Undergraduate Ellie’s research opportunity

Undergraduate Geography BSc (Hons) student Ellie Crabbe (currently on placement at GE Aviation) had the fantastic opportunity of joining lecturer Dr Annie Ockelford on a research trip to the Cascades National Park in America over the summer.

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I’ve always had an interest in fluvial geomorphology and sustainable riverine management and this was further enhanced whilst studying a ‘Water in the Landscape’ module during my second year. I thoroughly enjoyed the content and teaching style of this module. My lecturer noticed my enthusiasm for the topic, as reflected in my assessment marks, and invited me to join her research trip, alongside other academics from both UK and US universities.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much involvement I had during the research trip. I could put my previous experience and knowledge I learnt in my other modules, into play, for example I was tasked with setting up and collecting data using a terrestrial laser scanner, in somewhat difficult conditions (i.e. knee deep in fast flowing water/ on top of precarious river banks).

I had investigated the use of high resolution data collection methods during other modules but it was fantastic to be able to put this into practice in the real world whilst collecting valuable data. My main role was to use the terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) to scan the above water geomorphology (i.e. the in channel bars, banks, side channels and exposed woody debris dams). Despite this method being able to collect vast number of data points in minutes, the kit set up took much longer as finding the best vantage points, geo referencing them and moving the target points was quite time consuming!

Setting up the kit gave me the opportunity to actually understand how the system worked and why each aspect of the kit was required (i.e. why we geo-reference data and use target points). Along side other members of the team, I helped set up and collect data using other high resolution data collection techniques (i.e. acoustic Doppler profiling and a multi-beam echo sounder). After spending a week conducting TLS scans, I was competent and confident enough to teach students from the US university how to carry out the scans and how to log the data.

The trip gave me the opportunity to network with industry professionals and academics. I was able to work closely with them and gain valuable knowledge on the fluvial and geomorphological processes we were observing within the field. The main benefit of going on the trip was definitely putting into practice what I had learnt about data collecting and field techniques. I was able to experience first hand what it actually means to conduct fieldwork and the logistical and environmental issues one is presented with in the field. I would never have been able to use/access this equipment, collect such a vast amount of data nor network with industry professionals had I attempted this fieldwork myself, so I am hugely thankful for that.

I will be able to use my in depth understanding of geographical data collection when I return to uni for my third year. I now have a greater appreciation of how to collect and analyse vast quantities of data, that I previously would have found mind boggling.
Upon returning from the trip I am also aiding in the post processing and analysis of the data we collected.

I would definitely recommend studying geography at Brighton. In my school, lecturers are keen to recommend and provide opportunities for those who are motivated, to participate in extracurricular activities that will help improve their geographical knowledge (i.e. helping students network with other academics, taking students on their research trips etc).

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