Carpenter Country – a Freshwater Landscape


The rain poured down and I had to drive to Aberystwyth. Water was projecting out from between the stones making up the walls on the right-hand side of the road, turning the route into a sleek, treacherous, black river. The Dwyryd had reclaimed its floodplain in front of Plas Tan Y Bwlch. I got other brief glimpses of angry brown river torrents topped with murky white crests – riffles had turned into rages.

When you cross the Dyfi Bridge, north of Machynlleth, you are in Carpenter country. Kathleen Carpenter was a pioneering woman ecologist working at Aberystwyth University in the 1920s. She compared the mine polluted waters of the Ystwyth and Rheidol, “destitute of fish-life” with the relatively healthy Leri, Teifi and Dyfi, with “rich fisheries”.

I was on my way to the National Library Wales in Aberystwyth to consult the papers of Kathleen Carpenter. Every new research subject begins with a bibliography, a literature landscape, so I have listed her publications below.

The weather was unrelenting and I crouched against the wind and rain walking from the car park to the door of the library.  In the welcome warmth and calm of the South Reading Room I was given two slim, fragile, cardboard folders.  The faded yellow folder containing her M.Sc papers was bound by a white ribbon tied in a bow.   Who bound this folder and when was it last opened?

The bow slipped easily and revealed the type written copy of her submission letter (25 April 1923) to The Register of the University of Wales:

Dear Sir,
In enclosing copies of my Thesis for the degree of M.Sc. I beg to remind you of the special decision of the Academic Board last summer to recognise retrospectively my scheme of work on the “freshwater fauna of the Aberystwyth District of Cardiganshire  and its relation to lead pollution,” as recommended by the College for candidature this year.

I enclose cheque for the fee of £8, and also state as required by the regulation:-

(a) that the work has not been and is not being submitted for any other Academic degree.

(b) that the thesis is based upon original investigations, explicit reference being made in the text to any other work which is necessary to quote.

Yours faithfully,

Kathleen E. Carpenter

It was a slight disappointment to find the letter was unsigned but some small, neat, hand-written annotations in black ink on other pages must have been made by Kathleen.

The return journey to North Wales required a detour because the Dyfi Bridge was under water.   Carpenter country was cut-off by the river marking its boundary.

I will be attempting to cross the Dyfi again for my International Women’s Day lecture on the life of Kathleen Carpenter at Aberystwyth University on the evening of 7th March 2016 – details here.

Carpenter, K. E. 1922. The fauna of the Clarach stream (Cardiganshire) and its tributaries. Aberystwyth studies by members of the University College of Wales, 4, 251-258.

Carpenter, K. E. 1923. Distribution of Limnæa pereger and L. truncatula. Nature 112(2801), 9.

Carpenter, K.E. 1924. A study of the fauna of rivers polluted by lead mining in the Aberystwyth district of Cardiganshire.  The Annals of Applied Biology, 9(38), 1-23.

Carpenter, K.E. 1924. The freshwater fauna of the Aberystwyth district of Cardiganshire, studied with especial reference to the pollution of streams consequent on lead-mining operations.  No. 49, File F.G. 1898, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Standing Committee on River Pollution.

Carpenter, K. E. 1925. Biological factors involved in the destruction of river-fisheries by pollution due to lead-mining. Ser. No 84, Rep. No. 77, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Standing Committee on River Pollution.

Carpenter, K. E. 1925. On the biological factors involved in the destruction of river-fisheries by pollution due to lead-mining.  The Annals of Applied Biology, 12(44), 1-13.

Carpenter, K. E. 1926. The lead mine as an active agent in river pollution.
Annals of Applied Biology, 13(3),  395–401. 

Carpenter, K. E. 1926. A Planarian species new to Britain. Nature, 117(2946), 556.

Carpenter, K. E. 1926.  Report on the lethal action of led salts on fishes.  Ser. No. 190, Rep. No. 129, Ref. File F.G. 1655. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Standing Committee on River Pollution.

Carpenter, K. E. 1927. The lethal action of soluble metallic salts on fishes.  

Carpenter, K. E. 1927. Faunistic ecology of some Cardiganshire streams.  Journal of Ecology 15(1), 33-54.

Carpenter, K. E. 1928. Life in Inland Waters, with especial reference to animals. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd.

Carpenter, K. E. 1928. On the tropisms of some freshwater planarians. The British Journal of Experimental Biology, 5, 196-203.

Carpenter, K. E. 1930†. Further researches on the action of metallic salts on fishes.  Journal of Experimental Zoology, 6, 407–422. 
Contributions from the Zoölogical Laboratories of the University of Illinois, no. 376.

Carpenter, K. E. (1931). Variations in Holopedium Species. Science, 74, 550-551.

Carpenter, K. E. (1939). Food of Salmon Parr. Nature, 143, 336.

 Carpenter, K. E. 1940.  The feeding of Salmon parr in the Cheshire Dee. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 110, 81-96.


6 thoughts on “Carpenter Country – a Freshwater Landscape

  1. Pingback: The Poetry of Life in Inland Waters | Uisce

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  4. Pingback: Kathleen Carpenter: the mother of freshwater ecology | The Freshwater Blog

  5. Pingback: Kathleen Carpenter returns to Aberystwyth University, International Women’s Day 2016 | Uisce

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