31. Seal head sculpture

Prof. Stephen Rice

This sculpture is by an artist of the Kwakiutl (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw) people from the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It is a momento of my research in the Queen Charlotte Islands where we camped on secluded beaches at the edge of dripping, temperate rain forest and carried flares to scare away inquisitive bears.

I studied rivers where salmon lay their eggs, investigating the geomorphological processes that distribute and organise sand and gravel sediments that make up the river beds. Gravel size and the amount of sand are important because they strongly affect the proportion of salmon eggs that grow into healthy fish and so sustain the fishing industry.

The work was contentious because commercial timber harvesting caused landslides that entered the same rivers and damaged salmon habitat. This was the beginning of a research career that has focused on the interactions between geomorphological processes and river ecology.

Lecture video

Watch Steve’s inaugural professorial lecture about his research