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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Communicating the latest scientific research on Windermere

Published: 6 July 2014

University of Southampton researcher, from Ocean and Earth Science, Dr Helen Miller has presented the results of recent research into England’s largest lake to national organisations and local groups.

More than 30 delegates from 12 organisations including the British Geological Survey, 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, as well as improve the exchange of information between the agencies.

Environment Agency Lakes Manager Michelle Donoghue says: “I gained a deeper understanding of lake processes and the history of the landscape and it was a valuable opportunity to network with colleagues. The presentations were very interesting and the discussion about the need and potential for future research was very valuable.”

As part of her PhD research, Helen 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. 

Courtesy of Dr Helen Miller
Section of split core, showing clay

Underwater cameras used by Helen and a team of scientists from the British Geological Survey and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) revealed that gravel beds used as spawning grounds for the Arctic charr are silting up. The Arctic 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 from 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.

Courtesy of Dr Helen Miller
Sediment core on deck

Dr Peter Langdon from Geography at the University of Southampton was also at the event. He adds "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 Europe.  

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