I’m Mel. I participate in the i-CONN network as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR 6) and I do a PhD in scaling sediment connectivity in fluvial systems.

Today I would like to introduce myself.


Who am I?

I studied environmental engineering at the undergraduate level, water resources in the master’s degree and now I’m doing a PhD in physical geography. My scientific expertise is in hydrology and geomorphology. I especially enjoy studying rivers in mountainous environments. I’m a person with many interests and hobbies. I love to learn, I’m curious and I like to try new things. I love being outdoors and in nature, and that led me to study the environment. In the master’s degree, I focused on studying natural hazards, such as floods and landslides. I appreciate these subjects because they are strongly linked to our society and I like to reflect on how physical changes in the environment impact our society. Therefore, you can expect to read from me issues related to the environment, rivers, science, society and politics. As a Brazilian, I have a perspective of a developing country, with many environmental and social issues.


What is my PhD project about?

I am currently involved in this PhD project from the i-CONN network at Durham University (UK). I’m studying how sediments are transported and deposited in rivers, forming areas with sediment clusters and areas without or with little sediments.

Rivers can be classified into two types: bedrock or alluvial rivers. Bedrock rivers have little or no sediment deposited, in which the water flows over a bedrock. In contrast, alluvial rivers have many sediments deposited on the riverbed. Most bedrock rivers are a combination of bedrock and alluvial sections. Typically, bedrock rivers are found in mountain areas and alluvial rivers in plain areas.


Studying sediment coverage in rivers is important to understand river incision, landscape evolution, flood hazards, and river ecosystem dynamics. This can contribute to catchment management.


My research questions are:

  1. Why are sediments deposited in certain locations? Why do they travel to other areas?
  2.  What controls the sections of transport and deposition of sediments in rivers? Some examples: 
  • Characteristics of the water flow, such as discharge?
  • Sediment supply processes from hillslopes, such as erosion and landslides?
  • Sediment characteristics, such as grain size?
  • The morphology/topography of the rivers?
  • Lithology? Climate? Tectonic forces? Vegetation?

    3. How do each of these controls influence the sediment coverage of rivers? Do they interact with each other creating feedbacks and thresholds?

    4. How does the sediment cover pattern change over time?


In summary, why are some rivers of the bedrock type while others are of the alluvial river type?


These questions can be addressed at different spatial and temporal scales. I can analyse the change in sediment cover over a short reach within a few meters of extent, as well as I can analyse the change in sediment cover for an entire catchment, assessing how the river network is modified. In addition, I can assess how a rainfall or landslide event changes the sediment cover in the river, as well as how a series of rainfall or landslide events change rivers over time (in years, decades, centuries, or millennia). I’m going to use numerical models to address these issues in my research.


The i-CONN network has given me the opportunity to study sediment transport issues with a connectivity approach.

The science of connectivity is much more developed in disciplines such as neuroscience, ecology, and social sciences. But hydrologists and geomorphologists still have a long way to go in terms of connectivity. I would like to have lessons in connectivity among other disciplines and learn how to apply this knowledge to natural environments, such as rivers. This is one of my goals during my PhD and I’d be happy to exchange ideas about it with you.


Coming up next…

My goal with the research diaries is to share knowledge to contribute to society. In the difficult global moment that we are in nowadays (with fake news and anti-science movements), I hope I can help a little.

You can expect to hear more issues from me about:

  • Fluvial geomorphology and sediment connectivity in rivers.
  • What the opportunity to be part of the i-CONN network and my experience of doing a PhD with a Marie Curie fellowship is like.
  • Diverse subjects such as the environment, rivers, natural hazards, science, and society.

I hope to be able to contribute to other geomorphological topics that were exposed. If you have any questions or insights, let me know – let’s communicate. You can find me on Twitter: @melguirro. I would love to create a community to share and improve ideas. Let’s help each other and make this world better.

Mel Guirro