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Water Woman Winner - supporting soil and water research

Water Woman
2023 Water Woman Award winner, School of Geography technician Sarah Hunt, has used her award to improve the quality of support she can offer research projects, and has written a blog about it:

'With the Water Woman Award professional development grant, I chose to enhance my knowledge of soil types, by attending a British Society of Soil Science course – Introduction to Soils in England and Wales.

I attended the course with a colleague and we learned practical ways to define a soil profile in the field and how to look at the land to understand how the soil will vary in different areas. Some very wet weather made for interesting field class conditions in Mid Wales at IBERS and Pwllperian Upland Research Centre.

Some good examples of gleyed (periodically waterlogged) and podzol (Iron rich soils where the iron has been leached down the soil profile to form a layer on top of less permeable soil layers) soils were available in the field for us to dig and identify the soil profile layers.

The benefits to me and to the projects that I am working on will be to have a more solid understanding of how different soil types form, how to identify them, and more confidence with lab and field based techniques.

Water and soil are closely linked in an agricultural setting in the projects I am working on as a research technician. The compaction and condition of the soil alters the ability of the water to permeate through it, and as the water moves through the soil it alters the soil type very slowly by moving dissolving/suspending fine grains of organic matter and solutions through it.

For Dr Laura Carter’s project – Contaminants of emerging concern in agricultural systems: a risk to soil and plant health? I assist in the lab with the set up and application of plant growth experiments assessing the risk to plants, and those that eat them, of different contaminants that could be in waste water used to irrigate crops. The contaminants in the waste water move through the soil and are taken up by the plants.

For Dr Ruth Wade and Prof Pippa Chapman’s project – Regenerative Agriculture for Fix our Food I work in the field and the lab looking after instrumentation and sampling in a trial demonstrating the differences between conventional and regenerative agricultural practices and the stages in between. The permeability of water through the soil in the plots with different treatments change over time.

As a result of attending the course, we plan to pass on our knowledge in our department and may run a short internal course demonstrating some of the techniques we have learned.'

Sarah is the winner of Water Woman Award for Research Support 2023.   To hear more about Water Woman, watch this short film which includes interviews with Sarah and other awardees, and also colleagues who participated in an inspirational celebration this year.

Thank you to Sarah for writing this blog and for being an inspirational Water Woman!