University shares €3m grant to learn nature’s self defence mechanisms

Roehampton academics and students will be at the forefront of new research to understand how watercourses naturally react to protect themselves from pollution and climate change, so they can be better managed by industrial users and regulators.

Posted: 28 November 2014

image for news story University shares €3m grant to learn nature’s self defence mechanisms
Professor Anne Robertson on a recent field work exercise

The University has won a share of a €3million grant from the European Union’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Fund as part of a consortium of universities and industry bodies to train a team of scientists to better understand the problems, and how the natural environment deals with them. Two of the scientists, who will be PhD students, will be based in Roehampton, but others will be at universities across the EU.

Their four-year research programme will be led by Roehampton’s Professor Anne Robertson and colleague Julia Reiss, a senior lecturer, who both specialise in ecology.

The study will focus on improving understanding of the complex physical, chemical and biological interactions that occur in the hyporhiec zone in rivers (the transition zone between rivers and the underlying aquifers). The results will provide the knowledge needed for understanding, measuring and predicting the contribution of the hyporheic zones to the self-purification of rivers and streams.

Professor Robertson said: “These new insights will raise our understanding of nature’s resilience to disturbances like pollution and climate change in stream ecosystems, and will help industry and regulators to improve the management of these ecosystems to prevent the disruption of self-purification systems.”

Roehampton’s share of the grant is £206,800 and it will fund the research, due to start in January, including fieldwork across the EU as well as a summer school.

Anne Robertson has been a Professor of Ecology at the University of Roehampton since 2010, and focusses her research on freshwater meiofauna (small organisms less than 1mm in size). She has extensive collaborations in the international freshwater research community and is also Chief Editor of the international journal Fundamental and Applied Limnology.

Julia Reiss was appointed Senior Lecturer at Roehampton in 2010 and has a strong theoretical background and practical knowledge of the taxonomy and ecology of aquatic fauna. Her special expertise is microscopic animals. Species identification of protists and meiofauna requires considerable experience, shared by only a few other specialists worldwide. Her work has involved the use of laboratory microcosms and cultures to address theoretical ecology such as questions associated with body mass and energy flows.

The funding announcement from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Fund is its second grant to the University of Roehampton this month. The University announced last week that Dr Carine Plancke will join the Department of Dance for a year-long fellowship to explore the role of traditional dance in rebuilding nationhood in Rwanda.

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