Engaging early career researchers in ecohydraulics: A participatory approach

PART 3 – Major challenges in ecohydraulics

The requirement for high levels of originality for PhD and postdoc projects, combined with the need to read deeply and broadly at early career stages, means that ECRs tend to work at the cutting edge of research. This ought to make them an excellent source of information on disciplinary challenges. A substantial part of the workshop focused on discussing and shortlisting the major challenges in ecohydraulics, a young discipline with a long way to go until full maturity.

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Many of the points raised by ECRs in this part of the workshop echoed previous commentaries on the major challenges in the discipline, including Maddock et al’s Ecohydraulics: An Integrated Approach. Whilst ECRs generally agreed on the broad categories challenges facing ecohydraulicians, they clearly did not agree that ecohydraulics is “an integrated approach”. Not yet anyway!

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Among their top priorities for moving the discipline forward were: defining a common vocabulary, successfully establishing the new Journal of Ecohydraulics, overcoming disciplinary separatism and integrating tools and concepts from different disciplines.

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Compared to the commentaries of more senior colleagues, ECRs put much more emphasis on integrating a wider range of concepts, including ecosystem services and ideas from social sciences and economics. They also identified public and political engagement as a key area for improving the impact and reach of ecohydraulics. Furthermore, they thought that citizen science would be an excellent way to both educate the public and engage them in research partnerships through citizen science, something that colleagues in the hydrological and ecological sciences have been doing to great effect in the last decade (e.g. Dickinson et al. 2012; Buytaert et al. 2014).

The group’s identification of key challenges in ecohydraulics during the workshop laid the foundation for discussions of barriers and opportunities for ECRs in trying to overcome those challenges. This will be the topic of the next blog.

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