Dr Matthew Brolly
Tell us about the subject area(s) you teach at undergraduate level?
I lead the teaching of remote sensing across our undergraduate degrees in Geography, Archaeology, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Management. This subject area is therefore also the main component of the Geography with Remote Sensing and GIS degree. Remote sensing relates to any measurements that are made when not in contact with the object/target, so essentially we are all using remote sensing all the time using primarily our eyes and ears. Using this definition, the subject uses imagery collected by a range of sensors including cameras, lasers, and satellite radars.
We use the electromagnetic spectrum to look at how different materials on Earth reflect differently and how we can use our understanding of colour, texture, and orientation to describe the biosphere, atmosphere, oceanosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere and asthenosphere of our planet.
What are some examples of activities that students in your subject area participate in during their studies?
I am course leader for BSc Environmental Sciences and BSc Geography with Remote Sensing and GIS. Both of these courses have a range of learning activities that students will take part in and enjoy. Many of these activities are practical based with field learning a major aspect of our programmes. You’ll will have the opportunity to take part in residential field trips both within the UK and internationally in all 3 years of your studies.
In the first year the field trip will expose you to physical geography, environmental sciences, and human geography to give you a broad introduction to the major themes of your study. Previous trips have taken place in Sussex, Norfolk and Greece. In the second year field trip you will have the opportunity to specialise in your area of interest with international field trips to Morocco (Human Geography), Sicily (Physical Geography and Environmental Sciences), South Africa (Environmental Sciences). We have also taken our students to Northern Ireland when international field trips have been complicated by international travel rules. We also offer optional international trips in our final year which include Brazil. Many of our modules feature day trips to the local area and beyond and are always considered a highlight.
We also have wonderful facilities that support our degrees including fixed wing and octocopter drones that carry sophisticated sensors, lab facilities for soil and water analyses that are in demand academically and commercially, and the latest software to keep you up to date with technological developments to support such things as image analysis, model building, and computer programming.
Are there opportunities for students to be involved in your research?
Undergraduate students can get involved very easily with my research projects due to the focus on remote sensing data that has already been acquired and is ready for open use for all. These vast datasets allow my research to look at Mangroves in Nigeria, Grasslands in Argentina, Mammals in Spain, and forest structure globally. If you have an idea of a global environmental problem that needs addressing there is a project to develop. In 2021 an undergraduate student was funded by the Santander internship scheme to work closely with me on past and present landslide detection in Chile. This project taking place between 2nd and 3rd year has allowed the student to develop skills in Remote Sensing and GIS but also in computer programming, becoming very proficient using Google Earth Engine.
What support is available to undergrads at Brighton?
Giving support to students is our big strength here at Brighton. As lecturing staff we are vastly experienced at interacting with students from all backgrounds and have helped students through the full range of issues and important matters that student’s typically face. Our first year is not assessed as part of your degree and presents a real opportunity to get settled into a new learning style once you arrive at university. This allows us to focus more on you and getting you to the level you need to be at to transition/adapt to university expectations and ultimately to succeed. We are also supported by Student Advice experts, Student Support and Guidance Tutors, Student Union, Careers service, and wellbeing teams that will be ready to help you every step of the way.
What do you enjoy most about teaching at undergraduate level?
I love helping students develop their abilities through all the years of university. A lot of this love and enjoyment comes from seeing the maturing of their subject knowledge and technical skills but it is their ability to engage in philosophical and scientific discussions by the time final year comes around which is the most satisfying. First years would never believe they were capable of such things on day one of university.
What’s your favourite location in Sussex and why?
My favourite location in Sussex is Bateman’s House which is the old house of the author Rudyard Kipling. A beautiful place that brings together the beauty of nature and art. They make great apple juice too.
Which three people (alive or dead) would you invite to your dream dinner party?
A dream dinner party for me would have to be with famous people from history who made amazing choices that had massive effects on others. I’d be really interested in their philosophies, so Martin Luther King Jr and Marie Curie would be really good selfless examples and we’d have to invite some historical despotic leader to keep things balanced. I’ll let you imagine one. I also wouldn’t mind having George Lucas, JRR Tolkien, and George RR Martin round the next night.