IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor François Birgand, North Carolina State University, USA

MT BMVP Francois Birgand

Leading the water quality sensor revolution in catchment hydrology

24 July 24 – 23 December 2017


Dr Birgand is an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University, North Carolina, USA.   Dr Birgand earned an MS degree (1995) from the agronomic engineering school of Rennes, France (Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Rennes) before he obtained his Ph.D. (2000) from North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC, USA) to work under the direction of Dr Wayne Skaggs on in-stream processes of agricultural canals.

From 2000 to 2008, he worked as an engineering researcher at Cemagref in France (now IRSTEA, Research Institute for the Engineering of Agriculture and the Environment) in Rennes and Paris, where he lead research on biogeochemical processes at the catchment scale.  He started his tenure as a professor at North Carolina State University in 2008, where he currently holds the rank of Associate Professor.


The purpose of the program led by Dr François Birgand in the Department of Biological Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University is to conduct research and to teach ways to improve the quality of ground and surface waters in largely rural watersheds. For this, he believes that new sensor technologies can provide unprecedented access to and quantification of the processes at play in nature, and also give the opportunities to refine natural treatment system design and maintenance.

Dr Birgand and Dr Howden’s experiences with these sensors and time series numerical techniques are highly complementary and the BMVP provides a unique opportunity for these two researchers to ally their skills to provide leadership in this sensor revolution.

During his stay, Dr Birgand will be hosted by Dr Nicholas Howden (Engineering)

Dr Birgand will be delivering the following seminars during his visit, dates and times to be confirmed:

Proposed seminars:

 This seminar will review the knowledge that has been gained in catchment hydrology and biogeochemistry using continuous sensor technology. Examples will be drawn from the literature, and Birgand team’s experience in streams, wetlands, lakes, and woodchip bioreactors.

This seminar will review the reasons and the techniques for deriving waters quality rating curves in catchments. The seminar will review the techniques that have been put together to create water quality rating curves by Birgand’s team. This seminar will provide the broad overview on and why this is done, but the details (e.g., codes, program, etc.) will be presented during a lecture.

Public Lecture:

This seminar will review some of the latest findings in the sources of and how to quantify uncertainties while quantifying nutrient loads in catchments. This will include a review of uncertainties associated with infrequent sampling, as well as those associated new continuous water quality sensors. The seminar will also review the flow measurements.

We anticipate this lecture to be targeted at a more general audience, with invitations being issues through the Cabot Institute to the general public, key external stakeholders and colleagues from local industry and national bodies (e.g. the Environment Agency). This lecture will cover themes common to a number of UK programmes and will be relevant to the ongoing “Smart Cities” work in Bristol, where high-resolution water quality monitoring is due to be installed in the harbour area.

Proposed Lecture:

This lecture/workshop will be go into the details of the application of the codes and techniques that Birgand’s team has written and tested to create waters quality rating curves from field

spectrophotometers. These instruments have become the standard for measuring water quality at high resolution in time. However, the raw data given by the sensors can be largely enhanced by using numerical techniques to correct the data and to create local calibration, which we refer to as ‘water quality rating curves’.