In the first of a series of profiles of regular ‘inmates’ of the John B Thornes Laboratory, we ask PhD student Anna Lavelle what she gets up to…
• What are you doing in the lab?
My current work looks at examining nitrate and ammonium fluxes across the sediment-water interface in urban London rivers to determine the success of restoration.
• Why is it important?
The synergistic effects of multi-stressor factors placed upon river networks draining urban land is a phenomenon widely know as the “urban stream syndrome”. These stressors include physical habitat modifications, hydrological change and poor water quality resulting from increases in nutrient and toxicant loads. In recent decades, restoration efforts aimed at improving the physical structure, flow characteristics and ecological condition of rivers have been implemented across London to counteract these problems. However, little research has been undertaken to determine the success of restoration with respect to ecosystem function. The dearth of knowledge surrounding ecosystem function forms an important part of this project.
• How did you get into your field?
I have always had an interest in river environments. Examining river erosion along the Daintree River, Australia for my undergraduate dissertation using remote sensing , I began to gain an interest in the different factors shaping river environments. Following on from this, segments of my master’s degree in Aquatic Resource Management were focussed on river functioning and management. After being accepted onto my PhD programme and liaising with my supervisors, we found there to be a considerable amount of scope to examine ecosystem function as a determent of river restoration.
• What’s your favourite piece of kit in the lab?
The fluorometer! It is a compact and portable item of equipment used to measure parameters of fluorescence which correlate to ammonium concentrations in water.
• Tell us about an interesting or surprising finding you’ve come across recently?
I have noticed that there has been an increased focus on community river clean-up groups in and around London. It has been great to see the success that community engagement has brought about.