Where and what. Dissertation takes shape.

Having had a boat in the marina for six years and having worked at the marina for a year prior to starting my bachelor’s degree, I knew the management team. We had an informal chat about the possibility of a research project to define and monitor the currents within the marina, and the quantity of suspended sediment entering and leaving the marina at different states of the tide. Unfortunately, Premier Marinas felt the administration and bureaucracy that they would have to adhere to would make the project unworkable for them. A blow for me as I really wanted to try to make a difference to the marinas functionality and environmental impact.

Undaunted, and using contacts I had gained from working at Brighton Marina, I contacted a friend at Shoreham Port Authority about my idea. To my surprise he told me that Shoreham Port was already trying alternative methods of sediment management, and following a few emails, I sat down with the harbour master and it became obvious to me very quickly how enthusiastic and helpful the team at Shoreham would be.

Over the course of a few months I developed a sampling project that Shoreham Port Authority would help me complete. The enthusiasm and positivity of everyone at Shoreham was energising and gave me renewed vigour in the project and in the hope that the project really could make a difference.

Now that I had an idea of the direction I wanted my dissertation project to take, and I had managed to secure support from the port authority, I needed to define what the project would consist of?

To research and design an alternative to backhoe dredging was completely beyond the scope of a bachelor’s degree, and I had to keep reminding myself of this as lecture after lecture inspired me to do more and more. The quality and enthusiasm of the teaching staff at the University of Brighton made deciding exactly what the scope of the project would be incredibly difficult.

As I discovered the amazing characteristics of salt marshes (of which Shoreham has many) and their ability to capture and lock away carbon, out performing even the Amazon rainforest per square metre, I wanted to bring this in to the project. As I learnt about the strength, and complexity of ocean currents, tides and amphidromic points, I wanted to explore and develop these inputs. As I discovered the unique and varied flora and fauna that lives in estuary environments, I wanted to bring this magical world and its distinct battles that it wages every tide in to my project. But I had to keep reminding myself of the constraints and expectations of a bachelor’s degree dissertation project.

So it was that the final project was devised. Using three transects on the western arm of the stretch of the River Adur up to almost to the Sussex Yacht Club from the mouth of the river. I would take samples of water at one metre intervals of depth in three places across the river. This would allow me to build up a picture of the volume of suspended sediment at three distinct locations within the estuary. By sampling at different times of the year, at different states of the tide, and after differing weather phenomenon, I could expand the picture of suspended sediment to try and identify key inputs and factors affecting the type and volume of sediment being carried and deposited in the estuary.

With the boundaries of the project decided it felt like I had moved away from the original concept completely, but upon reflection I realised I could not look at what to do with the sediment until I understand completely the origin, volumes and dynamics of the material I hoped to control.

Following discussions with what became my supervising professor, I also added Acoustic Doppler Current Profiling (ADCP) to the project. This compact and portable piece of equipment can analyse a cross section of the river and show you the direction and speed of the flow. This additional information would allow me to show what the currents in the estuary are doing and help to expand on the energy regimes present in the water. (More to follow on the ADCP in another blog piece.)