King’s Water undergraduate research placements

King’s College London is a research-led and student-centred university. The calibre of our research and teaching is among the very best in the world. It is our belief that our students should be involved in the cutting-edge research that makes King’s the university that it is today. King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships give undergraduate students the unique opportunity to learn alongside leading academics. This year, King’s Water is proud to announce that several of the KRUF positions are for placements with our staff.


Low cost environmental sensors to monitor water quality in the Okavango River Basin
Dr Michael Chadwick, Department of Geography
This project will take place in the delta of the Okavango River basin, Botswana, which is a significant biodiversity hotspot as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The research will be part of pilot project that focuses on the challenges of ecosystem management and water governance of this important river/ wetland system. Fieldwork will engage local conservation NGOs, local government, the Okavango river basin commission and University of Botswana academics and students for learning through research-in-practice. During this field work, research will explore the biological, abiotic and human drivers of sustainability, gaining an interdisciplinary understanding of the ecosystems as well as the transboundary politics of river basin management in a developing region. The specific goals for the Undergraduate Fellowship is to support the development and deployment of low-cost environmental data loggers which will provide data required to support the overall aims of the larger project. Despite environmental sensors playing a central role within the Geography Department’s research and teaching profile. These activities are done to introduce concepts and research potential, but largely are explored at a level which cannot result in self-directed projects. Through making this environmental sensors which supports my current research in river ecology, this project will provide a students with greater depth of understanding of basic electronics, coding and data management. In addition, this approach will allow for a deeper understanding about the accuracy, precision, strengths/weaknesses and alternative sensor types which are required to ensure that the data collected can be of publishable quality.


Practising river basin governance: Pilot project for interdisciplinary fieldwork module in the Okavango River basin, Botswana
Dr Naho Mirumachi, Department of Geography
The purpose of this research is to explore the biological, abiotic and human drivers of sustainability in the delta of the Okavango River basin, Botswana. This research underpins a pilot interdisciplinary fieldwork module targeted to second year and master’s students at King’s Geography held in conjunction with staff and students from University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Arizona State University (ASU) as part of the PLUS Alliance funded ‘Grand River Basin Challenges project’. The research will (i) investigate potential sites for field surveys (ii) establish partnerships with a NGOs, Elephants Without Borders, Predator Conservation Trust; governmental agency, Okavango River Basin Commission; University of Botswana academics (iii) conduct initial examination of research gaps on aquatic ecosystem monitoring and river basin governance that can be addressed through the development of this module. The fieldwork will take place in the delta of the Okavango River basin, Botswana, which is a significant biodiversity hotspot as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The pilot module focuses on the challenges of ecosystem management and water governance of the important wetland system. The sustainability of the river is also dependant on international cooperation between Angola, Namibia and Botswana that share the river and these governments are charged to tackle both droughts and flooding affecting communities in one of the poorest region of Southern Africa. An undergraduate research assistant will support in-field data collection on river basin governance and geopolitics of this transboundary river basin, as well as some preparatory literature review, and post-fieldwork report. The RA will work in an international and interdisciplinary team of staff and UG and PGT students. Fieldwork is planned for 10-20 July.


Quantifying long-term natural and anthropogenic phosphorus fluxes
Dr Daniel Schillereff, Department of Geography
Phosphorus (P) is a macronutrient essential to plant and animal life, meaning P availability can limit primary productivity in terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems. Thus, being able to quantify the sources, transfer mechanisms and rates of deposition of phosphorus in different environments is vital. Phosphorus occurs naturally in most bedrock and weathering rates control the release of P into the aquatic systems and the atmosphere. From there, it may be transported in dust plumes, smoke, plant particulates or animal faeces. It is well-known that human activities have perturbed the global phosphorus cycle during the 20th century, especially through the widespread application of P-rich fertilisers for industrial agriculture. Conversely, few studies have considered longer-term anthropogenic impacts, although we know that land clearance for cultivation began millennia ago in some parts of the world. There is tentative evidence from peatlands that anthropogenic dust has increased global P flux but the complexity of biogeochemical cycling in peatlands means confidently separating the long-term natural and anthropogenic components remains a significant challenge. This undergraduate fellowship will test a new approach, examining sedimentary records of long-term variations in P flux obtained from parts of the world with naturally-low concentrations of phosphorus in the bedrock. Removing this natural component may enable the long-term anthropogenic component to be quantified for the first time. First, the student will identify regions of the world with P-deficient bedrock and conduct a literature review seeking reported data on P concentrations in peatlands, lakes, alluvial sequences and other sedimentary archives from those regions. There will then be opportunities to conduct laboratory analyses at King’s College and the Department of Geography at the University of Liverpool to determine the nutrient composition of existing sediment samples. There may be an opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the UK or Norway to collect new sediments for this purpose.


Satellite remote sensing of lakes in the East African Rift Valley
Dr Emma Tebbs, Department of Geography
The lakes and wetlands of the East African Rift Valley provide essential ecosystem services for people, as well as supporting rich and unique biological diversity. This project will use a combination of ground-based measurements and satellite imagery to investigate the sustainability of these critical ecosystems and assess the impacts of environmental change on lake ecology and water quality. The Fellowship will focus on the case of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake, which is under threat from a hydropower dam that will permanently modify hydrology and ecology of the lake. The dam is predicted to have significant negative impacts on the lake’s productive fisheries, which local communities depend on for their livelihoods and food security. The student will investigate the impacts of the dam using a combination of ‘ground-truth’ data for Lake Turkana (water quality measurements collected during a 2016 field campaign) and satellite data from MODIS, Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2. Reflectance measurements captured by satellites can provide information on the composition of materials in natural waters, including the biomass of phytoplankton, which is vital for supporting the productive fisheries in the lake. By calibrating the satellite datasets against field measurements, new remote sensing methods will be developed for estimating


For more information about the KRUF Scheme and to apply, please visit