Thursday, 24 March 2016

A field trip to the River Rivelin

Hi Everyone. Ishita, International Office Ambassador for Sri Lanka here.
 I hope you’re all doing well.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I study Civil Engineering and my course consists of a combination  lectures, tutorials, group projects, laboratory experiments and sometimes field trips. Most science and engineering courses will have a similar combination of activities. 

Today I will be talking about a field trip I took to the River Rivelin, which was part of one of my modules titled ‘Water Quality Processes’. In many courses fieldwork exercises are carried out in order to provide students with real world experience and skills we can use when working in industry. The purpose of this field trip was to learn about solute mixing potential, water quality sampling and interpreting data from tracer tests and water chemistry analysis in an urban river setting. 

The River Rivelin

Travelling to the site

We took the tram to Malin bridge. Trams are a great way of travelling to different parts of Sheffield and there are several tram stops in the university area. The trams are quite frequent (arriving every 10 minutes during peak times. Day long tram tickets are only £4 and are perfect for students who need to travel around Sheffield such as Meadowhall, the nearby shopping complex.

One of several tramstops in the university area

Inside the tram

Equipment and Safety

During the day long trip we carried out dye tracer tests, collected water samples for chemical analysis, and took measurement of water quality parameters.

We were provided with safety glasses and disposable gloves for handling the water samples. Since we were working next to, and even in the river at some points, we also wore boots. We also received safety vests which we kept on throughout the day. The image below is of our lecturer giving us instructions at the begining of the day.
Receiving instructions

The safety equipment you receive will vary depend on what you're doing. During other test and experiments, in addition to the aforementioned equipment I've used lab coats, hardhats, etc.

Collecting water samples

We collected water samples to analyse electrical conductivity, temperature, alkalinity, organic chemicals and other variables. We collected both unfiltered samples and filtered samples using a syringe.
 We also noted the locations of the river where we collected the samples and labelled the samples accordingly. We checked the temperature and conductivity of the samples at the site and the samples will be analysed at the university labs.

Dye injections 

To measure the mixing of the river we used a fluorescent dye which was injected at a point in the and a fluorometer which measured the concentration of the dye at three points downstream. Probes which were placed at the fluorormeter recorded the concentrations of the dye which enabled us to measure how long it had taken the dye to travel down to the sampling locations. 

One of our sampling locations

Throwing dye into a river

Surveying the site

As part of our field trip we had to carry out a survey of the river. This meant measuring the level of the base of the river using a levelling staff and a theodolite. 

A theodolite, which looks a bit like a camera and acts as a telescope is placed on top of a tripod. We look through the theodolite to read the height of the ground using a staff (which is basically). The image below shows a setup of surveying on a site.
A theodolite

Surveying on land

To do this I, along with my group of 5 other students, had to get into the river. Imagine using the equipment in the image- except INSIDE a river.

Luckily the river was only around a foot high at most parts and our boots protected us from getting wet. For safety reasons I was unable to take pictures while we were in the river (i.e I didn't want to risk dropping my phone into the river).


Of course this is not the end of my module. We will be analysing the results for the next few weeks and writing a detailed report and anallysis based on the information we received during this field trip. Overall, given that it did not rain, we managed to collect all the required data and I managed to not fall in the river at any point, I would consider this field trip a success.

Best Wishes,


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