Dr. Harry Dixon is a Senior Hydrologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Secretary of the UK Committee for UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. Here he talks to UKNC about his science, IHP and how this contributes to UNESCO’s mandate for international collaboration in science, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
UKNC: What are you currently working on at CEH?
HD: The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is a research organisation focusing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. I work at CEH as a hydrologist, specialising in the measurement, management and assessment of hydrometric data. My research interests relate to how we measure hydrological variables (such as river flow or rainfall) and how we manage, share and analyse the resulting data. One of my key projects involves running the UK National River Flow Archive, a data centre which collates and shares information from river catchments across the country.
Other elements of my work at CEH relate to some of our many international science projects and at the moment, I have a particular focus on India. CEH has a number of collaborations with Indian partners looking at issues such as how small scale water management interventions (for example, small dams build by farmers) impact upon the hydrology of catchments at larger scales, so that policy makers can consider the compound implications of such practices. This is just one example of a wide range of projects currently underway between the UK and India in the water science area. In light of such growing science links between India and the UK, I’m currently working on establishing a Joint India-UK Centre for Water Security which will foster even greater links between the two countries.
UKNC: How, if at all, does this connect to UNESCO’s IHP Programme?
HD: The vast majority of the science that we undertake at CEH is either conducted in partnership with international researchers or has relevance overseas. The same is true for most research hydrologists across the UK based in universities, research centres or commercial companies. The IHP is the only scientific intergovernmental programme in hydrology and water resources within the UN system. The UK has played a key role in the IHP since its inception, collaborating on research projects and aiding education and capacity development initiatives around the globe. The UK Committee for National and International Hydrology, with its secretariat at CEH, acts as the UK National Committee for the IHP and aims to support and coordinate the UK contribution to the Programme. Here at CEH we try and help scientists from across the UK engage in the IHP as well as linking our own work to the Programme.
UKNC: In what ways, if any, has being a member of the UK’s UNESCO IHP Committee supported you in your work at CEH?
HD: The IHP has offered me opportunities to foster international research links and help further scientific initiatives across the globe. At a personal level, the research networks developed through IHP initiatives such as FRIEND (Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data) have helped me to promote my work and develop links with other scientists working in similar fields. In terms of my work building wider engagement with the IHP, the UK has very advanced hydrological research capacity and working with UNESCO provides an opportunity for UK scientists to influence the global advancement of the discipline and the subsequent development of freshwater policy and management practices. This provides benefits to both UK science and international development agendas.
UKNC: How can hydrologists in the UK get involved with the UK IHP Committee?
HD: The UK IHP National Committee comprises representatives of a wider range of organisations who have an involvement in national and international hydrological matters. This includes a range of departments of national government, devolved governments and agencies, together with UK representatives of international non-governmental organisations and of initiatives within international programmes. The Committee is always keen to hear from UK hydrologists who are either currently or would like to be involved in the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme.
UKNC: What’s next for CEH?
HD: CEH’s research is continuously evolving to meet the science challenges around building resilience to environmental hazards and managing environmental change. We believe that international collaboration underpins research excellence and are constantly looking to build on our existing links through networks such as those provided by the IHP. As scientists we’re always looking to the next unanswered question and working overseas in other hydrological environments enables us to study some of the world’s most pressing science issues related to water. The new UN Sustainable Development Goals and growing recognition of the importance of integrated water management, are going to require new advances in scientific understanding and tools. Through engagement in the IHP we aim to contribute to these endeavours.