Presenting at the Association of American Geographers annual conference

Dr Mary Gearey, Senior Research Fellow from the School of Environment and Technology reflects on her latest conference presentation and participation at AAG Washington 2019

There seemed to be a problem on the streets of Washington DC when I arrived last week at the beginning of April. Dotted along the streets, scores of lonely, abandoned scooters, harshly left propped against streetlights, blossoming cherry trees, shop doorways.

Who would care for these miscreant mobile technologies? Luckily with 9000 physical and human geographers in town for the annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting help was on hand with both theoretical and applied solutions. Read More

Exploring Morocco with our 2nd year geographers

Every year, 2nd year undergraduates on our BA Geography course spend 8 days exploring Morocco as part of their dedicated field work module. This year they were joined by gender and sexuality specialist Dr Nick McGlynn, sustainable energy expert Dr Kirsten Jenkins, and senior geoarchaeology lecturer Dr Chris Carey.

The field trip was split across two locations. For 6 days the students worked and studied in the tourist hotspot and cultural heartland of Marrakech. Through transect walks across the French-planned New Town and the older Medina (the walled centre), students observed the lingering impacts of colonialism in the built environment and culture of the city.

They also investigated ways in which national and transnational policymaking – particularly the ‘Plan Maroc Vert‘ agenda – influence the very rapid development of Morocco, with consequent tension around use of land and water evident in peri-urban Marrakech.

Water usage in particular was studied further as students traveled into the Atlas Mountains for two days, in the village of Imlil. Here the focus was on changing rural livelihoods, traditional forms of agriculture and immigration, and the impacts brought by the growth in tourism. Despite rainy and stormy weather, students managed to spend a lot of time observing these issues first-hand. Local guides pointed out mechanisms and strategies for managing flooding, soil erosion and landslides, and explained the ‘targa’ irrigation system and the social practices used to manage it.

Help was also at hand (or more accurately at hoof) in the form of local mules, which carried staff and students to the lower slopes near Mount Toubkal. Here we could see the still-existing damage caused by a devastating flood and rockslide in 1995, and the differences between tourist-oriented villages like Imlil and more isolated settlements higher in the mountains.

Returning to Marrakech for the final days of the field trip, our budding geographers concluded by developing their own group projects. Data for these was gathered over two days, and subsequent findings were presented to staff and fellow students. This year our groups’ research topics were:

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The Morocco field trip serves as a critical introduction to fieldwork and the research process for students. But we also find that it really brings our students together as a group, and helps them work together and support one another in their vital final year. We can’t wait to see how they progress as we move into 2020!

Gaining hands on research experience as an undergraduate

Undergraduate Geography BSc(Hons) student Chloe Carter tells us about the research experience she gained on a trip to the United States.

I went through clearing and chose Geography BSc(Hons) because I’ve always been interested in the physical landscape around me. Brighton is perfectly situated to learn about different landscapes being close to the sea and the Downs.

The trips to Greece and Sicily are great but also the amount of opportunities you experience, like being involved in up and coming research.

I was talking to one of the lecturers, Dr Annie Ockelford, about her research as it interests me. She spoke of her research on large wood in the USA and how she likes to take students so they get to experience the world of research. She then invited me along with her to help out with the research. We went to the Nooksack River, WA, USA. Read More

Brighton scientists researching ways to protect 11 million people

The University of Brighton is joining an international research project to protect Thailand’s coastal communities from natural disasters which cause the loss 30 square kilometres of shoreline every year.

The £592,000 study will improve understanding of Thailand’s vulnerability to storms, floods and coastal erosion which affect 17 per cent of the country’s population or more than 11 million people.

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A Wild Escape in Hong Kong

I was lucky enough to visit the Mai Po nature reserve in Hong Kong’s New Territories – a wildlife haven surrounded by over 20 million local residents.

Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour is spectacular night and day

When most people think of Hong Kong the images that are conjured up are of towering skyscrapers, junks and ferry boats crossing Victoria harbour and steaming bowls of noodles slurped down with bubble tea in busy street cafes. Inherent to this vision is the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong life – the teeming night markets of Mong Kok in Kowloon, the frenetic rabbit warren of Wan Chai’s streets and the thrumming outdoor escalators of the mid-levels of Hong Kong island. As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China for the past twenty one years, Hong Kong’s nearly 9 million local population regularly swells with growing numbers of both domestic Chinese and foreign tourists, visiting the numerous tourist hotspots, temples and shopping centres. As a result Hong Kong is ranked as the world’s fourth most densely populated region on earth. Read More

You can now check air quality – online

The University of Brighton has launched online air quality data so residents can see which times and days were more polluted than others.

The service could help those with respiratory diseases such as asthma avoid outdoor exposure when levels of pollutants are at their highest.

The data is in the form of graphs showing levels of potentially harmful gases over the last 24 hours, seven and 30 days. The graphs can be seen at: https://bit.ly/2QwNHxp

The readings come from the University’s £250,000 Air Environment Research (AER) monitoring station at Falmer, the first of its kind in the UK.

Dr Kevin Wyche, Senior Lecturer in Atmospheric Science and Air Quality Management within the University’s School of Environment and Technology, and co-founder and principal investigator of the AER, said knowing what pollutants are in the air is increasingly vital.

He said: “More than 50,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK from air pollution-related diseases, costing the NHS around 16 per cent of its total budget. Knowing when pollution is at its highest during the day and what days are worse than others could help some people avoid exposure.”

Launched following last week’s World Health Organisation’s conference in Brussels on air quality, it provides five graphs:

* Nitrogen Dioxide NO2 – the main source is burning fossil fuels as in cars and this can irritate lungs and make diseases such as asthma worse. This, in turn, can lead to great risk of infections

* Ozone O3 – concentrations are often highest on hot, still and sunny days, and are a major component of modern ‘smog’

* Sulphur Dioxide SO2 – can be damaging to the environment and acts as a respiratory irritant, causing coughing and shortness of breath

* Formaldehyde HCHO – can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat.

* Nitrous Acid HONO – can contribute to the formation of other pollutants

Dr Wyche, who is chairing a forthcoming Public Policy Exchange at an EC and ClientEarth event, said the WHO has reported that outdoor air pollution kills more people worldwide than road traffic accidents, smoking and diabetes combined.

Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of the School of Environment and Technology and is co-founder and co-investigator of Air Environment Research, said: “Brighton is exceeding air quality limits set by the government and it is crucial that we enhance our understanding of the relationships that exist between pollutants and health. It is also vital and incumbent upon us to share our knowledge and data with the public.”

The monitoring station is co-funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN). Graphs and data archives are produced by Jason Bailey, Learning Technologies Adviser at the University.

The value of sharing your research

Dr James Cole’s research on Prehistoric cannibalism has scored one of the highest Altmetric scores of Social Science articles published in 2017 open access by the journal Scientific Reports part of the  Springer Nature publishing group.

Springer Nature report that his research paper was mentioned in 800+ tweets and almost 200 news articles and feature Dr Cole as the headline in their “Open Voices” campaign about Open Access publishing. Read More

Urgent action needed to save earth’s biodiversity

Biodiversity – vital for life on earth – is being eroded at an alarming rate and both politicians and the private sector must act now to halt the erosion.

That was the message from the University of Brighton’s Professor Andrew Church, specialist in human-nature relations and the environment, who spoke at a London conference alongside Environment Secretary Michael Gove and TV broadcaster and writer Ben Fogle. Read More

Brighton researchers aiming to save the whale – and humans

University of Brighton scientists have discovered a more environmentally-friendly way of preventing man-made toxins from leaching into the water system – using living organisms.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), now banned by most countries including the UK (1981), are still posing serious health risks and are suspected of causing the death of a new-born orca which made headlines around the world earlier this year when its mother Tahlequah carried the dead calf for 17 days.

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WetlandLIFE project update – researching a ‘sense of place’ within England’s wetlands – Dr Mary Gearey – Research Fellow

Our WetlandLIFE project ( www.wetlandlife.org), part of the Valuing Natures Programme (valuing-nature.net) is now in its second year. This means our fieldwork research is well underway. Spring has finally sprung on our wetland case study sites; and last week we visited Shapwick Heath wetland, part of the Somerset Levels close to Glastonbury.

The University of Brighton team are busy not just enjoying these spaces, but are also beginning the many fieldwork interviews that will help us really understand what these wetland spaces mean to so many different users. Read More