How we’re tackling crucial issues facing the planet

With six million UK properties at risk of flooding top scientists are gathering for a four-day showcase of the latest research into all areas of environmental science.

‘UnEarthed’, led by theNatural Environmental Research Council (NERC), will highlight latest research into other crucial environmental issues facing mankind including the air we breathe, natural disasters, and food and energy generation.

Dr Annie Ockelford, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography here at Brighton, and chair of outreach for the British Society for Geomorphology, will be joining scientists from the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester.

The exhibition has been organised by the Natural Environment Research Council which funds research tackling environmental issues. There will be talks, debates and 20 hands-on exhibits including ‘Glaciers, water and sand…. you are in command’, run by Dr Ockelford and a team of eight other scientists. They will be joined by some of our undergraduate students, too.

Dr Ockelford said: “Our stand is all about showing the visitors how water moves around our planet as part of the water cycle, how it shapes our landscapes now and how that cycle of water might change in the future.

“The stand is made up of a team of geomorphologists, scientists who study how our landscapes are shaped through time. The activities will allow people to build their own landscapes and, using virtual reality, make it rain to see how where their landscapes might flood.

“Visitors will also be able to learn how glaciers move using 3D printed models of miniature landscapes where visitors can add glacial ‘goo’ onto the model to explore how the ‘glaciers’ travel through the different landscape.

“This is a fantastic event to be involved in where we will be able to share our science with school children, the public and even parliamentarians.”

More than 5,000 visitors are expected at the event which is free to the public and schools. It is being held at Dynamic Earth, the visitor attraction in Edinburgh, from this Friday (17 Nov) to 20 November. For more information, go to http://unearthed.nerc.ac.uk

You can follow the team live in action over Facebook and twitter #BSG_Geomorph or the event in general #UnEarthed2017

Re-naturing cities

Dr Mary Gearey, Research Fellow in our school, joined 40 other British and Brazilian researchers for a four day, Newton funded workshop in July, exploring methods, strategies and theories in support of ‘re-naturing cities’. The event was held in Goiania, Brazil, Mary tells us more about it here.

The Newton funded workshop brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including Architecture, Ecology, Public Health, Urban Planning, Human Geography, Soil Science and Land Management to share expertise around developing green infrastructure in highly dense urban spaces. My work on public perceptions in support of urban wetlands expansion contributed to a series of round-table seminars which explored a wide range of subjects from improving green roof structures to expand biodiversity, to extending community participation in developing public spaces through growing fruit, vegetables and flowers in street side rain gardens.

Complementing existing ‘grey’ infrastructure – the buildings, roads, transport networks which are the fundamentals of city spaces – with ‘green’ infrastructure – city parks, tree lined greenway cycle paths and wilder areas such as urban wetlands – offers urban dwellers the chance to improve their health and well-being in a range of ways. From cooling down the ‘heat island’ effect of cities, both now and with a view to future climate change impacts, as well as improving air and water quality, expanding nature into cities via urban parks, green ‘wedges’ of land set aside for plants and trees and softening buildings through living walls and mobile gardens housed in skips, offers city dwellers a respite from noise and traffic fumes and improves access to nature for everyone, not just wealthier residents.

This Newton funded workshop has demonstrated that the research I currently undertake within SET exploring the value of wetlands for local communities as part of a Natural England Research Council (NERC) project alongside Professors Neil Ravenscroft and Andrew Church has an international resonance and impact, and highlights the wonderfully diverse range of work undertaken by University of Brighton researchers.

This is my second time in Brazil, disseminating and undertaking research on behalf of SET and the University of Brighton. In November I worked with Physical Geographers at UNIVALI University in the South of the country, supported by a Santander Bank travel grant.

Both times in Brazil I’ve got close up and personal with the wildlife; last time it was a surprise encounter with a rainforest bush rat in a rangers’ toilet, this time with this very cute monkey (pictured). We found him in our hosts’ campus at the Federal University of Goias and thought he was adorable, rolling around on the floor and clapping his hands– until we discovered he was working a con act with another monkey who was going through people’s bags searching for food when we were distracted. What a cheeky monkey!

Support for female researchers in STEMM

As part of International Women in Engineering Day 2017, Dr Mary Geary, research fellow in our school, shares her experience of a career in STEMM research and the support she received from the University of Brighton on returning to STEMM research after a career break.

Find out more here.

Day eight: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Fieldtrip

Today we took a boat along the Madeira river which is a tributary of the Amazon river. We arrived at a remote village, only accessible by boat. We were greeted with a local shop and some buildings that appeared relatively new. Then we discovered the history and current context of this place. This small village was flooded, during January last year. These floods destroyed housing, health services and businesses and the people took refuge in the Amazon. They came back to rebuild their village, but there is a further threat. The government wants to build a hydro-electric power station, permanently flooding the area. They are trying to relocate all of the villages some miles into the Amazon, destroying their community and making their fishing livelihoods impossible.

What became clear was that women took a lead role, both in rebuilding the village, regaining services and in resisting the government’s push to remove them permanently from their homes. The OWmne’s association was a powerful force in this community. Not only this, but these women were also looking for new forms of income and we were shown the crafts that they are making to be sold. It was a fantastic experience and illustrated how women are given positions of leadership and control, in ways that men would be expected to take in the UK.

Day seven: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day four

Alex Ratts opened the day by talking about gender, race and space and Black women’s movements in Brazil. She focused on two authors: Beatriz Nascimento who studied Black (Afro-Brazilian) histories which is now part of Brazilian schooling because of her and Leila Gonzale one of the founders of the Unified Black movement, which is a key Black movement in Brazil. She started a collective of Black women inside of this movement.  These authors’ writing, linked with other women and men, and Brazil, focusing on the ways Black women live with racism and sexism. They emphasized the importance of writing of the self as a form of creating resistance and making new knowledges from our own experiences. These authors are becoming more and more importance and are starting to be part of the canon of feminist and black research.

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Day six: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day three

Today was focused on when who experienced multiple forms of exclusion.

Sonia Beatrix Dos Santos explored health issues for Black women and the fight for the right to health in women’s issues in Brazil. The paper showed how Black feminists have been key in developing not health care for impoverished Black women who didn’t have formal jobs.  By fighting for healthcare as part of the constitution, these feminists massively improved the situation for Afro-Brailian women. However, these women are subject to both racism and sexism and there is still a lot to be done. This includes recognising the specifics of afro-Brazilian health needs and empowering Black women in communities to think about health issues. Even with healthcare in the constitution, some 30% of Black women in labour needed to go to more than one hospital to receive maternity care. There are regional differences, and Dos Santos noted that the North-east of Brazil is the worst.

Angela Sacchi’s paper then explored gender in Indigenous communities, explaining that in Brazil’s Indigenous communities, women occupy a range of roles, not only raising children, but also around health and other practices. Nonetheless, men and women have different roles, use space differently and have differential access to public participation. There are a lot of of struggles, and there are differences with women’s movements, that do not recognize their own ethnocentricism.

Xose Manuel Solla focused on empirically examining geographies of sexualities in the Spanish context. Looking at journal articles published in Spain, he argued that the dictatorship in Spain created an important difference between Anglo-geographies and Spanish geographies.  Geography in Spain was very closed and difficult. Exploring over 5,000 journal articles from 19 journals between 1990-2013, there were 9 articles in 23 years on sexualities in geography journals and 6 of these were published between 2007-2012.  Gender fared slightly better with 172 articles- 3.5% of articles published but these are irregular over time and generally averaged around 5 per year. Most of those published were in one specific journal from a progressive Barcelona University,

Day five: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day two

A day packed full of exciting papers, some highlights were:

  • The opening paper by Benhur Pinos Da Costa, which explored the history of sexualities internationally, but adding in Brazilian experiences. Finishing with a discussion of small towns in Brazil, Da Costa explored how gay men find space to gather, meet and create relationships and kinship networks even in places that are not accepting of their identities.
  • Jan Simon Hutta’s exploration of how sexualities and gender are policed and controlled in a peripheral area Baixada Fluminense (Fluminense Lowlands), a region in the state of Rio de Janeiro, sought to challenge the idea that safety and security lies in the state and the all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people will be protected by the police. Instead he argues that the state and police cannot be relied on for some who challenge sexual and gender norms and live in peripheral areas. For those who are more marginal relationships, friendships and gaining respect in local communities are key.
  • Maria Rodo-De-Zarate used maps of feelings to understand the similarities and differences of young lesbians experiences of space in Brazil (a place called Ponte Grosse) and Spain (Barcelona). She showed how these girls do not have the same feelings about space as straight girls, public spaces Spanish girls felt uncomfortable, in Brazil those spoken to could not show their feelings, walk hand in hand in public space, despite legal protections. She argued that not being able to experience love, care and solidarity and deprives people of their humanity. It is necessary to identify these injustices spatially to create more just and fair societies.
  • Cesare Di Feliciantonio discussed the importance of thinking about queer migration and social welfare together.  Too often migrants are presumed to be straight and gay men especially seen to be wealthy and white. Thinking about young gay men who moved from Italy to Berlin and from big cities in Italy to small towns showed that for young people the material conditions in which they exist are really important. For Italian family connections are really important socially, economically and culturally, but they can also be constraining.  Interestingly gay men can experience more freedom in small towns where their families are not present.

Overall the day illustrated the diverse experiences people have of sexualities, and how sexualities are lived differently in differently places, and at different times.

Day four: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

This is my diary of a recent trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference opening

IMG_9764 Porto VehloThis was a very different conference opening for a number of reasons. Firstly it started with the national anthem sung by a local choir, who reappeared later to sing other songs from various Brazilian composers.

The opening was done by people from the University, but also the hundred or so people at the conference from all over Latin-America, Portugal and Spain, were welcomed by the Secretary of State, for the State of Rondinia for Education. He spoke of the importance of education for society, University is free in Brazil. More than this he recognized the importance of studying gender and sexuality to address social inclusion and improve society.  Then he went on to say how important geography is to this endeavour, as we need to know how where we are influences exclusions/inclusions and power relations between men and women, as well as around sexuality.

It is refreshing to hear a politician understand the importance of not only education to improve society but also the place of geographies of genders and sexualities to achieve this.  The place of gender and sexuality in geographies in Latin America is very different to that of the UK. The conference organizer talked about gender and sexuality are not recognized as ‘appropriate’ or relevant topics and people struggle to get published in Geography. This seminar offers a chance for people from across Latin America and Iberia to come together, where they are usually isolated into small pockets away from each other. Indeed it is in working together that they were able to start a journal and also to include sexualities for this first time into the title of the conference.

Maria Dolores Garcia Ramon gave the opening talk, speaking about two women travellers Gertude Bell and Isabel Erhenardt. These women traveller had more freedom because they didn’t travel in professional roles, and often challenged colonial rule, but they also helped it. Gertude Bell, for example helped Lawrence of Arabia. I also learned about Porto Velho’s colonial history, which included the British shipping 3 huge water containers to the town, that only served the British half of the town. There is also a British train by the waterfront, also brought by the British during the colonial era. This ‘old town’ area is now popular for evening entertainment both the water towers and the train act as symbols for Port Velho.