UCL Department of Geography
Dr. Helen Bennion
  
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Dr. Helen Bennion

Contact

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Reader

Environmental Change Research Centre,
Department of Geography,
University College London,
Gower Street, London
WC1E 6BT, U.K.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679-0519+44 (0)20 7679-0519
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679-7565
email: h.bennion@ucl.ac.uk

Biography

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Helen Bennion first came to UCL in 1985 to study Geography where she obtained a first class honours degree and some years later a PhD, which examined sediment records of eutrophic ponds in south-east England. She was awarded a post-doctoral Royal Society Research Fellowship and spent a year at the Institute of Limnology, Mondsee in Austria. She returned to the Department of Geography at UCL in 1995 to take up a post as Research Fellow with the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC) and was promoted to Senior Research Fellow in 2001, then to Principal Research Associate in 2009, and most recently to Reader in Environmental Change since 2011.

Her research interests are in aquatic ecology and palaeoecology with a focus on freshwater diatoms. Over the last fifteen years she has undertaken numerous national and international research projects examining the impacts of eutrophication on standing fresh waters over a range of time scales and employing lake sediment records to assess environmental change, reference conditions and restoration targets. Since 1996, she has been involved in EU collaborative research on five large multi-partner projects (BIOMASS, EDDI, Euro-LIMPACS, WISER and REFRESH), the most recent of which is examining climate-nutrient interactions in aquatic ecosystems. She is interested in the application of science to lake management and conservation, particularly the EU Water Framework Directive. She is an invited member of the UK Lakes Task Team and UK Eutrophication Forum which advise on strategic research and development, and feed into environmental policy. Much of Helen’s applied research is carried out via ENSIS Ltd, the consultancy affiliated to the ECRC, of which she was appointed Director in 2006. See www.ensis.org.uk

Her publications include around 50 academic articles and over 70 research reports and she is a peer reviewer for numerous international scientific journals and funding bodies. She has supervised more than ten Masters and PhD students and teaches on undergraduate and masters courses including topics of lake eutrophication, palaeoecological methods, water policy, lake management and conservation.

Employment:

2011- Reader in Environmental Change, Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, University College London.

2009- Principal Research Associate, Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, University College London.

2001- Postdoctoral Senior Research Fellow / Environmental Consultant (joint post), Environmental Change Research Centre / ENSIS Ltd, Department of Geography, University College London.

1995-2001 Postdoctoral Research Fellow / Environmental Consultant (joint post), Environmental Change Research Centre / ENSIS Ltd, Department of Geography, University College London.

1993-1994 Royal Society Research Fellow, European Science Exchange Programme, Institute of Limnology, Mondsee, Austria.

1988-1989 Research Associate, Palaeoecology Research Unit, Department of Geography, University College, London.

Professional links and awards:

1987 - H.C. Darby Prize in Geography, University College London.

1988 - R. Morrison Faculty of Arts Prize, University College London.

1996- Peer reviewer for numerous international scientific journals.

2000- Member of the Freshwater Biological Association.

2004- Research Associate of The Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen.

2005-2009 Invited member of UK Lakes Task Team.

2005-2009 Invited member of UK Eutrophication Forum.

2005- Member of the Board of ENSIS Ltd, UCL.

2007- Member of Environment Agency expert panel on diatom quality assurance

2008- Elected member of the International Advisory Committee of the International Paleolimnology Association

Publications

Click here for Publications

Research

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Research Themes

  • Aquatic ecology and palaeoecology
  • Diatom taxonomy and applications
  • The development and validation of diatom-phosphorus transfer functions for reconstructing changes in nutrient status of lakes.
  • Impacts of eutrophication on standing fresh waters over a range of time scales.
  • The use of the lake sediment record to assess environmental change, reference conditions and restoration targets.
  • Application of science to lake management and conservation, particularly the EU Water Framework Directive.

 

Major grants since 1990.

Joint Project Leader of Royal Society/Chinese Academy of Sciences collaborative project on the Eutrophication of lakes in Hubei Province, Central China (1991-1994) and participant in the follow up projects on Environmental change and atmospheric contamination (1998-2001) and Palaeolimnology and shallow lake ecosystem restoration (2004-2006).

Joint principal investigator of NERC project to Develop a transfer function between lake anoxic factor and sedimentary chironomid sub-fossil species abundance (1999-2000).

Principal investigator of NERC project to Assess the value of plant macrofossil records in shallow lakes (2000-2001).

Key partner in the EU Fourth Framework Environment and Climate Programme Biodiversity of Micro-organisms in Aquatic Systems (BIOMASS) (1996-1999).

Joint-scientific co-ordinator and steering group chair of the EU Fourth Framework Environment and Climate Programme European Diatom Database (EDDI) (1998-2001).

Key partner in Achieving Sustainable Catchment Management: Developing integrated approaches and tools to inform future policies as part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) Scoping Study, Funded by ESRC, BBSRC & NERC (2004-2005).

Task leader of the EU Sixth Framework Programme Integrated Project to evaluate the impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems (Euro-limpacs) (2004-2009).

Principal investigator of NERC CASE Studentship project Understanding the ecological response of marl lakes to enrichment: a combined limnological and palaeolimnological approach (2008-2012)

Key partner in Linking historical land use changes with palaeolimnological records of nutrient changes in Loweswater funded by ESRC in association with Department of Sociology, Lancaster University (2009-2010)

Principal investigator for UCL of the EU Seventh Framework Programme Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery (WISER) (2009-2012). http://wiser.eu

UCL deputy co-ordinator, steering group member and work package leader of the EU Seventh Framework Programme Adaptive strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on European freshwater ecosystems (REFRESH) (2010-2014). http://www.refresh.ucl.ac.uk

Co-Investigator of the NERC funded project 'Lake Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability (Lake BESS)' (2014-2016) which explores dispersal and biodiversity impacts on community assembly and ecosystem services in shallow lake landscapes. http://lakebess.wordpress.com/

Project manager of over 70 projects funded by bodies such as the Environment Agency, English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research, and the Irish Environment Protection Agency (1995-present). These cover research topics such as nutrient reconstructions of standing waters, lake classification and monitoring, water quality and sediment assessment, lake database and risk protocol development, and restoration feasibility studies (see ‘Impact’ section for details).

Impact

Helen is interested in the application of limnology and palaeolimnology to lake management and conservation, particularly the EU Water Framework Directive. The desire to contribute to the management of the aquatic environment underpins all of her research.

Helen has worked closely with government and conservation agencies to define ecological and chemical reference conditions for lakes in Europe and in China. For example, she has been centrally involved in advising the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) and Scottish Natural Heritage on reference conditions for UK lakes including development of an ecological classification tool using diatoms (DARLEQ). This was facilitated by her invited membership of the UK Lakes Task Team (2005-2009) and provided the evidence base to inform UK Government response to the EU Water Framework Directive. She recently co-edited a special issue of Journal of Paleolimnology (vol 45, 2011) on "Reference states and lake restoration". Her applied diatom work has helped to inform restoration strategies of >50 lakes suffering from nutrient enrichment.

I was an invited guest on BBC Radio 4s Material World programme in Sept 2005 to speak about diatoms as indicators of environmental change.

I have given talks to local interest groups (e.g. Morvern Historical Society) and regularly present my research outputs at meetings attended by a range of stakeholders (e.g. Llangorse Lake and Llyn Tegid symposia and the Loweswater Care Project).

I am a member of the Environment Agency (EA) expert panel on diatom quality assurance and host regular training workshops for EA staff.

Since 2005 Helen has been a director of ENSIS Ltd, an environmental consultancy within the Geography Department which is dedicated to supporting the research of the Environmental Change Research Centre. On behalf of ENSIS Ltd, she co-ordinates applied work on lowland and shallow lake systems. See www.ensis.org.uk

In the last fifteen years she has been the project manager of over 70 projects which have helped to inform lake conservation and management. Recent projects include:·

  • Identification of reference lakes and evaluation of palaeoecological approaches to define reference conditions for UK (England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland) ecotypes (2002-2004), Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research.
  • Development of an interactive CD-ROM for the identification of freshwater diatoms of the British Isles (2002-2004), Environment Agency.
  • Identification of reference-status for Irish lake typologies using palaeolimnological methods and techniques (IN SIGHT) (2003-2006), Environmental Protection Agency Ireland.
  • Pilot lake monitoring network to support the Water Framework Directive, Phases 1, 2 and 3 (2003-2006), Environment Agency.
  • Site Condition Assessments (2004-2006), Countryside Council for Wales.
  • Establishing reference conditions for Lake Vansjoe, Norway (2005), NIVA.
  • DALES - Development of a phytobenthos classification tool for lakes and lochs (2004-2007), Environment Agency.
  • Palaeoecological study of Linlithgow Loch (2006), Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage & Historic Scotland.
  • Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) for impacted mesotrophic lochs - palaeocological approaches (2006-2007), Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
  • South Milton Ley Habitat Investigations (2006-2007), Faber Maunsell.
  • Using novel palaeoecological  techniques to define lake conservation objectives (2007-2009), Natural England.
  • Palaeoecological study of two fish-stocked lochs (2009), Scottish Natural Heritage.
  • Palaeoecological study of Llyn Padarn (2009-2010), Countryside Council for Wales.
  • Palaeoecological analyses of Norwegian and Polish lakes (2009-2010), NIVA.
  • Diatom analysis and phosphorus reconstruction of Lake Seldalsvatn, Norway (2010), International Research Institute of Stavanger.
  • Using novel palaeolimnological techniques to define lake conservation objectives for three Cheshire meres (2010), Natural England.
  • Using novel palaeolimnological techniques to define lake conservation objectives for Hatch Mere (2011-2012), Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
  • A review of Broads restoration and management: history, current condition and future recommendations and restoration feasibility studies for three broads (2013-2014), The Broads Authority.

 

Teaching

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Undergraduate Courses:
Postgraduate Courses:
  • MSc Aquatic Science (Water Policy - legislative and institutional frameworks; Lake management and restoration).
ECRC Short Courses:

Supervision of PhD, Masters and undergraduate dissertation students.

PhD Students

Past PhD research students:

  • Nicola Hughes (1998-2001), Benthic diatoms in lowland lakes. PhD awarded. Nicola now works in quality assurance and is currently QA manager with responsibility for audit, communication and enhancement in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge).
  • Tom Davidson (2001-2005), Ecological assessment of shallow lakes using contemporary and palaeoecological methods. PhD awarded. Tom is currently a post-doctoral Research Fellow with the Environmental Change Research Centre at UCL and specialises in shallow lake ecosystems.
  • Xuhui Dong (2006-2010) Using diatoms to understand climate-nutrient interactions in Esthwaite Water, England: evidence from observational and palaeolimnological records
  • Emma Wiik (2008-2012) Understanding the ecological response of marl lakes to enrichment: a combined limnological and palaeolimnological approach

Current PhD research students:

  • David Emson (2006-), Palaeoecological studies in ponds to explore past Lemna abundances and consequences for pond food-web.
  • Isabel Bishop (2011-), Assessing the changing status of slender naiad (Najas flexilis) in Scottish mesotrophic lochs using the sediment record: implications for conservation
  • Helen Greaves (2011-) Assessing the value of pond management for biodiversity conservation
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