Gullies caused by erosion in the East African Rift System of Tanzania (Image: Carey Marks/University of Plymouth)

Gullies caused by erosion in the East African Rift System of Tanzania (Image: Carey Marks/University of Plymouth)

A striking image documenting University of Plymouth research into the devastating impacts of soil erosion will feature in a national photography exhibition.

The picture, captured by photographer Carey Marks, was taken in the East African Rift System of Tanzania where erosion has created huge gullies in the heart of Maasai pastoral lands.

It has seen him nominated in The Royal Photographic Society’s Science Photographer of the Year competition, with the image to form part of an exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

The image was captured during the Jali Ardhi project, led by Professor of Catchment Science Will Blake, which worked to identify the challenges posed by climate change and intensive grazing.

A study published in February 2019 suggested an interdisciplinary approach is the only way to secure real and lasting change, engaging local communities to see how they contribute to the problem and can have a significant role in solving it.

The link with Carey was made possible through the Sustainable Earth Institute’s Creative Associates programme, designed to uncover novel and innovative ways of communicating research. He said:

Carey Marks

“It is amazing to have been shortlisted for this award. I hope that seeing my image gives people a greater appreciation of the challenges facing communities all over the world in the face of climate change.
“The landscape in Tanzania has been decimated by soil erosion and it's very disturbing indeed to see it literally being washed away. Working with Professor Will Blake was enlightening because you get to see the scientific angle of it. The local stakeholders were certainly very keen to be engaged, and hopefully our workshops and the results of our findings will encourage new practices that might alleviate the situation.”

The competition was separated into two categories, Science Photographer of the Year and Young Science Photographer of the Year, and entrants were required to take a visually appealing picture that tells a science story.

The expert panel of selectors were TV Presenter Dallas Campbell, the Science Museum’s Roger Highfield, ITV This Morning’s Dr Zoe Laughlin and Medical Imaging Expert Catherine Draycott FRPS.

The winners will be announced to coincide with the opening of the free exhibition on 07 October, and it will feature 70 images displayed alongside their background stories.

RPS Science Exhibition Coordinator, Gary Evans, said:

“Science has always been integral to photography and photography remains essential to science as a tool for research and for communicating it to the public. The RPS is delighted to be exhibiting at the Science Museum, where we are sure the images will engage, entertain and educate in equal measure.”

Thermal image of Plymouth taken by Matthew Fox, Environmental Building Group - Special Commendation in Visions of Sustainability 2015

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The activity highlighted here is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more.

NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.