PhD Researcher Profile: Richard Bater

After reading Geography at Oxford University, Richard Bater earned an ESRC Scholarship to pursue postgraduate study. He commenced this work at Royal Holloway, where he completed a master’s degree that enabled him to explore in greater depth the theory and practice of sustainable development. His master’s research took him to Iceland, where he adopted an ethnographic approach to understand the emergence and operation of several post-crash political reform initiatives. Richard’s experience and understanding garnered through this work affirmed the importance of political institutions, governance, and information for sustainable development, and the integral role of ethnography for enabling novel perspectives to be brought on the practice of politics (political reform), civil society, and the state. The project represented a stepping-stone for his doctorate, in which Richard brought much the same methodological and conceptual infrastructure to bear on how water management reform becomes achieved in Central Asia as a researcher with King’s Water working with Alex Loftus and Naho Mirumachi. Water(s) remains his central interest given its irreducible centrality to living on this planet and given its stubbornness as a high-stakes, plural set of sites through which the politics of making-live and making-die; through which the laborious maintenance of intricate, globe-spanning trajectories of human-non-human processes of worlding become ceaselessly enacted, woven, and worked-out in specific ways. You can hear more from Richard on these issues in an episode of The Ecological.

PhD researcher Richard Bater Continue reading

Towards Forecast based Preparedness Action

King’s Water is involved in the Department of Geography’s second project funded through the NERC-ESRC-DFID Science for Humanitarian Emergencies & Resilience programme.

SHEAR is an international research programme jointly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, NERC and the Economic & Social Research Council. The programme focuses on:

  • disaster risk assessment (mapping and analyses),
  • sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting,
  • disaster risk monitoring, and
  • the integration of these into practical decision making.

The programme is targeting lower to middle income countries across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, focusing on the co-production of knowledge using a multi-disciplinary and problem-centred approach. Research with NERC is specifically engaging with:

  • hydrological controls on landslide risk as part of multi-hazard risk assessment;
  • real time monitoring of risk, for example satellites and big data; and
  • applications of weather and climate forecasting.

This overall aim is improving the characterisation of hydrological controls on natural hazards to better predict their occurrence and scale.

King’s will be involved in a project on forecasting risk. Towards Forecast based Preparedness Action (ForPAc) aims to develop probabilistic forecasts for flood risk and preparedness actions and defensible humanitarian decision-making in the Horn of Africa and Kenya in rural and urban sites. The project is being led by Martin Todd at the University of Sussex. King’s Water is represented by Professor Bruce Malamud. Also joining the team from King’s are Professor Mark Pelling and Senior Visiting Research Fellow Emma Visman.

Work on ForPAc will begin in autumn 2016. The project will connect to ongoing work at King’s, including the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge programme and the African Population and Health Research Centre based in Nairobi and Kenya Met Office.

Financializing Desalination

King’s Water member Alex Loftus recently published research about the sociopolitical aspects of desalination and big water infrastructure. The article, co-authored with Hug March from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Barcelona, was published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research and is freely available online.

Alex and Hug discuss:

Against the trend prevalent during the 1990s and 2000s, large-scale infrastructural projects have made a comeback in the water sector. Although sometimes framed as part of a broader sustainable transition, the return of big infrastructure is a much more complicated story in which finance has played a crucial role. In the following article, we explore this encounter between finance and water infrastructure using the case of Britain’s first experiment in desalination technologies, the Thames Water Desalination Plant (TWDP). On the surface, the plant appears to be a classic example of the successes of normative industrial ecology, in which sustainability challenges have been met with forward-thinking green innovations. However, the TWDP is utterly dependent on a byzantine financial model, which has shaped Thames Water’s investment strategy over the last decade. This article returns to the fundamental question of whether London ever needed a desalination plant in the first place. Deploying an urban political ecology approach, we demonstrate how the plant is simultaneously an iconic illustration of ecological modernization and a fragile example of an infrastructure-heavy solution to the demands of financialization. Understanding the development of the TWDP requires a focus on the scalar interactions between flows of finance, waste, energy and water that are woven through the hydrosocial cycle of London.


For more, see:

Loftus, A. and March, H. (2016), Financializing Desalination: Rethinking the Returns of Big Infrastructure. International Journal of Urban and Regional Researchdoi: 10.1111/1468-2427.12342

Schofield publishes new research on Law of the Sea

King’s Geography Senior Lecturer Richard Schofield has published new research on the law of the sea. WaterWords recently highlighted the importance of international law and the oceans during our celebration of World Oceans Day.

Together with Clive Schofield from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong, Richard explores how the law of the sea is brought to bear on low-tide elevations and artificial islands. From the article’s abstract:

Low-tide elevations and artificial islands have received less attention than islands ‘proper’. The article examines the evolution of the law of the sea applicable to such features, providing a contextual background for controversial contemporary state practice relating to their treatment. It includes a detailed case study of how the policies of one major maritime power, the United Kingdom, were formulated, adapted and refined in the face of fast-changing international legal norms and pressing regional concerns. In particular Britain’s consideration of the entitlement of artificial islands in the Persian Gulf during the early 1950s and the question of whether low-tide elevations could be occupied a few years later in the Caribbean region are examined. Subsequent clarifications of relevant positions in international law concerning sovereignty claims to and maritime claims from low-tide elevations and artificial islands are discussed.

Testing the Waters: Charting The Evolution of Claims to and From Low-Tide Elevations and Artificial Islands under the Law of the Sea” was published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy.

New King’s Water Grants

A number of King’s Water Staff Members have recently won competitive grants for water-related research around the world. New and expanded projects are exploring water-related risk, wetland ecosystems, and aquatic sediment.

  • Bruce Malamud has led a successful large consortium bid for LANDSLIP (Landslide Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment, Preparedness and Early Warning in South Asia: Integrating Meteorology, Landscape and Society), a 4-year project with funding from NERC/DFID and under the SHEAR initiative.
  • Mark Mulligan has a new EU Horizon 2020 grant on the insurance value of ecosystems, examining the role of green infrastructure (including forests and wetlands) in affecting flood risk to a number of European cities. The project has 17 partners throughout Europe, and King’s will lead the physical science work package. Working with European insurers, the initiative will further develop the widely used WaterWorld Policy Support System into an insurance-industry relevant “Eco-actuary” system.
  • And Daniel Schillereff, George Adamson and Thomas Smith have been awarded support from the SSPP Faculty Education Fund to help student-led development of time-integrated aquatic sediment samplers powered by Arduino.  Funds will be used to purchase construction materials and students will directly contribute to the design of the sediment traps and trial different builds. The grant will also cover travel expenses for students to deploy and test their sediment traps.

Congratulations to Bruce, Mark, Daniel, George, and Tom!
For more about King’s Water research, see our Hub Website.

Newest King’s Water member speaks during ED PhD Talks

After earing her BSc from the University of Southampton, Eleanore Heasley joined the King’s College London Department of Geography in April 2016 as part of our spring intake of researchers with the London NERC DTP programme.

El is the newest member of King’s Water. Her doctoral research examines the catchment effect in rivers. You can read more about her work on chalk streams on the NERC-DTP blog.

El will speak for the first time at King’s this Thursday 23 June as part of the 1st and 3rd year Environmental Dynamics PhD talks. These talks higlight research happening around the department and give researchers the chance to receive valuable feedback in a collegial space. The talks will include:

  • 1st year student Rory Walshe on “Ground-truthing assumptions of climate change impacts on small island states by cross referencing multiple methods” (10am)
  • 1st year researcher Claudia Gutierrez on “Modelling effects of land use change on faunal ecosystem services provision and demand in the tropics” (10:20am)
  • 1st year student Alejandro Coca Castro on “Modelling pan-tropical land cover and land-use trajectories of deforested areas” (10:40am)
  • 3rd year researcher Tianran Zhang on “New Estimates of Smoke Emissions from Eastern China’s Agricultural Residue Burning” (11:20am)
  • 1st year student Mattia Mancini on “Modelling complexity in coupled human natural systems” (11:40am)
  • King’s Water Member Eleanore Heasley, supervised by James Millington, speaking on “Characterising the catchment effect on physical habitats in UK rivers” (noon)

After El speaks, there will be lunch and drinks. Come hear about the newest in King’s scholarship and meet our newest researcher!

King’s Water celebrates World Oceans Day

Happy World Oceans Day! On the 8th of June each year, the Ocean Project partners with the United Nations for the official celebration of our planet’s biggest waters.
King’s Water is proud to examine water in all its forms…fresh and brine, physical and social, frozen and liquid, clean and dirty. Recently, PhD Researcher Becca Farnum released her first book, a celebration of the marine conservation work done in the Gulf by the Kuwait Dive Team. The graphic designer for that project was colleague Grace Young, a Marshall Scholar and oceans engineer at Oxford University. Today in celebration of World Oceans Day, King’s Water shares Grace’s account of her 22-day sail across the Atlantic this winter.

A photo of a McGregor sailboat on the ocean with a colourful sunset

I’m sitting in the St. Thomas airport waiting for my flight to Heathrow. Toting a hiking bag stuffed with salt-encrusted clothes, I search for an outlet to charge my laptop; it’s been dead nearly three weeks. My hair is still wet from this morning’s dip in the ocean.

“You get off a boat?” asked the man ahead of me at check-in. I wondered what gave it away. Was it my freckled skin and I-don’t-care ponytail? My callouses? My travel partner joking about peeing in a bucket?

As I sit down to write this blog entry, I find reflecting upon the last 22 days somewhat overwhelming. In that time we, eight friends, sailed a 65’ boat across the Atlantic. Every aspect of my daily routine changed dramatically and abruptly during those days at sea. I was pleasantly surprised that, apart from friends and family, I didn’t miss land much. It feels as if a year, or several, passed in those days. It was an adventure of a lifetime.

For me the journey started about three weeks before we left port. While out in London at a celebration, I received the following text from a friend:

Hey, crazy idea and no doubt you already have plans… but want to cross the Atlantic Ocean? Dec 18 – Jan 5?

The friend is the founder of a non-profit called SailFuture. The reason behind the last minute request is a rather long story…check it out here. We chatted details, but all I could say initially was “still trying to work out logistics; haven’t forgotten.” Finally it worked out, in large part to the encouragement of my friend Elizabeth (“Bizzy”) Walton, and the support of other friends and family.

A few things I learned from my sail:

People make the boat.

We had no Internet or contact with the “outside” world during our crossing, apart from a satellite connection reserved for emergencies. This meant that all of us onboard couldn’t hide behind our phones or laptops; we had to hang out old-school style. It took perhaps two or three days to shake the habit of wanting to check my phone for updates. It took us no time to get to know each other. I guess hours and hours of uninterrupted conversation does that to people. If there was ever a lull during a night shift we’d play “would you rather” or go around telling stories. When our phones were all dead and unchangeable, we sang songs totally out of key.

We got on like a house on fire. Thank goodness, because this would be a very different crossing if not. Maybe the circumstances forced us to get along, but I don’t think so. We actually did all get along. Mike, the one who brought us all together, must’ve had a feeling we all would.

People dynamics have the potential to make all things sour when you’re living confined in close quarters 24/7, everyone out of their comfort zone in some way or another. If one person is in a funk it quickly infects the group.

There was only one day that I felt we got anywhere close to the “Mutiny” scene in Life Aquatic. I won’t go into the details, as they are mundane and have lost context; but we got over it by listening to each other and saying nice things before the evening meal.

There’s an unspoken rule for me when living in any form of inescapable tight quarters:  If a person has headphones on or has retreated to a spot on the boat away from others, leave them alone. On land if you saw your friend sitting at an edge of a café you’d of course approach them even if only for a quick hello. On the boat there is zero private space. There are times when you feel superfluous, question your usefulness, and become insecure.  Other times when you, rather vainly, think what would this boat do without me?

We’ve plenty of sea stories. I kept a detailed daily journal. Nearly all of it I wouldn’t publish. It’s personal, but also needs a good deal of context. Maybe I’m just a bad storyteller, but chatting with friends I quickly realize only a few of the stories really click, even if they weren’t the most telling for me. Here’s one of them:

On Boxing Day, I woke up in the middle of the night from what I thought was me falling asleep at the helm. I tried adjusting the wheel to the heel of the boat that I felt, but it was pitch black. We’re use to sailing in just moonlight, a small light illuminating our heading on the compass. I woke up the crewmember sleeping next to me. “Turn on the compass and windex lights! I can’t see anything! The boat isn’t responding!” They were confused. I was dreaming, of course, a very vivid dream. I laughed, relieved, once I realised I was in my bunk. Two days later another helmsman had the same dream. It became a recurring phenomenon.


Trusting the captain matters.

I really trusted our Captain, Mike. One of the first things you see below deck is a handwritten sign reading “No Bullshit” taped in the galley. When I agreed to join the crossing, I trusted him not only to lead us safely across the Atlantic, but also to pull together a competent crew with good group dynamic. Here’s a story from our fourth day at sea that confirmed our faith in the Captain; it’s taken from an excerpt of my journal entry three days before Christmas.

Sometime close to midnight, Maddie and I were below deck chopping greens when we heard a jibe. A jibe is when the boom swinging violently across the boat due to a change in the wind direction along the sail. Jeremy, one of our most competent helmsmen, was at the wheel, so it can’t have been caused by ineptitude or carelessness. Something was wrong.

Mike bolted out of bed at the noise. Yep, something is very wrong. He knows the boat, all the noises it can make. He’s not taking for granted that the boat will sustain that kind of force.

Both our captains and a 1st mate are on deck, plus one of our crew who is violently seasick. Maddie and I remain below, waiting to be asked to do something if help is needed. Space is so small up deck that especially in borderline-chaotic moments like this excessive crew can be in the way.

Staying calmly below, just waiting, gives me a particular feeling I’m not use to dealing with. Part of me feels that I, as a sailor and mechanical engineer by training, should be handier on deck. I want to be up there, rain hitting me sidewise, climbing the mast, pulling in lines, shouting orders, whatever it takes. Another part of me realizes that while I may have more basic sailing knowledge than some of our crew with different experiences initially, I’m not as physically strong (able to winch in heavy winds or yank the oft-stuck halyard cleat in heavy winds) as our male crewmembers. I’m not the first person to come into mind when the Captain needs someone to furl in the Genny, for example. Is part of this because the high-adrenaline “survival mode” situations are bringing out some of the guys’ instincts to protect women? There’s room for a psychology experiment here (hello PhD prospect!). It’s just our first few days at sea, however. Roles will pan out. Everyone on this boat is a team player, which means we will do whatever is best for the group to reach our objective. I’ve been cooking or taking care of the ill the last few days because it’s been best for the group and I want us to reach our goal.

As Maddie and I sit, braced between the navigation station desk and galley cabinets listening to orders cast above, Biz emerges from the main sleeping cabin, extremely seasick. She stumbles awkwardly to the floor and crouches in front of the stove, clinging to a bucket. She can’t keep even water (or Dramamine) down. I’m concerned she’ll soon be severely dehydrated. We try getting water with hydration salts to her.

Above us, the three men shout across the length of the boat. From below, it’s unclear what the problem is, but things seem tense. My body wants to worry, but my brain remains even-keel, the only way it knows, “Grace Under Pressure.” Whatever, I still feel useless.

Mike starts singing “It’s a great day to be alive // I know the sun’s still shining’ when I close my eyes // There’s some hard times in the neighborhood // But why can’t everyday be just this good.” He’s either a lunatic or a thoughtful leader who has just goofily but purposefully quelled the unspoken anxieties of all his crew. It takes a few more days at sea to confirm the latter.

As he darts below deck he takes a moment to tell Bizzy something sweet, like he’s never seen someone look so gorgeous while puking. It’s stupid but it makes her smile and she needed that. I know that not only is she dealing with crushing seasickness, but she’s also wondering if it was really a good idea for her to be here. She’s been the bravest of any of us, signing up for this adventure knowing only me and not having spent more than half a day on a sailboat. This is one of the times when I appreciate how aware Mike is of everything on the boat, mechanically and emotionally.

Everyone is awake at this point; although I get the feeling that at best only the three on deck know what’s going on. Maddie and I are docile below, but we still need our brains turned on. For example, one of the guys passes down the fishing rod for us to secure. The quickest thing would be to wedge the rod between the table and bunk in the middle cabin, but we think one step ahead and find some less convenient place where no one in a hurry will accidentally step on it. This is one of those instances where you can’t be lazy and always have to be thinking ahead, of what might go wrong.

As you learn in all aspects of life, but maybe more so in engineering, when there’s one problem, it’s easier than ever for things to snowball into a multi-layer problem.

Maddie, taking a meta perspective, identifies issues on deck that we will remedy tomorrow. For example, those on deck might not realize it but they are wasting time rummaging around for headlamps only to find one of the headlamps has a dead battery. Tomorrow we’ll organise the lamps and batteries in a reliable place. We also keep life vests and safety lines in a reliable location. We make a list, but must leave it for tomorrow.

Even though our adrenaline is spiked, Maddie and I sleep. Plenty of crew is available. Someone will need to be rested tomorrow when the others aren’t. This is one of those times when my ability to completely ignore my surroundings and fall asleep, no matter the noise or chaos, is more useful than annoying to my companions. Perhaps counter intuitively, by being able to sleep I feel useful finally. ​


You miss people.

Family and friends were the only things I genuinely missed about land. I especially missed my sister on her 18th birthday. She was playing squash for Team USA at the British Junior Open for squash (yes, she’s impressive) in England and I was supposed to be there. I wondered if she was going out for a drink since she’d be legal in the UK. I wondered how she was feeling about her game. I wondered if she was mad at me for missing her. Thinking more about it made me sad. 

The Wild West is an apt metaphor.

I also reflected on the high seas from a geopolitics perspective, something related to my PhD work. Appropriately, the week before departing I attended a workshop on the high seas sponsored by the Global Ocean Commission at my college in Oxford. All the proposed suggestions had a very tangible meaning now that we were out here on the high seas.

Many have likened the high seas to the Wild West. It’s true that you can get away with anything out here. There’s no one around. It is lawless. Check out the New York Times’ fantastic expose on “Lawlessness on the High Seas”. On one side of the debate, there is the beautiful dream that the high seas could be a place, indeed an opportunity, for international peace and cooperation. But humans largely need a sense of ownership to act responsibility. I’m no exception. I remember sharing a bedroom with my sister when we were younger. She’s messy and I’m neat. There was a line in the room, dividing messy from neat. I never cleaned her side although she wouldn’t mind it. I’m also thinking of the high seas in terms of the game we often played on nightshifts. Would you rather have to respond to a radio call from a government every time you entered a country’s territorial waters, and perhaps even pay a toll for sailing across their waters? Or, would you rather have total freedom, but allow the ocean decline from overexploitation? What’s the balance? This issue begs for a longer discussion in a separate piece.


Being surrounded is surreal.

The thing I most wondered about before the trip was, how would it feel to be completely surrounded by nothing but ocean? For 22 days we saw nothing but ocean to all edges of the horizon. There was no reference for size or location. You could easily go crazy. If you didn’t trust the compass or maps you’d wonder, have we moved at all? Never have I seen so many consecutive sunsets and sunrises. Every day the sky put on a different show, between sunset, moonrise, and sunrise. Bizzy, a keen eye, saw nearly three-dozen shooting stars during the voyage.

My six-hour flight back to England over the same ocean was surreal. I’ll never look out the window during one of those crossings and view that ocean the same way.

Headshot of oceanographer Grace YoungAnd to close things off, a Q&A discussion with Grace:​

When did you leave?
We departed the afternoon of December 19th, 2015 from Las Palmas, Canary Islands. We originally planned to leave December 18th, but a faulty pulley on our jib took us back to the marina for the night.

How long did it take?
It took us 22 days to cross the Atlantic. We originally anticipated a 14-day journey, but some mechanical hiccups took us slightly off course and slowed our progress. More on this later.

Were there showers and toilets?
Showers no; toilets yes. We rinsed with ocean water. This is common among racing sailors and isn’t that bad really. Even if the boat’s proper showers had been functional, we wouldn’t have used them because we needed to conserve fresh water.

Who was on the boat?
We had eight crew, five guys and three girls. All of us were somehow acquainted with our Captain, Mike. On each shift, our roles sorted roughly into skipper, first mate, deckhand, and steward.

Were you scared?
No, check out this piece I’ve written about this question. I’d like to write a longer post on this question, which I get often and that I’ve noticed females get far more often than males regarding adventure. It’s like asking someone if they’re scared to take their driver’s exam… No, I’ve trained for the situation and know the range of things to expect.

Did you see other boats?
Yes; but not many. We saw about a dozen other vessels total during our 22-day crossing. Most were container ships. On Boxing Day we made contact with another sailboat over the radio. Nothing but clear blue ocean surrounded us during the vast majority of our journey.

What did you eat? How’d you cook?
Lots of pasta and sandwiches. Fresh veggies for the first week, or until things went bad. We had a gas stove aboard. Lesson learned: Even when rationing fresh water, don’t cook pasta in ocean water; it’s too salty. We also bought a leg of Parma ham that lasted two weeks. It got super creepy at night accidentally running into that hoof though, or watching the hoof sway with the boat.

What marine life did you encounter?
We had several dozen dolphins at a time follow our boat for about 10min on three different occasions. One of our helmsmen is certain he saw a whale on his shift as well. We spotted two sea turtles. Sometimes, even in the middle of the ocean, we’d see a lone bird flying around. A pigeon landed on our deck our second day at sea. We saw flying fish dance out of the water, and even onto our deck, many days.

What was it like celebrating (insert: Christmas, birthday, New Year’s) in the middle of the ocean?
Fantastic. I missed family and friends, but we used our satellite phone to each make a short call home. We were blessed Christmas day with calm weather, so we could go for a swim. We had a great dinner too. On my birthday, the crew surprised me with a chocolate cake they managed to make in the oven. On New Year’s Eve you could say we all enjoyed a sunset cruise with some of our closest friends. It was great!

What was harder, living underwater for 15 days or sailing across the Atlantic for 22 days?
I know it’s the boring answer, but the answer is simply that they’re different. Both had unique challenges. Living in Aquarius prepared me to live in close quarters for an extended period of time. For Aquarius though, by the end of our intense training I felt comfortable dealing with almost any imaginable emergency situation. We had two full-time habitat technicians living with us plus a full topside support crew, many of whom had run similar missions dozens of times in the past. This meant I could just focus on science work with other researchers. On this sailing trip, however, we were all doing this for the first time. We had to figure things out as they came up, and, moreover, figure them out without the aid of Internet or anything that wasn’t already on the boat.

Did you have any bad weather?
Not really. We were very fortunate with weather. We didn’t encounter any storms or rough patches that we couldn’t handle. We had some spouts of rain, but nothing major. The strongest winds we encountered were about 30 knots.

What surprised you?
The songs stuck in your head when you leave land stay stuck in your head. I couldn’t shake Adele’s “Hello.”

Would you do it again? 

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King’s Water collaborates on new water security piece

Current King’s Water Head Naho Mirumachi, previous chair Frances Cleaver, and Visiting Fellow Nate Matthews recently teamed up with a group of water security experts to publish research examining various approaches to water security policy concerns.

The team was led by Mark Zeitoun at the University of East Anglia, with input from others in the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Canada, and the US.

Reductionist and integrative research approaches to complex water security policy challenges” argues that

  • Water security policy rests on research that reduces or intgrates complexity.
  • The reductive approach can be rigid, exclusive, a-contextual, and reproduce inequalities.
  • Options from the integrative approach advanced here are more diverse, flexible, and inclusive.
  • To be effective, the form of analysis must match the state of knowledge possessed.
  • To be effective, the analysis must explicitly address inequity in the challenges.

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Will the US Ratify the Law of the Sea?

This Wednesday is World Oceans Day. In 2008, the United Nations voted to formally recognise 8 June as an annual celebration of and call for action around the planet’s oceans. The 2016 theme is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.”

King’s Water PhD researcher Becca Farnum recently published a book about the Kuwait Dive Team, a marine conservation and environmental volunteering initiative in the Gulf. Her colleague on the project and the book’s graphic designer is 2014 Marshall Scholar and Oxford aquanaut Grace Young.

On Wednesday, we will be highlighting our world’s oceans with a guest post from Grace reflecting on her 22-day sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Today, we thought we’d give a teaser to Oceans Day. In the piece below, Grace – an oceans engineer focusing on marine robotics – recognises that politics impact water realities under the sea as much as they do on land.


A month ago I had the opportunity to join a handful of Marshall and Rhodes Scholars for an informal discussion with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the King’s Arms Pub. He’d just finished a speech at the Oxford Union and was kind enough to chat with us for a hour or so before dashing off to dinner with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.

​I asked Secretary Kerry: If the US won’t ratify the Law of the Sea, how can we stay a leader in global ocean policy?

The conversation was off-the-record, but it’s fair to say he basically reiterated his stance from his 2012 Huffington Post op-ed “Law of the Sea: A National Security Issue that Unites,” yet was more pessimistic (or perhaps realistic in light of the political gridlock of the last four years) about getting Congress to pass anything.

You can read more about Kerry’s position and the issues in Chapter 5: Possibility of US Accession to the LOS Convention and its Potential Impact on State Practices and Maritime Claims in the South China Sea by Yann-huei Song in Major law and policy issues in the South China sea: European and American perspectives.

In early 2009 when President Obama entered office and Senator Kerry took over chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty was one of his priorities. An article from the WorldWatch Institute highlighted his commitment:
Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, chair of the foreign relations committee, followed Clinton’s response with his own support for the treaty. “We are now laying the groundwork for and expect to try to take up the Law of the Sea Treaty. So that will be one of the priorities of the committee,” Kerry said. “The key here is just timing.”

In his 2012 op-ed, Kerry reiterated then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it best: “Joining the convention would secure our navigational rights and our ability to challenge other countries’ behavior on the firmest and most persuasive legal footing, including in critical areas such as the South China Sea and the Arctic.

And again in 2014, Kerry stressed that law, not coercion, is the key to resolving sea disputes.

Yet the the Law of the Sea is still not US law 34 years after the country negotiated the treaty. America remains the only major country that hasn’t ratified this treaty while 166 countries and the EU have done so. On her blog in her original reflection on meeting Kerry, Grace argues that if her home country is to remain leaders in global ocean policy, they must keep this issue at the forefront of discussion until the Senate takes appropriate action.

PhD Researcher Becca Farnum presents at Water, Energy, and Climate Change Conference

This week, King’s Water PhD Researcher Becca Farnum is in Morocco on continued engagement with one of her partner organisations Dar Si Hmad. Below is a blog repost from the group – please see their original posted here.


Dar Si Hmad’s flagship fog harvesting program and its spinoff Water School, Women’s Empowerment, Water for Sanitation and Hygiene, and Fog Forest projects were presented at the International Conference on Water, Energy, and Climate Change hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech 1-4 June.

Director Jamila Bargach and PhD Research Consultant Rebecca L. Farnum spoke about “Net Change: Harvesting Fog for Resilience in Southwest Morocco” on Wednesday.

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