Our first year field trip to Greece

Our first year Geography and Environmental Sciences students set off on a fieldtrip to Greece in their first semester at Brighton.

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The three day course introduces students to a range of field-based techniques and transferable skills. Working in groups it’s a great opportunity to get to know each other, and our lecturers, as well as building field skills, presentation techniques, primary geographical and environmental data reporting, analytical techniques through geographical or environmental investigations.

The fieldtrip includes day trips for students on our different courses to study specific topics.

Students on our different courses go on different day trips to Athens, Perachora and Mylokopi and Lake Stymphalia to study topics specifically related to their course.

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).

Last of the summer whine…..

Researchers from the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology have been busy trampling through marshes and peat bogs since the beginning of December as part of the initial fieldwork phase of the WetlandLIFE project. WetlandLIFE is a three year interdisciplinary project funded by the AHRC, ESRC and NERC through the ‘Valuing Nature’ programme (http://valuing-nature.net ). The WetlandLIFE team are studying the cultural, historical and economic values of wetland spaces across England, with case study sites in Bedfordshire, the Somerset Levels and the Humber Estuary, together with an ecological focus on mosquitoes to refine our understanding of their importance within these habitats.

Tower Hide: Shapwick Heath, Somerset Levels

As SET Research Fellow on the project, Dr Mary Gearey, explains: “Mosquitoes are hugely important for wetland ecosystems, as a food source for fish, bats and birds and also as pollinators for a wide range of plant life. As climate change warms our atmosphere, and increases its ability to hold moisture, there is every likelihood that mosquito populations will continue to thrive within English wetlands. Our project seeks to understand how these potentially expanding mosquito populations can be balanced against encouraging people to use and enjoy wetland spaces for their health and wellbeing.”

Joining forces with Greenwich University to undertake empirical social science fieldwork, the Brighton team are currently immersing themselves within three key wetland ecosystems within England; Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor on the Somerset Levels; the Millennial and Priory Country Parks in Bedfordshire and Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire. At this initial stage the Brighton team are familiarising themselves with these uniquely different landscapes – the rural peatlands which sit under Glastonbury Tor’s gaze and the urban infill gravel pits of Bedfordshire with the riverine floodplains where the Humber and Trent rivers meet the next venue in January 2018.

“It’s been so wonderful to meet the team of Rangers in Somerset and Bedfordshire who take care of these sites” explains Mary “and to meet the volunteers, walkers, birders and bat club members who cherish these unique spaces. Even in wet, cold, windy and sleeting conditions I’ve met people enjoying being in nature – whatever the weather throws at them. The mosquitos are in hibernation at this time of year, giving us a chance to explore these sites before they wake up and greet us in the Spring. In the meantime I’ve been capturing the beauty of these spaces via my camera phone – all contributing to our online photographic essay. See www.wetlandlife.org – we welcome all contributions, just send in your wetlands photos.”

Come and visit us this winter

It might be cold outside but don’t let that stop you visiting us this winter!

If you’re considering starting an undergraduate course here in 2018, why not sign up to one of our campus tours taking place during December and January and find out more about what it’s like study at Brighton?

The tours will give you the chance to explore the campus where your course of interest is based, view our facilities and talk to our staff and students.

Find out more and book onto a tour <link to: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/studying-here/visit-us/campus-tours/index.aspx>

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

My placement at GE Aviation

Geraldine Rumbold
BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

“By undertaking a placement year as an Environment Health and Safety Intern, it has been the best decision that I could have made for my career. It has expanded and developed my skills including team work, decision making, project management and emotional intelligence, which I could not have gained at university. In addition, I have received an extra qualification (Nebosh National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety), which will improve my career opportunities in any career I pursue in the future. I would highly recommend anyone to pursue an internship to gain a year’s experience. In the long term, it will make you a strong and desirable candidate when applying for Graduate Schemes or Postgraduate Opportunities.”

Brighton sparks Ruby’s volcanic interest

Geography graduate Ruby Coates has had an exciting time since leaving the University of Brighton, working her way around the world including internships in Brazil and Patagonia. She kindly shared some of her experiences in the midst of her travels. Her undergraduate degree experience ignited a passion for volcanology and she begins her masters degree in the subject at Bristol University this autumn.

“I initially enrolled on the Geography BA course at the University of Brighton but quickly realised it was not for me, and I switched to the BSc and was happy to be able to opt to learn more about our physical environment and landscape.

“I have always been interested in natural hazards and soon realised on the second-year field trip to Sicily that my interest lay with volcanoes. It was fascinating to spend a day on Mount Etna with the volcanologist Dr Boris Behncke who taught us about the volcano and the local communities. It was amazing to learn how societies could live so peacefully in close proximity to such powerful natural landforms. This trip led me to base my dissertation around Mount Etna and the communities living in the area.

“In my third year, I was fortunate enough to return to Sicily to carry out my project research and work alongside Boris at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and out in the field. It was amazing to see the work carried out to monitor the volcano and educate the communities. I found my dissertation to be a really interesting and important study that identified a widespread unpreparedness amongst the population in the event of an emergency. I found this very hard to believe and saw that further research is essential in this field. This is why I have chosen to study volcanology and I hope to go on to work with governmental organisations in managing natural hazards and be involved in risk communication amongst vulnerable communities.

“I was recommended the course by Dr Jake Ciborowski and received references from Jon Caplin and Chris Carey, all lecturers at the University of Brighton. I am thrilled to be accepted onto the course at Bristol University, the city where I was brought up.”

Health of UK Physical Geography

The first-ever report to compile evidence on the health and influence of UK physical geography has shown that the discipline is in great academic shape and a leading force worldwide. The International Benchmarking Review of UK Physical Geography was produced by the Royal Geographical Society and co-authored by Professor Phil Ashworth, University of Brighton.

The report highlights the extraordinary richness and diversity of physical geography in the UK that provides insights into processes and forms in the natural environment including climate and atmosphere, geomorphology and landscape, biogeography and ecosystems, hydrology and water science, oceans and soils.

Physical geography is witnessing a resurgence in popularity in schools and is growing subject choice at university where undergraduates perform well in their degrees, express high level of course satisfaction and have excellent employment outcomes compared to many disciplines.

UK physical geography research is international in outlook, world-leading in many subareas and influences the discipline worldwide. It punches well above its weight in terms of success rates with funding agencies, leads eminent international collaborative research programmes and addresses global societal-environment challenges.

Professor Phil Ashworth, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise at the University of Brighton, said: “This is a timely strategic review of UK physical geography whose findings have been validated by a panel of distinguished international experts. It shows that physical geography percolates into many natural and social science challenges in the changing world. Fundamental and exciting discovery science is produced by globally-renowned and influential geographers. UK physical geography is in excellent health and has a bright future for the new generation of numerate physical scientists”.

An independent, international panel of reviewers of the report, led by Professor Olav Slaymaker of the University of British Columbia in Canada said: “Physical geography within the UK is a major international player in terms of any metric considered, whether numbers of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded; research foci; intellectual contributions as judged by papers and journal editorial positions. The UK is performing better than most in terms of maintaining the visibility of physical geography as a distinct field. The strength of the field in the UK acts as an important role model for the future of physical geography globally.”

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!

It’s time to take air pollution seriously

The air monitoring station (LtoR) Kevin Wyche Kirsty Smallbone Keith Taylor and Debra Humphris

Our Vice-Chancellor has called on the Government to take more notice of evidence pointing to an air pollution crisis facing the planet.
Professor Debra Humphris was commenting after scientists from our school presented new research showing how society was facing a “public health timebomb”.
They told how air pollution is linked to 50,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, 9,400 in London and 430,000 in the EU as a whole, through heart disease, asthma, and even dementia.
Lead researchers, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of the School of Environment and Technology, and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche, are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.
Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Continue reading