The Loddon has flooded…

My name is Jess, a second year PhD student at the University of Reading and quite possibly one of the only people in the country who has been hoping for heavy rain this winter! My research is focussing on the mobility of metal contamination in the floodplain soil with my study site located on the University owned Hall Farm, adjacent to the River Loddon. I was concerned that with the hot summer we experienced last year and the relatively mild winter we’d been having up until very recently that I would be sampling on a floodplain that wouldn’t flood! I have been keeping a close eye on the EA river levels website for Arborfield Bridge, as well as the groundwater level data sent from the borehole logger set up in the field and, of course, the weather forecast. The snow melted and the rains came and I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked to the field to find it was flooded! I wasn’t expecting the flood to be so deep and quickly resigned myself to the fact that my wellies would not save me from wet feet! Despite this, I have now sampled during a flood.

Over the next couple of months I will continue to sample post-flood so I will have extracted soil water (pore water) from across the field before, during and after a flood event. Extraction of the pore water is through high-speed centrifugation of soil samples. I freeze the pore waters to store them and then conduct analyses at labs of the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Keyworth for concentrations of metals, and other explanatory variables. I hope to be able to show whether the flood releases metals that have been bound to the soil from our legacy of industrial contamination. I am also collecting river water and ground water samples to see whether I can detect any movement of the metal contamination from the soil to the environment. Much of the research in this area has previously been done with soil cores in a laboratory under pre-determined conditions, so I hope that my sampling will provide the much needed field data and results that are much more applicable to real-life.