Life after cutoff: quantifying the 3D evolution of oxbow lakes
I recently commenced a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship based at the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull. The fellowship will explore the poster children of physical geography - oxbow lakes! Oxbow lakes are some of the most recognisable and memorable landforms from geography classrooms across the globe. However, despite knowing a lot about their formation (through a process called meander cutoff, a process by which two meander bends collide - neck cutoff - or a meander loop is abandoned in favour of a shorter, steeper flow path - chute cutoff), we know very little about their post-cutoff evolution; especially in three dimensions. This fellowship will seek to fill that gap by exploring a set of oxbow lakes in the largest river basin on the planet. The Amazon.
The project will quantify the physico-chemical evolution of oxbow lakes in the Bolivian Amazon and determine the key drivers responsible for creating these characteristics. These findings will be sought using a combination of water-level and multi-parameter sensors, high-resolution bathymetric surveying equipment, and complemented with UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) and satellite imagery to observe and scale changes over larger extents. Once the controls on the lake's physico-chemical behaviour has been established, a numerical model will be implemented to explore how these characteristics may change in the future (for example, with climate change or anthropogenic disturbance, both of which are expected to impact the Amazon in the coming decades).