‘It was like my dream came true,” says Dr Mousumi Chatterjee, ‘when I opened the email informing of my success in attaining a Commonwealth Professional Fellowship. I was happy as I was going to experience everything that I had wanted to learn for the previous three years of postgraduate and post-doctorate training at the University of Calcutta.’ Mousumi, a biogeochemist working on mercury pollution in the Indian Sundarban wetland ecosystem, wanted to highlight the mercury exposure of different fish within an estuarine food chain, in order to measure direct human exposure levels. ‘My desire was fulfilled when I started my Professional Fellowship with BGS. Not only is the BGS well equipped with sophisticated analytical facilities, but the organisation also provided me with expert guidance and a friendly environment, and encouraged me in the new practical implementation of scientific ideas.’
|Mousumi Chatterjee - University of Calcutta / University of Reading|
Mousumi benefited from several scientific exchanges during her stay. ‘I visited the Marine Sciences Department at the University of Bangor, where I learnt how to extract the otolith (a small fish ear bone), which acts as a recorder of environmental chemistry, from hilsha fish. This resulted in a research collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore after my return to India. I also had the opportunity to attend and present my research findings at the International Conference of Mercury as a Global Pollutant 2013, held in Edinburgh, which brought together the world’s leading experts on mercury contamination of the environment.’
‘My Professional Fellowship was fruitful enough not only to implement independent research ideas in my home country of India, but also to build long-lasting research networks with the BGS. I am still in contact with Michael and now we are collaborating to work on global road dust pollution. I enjoyed every moment at the BGS, whether it was working in the laboratory or hanging out with colleagues in the canteen.’
|Dr Munir Zia - Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC), Pakistan|
Grace Manzeke from the University of Zimbabwe and Salome Mkandwire from the Malawian Department of Surveys also undertook a CSCUK Fellowship in 2015 (see previous blog). For Grace, support from the CSCUK Fellowship provided a solid start prior to her commencing a project funded by the Royal Society-DFID on geospatial characterisation of micronutrient deficiency in Zimbabwean soils, starting summer 2015 (see previous blogs by Michael Watts and Grace Manzeke).
For all of the Commonwealth Fellows, it was important to expose them to the variety of opportunities in the UK, from work through to visiting the variety of tourist and scenic locations. They were initially helped in doing so, but soon unleashed the enthusiasm for exploring the UK and grew to enjoy the environment and culture. From a host perspective, there are the obvious opportunities to develop collaborative networks and partners, but also an opportunity for other members of a team or junior scientists to broaden their horizons through training or working alongside Fellows from overseas.
By Dr Michael Watts, Head of Inorganic Geochemistry, Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, British Geological Survey.
Papers from the Fellows:
Chatterjee M, Sklenars L, Chenery SR, Watts MJ, Rakshit D and Sarkar SK. (2014). Assessment of Total Mercury (HgT) in sediments and biota of Indian Sundarban Wetland and adjacent coastal regions, Environment and Natural Research, 4(2): 50-64
Zia M, Watts MJ, Gardner A, Chenery SR. (2015). Iodine status of soils, grain crops and irrigation waters in Pakistan, Environmental Earth Sciences, 73, 7995-8008.