Oxbow lake

Dr Josh Ahmed lands Leverhulme Fellowship for research on Amazon River

University of Hull researcher Dr Josh Ahmed has landed a prestigious Leverhulme Fellowship to study the impact and features of oxbow lakes along the Amazon River.

The three-year project – which will start in February 2022 – will explore what goes on beneath the surface of oxbow lakes, the impact of climate and landscape change on these lakes, and how these changes may impact communities in South America.

Oxbow lakes are formed when a meander – or ‘bend’ – of a river is cut off, forming a free-standing body of water. They are one of the best-known natural features on the planet, but despite this, there is still much we do not know about their characteristics.

The Leverhulme Fellowship will see Dr Ahmed travel out to South America three times to study the lakes which have formed along rivers in the Amazon.

Dr Ahmed said: “This is an exciting opportunity to develop my academic career and study something which I feel incredibly passionate about.

“Oxbow lakes are something many people will remember studying at GCSE geography. Despite them being so well-known though, there are a lot of things we don’t know about what goes on within an oxbow lake over the course of the year, which means it’s difficult to forecast how they may change in the future.

“To have the chance to travel out to the Amazon, and meet some of the communities who rely on these oxbow lakes for their livelihoods, is a huge privilege.

“I can’t wait to get started, and would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for giving me this fantastic opportunity.”

Dr Josh Ahmed

Dr Josh Ahmed

Oxbow lakes bring with them a variety of benefits, both for communities living around them and for our natural world.

People living along the Amazon River fish the lakes for food, but the impact of humans and climate change on oxbow lakes is not fully understood.

“These lakes can be incredibly deep – more than 10m in some cases – and so what happens underneath the surface is less well known to us,” Dr Ahmed said.

“They also provide a role in holding contaminants, which if the lake is reconnected to the main river again, could be carried downstream. So, we need to understand more about what’s in these lakes to predict the potential impact of that.

“The chemical history and footprint of these oxbow lakes is a key focus of the research. There is a lot we still don’t know.”

Dr Ahmed has previously supported global research teams from the University of Hull in the Mekong River in Vietnam.

His new project will take him to another corner of the world – South America.

Dr Ahmed is also in contact with the Royal Geographical Society, and hopes his research findings could be embedded into the GCSE geography curriculum in schools.

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the Energy and Environment Institute, added “I am delighted with this fellowship award to Dr Ahmed.

“This national accolade is testament to the high-quality research environment at Hull, where we are addressing some of the most interesting and pressing research questions on how climate change will impact globally important locations such as the Amazon River.”

Earlier this year, the University of Hull launched its new Leverhulme Centre.

The Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures will explore humanity’s relationship with water in the ‘green-blue’ regions of the world, past, present and future.

Researchers will learn from the past, from multiple disciplines and from Western, non-Western and Indigenous water cultures, with the aim of improving our understanding and resilience to water shocks and stresses including flood, drought and unclean water.

More information can be found here.

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