Interesting news from our GWD members attending the IAH Conference in 2016

Trust that 2017 can gain further momentum following a very productive 2016. Our GWD members reflect:

43rd IAH conference, Monpellier France, 25-29 September 2016

The 43rd IAH conference treated the 5 South African delegates to one of France’s finest areas, the historical town of Montpellier. A combination of fantastic weather, good food and wine, and of course hydrogeology at its finest, made the 24 000 km travel well worth it. The 5 South Africans who attended the 43rd IAH conference, photographed on the steps of Le Corum. From Left: Anya Eilers, Danie Vermeulen, Thendo Sigidi, Julian Conrad and Jane Tanner

Attracting roughly 800 delegates from all over the world, IAH celebrated the 60th anniversary of their founding. The conference touched on the growth of the organisation over the past 60 years, and delivered a wide range of topics to suit many disciplines. Hydrogeologists for society, economics and groundwater, and the link between groundwater and global climate change were just a few of the topics. The conference was structured with regular key-note addresses, parallel presentations and e-poster sessions. The 2 minute flash oral presentations were a new experience for many delegates, and provided an excellent way for selected poster presenters to give just a taste of their research, encouraging those interested to engage further at the poster sessions. South Africa was represented by Jane Tanner from Rhodes University, who presented her research on the effects that changing land use can have on surface-ground water interactions in the coastal lakes and wetlands of South Africa. Thendo Sigidi and Anya Eilers from Stellenbosch University also presented posters on their research at the Verlorenvlei RAMSAR listed wetlands along the west coast of South Africa. The five-day conference was not just work, and what better country to enjoy a gala dinner in than France? Hosted at an old wine farm, the food and wine did not disappoint. Neither did the South Africans, who may have given the locals something to laugh at. A picture says a thousand words, although only a few are needed to describe the expressions of the three brave souls who tried oysters for their first time.

The field trips were very well organised and the trip to the Avène-les-Bains thermal springs was fascinating.  The Avène-les-Bains thermal spring is from a karstic aquifer exploited both for medical purposes in dermatology, and for the manufacturing of dermo-cosmetics by a famous international brand (Pierre Fabre) in a historical spa village and a preserved environment.  The healing brought about by this spring water is astounding (http://www.avenecenter.com/en).

South African IAH chair, Julian Conrad, has expressed his excitement to get the national branch more active. A number of talks and networking sessions were organised in collaboration with GEOSS and Stellenbosch University in 2015, and Julian hopes to continue this collaboration with MSc student Anya in 2017. An exciting possibility has been explored to incorporate the ECHN (Early Career Hydrogeologists Network) into this collaboration, providing young hydrogeologists the opportunity to receive guidance from a global network.

Through all the topics addressed at the conference, a staggering emphasis was placed on the importance of groundwater research in semi-arid areas. As South Africa battles through an extended drought, one cannot deny the importance that groundwater plays in our society, and it will be exciting to see the growth of IAH in South Africa over the next 4 years. If you would like to get involved, please contact Julian Conrad.

Anya Eilers and Julian Conrad