Research Student Spotlight July 2022 – Jessica Williams-Mounsey

Our monthly spotlight on the work and lives of the next generation of water@leeds researchers. 

July 2022 – Jessica Williams-Mounsey

School of Geography

PhD title: The impact of removing temporary tracks on blanket peatland ecohydrology.

Supervisors: Joseph Holden, Richard Grayson, Alistair Crowle (Natural England)

Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I originally came from Lancashire, but I’ve called a few places in the UK home, including London and Cornwall. I had a total career change beginning in 2015 when I did a conservation science MSc at Imperial College. Immediately prior to starting at Leeds I had been working for Natural England (NE) in the upland peat team.

Why did you choose Leeds University?

Working at NE led me to Leeds, the work that I was doing at NE was very focused on upland management. The work highlighted a lack of research into what the potential impacts of some management practices were, which in turn hampered the ability of us as practitioners to make informed consenting decisions around these practices, one of which was the input of road infrastructure.

What is your research about?

Tracks on protected peatland sites are used for a variety of reasons, where these are surfaced, they are consented by a government regulatory body such as NE, for a temporary period (~5 years), after which they should be removed. However, very little research has looked at the ecohydrological impacts of removal and subsequent recovery. I’ve collected data looking at both surface and subsurface processes from removed and abandoned tracks compared to control sites. These data include; vegetation composition, structure and height, peat compaction, moisture content, sediment loss and overland flow.

What did you wish you knew before starting a PhD?

To keep a sense of perspective; I now think of my project as fitting one piece into a huge jigsaw. That piece is valuable, but you can’t solve everything with just one piece. When I started though, I felt I needed to answer every pertinent question, which was overwhelming!

Jess on Twitter @botanyonthehoof