UWE Bristol student reflects on her “amazing experience” in Uganda

This summer, IWSN Director Prof Chad Staddon, Field Engineer Alan Cook and a team of six students from UWE Bristol travelled to Kisoro, Uganda to conduct water research as part of the UWE Global Water Security Programme. The team commissioned a newly-built lab, the hub of our research activities in Kisoro. Here, BSc Environmental Science student Hannah Ingram (back row, centre, in the first photo) describes her experiences.

During our first week in Kisoro, we unpacked the crate of equipment that had been sent from UWE Bristol and then worked on putting the finishing touches to the lab, including a fresh coat of paint and a suitable, easy-to-clean floor. After installing the weather station and painting the UWE Bristol logo onto the building, it was ready!

The inventory was impressive and included a paqualab, an incubator, an autoclave, a microscope, and palintest kits. We also had turbidity meters to test the cloudiness of water samples, a meter that allowed us to test conductivity, and a fluorescent sensor that would indicate point of source bacterial activity at time of drinking.

One of the main methods used to analyse the water samples included petrifilms and incubation. We used petrifilms to indicate the presence of two harmful strains of bacteria: E.coli and Enterobacteria. The paqualab could be used to demonstrate similar results and arguably, to a higher degree, however at times during our visit, intermittent power meant that the paqualab was not always appropriate to use.

Outside of the lab, the field team agreed on procedures and methods to ensure efficient and replicable sampling. A numbering system was created in order to identify each tank and its location, and the tank parameters were standardized. We rotated the field team to ensure that everyone was able to go out into the communities and drive through the beautiful valleys. It was important that everyone gained valuable hands-on and in-field experiences.

On several occasions, we were fortunate to teach the girls at Seseme Girls’ Secondary School. The girls there were lovely and were very interested in the work we were doing in Kisoro. It was clear from the start that we were welcome among them and it was great to speak with them and answer the many questions that they had.

My overall experience in Kisoro has been amazing. Alan Cook and Chad Staddon have been wonderful teachers and leaders and I have learnt a great deal from them. While in Kisoro, I realized that although I had learnt a wealth of knowledge in lectures and was well equipped with a set of laboratory skills, it is imperative to assign these to real life situations with real time problem solving. Because of this, I feel very grateful for the opportunity the UWE Global Water Security Programme has given me and I am very excited for the students who will visit and make an impact in the years to come.