Monday, 30 July 2007

Virtual worlds aid education and research

There is increasing interest in the educational and research potentials of computer based virtual worlds. These range from experimental virtual hillslopes (e.g. Weiler and McDonnell 2006, J. Hydrology 319, 339-356) to city scale urban hydrology (D'Artisa and Hellweger, 2007, Env. Mod. Soft 22, 1679-1684) to large online vitual worlds e.g. Second life ( Hydrologists are increasingly using virtual hillslopes to enable testing of model based hypotheses in combination with actual field observations. Leading to advances in understanding the primary controls on flow pathways and nutrient transport (Weiler and McDonnell 2006). Computer simulation games enable dynamic interaction between humans and increasingly 'realistic' environmental processes. D'Artisa and Hellweger (2007) reviewed the hydrology in the popular game SimCity 4. The simple hydrological process representations were found to provide a useful educational tool, but limited in their ability to provide a more robust science or planning tool. As computer games include more accurate and detailed representations of social and environmental processes then their value for learning and research will grow.

In recent years there has been a rapid growth in virtual online worlds. These range from 'role playing' orientated games e.g. World of Warcraft to platforms that are more suited to educational and research possibilities e.g. Second life, Rivercity or Quest Atlantis. Interest in the economic and social sciences to make use of these possibilities is growing (Bainbridge, Science 2007, 317 (472-476)). There are over 8 million people registered with Second Life and a burgeoning number of companies e.g. IBM are making use of virtual worlds to host meetings and workshops. Scientists are also exploring the potential to set up virtual laboratories and carry out experiments that are not easily undertaken using more traditional research methologies.
In the UK the rapid growth in access to internet broadband (40% of UK homes in 2006; has increased the bandwidth (amount of information that can be delivered in a given period of time) and latency (packet delivery speed) enabling the use of computer based simulations at home, at school and in the working environment for learning about how human activity influences water and land management. As these tools are further advanced and their use in further and higher education grows, we will find them an increasing part of our daily activities.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Soil and water....

Originally uploaded by Phil Haygarth
Whilst on a family trip to the seaside recently in Cornwall I came across this engraving on a stone at the side of the road. It seems a pertinent way to make my first posting to the Land Water blog. Water seems to be very much in the mainstream of the British way of life this week, with floods dominating the news and affecting the way we lead our lives. Water really matters, but so does the way we use our land. All is (indeed) "born of water" and all is (indeed) "sustained by water", but I also could say the same for the way we manage our soils. By integrating the two we hope to make a difference.....

Friday, 20 July 2007

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution- Topics for future study

A short list of topics have been released by the commission. These are:
· Climate adaptation in the UK
· Environment and human wellbeing
· Geoengineering for climate change
· Noise pollution
· Phosphate management
· Plastics and the environment
· The electromagnetic environment
· Water management

Water management, phosphate management and climate adaptation in the UK strike an accord with this blogger and I for one will be making a suggestion based on this.

The commission is looking for your comments and suggestions on which topic to study by Friday 24th August. These should be sent to: jon.freeman at

Scientific Paper: A Changing Climate for Prediction

Cox* and Stephenson (2007)

Science 13th July 2007; Vol 317, Issue 5835, 207-208.

p.m.cox at

Current climate change models are designed to estimate long-term future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. These have been instrumental in convincing the world of the need to act. To inform climate change adaptation and mitigation policy these projections need to be redesigned. Adapatation policy is focussed on preparing for the inevitable climate change that will take place over the coming decades, whereas mitigation is used to refer to how policies can be used to avoid dangerous climate change over the longer term. Forecasting systems that enable active management of the world's climate are now required.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

CIWEM information resources on water and climate change

CIWEM have released two introductory reports on water and climate change (

Catchment Management: Land-use and Water

Introduces catchment management, the pressures faced by land and water and highlights the need for an integrated approach to catchment management. Surveys show that integration between sectors e.g. agriculture and water resources, between science and management at different scales and between organisations to be a problem. Solutions they suggest include: making people aware of the benefits of integrated working, achnowleding and moving on from a 'silo mentality', commision more research on what works, spread best practice, improve our understanding of scale issues, set up more joint projects and networks and to move away from ad-hoc integration/communication. They conclude that there is widespread support for an integrated approach to land and water management and that key drivers e.g. agri-environment policies are helping to bring stakeholders together to solve local and larger scale problems.

Climate Change Impacts

An introductory document that sets out the main impacts that climate change will have on UK agriculture, biodiversity, energy, human health, poverty and water resources. The report authors conclude that since climate change will lead to greater uncertainty in climate prediction, this presents more of a threat than an opportunity.

Up and running

Our first newsletter is ready to be sent and the web portal is up and live! I love it when various threads of work come together.


Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Today Phil and I are off to visit Laura and Emma at Defra in London. I am excited to have the opportunity to tell them of our plans and to hear their feedback.


Monday, 9 July 2007


This is an exciting new web portal that aims to coordinate the activities of the sustainable water research community with those of Defra policy and science staff.

As well as hosting this land water blog we will be holding workshops and setting up expert led working groups.

Kit and Phil