CHAPTER 1: Evolution.... from a holiday in Dartmoor.... to an idea.....

I can remember sitting in the window of a pub in one of my favourite places in the British Isles. Dartmoor, full of it's rural beauty and majestic landscapes, and my family and I had just had a wonderful day hiking around the tors and the moors. We had ended up dining out at a quintessentially rustic barn pub, and our conversation drifted for the very first time to the topic of my dissertation. It was to be the start of an amazing journey for both my family and myself.

At first, I had some pretty far-fetched plans. A trip to southern Spain, perhaps, to continue the soil erosion work I had started back in the first year of my degree? Perhaps somewhere around Dartmoor and Devon? All I really knew is that I was interested in soil and erosion. Discussions would have to continue at a later date; our food had arrived. (Delicious it was too)!

Fast forward through the summer - a summer spent extremely busy filming for On the Trail - and I entered my second degree year full of optimism and drive. I was especially looking forward to a course called Geomorphology, run by Mr Don Thompson and it would be these lectures that finally helped me in making my final decision.  

It was the 18th November 2014 and on a blank sheet of A4 I typed the words: 'Dissertation Pre-Project Proposal Planning'. And underneath? "The role of root architecture in soil stabilisation/soil erosion potential". Within days, I found myself giving this rather brief and sketchy proposal to Don. He seemed to like it. I considered myself 'in business'.

The theme of root architecture had cropped up (excuse the pun) at college a few years previously, whilst I was doing a project on calcium uptake through roots. Perhaps it was logical to continue exploring this particular area. Root architecture is basically how the root looks, and there are a number of parameters that contribute to such a description. Root depth, root surface area, root diameter, root branching, and so the list goes on. I knew that the consideration of roots within soils was a pretty extensively reviewed topic, but I did stumble upon a niche; a gap in our knowledge. Root tapering (the longitudinal variation of root diameter with root depth) had not been studied and more importantly, the way root taper influences a soil's resistance to erosion had also not been worked on. So, naturally, I shaved some of the breadth off my original title; I was now solely interested in the way root tapering affected soil erodibility.

Chapter 2 will be released 2nd February.... In the meantime, go back to the diaries' homepage

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