To me, ecohydrology is a simple word that conveys an extremely complex subject in a way that a wider audience is more likely to understand. The relationship between wildlife and water often requires a scientific level of investigation to understand. Ecohydrology comprehensively captures the essence of this relationship, allowing us to simplify it in a way that ensures conservation is actioned. As an environmental consultant at Arup specializing in aquatic ecology with a background in conservation, ecohydrology helps me communicate, not only the complex processes, but the benefits of aquatic environments to clients and colleagues around the world.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I am triple graduate of University College London (UCL) in the UK, having completed a three year undergraduate BSc in geography, followed by a one year MSc in conservation and finally a PhD in ecohydrology and conservation. I did have some time ‘out’ of academia to do other things in between degrees, including a stint in wildlife film production, lobbying the UK government on behalf of nature conservation organisations, saving the endangered kiwi in New Zealand and running a sustainability event at the World Economic Forum.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
Luck! At least that’s what initially pops into my head. But when I really think about it, I suppose I’ve always had a close connection with water, having grown up on the south coast of England, taken part in an array of water sports and going to school right next to large river. Those experiences clearly sparked my interest, which was further developed at UCL where aquatic sciences are a big focus. It was during the start of my PhD when I began to research ecohydrology as a paradigm, and even attended the first widely known conference on the subject in the UK. Since then I have been developing my knowledge and continue to apply what I know in my job today. For example, helping conserve the endangered water vole in the UK (including those individuals that love a selfie in the pouring rain - see photo).
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
I see ecohydrology coming into its own as a discipline over the next couple of decades. The increasing appreciation for the environment, a better understanding of what lies below the water surface, and the growing concern amongst the public over the future of our planet, means its never been better to be an ecohydrologist. My workload keeps growing. For us to be successful in the long term, however, we need to get better at communicating the science and practice of ecohydrology to individuals, organisations and governments across the world.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
I’m going to throw in a slight curve ball as I believe sometimes we should take our thinking beyond single subjects. I often turn to alternative sources to keep up with the latest thinking in other disciplines to ensure I don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. In this case the huge threats the world faces from climate change to biodiversity decline and pollution of aquatic environments. For me, the paper that stands out is actually the first scientific journal article I ever read during my first week at UCL: ‘the tragedy of the commons’ by the American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. The tragedy of the commons is a ‘situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action’ (Lloyd, 1833). The theory originated in an essay written as long ago as 1833, by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land in Great Britain and Ireland. It’s ever increasing relevance to today’s world has stuck with me.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
My husband calls me a scientific artist. Probably rightly so, as in the evenings and weekends (if I’m not pottering around in the garden or cooking up a storm in the kitchen), I like to paint. Usually natural scenes such as animal portraits and landscapes in oils and acrylics. I’m also often seen with a camera attached to me, most recently whilst traveling around Sri Lanka. Fortunately we were there just prior to the horrific Easter Sunday attacks. What happened there is so sad. The country is truly magical and I could not stop photographing all the amazing sights, people and wildlife that fabulous country has to offer. I would return there in an instant and encourage others to do the same.