nature

Water and Norway: the Nordic Hydrology Conference in Bergen

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I had the absolute privilege of being able to do graphic recording at a conference on hydrology last week. It touched on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to): sustainable urban hydrological solutions; groundwater; floods; land-atmosphere interactions; hydrological processes and modelling; climate services; and hydropower. There was a heavy emphasis on urban adaptation and learning to reallocate, trap and conserve, and divert water as necessary in a future influenced by climate change.

I covered three topic sessions with my recordings: (1) Surface water, groundwater and blue-green solutions in urban areas, (2) Groundwater, and (3) Environmental flows, water quality and sediments, as well as talks from the five keynote speakers.

There was a wonderful tour of an old archaeological site in Bergen, called "Bryggen": this is what remains of the city's (wooden) old town, and which has survived or been rebuilt following the city's numerous fires. It has been built on top of reclaimed land - a substrate made of pallets of wood and other miscellany assembled together following each fire (especially a large one in 1702), and sunk into the water offshore to build up new land. This wood and miscellany would have represented daily life, snippets that provide a glimpse into past centuries. It is an archaeological treasure trove that is preserved by the (fresh) groundwater it is immersed in. Too much briney seawater? it can degrade the archaeological site. Exposure to air? The site can oxidize and degrade. So a complex system of swales and rain gardens has been built around the archaeological site to maximize the infiltration of rainwater into the ground, thus keeping the groundwater level high enough to protect it. Thus the archaeology is preserved for future archaeologists to exhume when resources and technologies allow for it to be sufficiently preserved above-water as well. A really cool example of the ways that monitoring and managing urban water flows can help to protect cultural heritage, as well.

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The one topic that felt largely absent at the conference was ecohydrology (though of course this may have been more present in some of the sessions I didn't attend), the study of how ecosystems and organisms react to changes in water flow / temperature / etc. What are the impacts of climate change on ecosystems? What are the impacts of building a hydropower plant on ecosystems? One keynote speaker (Lee Brown) did address this with a talk on studies he and others have conducted in the UK Uplands and in the Alps to better understand the impacts of different flow regimes, and seasonal loss of flow: their findings indicated a wide range of ecological responses, however (measured using macro-invertebrates as indicators), which suggests that there is still a lot to be studied to understand the extent of the impacts. One thing is certain, though: building hydropower, as clean as it may be on a global scale, does have local impacts, and these need to be studied and addressed with great care and awareness.

All in all, though, the conference was fascinating, and a brilliant opportunity to dive deeper into the world of hydrology!

Swedish retreats

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Working holidays - more of these, please! I spent a glorious week up in Västra Götaland, Sweden, with my housemate at her family's summer house there. A week of soaking in the beautiful weather of this crazy hot summer, hopping in the lake whenever it got too hot, hopping in the sauna in the evenings if it ever got chilly, reclining amongst the great granite outcrops that make up this beautiful landscape, picking berries... yeah, if I didn't have to go to meetings, and if I could have relocated all my art supplies to Sweden for the summer, you had better believe I would have just stayed there!

Almost as much fun as the week at the summer house was getting there and back. My housemate and I took our bikes up overnight on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, hopped on a train (bikes still in tow), and cycled the last 20 km across the (very hilly!) landscape up to the summer house. When I ended up having to come back to Kiel earlier than planned due to a new commission and some new deadlines that I couldn't turn down, I took a different (and equally exciting!) route back: I cycled 50 km north into Norway to catch a long-distance bus back down into Sweden as far as Malmö, where I got a ferry back down to Travemünde, Germany. I love how manageable this kind of travel is here! If you're willing to spend the time getting from Point A to Point B, and can get some work done while in transit, it is one hundred percent worth the adventure.

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A seagull enjoying the view of the Kiel Förde on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, before heading out into the open Baltic.

A seagull enjoying the view of the Kiel Förde on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, before heading out into the open Baltic.

Me getting ready to get onto the ferry back down to Travemünde from Malmö - they gave me a high-vis jacket so that I could safely cycle onto the ferry along with the cars and trucks!

Me getting ready to get onto the ferry back down to Travemünde from Malmö - they gave me a high-vis jacket so that I could safely cycle onto the ferry along with the cars and trucks!

Illustration Weekend

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This past weekend I took a train back up to Denmark to spend three days collaborating with other illustrators for an anthology. It was spontaneous and open and full of beautiful ideas and work, and I found myself so excited to be re-immersed in an artists' environment. 

We had almost no restrictions to the anthology, beyond a colour palette and the prompt word "Wunderkammer" (cabinet of curiosities). I thought about the things I collect, stones, and the beautiful elongated shape of the ones I collected while visiting Lake Baikal, in Russia. They are eroded by the tides of the lake (Baikal, with 20% of the world's fresh water, is large enough to have tides, unlike smaller lakes!), and have these entrancingly long oblong shapes. Thus this short comic, on the collecting of stones.

I made the following two images as well, inspired by some of the objects other participants brought in or described. I didn't ultimately use them for my final submission to the anthology, but perhaps they'll show up in future work!