2017 Emerging River Professional Award Finalists

Dean Muruven, WWF-International, Netherlands

Mr Muruven is currently employed by WWF International as the global freshwater policy lead, where his role focusses on representing WWF Internationally at global policy fora and assisting WWF freshwater basin teams with influencing water policy and governance in their respective countries. He previously worked for WWF South Africa, where he lead a programme around the protection of South Africa’s water source areas, involving a collective effort in bringing together corporates, government and civil society to achieve a water secure South Africa. The programme in itself is a flagship for the freshwater team in South Africa and through his work, water source areas have achieved national recognition, with Ministers and Members of Parliament all seeing the importance of conserving these areas and publicly acknowledging the value of partnering with WWF.
Mr Muruven’s experience is unique for a conservationist as he has spent time as a consultant analysing policy for some of the largest mining houses in Africa prior to joining WWF. He graduated from the University of South Africa with a MSc in environmental science. His passion for freshwater conservation has also earned him personal accolades where he was featured by the Mail & Guardian as one of 15 young leaders in the environmental field for 2015. He has also had the privilege of addressing the House of Lords, as part of the WWF Freshwater Leadership and Development Programme.

Project: Securing South Africa’s Strategic Water Source Areas

 WWF South Africa embarked on programme to secure South Africa’s strategic water source areas, the 8% of the land area that generates over 50% of the surface water runoff. The programme was based on three pillars: sound science, influencing the seats of power and connecting people to our work. As a science based organization, WWF had little problem convincing the scientific community of the vital importance of this body of work. However, having a limited presence outside of the Western Cape and with South Africa’s tragic past, conservation was still viewed as something for the privileged few. The real challenge that emerged was how to influence and shape the complex governance systems and create a narrative that demonstrated that securing these water sources was in the interest of the nation, to achieve a water secure future for all South Africans. As the first programme manager and having led the programme for 3 years, my entry will outline the approach taken to shift the existing paradigm and demonstrate how a programme of work that once had limited recognition has now been recognized by Ministers, Members of Parliament and is on the verge of becoming a movement within the WWF network.


Dr Tatenda Dalu, Rhodes University, South Africa

Dr Tatenda Dalu is a Claude Leon Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Rhodes University. He studied his BSc and MSc in aquatic ecology at the University of Zimbabwe before moving to Rhodes University in 2012 for his PhD studies. His PhD thesis on “Spatio-temporal variation in the phytobenthos and phytoplankton community structure along a river-estuary continuum” has added to the body of work new insights into our understanding of how substrate type, flood occurrence and allochthonous input contribute to phytoplankton community dynamics in temperate freshwater and estuarine systems. He was made a Research Associate with the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity due to his exceptional professional involvement and contributions to South Africa aquatic ecology research which encompasses co-supervising and mentoring MSc and PhD students and collaborating in research projects.
Dr Dalu is an individual who values constant growth, personal development and embraces new challenges. His research philosophy is centred on research excellence rather than specifically addressing fundamental or applied research, with the ultimate goal of bridging the gap between the two in the bigger picture. He believes that descriptive studies help inform process level question identification and result in the more basic elements of research over time which will feed into the bigger picture studies. Furthermore, it is his opinion that collaboration is vital for the adequate development of an excellent career in research. Collaborations enable better quality work and facilitate the timely output of research. This belief has motivated his initiative of being Co- or Principal Investigator (co-PI or PI) in short and long-term research projects involving researchers from various institutions. His interests lie in using river/streams, and/or lakes/reservoirs as model ecosystems.

Project: Ecological quality assessments of urban streams in the developing world

Water pollution is a critical management issue, with several urban area-draining rivers and streams being polluted by the disposal of untreated solid waste and wastewater discharge, storm water and agricultural runoff. This has implications for biodiversity, and many rivers in the developing world are now considered compromised. We investigated links between water and sediment physio-chemical variables and local benthic macroinvertebrate in an Austral temperate catchment subjected to both urban and agricultural pollutants in two different seasons. Also, we examined microplastic pollution dynamics and microplastic loads in chironomids in this catchment.
A combination of multivariate, remote sensing and biological indicator analyses were used to examine macroinvertebrate patterns. Variations in canopy cover, channel width, phosphates, pH, salinity, substrate embeddedness and turbidity had significant effects on macroinvertebrate community composition. Variation partitioning revealed that water quality was a better predictor of macroinvertebrate composition than sediment variables. Results showed that microplastic distribution was governed by substrate type, sediment organic matter and seasonal variation. The study showed that chironomids ingest microplastics and seasonal differences in sediment microplastic dynamics are reflected in chironomid microplastic abundance. These results provide us with baseline information on urban water pollution in a developing world context.


Ms Lauren Zielinski, United States of America

Ms Lauren Zielinski specializes in the monitoring and evaluation of river systems, focusing on river restoration and environmental flow projects. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Water Resources and Climate Risk from Columbia University in the United States of America, as well as an Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Ecohydrology from the University of Lodz in Poland, the Federal University of Espirito Santo in Brazil, and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. Ms Zielinski spent two years leading an ecosystem monitoring team as an AmeriCorps volunteer, focusing on river and wetland restoration projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin in California. She also has experience working on resource management plans for federal agencies in the United States of America. She currently owns her own company specializing in ecosystem monitoring and evaluation and has experience working on projects in the United States of America, Russia, Mongolia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Project: Creating a Monitoring and Adaptive Management Framework for Environmental Flows

East Africa is a water-scarce area with a rapidly increasing population. Determination of environmental flows is needed to ensure that the basic human needs and ecological integrity of freshwater systems are maintained. In 2015 and 2016, environmental flow recommendations were created for the Kenyan portion of the Mara River Basin. In order to facilitate implementation of these recommendations, a monitoring and adaptive management plan needed to be created, something that had never been done in the East Africa region. For my MSc thesis, I was selected to lead the effort for developing this plan and supporting its implementation. I researched existing structures from around the world and created an integrated way to monitor and manage environmental flows. This plan was developed in close coordination with the local office of the Water Resources Management Authority and included three distinct components: an objectives hierarchy, a multi-level monitoring plan, and adaptive management cycles. Using my experience from the Mara River, I then generalized the process into a framework that could be used to create such plans in other river basins in Kenya, with the potential to be utilized in other river basins in the region and around the world