Professor Desmond Walling
Emeritus Professor


Research interests

Des Walling’s research interests lie in the field of hydrology and fluvial geomorphology. He has a particular interest in erosion and sediment yield, catchment sediment budgets, sediment tracing, water quality and diffuse source pollution and catchment management.

Des Walling’s main research activity currently focuses on land erosion and the suspended sediment loads of rivers, catchment sediment budgets and sediment-related environmental problems. Work in this area is being undertaken in local catchments in the Exe basin, in other areas of the UK and overseas. In addition, this interest extends to world rivers more generally and to global patterns of erosion and sediment yield and their recent response to environmental change. Catchment studies have focused on establishing sediment budgets and quantifying sediment sources, sinks and outputs. This work has necessitated the development of specialised field instrumentation and measurement techniques and particular emphasis has been placed on the use of environmental radionuclides (i.e. Caesium-137, Lead-210 and Beryllium-7) as sediment tracers. Exeter has one of the best equipped gamma spectrometry laboratories for environmental measurements in the world (15 HPGe detectors) and is in the forefront of developing the application of environmental radionuclides to quantifying erosion and deposition rates in catchments, to establishing overbank deposition rates on river floodplains and to fingerprinting suspended sediment sources. Such information is central to the establishment of catchment sediment budgets.

Recent and current research has attracted substantial funding from a number of sources including NERC, MAFF, DEFRA, DFID, the Environment Agency, Raleigh International and the European Union. NERC funding has included involvement in the LOIS, Environmental Diagnostics and LOCAR Community Programmes. Close collaborative links are maintained with researchers in China, Poland, Russia, Spain, Italy, Norway, Chile and Brazil.

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