yangtze are being separated for determinations of ages and erosion rates using (U-Th)/He and cosmogenic nuclide methods, both to be undertaken at SUERC. Analysis of the modern and palaeo valleys of the Yangtze is being used to provide constraints over the timing and rate of river incision. The photos (L-R) show the modern Yangtze at the ‘First Bend’, a nearby confluence of two tributaries, and a terrace deposit form the palaeo-Yangtze River.

Funded By: China Earthquake Administration
Principal Investigator(s): Prof Trevor Hoey

Wireless Sensor Network for monitoring sediment processes

Wireless Sensor Network for monitoring sediment processes

Development of a new smart pebble to record sediment transport processes, with potential applications to many other environmental situations. The present project aims to integrate different sensing techniques (from force/impact sensing to accurate multiscale tracking) in a framework designed to enhance the current level of understanding about sediment movement (entrainment dynamics, accurate determination of individual grain paths, sediment deposition conditions). A custom-designed sensor is being produced and is housed in a customised robust casing. The figure shows the prototype housing and deployment in a laboratory at the University of British Columbia.

Funded by: University of Glasgow
Principal Investigator: Prof Trevor Hoey, Prof Joe Sventek, Dr Rebecca Hodge (Durham University)

Bedforms and sediment transport in bedrock rivers

Bedforms and sediment transport in bedrock rivers

Sediment transport across bedrock river surfaces typically occurs at lower critical shear stresses than is the case for equivalent alluvial beds. Hence, grain interaction exerts a strong control over sediment transport rates, which are important for controlling the rates at which downstream dams fill with sediment, determining the nature of instream ecological niches, and driving long-term river incision. Experiments to date have demonstrated the nature of sediment patch formation and erosion over plane beds (upper image) and ongoing work is extending this to natural river beds (lower image, showing sediment accumulation over a 1:10 scale model of Trout Beck, northern England, during a Froude-scaled entrainment experiment). Parallel theoretical and empirical work is being undertaken to generalize this behavior.

Principal Investigator(s): Prof Trevor Hoey, Dr Manousos Valyrakis, Dr Rebecca Hodge (Durham University)

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