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  • by Trevor Loveday

Research funder appoints two top scientists to lead probe into river pollution

Research funding body, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has appointed two scientists to oversee research into water quality of UK waterways.


The appointments are, according to the NERC, “part of a plan that will see the UK funding more research to better understand how pollutants enter, transform and interact within rivers, and the effect pollution has on ecosystems that rivers and canals support.”

The scientists – dubbed Freshwater Champions – are: soil scientist and chair of Biogeochemistry at the University of Leeds, Pippa Chapman (pictured top), and leading hydrologist and director of interdisciplinary, university-based water research centre, water@leeds, Joe Holden (pictured). They will also oversee a new four-year programme: Understanding changes in quality of UK freshwaters.

NERC said they will “ help to bring together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across the UK to improve our rivers and canals.” In a joint statement, Chapman and Holden said: “This ambitious research programme will mobilise the UK’s world-leading research teams and connect them with those in a position to shape and influence how we manage our landscapes and water systems to enhance freshwater quality.”


Chapman’s research has focused on effects of changes in land-use and agricultural management practices on soil functions, nutrient cycling, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality. She is also a member of the northeast England Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force and Defra’s Environmental Land Management Expertise Group.


Holden is the founder of the University of Leeds-based water@leeds, which convenes researchers to tackle water challenges. It draws on academics from physical, biological, chemical, social and economic sciences and engineering as well as the from the arts.


He is a member of the government’s water targets expert advisory group and a number of other panels including science advisory groups for MS Amlin and power company, SSE, which he chairs.

Both scientists are leaders of the £6m, NERC Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) which brings together academics and experts from organisations active in catchment management “to find ways to use existing environmental science more effectively.”



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