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Name: Place of work: Position:

Paul Morgalla Atkins Scientist, Rivers and Coastal Environments

Job Description: Assess and understand flood risk challenges faced by clients. Develop solutions to mitigate that risk.

What does your job involve? One of the main things we do for clients is help them to understand the flood risk they are susceptible to. Traditionally, our work mainly focuses on flood risk from rivers or the coast but more recently, we're dealing with surface water flooding or any of the three in combination. Critical infrastructure is often unavoidably situated within flood risk areas. Much of the country's energy supply, be it nuclear, wind, oil, gas, are for a number of reasons frequently located near the coast. We’ve been working with some of our clients in assessing, managing and informing them about flood risk to critical infrastructure on the Humber and the Thames estuary. Clients want to know the risk associated with the location in which they’re situated and which flood defences will be appropriate. Operations need a long term strategy to managing their assets, they want to know, not only what the risk is now but in 10, 25, 50 years time. They can then integrate this information into their future plans for their sites. Our clients are interested in the impact of flood events; for example, on the operational status of their buildings. Is it going to stop their production or reduce it?

How long will they have to evacuate? What time scales can be predicted for different sized events? They will also be interested in the impacts on the supporting infrastructure, for example, railways, pylons and pipelines feeding to/from the site into the national network. An important element will also be focused on people themselves, the employees who work on the sites and what sort of procedures need to be implemented to make sure that people are safe and remain safe in the event that these risks materialise.

“The art and skill of what we do at Atkins is being able to turn hard raw data into information which we then communicate with the client”

How do you make use of Quantitative Methods in your everyday work? One of the key skills required is the ability to draw data from a number of sources, analyse and interpret that data and extract the required information to be able to apply it to a model, process or method. We use a lot of models in this industry. These are used to calculate things such as potential storm flows in particular weather scenarios. We also have numerous statistical models for each type of flood defence which might be used. These allow us to ascertain how the defences will respond to various severities of event. Data from these models can come from a wide variety of sources. For example a digital elevation model might use data from Lidar, computer-aided design (CAD) drawings, surveys of defences, an old photograph of a drawing found in a cellar, cross sections, aerial photography, Google street view, or archive material. A key part of this data manipulation requires understanding what not to use as well as what to use – information is never perfect, and it’s being able to use your experience and use your skills to analyse that is important.

Flood risk imagery used by Atkins

At Atkins we work in a project based environment, in multi-skilled, multidisciplinary teams where we’ll often work alongside various parts of the organisation to deliver particular solutions to the client. For example, one of the hydrologists may undertake a hydrological assessment, calculate the flows coming down the catchment and into a river, to provide a classic hydrograph of flow over time. We’d then feed that information into a hydraulic model to simulate how that water would flow out of the river and over land into towns and cities – that information may then be passed on to one of our flood economists who will evaluate the financial impact and damages concerned with flooding in that location. Those results will be used to develop the economic case to determine the most appropriate solution and determine the level of available funding. The information will also be given to the engineering team; the flood The Thames barrier flood defence, London levels of previous events can be used to Source: Flickr; Davide Simonetti calculate the floor levels in new designs and buildings to make sure they are raised out of Do other people rely on your the flood plain, or to design an appropriate Quantitative Methods skills? flood wall for the risk you are protecting The quantitative skills that I use in my role can against. require data from other people, but other people also rely on the information I produce – How important are these skills within information created in one area of the process environmental consultancy? is very often used and built upon in the next. Essential – I think it’s absolutely important that people develop quantitative skills. Working in an engineering consultancy you’re surrounded by engineers, geographers and other scientists, and having that sound base in quantitative skills is essential for my job, and essential for those who want to pursue a career in the industry. What we generally look for in the sector are people with all round ability, who have those technical skills but

“Strong quantitative skills are at the heart of everything we do”

Flood visualisation imagery used by Atkins also the ability to communicate with the public. The ability to describe complex scientific processes and methods in a nonscientific, public-friendly way is a really, really powerful skill to have.

Why do Quantitative Methods benefit geography graduates? Strong quantitative skills are at the heart of everything we do, even if you don’t have a technical role. If you’re involved in project management or a business management role you will still need to understand and be able to analyse financial and business information, all of which requires the same skill sets. These are exactly the sort of skill sets that a geographer can bring to the table.

To find out more about where Quantitative Methods can take you, visit the following: Quantile website: RGS-IBG website:

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