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News article created on 17 March 2014

It's National Science & Engineering Week!

Find out more about what National Science & Engineering Week, and what volunteers past and present have contributed to science & engineering.

National Science & Engineering Week (NSEW) is a ten day national programme of events organised by the British Science Association.

To mark this event we are looking at volunteering as it relates to Science & Engineering both inside and outside Canal & River Trust, and meeting two of our colleagues who work in teams who recruit volunteers.

Volunteers based within our Technical Teams involved with Science and Engineering have given over 10,000 hours of their time in the past year – this is amazing, thank you if you’re one of them!

We have a wide variety of roles available to volunteers at Canal & River Trust across our Technical Teams including engineers, environmental assistants and surveyors. Find out more about current opportunities here.

One volunteer based with our Environment Team discovered a rather large fungus on a site visit last year, but it’s not just mushrooms - volunteers have been involved in making discoveries and contributing to inventions for years.

In the early 1800s a dentist volunteered to be the first patient to try out nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic. After seeing the gas being used in travelling shows for entertainment Horace Wells wanted to see if it was appropriate for use in dental procedures. Rather him than me!

An American volunteer soldier invented the process of sandblasting in around 1870. Benjamin Chew Tilghman was a Captain in the 26th Pennsylvania volunteer infantry and used his experience of wind-blown sand to inform his invention.

More recently volunteers have been credited with helping to make discoveries in space including a planet with four suns, and four cosmic lighthouses.

Meanwhile back down on earth volunteers in Scotland have helped scientists in the search for genes linked to heart disease. Fifteen new genes linked to coronary artery disease (CAD) were discovered and this information will help to identify the underlying biology related to CAD.

Our teams regularly recruit volunteers to carry out research, most recently the discharge survey. The volunteers will be out and about on the banks in the coming months – give them a wave!

The survey volunteers are based with the Environment Team – Nick Baggaley is an Environmental Scientist, based in Newark and told us a bit about his role:

“I advise the Waterway and central Technical Teams on waste, pollution prevention, dredging and water quality. Many of these tasks involve site visits to observe construction works, silt sampling, dissolved oxygen testing and more. I also oversee the management of our Permitted dredging disposal sites in the East Midlands and North East region, ensuring that we operate these sites in line with the site permits issued by the Environment Agency.”

Starting out with British Waterways as a Waterway Operative, Nick was seconded to the Environment Team as an Environmental Assistant. This led on to a full time post as Waste and Water Technician and then Environmental Scientist. Having wanted a career in the outdoors, Nick enjoys the variety of waterways that he works on.

The Asset Management team also work with volunteers – Vicki Taylor, Senior Hydrographic Surveyor, shares more about her role in the team.

Inspired by her father who was a Precision Tool Engineer Vicki knew she wanted a career in Science or Engineering, but was unsure of what role specifically. Following a Chemistry degree at the University of York, Vicki fell into her current role by chance after a job with DEFRA and then surveying on Scottish reservoirs. Further inspiration to work on water came from Stanley A. Schumm, the Godfather of Geomorphology. Vicki says “Anyone who works with water should read his book, ‘How to interpret the Earth - Ten ways to be wrong."

The Hydro Survey team carry out surveys of the canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks across the network, to gather information to support the Waterways, and other teams. “The beauty of this job is the ability to see underwater and view the dynamic behaviour of our river systems, how both anthropogenic & natural processes drive the morphology of river beds.”

Interested in a role like Vicki’s? Ideally a hydrographic surveyor would have studied for a Hydrographic/Engineering Surveying degree, but at technician level an alternative relevant discipline should include a degree of understanding of maths and physics.
Canal & River Trust currently offer a year Graduate sandwich placement to two students, to transfer practical surveying skills that will cement their theoretical knowledge and hope to improve success with their future career.

If you’ve been inspired by what you’ve read and want to become a volunteer with Canal & River Trust – visit our volunteering pages and search for opportunities near you.

About this blog

The environment team

The Canal & River Trust has top team of committed experts and enthusiasts, who help to protect our waterway environment and improve it for both people and nature. Follow this blog to find out more about the hugely varied work they carry out.

See more blogs from The environment team