blog post series from the okavango delta

Staff and students from King’s Water are en route to the Okavango basin.  As a third entry to our series of blog posts on the fieldtrip to this unique river basin, MA student, Hanna Chorbachi reports on what she’s looking forward to during the trip.  This exciting trip will aim to understand the complex sustainability challenges of the Okavango delta and is part of a joint project of the PLuS Alliance with University of New South Wales and Arizona State University.  See previous blog posts here and here.

I’m a Masters student on the Geopolitics, Territory and Security programme at King’s. I completed my undergraduate degree at Exeter University, in English Literature and International Relations. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I had a keen focus on resource use in literature, and how changing land use was represented in memoirs. After graduating, I knew I wanted to apply my knowledge of resource use and its impacts in a real-world context, hence the decision to study a Geography Masters at King’s. My thesis focuses on the multi-scalar network of actors that are involved in managing the Okavango. I look at how actors other than the state, such as the international level (both NGOs and foreign governments), and the local level, influence the riparian governments’ dominant basin management narratives.

Throughout my Masters, I’ve taken modules in the Political Economy of the Environment; Water, Security and the Environment; and the Geopolitics of Natural Resource Disputes. I’ve also audited modules in the Political Economy of Oil and Gas, and Water Resources and Management. This has given me a breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of resource management. Furthermore, through attending events and seminars hosted by King’s throughout the year including the public perceptions of climate change, and hydro-hegemony, my interests have been steered in the direction of water management, transboundary issues, and power relations.

Outside of King’s, I’m a volunteer speaker for WaterAid, and have just secured a job in the UK Civil Service. As part of DEFRA, I will be working in their international conservation team, helping to realise green corridors for wildlife, and create programmes that foster positive human-wildlife relations across Southern Africa.

The trip to the Okavango Delta will be highly beneficial in multiple ways. Firstly, I will have the opportunity to listen to lectures from leading academics from the universities involved in the PLuS Alliance, as well as lectures from partners that manage the area directly. By experiencing the Delta first-hand, I hope to gain an understanding of how basin management decisions affect both humans and the ecosystem, and understand the trade-off that occurs between plans for socio-economic and infrastructural development, and wishes to protect the environment. I will also be helping to examine data on the biodiversity of the area, which is important for monitoring ecosystem health. Finally, the trip will allow me to experience one of the areas I will be working on in my role at DEFRA, meaning I will be more experienced and knowledgeable about the on-the-ground reality of an area I will be helping to manage in the future.

PhD Researcher Profile: Meng Zhang

Meng Zhang graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Tianjin University of Technology, China, and a master’s degree in Pollution and Environmental Control from the University of Manchester, UK. After years of study in the field of environmental science, Meng has a broad understanding and grasp of environment knowledge in water, atmosphere, solid waste, environmental monitoring and assessment. However, Meng is most interested in water environment and water ecosystem. During his master’s degree, he practiced water quality monitoring and microbial analysis in the Peak District and Prays Mountain.
Meng is now pursuing a doctorate in water pollution at the Department of Geography, King’s College London., supervised by Dr. Michael Chadwick.
Meng’s study had three main directions. First, the effects of nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon on water quality in time and space, and explore the relationship between their effects and land use types. Second, explore the uptake and regeneration of nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon at the sediment-water interface. This is crucial to the current water quality and water ecological restoration. Many studies have shown that when exogenous pollution of water bodies is effectively controlled, the water bodies may still be polluted by the release of nutrients from sediments to the overlying water. Third, explore the metabolism of river ecosystem through the change rate of dissolved oxygen.
China is facing the challenges of urban river pollution control, Meng chooses Beijing for his study. He is also doing experiment with tributaries of the Thames River in London to provide richer data on potential comparisons between the water quality of urban rivers in the two capitals.
Meng’s three water words:
For more about research opportunities with King’s Water, check out our website. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter!

10th Hydro-hegemony Conference (HH10)

King’s Water is pleased to co-host the 10th Hydro-hegemony conference (HH10).  This conference will be of interest to those working on transboundary water issues and the politics of water in general.  The conference is open to both academics and practitioners, following the eclectic spirit of the London Water Research Group which has driven the hydro-hegemony conversations for the last decade plus.

Read the conference concept note here, as well as details below.


The 10th Hydro-hegemony conference (HH10) discusses ‘The Power of Representation & the Representation of Power in Water Conflict and Cooperation’. The conference is co-organised by IHE Delft, Wageningen University & Research, King’s College London, the University of East Anglia, and the London Water Research Group, supported by the City of The Hague, the Netherlands. It will take place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 October 2019 in the Humanity Hub, a venue within easy reach of Den Haag Central Station.

The HH10 conference provides a platform to discuss representation of interests and issues as well as representation through discourses, narratives and images. It will focus on the following two questions:

  • Who and what is (not) represented in transboundary water decision making?
  • How are transboundary water issues (re)presented?

More information can be found in the attached call for papers.

We invite researchers, students and practitioners to address these questions and submit:

  • a proposal for a 90-minute session including speakers with a word limit of 500 words, or
  • an abstract for a 15-20-minute paper presentation with a word limit of 300 words

Young researchers are especially encouraged to apply.

The deadline to submit your proposal or abstract is 31 July via

Participation to the conference is free, but registration is required. Please register here:

For questions please do not hesitate to email to

On behalf of the organisers,


Jenniver Sehring, Rozemarijn ter Horst, Emanuele Fantini, Jeroen Warner, Sumit Vij, Naho Mirumachi and Mark Zeitoun


Blog post series from the Okavango delta

As a second entry to our series of blog posts following the staff/student field trip to understanding the complex sustainability challenges of the Okavango delta, we have a student profile by Heather this week.  This trip is a joint project of the PLuS Alliance with University of New South Wales and Arizona State University.


Into the Okavango Delta by Heather Needham

I am a first-year undergraduate student currently studying BSc Geography at King’s. During my first year at university, I have found studying modules themed around biodiversity, climate change, hydrology and natural hazards really interesting.

Outside of university, I have recently completed a two-week internship at the Royal Geographical Society, and I represent the Society as a Geography Ambassador.

It is an honour to be awarded a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship which gives me the opportunity to travel to the Okavango Delta this month. This will be a new experience for me as it the first time I have flown outside of Europe.  I will be joined by students from the University of Arizona and the University of New South Wales in which we will help preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Botswana, I will be exploring the physical and human processes that affect the wetland. This enables me to advocate conservation through the exploration, collection and analysis of data in the Okavango which supports my ambition to protect and conserve natural landscapes. In particular, I will be assisting Michael Chadwick on his research examining the factors that affect the ecosystem services in Botswana. Specifically, I will be investigating how disease affects Botswana spatially.

Even though writing my dissertation is still quite far off, the research trip to Botswana will enable me to understand how to conduct a field research project abroad and what is involved in higher academic research. This will give me the experience and skills I need to fuel my ambition to be the first in my family to obtain a Doctoral Degree.



Film screening and workshop: “Our Lives Depend on the River”

Film screening and workshop:

 “Our Lives Depend on the River

Hydropower development and its impact on environment, poverty and conflict dynamics in the Lower Omo, Ethiopia

Monday 3rd June 9am – 3pm

King’s College London,

Bush House (South East Wing), 1.01, London

Communities in Nyangatom, in the Lower Omo region of Ethiopia, have experienced a range of environmental shocks since 2015 including drought, changes in the Omo River flood-regime due to dam developments, and crop pest infestations, which have curtailed crop harvests. These changes are contributing to increased environmental degradation and poverty, reduced food security and increased dependence on government food aid.

During the workshop we will consider how communities can be supported to adapt their livelihoods to cope with changing environmental conditions and to mitigate the impact of lost flood-retreat cultivation livelihoods.

Our findings come from an ERSC-DFID funded study ‘Shifting in/equality dynamics in Ethiopia: from Research to Application (SIDERA)’, an interdisciplinary research project which examined the links between poverty, conflict and environmental degradation in the Omo Valley, and the role of inequality at the core of this nexus.

Register to attend the event at:

Film: “Our Lives Depend on the River”

This film illustrates challenges faced by communities in the Nyangatom district, Ethiopia, including changes to the Omo River, crop pest infestations and invasive plant species.

The film was produced as part of the knowledge exchange component of the SIDERA project, which aims to:

  1. exchange knowledge among diverse stakeholders and different disciplines and fields, e.g. integrating knowledge regarding environmental changes and their implications for poverty, peace, and security
  2. stimulate new thinking/conversations about prevailing and alternative models of development, social inclusion, and profit sharing

During the workshop, we will describe how we set about co-producing, translating and transferring crucial knowledge from local environments, where largely non-literate communities hold vast unused expertise, to the national and international spheres, and vice versa. We will also feed-back on discussions from a series of dissemination workshops carried out in Ethiopia at national, regional and local levels. Finally, we will discuss potential solutions, future directions and policy recommendations.

Film screening and workshop: “Our Lives Depend on the River

Monday 3rd June 9am – 3pm

King’s College London, Bush House (South East Wing), 1.01, London


09:15 – Coffee

09:30 – Introductions:

  • The SIDERA project
  • Challenges facing communities in Nyangatom

09:45 – Key Findings:

  • Environmental Change: How have recent developments affected the spatial and temporal availability of and access to natural resources in the region?
  • Wealth/poverty: How are environmental changes influencing relations of material in/equality?
  • Peace/conflict: How are changing resources affecting conflict dynamics in the region?

11:00 – Coffee

11:30  – Film Screening: Our Lives Depend on the River

12:00 – Breakout Discussion

12:30 – Lunch

13:30 – From Research to Application:

  • Policy recommendations
  • Our approach to translating research into application
  • Ongoing work

14:30 – Reflections

15:00 – End  

Welcoming our new staff Dr. Jane Catford to King’s Water!

Dr Jane Catford joined King’s Geography about 6 months ago. She is plant ecologist interested in interactions between vegetation and global environmental change – and approaches the topic of water from that perspective. She’s particularly interested in biological invasions and how exotic plant invasions can be both a symptom and cause of environmental change, including hydrological change. She mostly works in rivers, wetlands and grasslands.

After completing a BA/BSc at Monash University in Australia, Jane spent a year researching effects of urbanisation on benthic microalgae in streams, and then worked as an environmental consultant for a couple of years. This work was freshwater-focused, with projects including river restoration, environmental impact assessment, water-sensitive urban design, including the design of constructed wetlands. Her PhD at the University of Melbourne examined drivers of vegetation change in floodplain wetlands of the River Murray, Australia’s largest river system. Through hydrological modelling, vegetation surveys and plant traits (and a bunch of other things!), she found that the switch from native- to exotic-dominated vegetation was driven by river regulation and associated changes in wetland flooding regimes.

Since finishing her PhD, she’s worked as a vegetation specialist on a project funded by the Australia-China Environment Development Program that developed and trialled a rapid river health and environmental flows assessment protocol for China. The project was run in collaboration with the Chinese Ministries of Water Resources and Environmental Protection and the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, and involved fieldwork and training in southern, central and northern China (where the tofu is mind blowing!). She has also been involved in projects that examine the impacts of climate change, and climate change adaptation, on freshwater and riparian systems, and has investigated the impact of invasive plants and animals on hydrological ecosystem services. She’s in involved in a industry-research linkage grant funded by the Australian Research Council that aims to quantify the interactive effects of flood regime restoration, native vegetation plantings, and removal of understorey vegetation in restoring degraded wetland forests. Some of her PhD students have worked on wetland restoration following river regulation and agriculture, and have quantified the amount of carbon stored in wetlands, the drivers of that storage, including the influence of plant traits.

At King’s, Jane’s “watery’ activities include: coordinating and teaching Applied Aquatic Sciences with Mike Chadwick next year; co-supervising Stefanie Kaupa (with Mark Mulligan), a NERC DTP PhD student, who is researching the impacts of agricultural land abandonment on hydrology in the mountain environments of Nepal and Colombia; supervising two Masters students examining vegetation along Hampshire’s chalk streams; and teaching/research in the Okavango Delta in Botswana as part of PLuS Alliance with the University of New South Wales and Arizona State University. Led by Marije Schaafsma at University of Southampton, Jane, Mark Mulligan, Arnout van Soesbergen and others have just submitted a GCRF proposal to work on the lower Shire River Basin (and the Elephant Marsh) in southern Malawi where human lives and livelihoods, hydrology and ecology are tightly integrated – and all increasingly threatened by ongoing climate and land use change.

If anyone would ever like to talk water and plants, Jane would be delighted!

King’s Water Researcher Profile – Dr. Majed Akhter

Dr Majed Akhter has recently been awarded from the BBC and the AHRC. The jointly-run program works with ten scholars, called “New Generation Thinkers“, to develop their broadcast skills and to create programming for BBC Radio 3. Part of the application process involved a full-day “audition” at the BBC Broadcasting House, where he also had the pleasure of meeting some of the other short-listed applicants and learn about their research.

Majed pitched “Dam Fever”, a program or series of programs that would explore the 20th-century history of large dams with a focus on their ideological, developmental, and socio-ecological impacts and contexts. Over the next year of working with BBC presenters, producers, and the other New Generation Thinkers, Majed aims to translate for a broad radio audience a decade of scholarly research and university teaching on the political and historical geography of rivers and hydraulic infrastructures.

“I’m excited to share my research on the links between state power, uneven development, natural resources and the built environment by telling good stories.”

See profile here.

Plumbing Poverty in the Americas

Dr. Katie Meehan is a new faculty member at King’s Geography and an expert in household water insecurity, urban infrastructure, and water governance and policy in Latin America and the USA. She directs the Plumbing Poverty project, a new research initiative that explores the intersectional nature of infrastructure, space, and social inequality, with a focus on domestic water provision.

In a recent article published by the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Meehan and her team explore the social geography of domestic water provision in the USA and expose its racialized, classed, and political nature. In the USA, nearly 1.5 million people lack complete household plumbing (the presence of piped water and sewerage). Just 14% of households without complete plumbing are ‘trailers’ or mobile homes.


This phenomenon is neither socially nor spatially random. Across all households, accounting for income and housing type, Native American households are 3.7 times more likely to lack piped water service; Black and Hispanic (Latinx) households are 1.2 times more likely. Meehan’s article begins to map the failure of public policy and local state institutions to provide equal life opportunity in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.


Check out the article here!

King’s Water Annual Lecture 2019! All welcome!

The King’s Water Activity Hub is proud to announce our 2018-2019 Annual Lecture, featuring Dr. Lydia Burgess-Gamble from the Environment Agency. She will be speaking about “Designing a Research Framework for Natural Flood Management”. The Annual Lecture will be held Friday March 29th, between 5 and 6.30pm in the North East Wing of Bush House, 6th floor room 6.05, Department of Geography, King’s College London. A drinks reception will follow.


Agency’s flood risk research team. She will talk about how they identify research needs and deliver applied research, filling gaps in policy and practice.

She will talk about her current role where she has developed a Research framework defining high priority areas of research in the field of Natural Flood Management, and how this led to the publishing of a seminal piece of work which summarises the evidence behind Natural Flood Management. This has in turn informed current government policy through the 25 year environment plan and is being used by practitioners implementing NFM schemes.

Lydia will also talk about how the Environment Agency works with Research Councils to steer and inform Research call.