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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Latest scientific research into Windermere revealed

Published: 10 July 2014

Dr Peter Langdon, Reader in Palaeoenvironmental Change in Geography joined colleagues from Ocean and Earth Science (OES) at a workshop presentation of the results of research into England’s largest lake to local groups and organisations.

More than 30 delegates from 12 organisations including the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Environment Agency, the Freshwater Biological Association, the Lake District National Park Authority, South Lakeland District Council and United Utilities attended the workshop, funded by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council. They learned about the findings and future work, then split in groups to discuss how to engage local people with the results of the scientific research, improve the exchange of information between the agencies.

As part of her PhD research, Dr Helen Miller from OES produced a detailed picture of the lake bed, which was originally a glacial river valley. The computer-generated mapping used colourful images to show the lake's depths and illustrate how they have changed since the last Ice Age. This was the first scientific underwater exploration of Windermere - the last survey of the lake was carried out during the 1930s by the Admiralty.

"This research has provided a wealth of detailed information about environmental change to improve our understanding of the lake and the environmental impact of boating, fishing and tourism," she says.

Her underwater cameras revealed that gravel beds used as spawning grounds for the Arctic charr are silting up. The charr is a species of fish which has lived in the lake since the last Ice Age but may now become endangered. Helen has worked with Dr Ian Winfield of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) at Lancaster University on the research; he says the findings have given them a much more detailed picture of the lake. Work is now underway to stop the gravel silting up.

Peter comments "Developing workshops such as these, where practitioners meet researchers, is crucial for enabling real impact from science to society. The workshop at Windermere was an excellent example of this, where academics, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers met with a range of organisations, including all the key stakeholders, to discuss current and future research on Windermere. The discussion was extremely productive, and provides an excellent platform for considering what is best for Windermere, in terms of developing future science initiatives, and how they may link to policy." 

Research on Windermere is now continuing at the University by current PhD students Rachael Avery and James Fielding. They will be analysing core samples from deep beneath the lake bed to learn more about past climate change in northern England.

Further details about this research along with photographs and maps can be viewed on the British Geological Society website:


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