Sun, Sea and Science?

Last weekend saw Brighton host this year’s Soapbox science in glorious sunshine at the Brighton seafront. Soapbox science is a novel public outreach platform where female scientists stand on their soapboxes and preach their science to the passing general public. This year saw Dr Laura Evenstar give a very hands-on demonstration on how the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world,  formed the Andean mountain chain in South America.

Members of the public were involved in building a miniature version of the Andes mountains out of sand. Adults and children alike got involved in looking at how plate tectonics work to produce the different theories on how the Andes uplifted. They then got to pretend to be clouds (cotton wool) traveling over the Andes and created their own rainfall events in the mini Atacama Desert to look at what sort of techniques scientists use to understand climate change in the geological record.

“It’s a great opportunity to show what women in STEM subjects are doing and to bring the joy of our science to people by playing in bags of sand at the beach!”

Brighton scientists unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge

University of Brighton academics are helping solve the mystery of where the ancient stones at Stonehenge originate.

Different theories have been debated by archaeologists and geologists for more than 100 years and now English Heritage, which manages the prehistoric site in Wiltshire, is hoping chemical analysis and comparisons by the Brighton scientists will unlock the puzzle.

The origins of the smaller ‘bluestones’ at the centre of the monument have been traced to Pembrokeshire in west Wales. This latest research focusses on the large sarsen stones that make up the main stone circle and inner sarsen horseshoe.

In 2018, the Brighton team analysed the chemistry of the sarsen uprights at the monument. This latest research involved chemical analysis of the sarsen lintel stones that sit across the top of these uprights. The non-invasive procedure used a portable spectrometer that can identify chemical concentrations of a range of elements.

Professor David Nash, the University of Brighton’s Professor of Physical Geography, said: “We have now analysed the chemistry of all the sarsen stones and will be comparing the data against the chemistry of areas of sarsens from across southern England. Read More

RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference April 2019

I am a doctoral candidate at the School of Environment and Technology (SET). My doctoral research project is supervised by Dr Paul Gilchrist, Dr Mary Gearey and Professor Andrew Church who are all part of the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP) and the Centre for Aquatic Environments research groups, which I am also affiliated with.

I recently took part in the RGS-IBG PGR Mid Term Conference in April 2019 hosted by the Manchester Metropolitan University where post-graduate doctoral students from a variety of geography disciplines from the UK and beyond gathered together over three days to share their ongoing research and network.  I was awarded the Postgraduate Forum Research Group Bursary which covered conference fee and I was delighted to attend this conference and explore the vibrant city of Manchester for the first time. Read More

Catching up with Dr Annie Ockelford

In the ‘Catching up with…’ series of podcasts, we sit down with staff from a wide range of roles to find out more about what they do, what their department does, and what interests them.

In the latest episode we catch up with Dr Annie Ockelford, senior lecturer in physical geography, who recently shared her research with MPs and governmental organisations in Westminster.
To find out more about Annie’s research, click here​ to view her University profile page​.

You can also listen to this podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, where you can like and subscribe – or search University of Brighton in your preferred podcast app.

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!

Green Growth Platform hits new heights

More than 300 jobs have been created and 70 new products launched with support from a University of Brighton green business organisation.


The figures were released as the University’s Green Growth Platform received a progress report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Platform’s original funder.

HEFCE said the Platform had “met or exceeded” all of its objectives, set out when it was launched in 2014.

Zoë Osmond, Director of Green Growth Platform, said: “We are delighted to have successfully delivered on all of the targets agreed with our original funder over the first five years of the Green Growth Platform.

“Since launch in 2014 we have seen over 1,000 green-focused companies join our network, with more than a quarter of these taking up our intensive innovation, business support or skills services.”

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My experience as a student

So its my final semester being a student here in Brighton and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sad but incredibly excited to graduate.

Student life is exciting. I came to Brighton to study Geography in September 2016 and since then have had the excitement of living in three different houses with three different groups of people. My life here at Brighton has been brilliant, my course has taught me so much about the world, and I have loved the chances to meet so many different people.

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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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