Portraits In the Flow...

Hervé Piegay, co-coordinator of the H2O'Lyon Project

►Who are you and what is your background ?

My name is Hervé Piégay, I am a research director at the CNRS and a geographer by training. I have been working in fluvial geomorphology for a few more than 25 years. I am mainly interested in the factors that control fluvial changes on a contemporary scale. The approach is quite integrative; it leads me to integrate different scientific fields. It is based on a geohistorical approach, a detailed description of changes based on archival documents, topographic data and aerial and satellite images. To understand the respective roles of the factors, it is important to understand the river processes, hydrology, solid transport but also the plant dynamics that evolve in close interaction with the channel. This understanding requires metrology on the ground and sometimes experimentation. It also requires us to question the interactions between man and his environment and to explore the theoretical field.

► What is your field of expertise and what motivated you to join the H2O'Lyon project coordination ?

Since my thesis, my research activity has generally taken place in an interdisciplinary framework, in connection with ecologists, hydraulic engineers, social scientists, and increasingly, with chemists and geochemists within the Rhône sediment observatory. My research is also situated at the interface between basic and more applied sciences, and I am critically interested in the issues of development, maintenance, conservation and restoration of watercourses. My approach is thus eminently transdisciplinary and my involvement in the Graduate School is a logical continuation of my research career and practice. I enjoy producing knowledge, innovating, and trying to translate this research into an operational way, and gradually integrating the doctoral students who work with me into the professional world by confronting them with operational issues.

► What is called "H2O'Lyon community" and who is part of ?

The H2O'Lyon community as we define it is positioned at the interface between the scientific world and the operational world. It therefore welcomes researchers working in the water sciences but also water stakeholders. What they have in common is that they question each other in order to improve management practices and public policies in the field, identify new knowledge to be acquired and translate it into concrete action to meet operational challenges. This community is also transgenerational and educational. It can welcome bachelor and master students, doctoral and post-doctoral students, as well as senior scientists and practitioners in its laboratories. This community is thus open to the international scientific and practical community, like the I.S. Rivers conference that we organize every three years. At the same time, we are developing partnerships with colleagues abroad who share our transdisciplinary approach and consider water sciences in their societal context.

► How the community is involved in the Graduate School's actions ?

The H2O'Lyon community shares a philosophy of questioning and action. The production of knowledge takes place through different forms of partnerships and resources: CIFRE grants, Graduate School's grants, master's internships, partnership contract, working and reflection group, data sharing platform, provision of operational tools, etc. The H2O'Lyon community also offers initial and lifelong training for students and professionals. To this end, fellow practitioners are involved in VAE (Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience - Validation of Acquired Experience) approaches, others are involved in continuing education. Producing knowledge also means formulating questions. Therefore, brainstorming sessions, seminars, summer schools and innovative training courses are co-organised to allow, in a constructive way, to identify these famous questions and the strategies to answer them. Hosting foreign researchers and H2O'Lyon colleagues in our respective universities contributes to the sharing of knowledge and maintains the level of knowledge of the community at the highest international level.