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The view from the riverbank

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Interactive map of key locations along the Mekong. Click on the place markers to find out more.

So we’re nearing the end of out first field campaign in Cambodia with the Stelar-S2S team and it’s begining to show. The heat and non-stop working has drained everyone. Since the last blog we have been in full fieldwork flow, moving up north to Kratie for five days and then spending another four days in Kampong Cham, before returning to Phnom Penh to polish off lose ends.

Teaching local children and members of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology how to use the CSM.

Teaching local children and members of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology how to use the CSM. Photo Courtesy of Steve Darby

We were joined for the first three days in Kratie by members of the Mekong River Commission and the Cambodian Ministry of Water Resources and Meterorology who were keen to see the techniques we were using and learn more about our work (right). It also provided us a chance to build ties and relationships with key players on the Mekong in Cambodia. They may prove highly useful contacts for when we return in late summer!

Over the past few weeks we’ve covered all of the 300 km reach of the Mekong from Kratie to Neak Leung in the south by boat (see map above). At times it was a long, drawn out process, travelling at an average speed of 8 km/hr. That was until we found a speed boat for hire and zipped down 60 km and back in the space of a morning! That was a bit of a morale boost, as by this time heads were dropping a bit and the thought of return to a snow covered UK was very tempting indeed (although whether it was the speed boat or the introduction of “Mexican Fieldwork Day” (below) which raised spirits remains to be seen!).

Brighten up a boat journey with some fake moustaches. Top tip from P.I. Darby. Photo courtesy of Julian Leyland.

Brighten up a boat journey with some fake moustaches. Top tip from P.I. Darby. Photo courtesy of Julian Leyland.

To put to bed rumours that we’ve been lounging in the sun for two weeks, here’s what we’ve managed to achieve. In total we’ve taken 38 floodplain cores from channel proximal loactions along the entire reach of the Mekong (colleagues from Exeter are planning to come out in March and complete the coring samples with a series of channel distal samples), 130 bank material samples from all along the 300 km reach, 34 bed material samples from the bed of the Mekong River, and conducted approximately 300 Cohesive Strength Meter samples at key locations along the river. So thats ~500 samples over 17 days, approximately 30 samples a day! That’s a fairly productive two weeks in my book.

What’s in a thesis?

It’s a common question asked by many people starting out on the postgraduate journey…What does a thesis consist of? The answer to which is often…It depends on your research.  Now that I’ve got to the end of the PhD process, I thought it was worth revisiting this question. What is actually in a PhD thesis? However, rather than focus on the structure and organisation of a 75000 word document (which will be unique to each thesis) , I’ve taken rather a different approach and looked at what words formed the majority of my work.

The idea came from a former colleague, Ian Pattison (@GoWithTheF1ow), who has done something similar with Wordle. Wordle analyses a block of text and identifies the most commonly used words. When I put my thesis into it, the colourful diagram below is the outcome.


Wordle diagram of the most commonly used words in my PhD thesis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that the title of my PhD thesis is “Modelling the effects of climate change and sea level rise on the evolution of incised coastal gullies”, the most frequently used words were

  • Model
  • Coastal
  • Erosion
  • Climate, and
  • Gully

However, perhaps the interesting part of this is the less common which words which make it onto the list. They give you some clues as to writing style, for example it becomes obvious that I am over reliant on the words

  • Therefore,
  • However, and
  • Furthermore

It is also easy to see your top references, with Darby, Leyland and Tucker all making onto the Wordle diagram.

Somewhat surprisingly is the inclusion of Mao (just to the right of Et on the diagram). I’m not sure how this has managed to get in there, I’ve checked the document and I definitely don’t mention Mao at all throughout the work. Maybe Wordle has underlying political ideals? Who knows? At least I’ve got a quick reference to Key Words for any future publications.