Fieldwork Luxembourg: Drought after last year's floods

29 June 2017

Every spring, MSc Hydrology students from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam travel to Luxembourg for a one-month-long fieldwork trip. This year, Master's students in Earth Sciences from the University of Amsterdam joined them. In 2016, severe floods provided a perfect chance to measure and learn about peak discharge. This year, students were confronted with near-opposite conditions of drought: ideal to follow daily variations in water flow and understand catchment processes. Two students report on their experiences.

Earth Science students taking samples in the field. Photo: Andreea Nanu

"From mid May till the beginning of June, around 40 students participated in this fieldwork based in the Diekirch area of Luxembourg.

Hydrology and carbon sequestration

VU students looked into the hydrological features of the area, whereas the UvA students did their research mainly in carbon sequestration by looking at the geomorphology, geology, lithology, land use, erosion and vegetation. The assigned research areas of the two main groups were almost entirely intersected. The VU students were split into 6 subgroups, each looking at a different catchment, whilst UvA had 4 groups scattered across the Diekirch region.    

Severe drought

The fieldtrip was not without incidents, the students encountered severe droughts. For the duration of the trip they only had three days of rain. Later on they found out that this was part of a larger drought period which lasted for around nine months. Nevertheless, this was completely unexpected since during the previous year’s trip the entire area flooded.

The meteorological tower placed by the students to measure weather variations. Photo: Anne Pronk

Joint excursions

Having both groups of students there at the same time provided them with a more rounded experience. The excursions organised by both universities were a great way of introducing what the other students were researching. The first excursion was organised by Dr Erik Cammeraat (UvA), giving an overview of the Lias cuesta landscape of Diekirch-Reisdorf by presenting the geomorphology and soils type of the area. A few days later, there was an excursion organised by Dr Julian Klaus (LIST Institute of Luxembourg) to explore the Weierbach experimental catchment and different hydrological measuring options. Furthermore, the catchment’s complex configuration makes it the perfect spot for demonstrating the spatial variability of both the physiographical characteristics and the hydro-climatological behaviours.  

Measurements being taken in the Ruebisbaach stream. It is evident how large the stream can be at times. Photo: Anne Pronk.

Sharing data

In the second and third week of the fieldwork, the two groups presented their preliminary results and had discussions regarding the data and how this would apply to each other's research projects. Having presentations amid the fieldwork helped the students to reevaluate their research and plan for the next days, as well as giving them a chance to compare the data with other groups. During and after the fieldwork, all students shared their findings as well as their resources, collaborating in order to get better results and more data since time was of the essence, three-four weeks not being quite sufficient.

Start of a new tradition

All in all, the students enjoyed their time together in Luxembourg and made the most out of this experience by partnering with each other and working well together overall. Furthermore, the fraternization between the students also extended to their spare time. Together, they took part in a few local festivals and organised several casual get-togethers. This was a fun and productive work experience which should become a tradition for the two universities, as well as being extended to other areas."

Students taking measurements in the Sauer river. Evident are the effects of the drought. Photo: Anne Pronk

Written by Anne Pronk (MSc Hydrology, VU Amsterdam) and Andreea Nanu (MSc Earth Sciences, Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Published by  IBED Water