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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

RGS Rural Geography Research Group (RGRG) dissertation prize

Published: 30 July 2014

We are delighted to announce that BSc Geography graduate, Heather Chamberlain, has won joint third place in the Royal Geographical Society’s RGRG Undergraduate Dissertation Prize award.

Heather’s research entitled ‘Analysis of diffuse pollution risk in relation to land use in the Frome and Piddle catchment’ aimed to identify the source locations of potential diffuse pollution, in terms of suspended sediment and phosphorus, and to investigate their relationship with measured water quality data.   

Water quality issues relating to sediment and nutrients, were identified as key issues facing the catchment during the consultation phase of the Frome and Piddle Catchment Initiative (F&PCI).  Loss of sediment and nutrients from diffuse sources in the catchment can lead to elevated nutrient loads in the river network, and water quality issues downstream. This can impact on the in-stream biodiversity, bathing water quality and potential failure to meet the good status required by 2015, under the EU Water Framework Directive.

Heather’s research was carried out using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analysis, with SCIMAP (Sensitive Catchment Integrated Modelling and Analysis Platform - for fine Sediment risks) used to identify areas at high risk of being diffuse sources of fine sediment.

It was found that high risk areas were generally limited to the higher ground in the north and south of the catchment. Field investigations and engagement with stakeholders would be the next step to discover whether mitigation measures are needed in the locations identified. Correlation analysis of the SCIMAP risk values and measured annual loads however proved inconclusive, therefore suggesting that further work is needed to gain a better understanding of this relationship.

Heather is very pleased, ‘I was really happy to hear that my dissertation had been awarded a prize. It's great to know that your dissertation research is of interest, and to have it recognised by one of the RGS research groups, makes it all the more rewarding.’

Dr Jim Wright, Heather’s supervisor commented, ‘I’m delighted that Heather’s dissertation has won this prize, as it was a very innovative look at the factors influencing surface water quality in south Dorset and a highly creative piece of work’.

Currently undertaking GIS work experience whilst working part-time, Heather will begin studying for an MSc in GIS and remote sensing at Southampton this September.

The RGS Research Groups encourage UK departments to submit outstanding research and offer a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate awards. Nominations for this year’s prize are now being accepted.

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