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Glacier research, Haute Pyrenees, France

A field research team from the University of Birmingham seeks to take a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to investigate how decreases in glacial mass balances will impact on alpine river systems. The implications of these projected changes for hydrological and ecological processes are still not fully understood. Studies will be conducted in a small Alpine river basin close to the village of Gavarnie, in the Parc National des Pyrénées.

The study river basin has two small glaciers (less than 0.1km2 in area) which are predicted to disappear within the next fifty years. The team will use a range of logging equipment to record a number of key meteorological (air temperature, humidity, solar radiation and precipitation) and physical parameters (temperature, river flow, discharge and suspended sediment) at carefully selected sites. This will enable the team to examine habitat changes along a gradient of glacial influence and, through the collection of biological samples, link these changes to biodiversity shifts and feeding interactions of the aquatic fauna.

The team consists of a PhD researcher (Kieran Khamis - an experienced field ecologist) and three undergraduate students Robert Senior (a budding ecologist), Lawrence Bird (a keen hydrologist) and Faye Jackson (an enthusiastic climatologist and hydrologist).

Kieran said after receiving a £1,000 grant from the JWCT, “We would like to thank [you] for supporting our field research. Without this assistance we would be unable to carry out our project in the French Pyrenees this summer.” The funding was provided via the Royal Geographical Society’s Geographical Field Grants programme. The Royal Geographical Society is the UK's learned society and professional body for geography, founded in 1830.

The research will be used to complete three undergraduate dissertations, which will then be integrated to produce a final report with a view for work to be published in a high quality peer-reviewed journal.

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