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Water related research

The University of Warwick has a broad network of researchers whose expertise relates to water. Click on the web links below to explore what we are doing. Our academics are keen to establish links with researchers at other Universities with potential future collaborations in mind.


Slum health

Warwick International Centre for Applied Health Research and Delivery (W-CAHRD)

The Warwick International Centre for Applied Health Research and Delivery (W-CAHRD) acts as a global network bringing together individuals, disciplines and organisations to develop practical solutions to health needs in resource limited nations. Researchers based at W-CAHRD have recently published a series of two in-depth scholarly reviews in the Lancet on the topic of slum health: http://www.thelancet.com/series/slum-health. Over a billion people will soon live in slums, in which child mortality is unconscionably high. There is good reason to conclude that diarrhoea, due to poor access to clean water and adequate sanitation, is the largest killer of children as well as contributing to stunting, poor intellectual growth and reduced life chances. As such, the next stage of our slum health research will focus on the science of improving the application and uptake of water and sanitation solutions in the urban environment.

Key Contact: Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, Associate Professor, Warwick Medical School O dot R dot O dot Oyebode at warwick dot ac dot uk


Global Water & Sanitation

Dr Terry Thomas, Recognised Teacher, School of Engineering

Terry teaches a fourth year engineering module titled ‘Global Water & Sanitation’ and is interested and experienced in:

Rural water supply in the tropics and measures to redress its current low level of reliability
Rainwater (especially roof water) harvesting, including in a specifically Indian context
Water for production – especially irrigation
Africa in general, East Africa in particular, and some Asian countries
‘Self-supply’ household water systems – including water treatment
Eastern India, (has lived 6 months in Kolkata)
He also has an interest in water/sanitation for low-income urban housing.

Key Contact: Dr Terry Thomas, School of Engineering T dot H dot Thomas at warwick dot ac dot uk

Social media as an early warning system for natural hazards

Professor Rob Procter and Nataliya Tkachenko

Increasingly, user generated content (UGC) in social media postings and their associated metadata such as time and location stamps are being used to provide useful operational information during natural hazard events such as hurricanes, storms and floods. The main advantage of these new sources of data are twofold. First, in a purely additive sense, they can provide much denser geographical coverage of the hazard as compared to traditional sensor networks. Second, they provide what physical sensors are not able to do: By documenting personal observations and experiences, they directly record the impact of a hazard on the human environment. For this reason interpretation of the content (e.g., hashtags, images, text, emojis, etc) and metadata (e.g., keywords, tags, geolocation) have been a focus of much research into social media analytics. However, as choices of semantic tags in the current methods are usually reduced to the exact name or type of the event (e.g., hashtags #Sandy or #flooding), the main limitation of such approaches remains their mere nowcasting capacity. In one study we made use of polysemous tags of images posted during several recent flood events and demonstrated how such volunteered geographic data can be used to provide early warning of an event before its outbreak.

Key Contacts: Professor Rob Procter, Department of Computer Science Rob dot Procter at warwick dot ac dot uk

Nataliya Tkachenko, Warwick Institute for the Science of Cities N dot Tkachenko at warwick dot ac dot uk

Coastal and environmental hydraulics

Dr Jonathan Pearson, Associate Professor, School of Engineering

Jonathan has over 20 years’ experience of research in the field of coastal and environmental hydraulics. He has been funded to undertake research studies at major European research laboratory facilities at HR Wallingford, DHI & UPC; has fundamental research funded by EPSRC, NERC, BBSRC & the EU, with applied research supported by Unilever, Syngenta & the Coal Authority.

His research has 2 major themes:

1) Resilient infrastructure from natural hazards

Mitigating the effects of climate change: Disaster Management and Emergency Response to flooding

Coastal flood risks under extreme events: Creating resilience through retrofitting

2) Environmental fate of organic pollutants

Seasonal variation in the biodegradation of chemicals and recently completed awards include; a NERC/Unilever project investigating the effect of bed-form characteristics on the diversity and pollutant degrading potential of microbial communities inhabiting biofilms at the sediment surface, and the way in which direct discharge scenarios affect interactions between bed-form, microbial community composition and pollutant biodegradation rates. The results of a EPSRC/Unilever funded project to improve our understanding of chemical exchanges between the water column and fixed bed sediments in freshwaters, has recently been published.

Key Contact: Dr Jonathan Pearson, School of Engineering J dot M dot Pearson at warwick dot ac dot uk

Nano materials for Waste Water Treatment

Dr Volkan Degirmenci, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

In the area of water purification, nanotechnology offers the possibility of an efficient removal of pollutants and germs. Nanoparticles are used for detection and removal of chemical and biological substances include metals (e.g. Cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc), nutrients (e.g. Phosphate, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite), cyanide, organics, algae (e.g. cyanobacterial toxins), viruses, bacteria, parasites and antibiotics. Metal-containing nanoparticles, zeolites and metal organic frameworks (MOFs) are classes of nanoscale materials that are being developed at Warwick which have great potential to be used as functional materials for water purification. These nanomaterials are promising to be used in water treatment because of their high surface area and tuneable pores and ease to add functionality to surface. In particular; novel surface functionalised porous materials may provide selective removal of undesired chemicals from water and core-shell type magnetic porous oxides may provide ease of separation of the absorbents.

Key Contact: Dr Volkan Degirmenci, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering v dot degirmenci at warwick dot ac dot uk

Water and memory

Dr Joanne Garde-Hansen, Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies, Reader and Course Director MA Global Media and Communication

Joanne has an interest in narratives of water, particularly using and represented through different forms of media (radio, TV, cinema, performance, games, video, storytelling and digital/social media). This started when she was co-investigator on the ESRC funded Sustainable Flood Memories project (with UWE and CCRI) and the follow-up ESRC funded Knowledge Exchange project with the Environment Agency on Digital Stories of Flooding. As well as journal articles in on cultural studies and flooding in Memory Studies and Transactions, this led to the collection Geography and Memory, co-edited with Owain Jones (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) a case study in Social Memory Technology: Theory, Practice, Action with Karen Worcman from Brazil (Routledge 2016). Since 2012, Joanne has been working with Karen Worcman (Museu da Pessoa, Brazil), Prof Gilson Schwartz (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Dr Carlos Falci (University of Minas Gerai, Belo Horizonte, Brazil) on storytelling and the water environment, focusing on river revitalisation, flooding and drought. She worked with Professor Rob Procter (Computer Science) on an ESRCIAA funded project entitled Developing a Flood Memory App (2015). From 2014-2018, Joanne is co-investigator with Prof Lindsey McEwen (UWE) in the NERC funded project: Developing a Drought Narrative Resource in a Multi-Stakeholder Decision-Making Utility for Drought Risk Management or DRY (Drought Risk and You). During 2016-2017 she will be visiting Bauru, Brazil to explore Narratives of Water and digital hydro-citizenship with Dr Danilo Rothberg in a Warwick-Fapesp funded project with the State University of Sao Paulo. Finally, Joanne is researching for a future monograph provisionally entitled Mediating Water: Communication, Culture and Perception that synthesises all of the media research on flood and drought.

Key Contact: Dr Joanne Garde-Hansen, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies J dot Garde-Hansen at warwick dot ac dot uk

Elemental geography

Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Teaching Fellow International Relations and East Asia, Politics and International Studies

Marijn situates his work in the emerging field of Elemental Geography. This broadly means that he is interested in the social, historical and political relationship that humans share with the elements (sand, earth, water, wind etc.). When it comes to the element of water, he is interested in a wide range of aspects, including: the politics of swimming pools (e.g. the barring of minorities from swimming in pools), watery metaphors (e.g. “flood of migrants”), water and law (e.g. ownership of rain water in Detroit, Palestine and elsewhere), but he is also interested in classical myths surrounding water (Greek, Chinese philosophies etc.).

Marijn writes on water and other elements available on his blog. He is interested in collaborating across disciplines when it comes to philosophies, politics, poetics and physics of water.

Key Contact: Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Politics and International Studies M dot Nieuwenhuis at warwick dot ac dot uk

Water footprinting & water systems in horticulture

Rob Lillywhite, Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences

Rob’s research focuses on understanding, quantifying and optimising resource use in different systems (mainly agriculture but sometimes healthcare) and can roughly be divided into the following:

• Water footprinting. Quantifying the volume of water embedded in crops, food products, diets and medical procedures and assessing the environmental impact of its use (Defra and WRAP funded projects);
• Water systems in horticulture. Use of saline water in crop irrigation and control of diseases in recirculating water systems (AHDB funded projects).

Key Contact: Rob Lillywhite, School of Life Sciences Robert dot Lillywhite at warwick dot ac dot uk

Microbial ecology

Dr Hendrik Schäfer, Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences

Hendrik has a track record in microbial ecology and expertise in investigating microbial communities using molecular approaches including:

• Ribosomal RNA gene diversity analysis to investigate community structure
• Functional diversity analysis using marker genes for specific metabolic processes, e.g.

Methyl halide and methane degradation
General one-carbon compound metabolism (methanol, methylated amines, methanethiol, dimethylsulfoxide, dimethylsulfide etc)
Aromatic compound degradation (e.g. para nitrophenol)
• Stable isotope probing to identify metabolically active microorganisms in the environment
• High throughput sequencing, metagenomics

These approaches can principally be applied to any environment, and he has experience in working with aquatic samples, soils, sediments and plant associated microorganisms.

Key Contact: Dr Hendrik Schäfer, School of Life Sciences H dot Schaefer at warwick dot ac dot uk

Microbe-organic pollutant interactions

Professor Gary Bending, School of Life Sciences

We study factors which control the composition, diversity and function of microbial communities inhabiting water and sediment. This includes understanding communities and processes involved the biodegradation of chemicals (pesticides and daily use chemicals).

Key Contact: Professor Gary Bending, School of Life Sciences Gary dot Bending at warwick dot ac dot uk

University of Warwick campus: a living laboratory

University of Warwick Estate Management Team

The Estate Management Team at Warwick has a specific interest in Environmental Sustainability:

To develop water efficiency products
To use the campus as a living laboratory
To communicate good behaviour to the community
Key Contact: Joel Cardinal, Head of Energy and Sustainability J dot Cardinal at warwick dot ac dot uk

International Partnerships

International Strategy and Relations

Warwick is investing significantly in the development of new international partnerships in research and education. We operate with a diverse range of partnership models, some of which have been developed strategically at institutional level, while others bring together specialist research groups in our leading disciplines. All of our activities are underpinned by excellence, be it in teaching or research. The International Partnership team can support colleagues in developing new collaborations with international partners and we administer seed-funds to support early-stage collaborations in priority countries.

Key Contact: Emily Lim, International Partnerships Manager, Office for Global Engagement e dot lim at warwick dot ac dot uk

Teaching and learning

Dr Elena Riva, Teaching Fellow, Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning

The main aim of Elena’s pedagogical and interdisciplinary research is to present to students a global topic such as water in its complexity and to engage them so they can discover, research and experiment the great potentialities of an approach to issues pertaining to water based on a dialogue across the disciplinary boundaries.

The investigation of different learning tools and activities has resulted in the development of the module ‘Thinking Water’ for cross-faculties post-graduates students. The module offers to students the possibility of becoming familiar with disciplinary theories, positions and research themes related to the field of water and gives them the opportunity to experiment with different research methodologies developing a global approach to water related issues and problems.

Key Contact: Dr Elena Riva, Teaching Fellow, Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning e dot riva at warwick dot ac dot uk