Over the Easter break more than 100 students and staff from the Geography & Environmental Science department set off to explore Berlin, Naples or Crete for their annual field classes. Topics discussed ranged from the social production of history, contested urban space and the ‘transition’ movement in Berlin; exploring the volcanic activity near Mount Vesuvius; and the interaction between humans and the environment, tourism and biogeography in Crete.

Our staff and students documented their adventures on social media, so check out the Storify posts below for a real taste of what they got up to!

Berlin

Crete

Naples

Naples

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UK Scout Jack Abrey, a first-year Geography student at Reading University, has recently embarked on an adventure with a difference – travelling to Madagascar with international charity WaterAid to help improve access to clean water and safe toilets across the country.

WaterAid works with the Scout Movement in Madagascar to campaign for water and toilets for all, and increase understanding of the importance of good hygiene among communities.

UK Scout Jack Abrey helps build a tippy tap at Kiadin'i Madagasikara Scout camp in Mantasoa, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

UK Scout Jack Abrey helps build a tippy tap at Kiadin’i Madagasikara Scout camp in Mantasoa, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Jack, 19, and fellow Scouts Hannah Kentish and Becky Alexander, took the trip in conjunction with the ‘A Million Hands’ campaign to link with their Malagasy counterparts and see first-hand the impact of life without access to clean water and sanitation.

They will share their eye-opening experiences with 65,000 Scouts from across the UK, who have committed to ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation as part of A Million Hands.

The trio camped with their fellow Malagasy Scouts, rising early for sports and ending the days around the campfire. They joined sessions on the importance of clean water, good sanitation and hygiene, and helped to build facilities at the camp, such as ‘tippy taps’ – a cheap way to wash hands where there is no tapped water. They also worked towards breaking down the taboos that shroud periods by joining discussions on menstrual hygiene and ways to educate others, even incorporating the subject into their campfire songs.

The participants will use these activities with Scouts back in the UK to help them gain an understanding of these important issues.

The young Brits also helped pass on the lifesaving messages to the wider community through performances and demonstrations at a ‘Dobodoboka’ – a type of festival organised by the Scouts with WaterAid on a busy market day.

Jack Abrey, 19, is Chair of the Community Impact Group at the Scouts Association, which is leading on the partnership. He said: “It was great to see how Scouts are working with WaterAid in Madagascar to transform lives by educating people about good sanitation and hygiene, as well as advocating for more investment in these basic facilities. I’ve been energised to take action on this important issue in the UK the ‘A Million Hands’.”

Jack saw why the work of WaterAid and the Scouts is so important when they visited Ambonidobo, a village that relies on dirty unsafe collected from a dirty pond. Lalasoa, 13, explained how she has to collect water twice a day, carrying 20 litres at a time up a treacherous hill.

Lalasoa said: “Fetching water is really tough because we have to climb up a very steep slope, and carrying the water gives me neck and head pain. The water is muddy and dirty.” 

WaterAid is set to start work imminently in the community to introduce clean water, toilets and good hygiene practices. 

The UK Scouts saw the difference these basic resources can make when they visited Manakasina, a community where WaterAid has worked to help transform lives

Jack added: “It was mind-blowing to see the changes clean water and good sanitation can bring. These basic resources are vital for a healthy and prosperous life, and I’m so proud that Scouts in the UK have chosen to take action on this important issue. Even by taking small actions, together we really can make a difference in poor communities in Madagascar and across the world.

UK Scouts Jack, Hannah and Becky join Tatiana, Tendry and Dylan to collect clean water from a new water point in their village, Manakasina, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

UK Scouts Jack, Hannah and Becky join Tatiana, Tendry and Dylan to collect clean water from a new water point in their village, Manakasina, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

“We learned so much about how we can join together with our Scout family in Madagascar, and across the world, to help get clean water and toilets for everyone everywhere.”   

A Million Hands gives half a million Scouts the opportunity to keep their promise to help other people and take action on four social issues they feel strongly about.

Keith Dunmall, Youth Engagement Manager at WaterAid, said: “It’s easy for us to take clean water and toilets for granted, but far too many young people in developing countries live without these basics, impacting on their health, dignity, and education.

“The UK Scouts visit to Madagascar demonstrated how young people really can drive change by uniting across the world.”

You can view a short video about their experiences here.

 

About A Million Hands campaign:

The A Million Hands campaign is enlisting half a million Scouts to work with some of the UK’s biggest charities – Mind, The Alzheimer’s Society (Dementia Friends), WaterAid, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust – over the next four years.

The charities were chosen by Scouts themselves:

  • Ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation.
  • Improving the lives of those affected by dementia.
  • Improving the lives of those disabled by society.
  • Improving the mental wellbeing and resilience of families.

A total of 209,000 young people have signed up to support A Million Hands; 34% selected water and sanitation as their issue, meaning around 65,000 will take action for WaterAid.  
For further information, visit: https://www.amillionhands.org.uk/
WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.

  • Around 900 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
  • Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water
  • Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation
  • Just £15 can help provide one person with access to safe water.

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ShovonlalRoy_wLast week, GES lecturer Dr Shovonlal Roy delivered an invited talk at the International Symposium “Space – the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring?” held at the Zoological Society of London.

The symposium brought together “leading experts in biodiversity monitoring and satellite remote sensing to discuss ways to better capitalise on this technology to monitor biological diversity globally”, and arranged a “workshop on scientific writing offered to all attendees and organised by the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation editorial team”.

The talks aimed at addressing the “societal, economic and scientific interests in mapping biodiversity, measuring how biodiversity is faring, and asking what can be done to efficiently mitigate further biodiversity loss are at an all-time high.”

Dr. Roy presented on “Ocean remote sensing for modelling and monitoring marine autotrophic biodiversity”.

More than 120 international delegates, including a number of early career researchers and PhD students, attended the symposium. More about it can be found here, and Twitter responses from the audience can be found using the hashtag (29th April 2016):  #RSConservation.

 

Visit Dr Shovonlal Roy’s staff profile page.

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The School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science has been successful in receiving the Silver Athena SWAN award, given by the Equality Challenge Unit.

Athena SWAN was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to tackling gender inequality in higher education. It has traditionally covered science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines, but has been expanded to include arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law departments (AHSSBL) as well.

The winning submission from the Gender & Fieldwork photo competition, by George Hibberd

The winning submission from the Gender & Fieldwork photo competition, by George Hibberd

 

SAGES received the Bronze Athena SWAN Award in 2011 and has continued to be committed to creating an inclusive environment for all. Our School-specific objectives for Athena SWAN are:

1. To aspire to a culture of equality for our staff (academic, admin, research and technical) and students;

2. To enhance induction, communication and consultation processes within and between Archaeology, GES and SAGES;

3. To improve collegiality and achieve a more cohesive structure in SAGES;

4. To foster a supportive culture of mentoring, review (PDRs), training and promotion across SAGES (regardless of career stage).

Dr Nick Branch, current Head of School, says “The last three years has been a period of rapid and positive change for the School. Since our Bronze Award, we have extensively refurbished the School infrastructure, changed the School name and mission, and prioritised equality, diversity and wellbeing. Athena SWAN has been the key platform for transforming the culture and improving working lives within the School.”

Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, said the silver award to SAGES reflected the impact of innovative actions, such as a year-long School-wide “Gender in Fieldwork” project, on everyone in the School.

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glofaseventProfessor Hannah Cloke and Dr Liz Stephens, in collaboration with the Walker Institute, are hosting an afternoon event to showcase the University’s work in developing and supporting flood forecasting capabilities globally. It is open to all University staff and students, plus participants from other organisations who are interested in flood forecasting.

The Open Event will include presentations by keynote speakers from ECMWF, Department for International Development (DFID) the Red Cross Climate Centre and the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

There will be a wine, canapé and poster session and all delegates are invited to submit an A1 poster of their research relating to flooding / flood forecasting if they would like.

In total we are expecting approximately 100 people to attend so this will be a great opportunity for networking and a chance to showcase research from UoR and collaborators.

The event is free to attend but registration is essential – link here: store.rdg.ac/GloFAS_Open_Event

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Giuseppe Feola spent three weeks in February and March 2016 doing fieldwork in south-east Kazakhstan. He was accompanied by postdoctoral researcher Tristam Barrett and worked in close cooperation with colleagues at the Institute of Geography in Almaty. The team also benefitted from the support of the Local Community Fund, an NGO which runs an agribusiness centre in Shelek, near one of the research sites. The research team set out to collet data for the project “Climate change, water resources and food security in Kazakhstan“.

 

Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

The first phase of the field work involved organising and conducting two multi-stakeholder workshops in the villages of Koram and Karaoi. Both villages have experienced serious water management issues in recent years, and the workshops allowed the research team and the participants to identify the major challenges faced by the water management system in the each location. The workshops enabled productive discussions across the boundaries that traditionally separate farmers, local authorities, NGOs and local scientists, and therefore helped unravel the complex relations between the challenges faced by different actors in dealing with water use in agriculture. For example, the workshops clearly showed that, while climate change affects water availability in this region, infrastructural inadequacies and financial and organisational issues play an important role in limiting the adaptive capacity of the farming system to climate change.

 

Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

The second phase of the field work involved field visits and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants . With the aid of a mental mapping technique, the interviews allowed us to grasp the interviewee’s understanding of the water management system, in its infrastructural, environmental, and institutional dimensions. Moreover, the interviews also focussed on ongoing adaptation strategies. These include, for example, spontaneous rescheduling of water supply rotations among farmers and farmer self-organisation to clean some of the main irrigation canals and fill the gap let by the inability of the responsible state organisation to maintain the irrigation infrastructure.

 

Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

This research will improve understanding of agricultural adaptation to climate change in south-east Kazakhstan, but it also sheds light on the still ongoing post-Soviet transformation of agriculture in this country.

 

You can read more about Giuseppe at his staff profile and personal webpage.

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By Georgina Smith, Rhys Bolt, Robyn Plummer, Alan Monk and Eleanor Wright

students

A group of five second year students have been set the task of investigating how people use fertilisers and pesticides in their gardens and allotments and the impact on soil fertility as part of a 20 credit real-life environmental consultancy module on the BSc Environmental Science and Geography degree programmes. This study will focus on the Earley area, which is located within the Loddon catchment.

How will this research help the wider community? This is an ideal opportunity for residents to get their soil tested for free. Phosphorus, nitrogen, pH and organic matter will be measured.  All factors are important for plant growth, and therefore knowing these soil properties will help residents understand their current soil fertility to inform their choices about the amount of fertiliser to apply.

How will students use the data?  The data obtained from the door-to-door survey and the analysis of soil samples will provide the students with information to produce quality analysis of soil in gardens in Earley and further information on the level of fertiliser and pesticide use.  Soil fertility will be compared to soil samples collected from the University of Reading farm at Arborfield to see if gardens are more or less fertile than farmers’ fields used for crop production. It is important to stress that all data will be anonymised and presented as aggregated values for the area, as strict data protection procedures in place.

“This is an exciting project as we know almost nothing about soil fertility, fertiliser and pesticide use within people’s gardens and allotments” says Dr Joanna Clark, module convenor.  Many urban areas were not mapped when the Soil Survey produced soil maps for England and Wales. Gardens and allotments are not subject to the same regulatory controls as agricultural land.

The project is being run in collaboration with Hampshire and Isle of Weight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) who host the Loddon Catchment Partnership (LCP).  The LCP is part of a national network of Catchment Partnerships established to enable communities to take action to improve the quality of their water environment.

Please get in touch with Dr Joanna Clark (j.m.clark@reading.ac.uk) if you live in Earley and would like to take part in the survey.

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sarah_neal_thumbnailWe are pleased to welcome Dr Sarah Neal (University of Surrey) as this week’s speaker in the Human Geography Research Cluster seminar series.  She is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, and has researched and published widely in the fields of race, ethnicity, multiculture, community, belonging, place and policy-making.  She will be speaking about ‘Elective conviviality and community imaginings: the social and ethnic dynamics of social leisure organizations in diverse urban places’.

In this she notes that there has been something of a ‘convivial turn’ in the research approaches to understanding contemporary urban social life and everyday social relations. In its early formulations conviviality emphasised the social processes of multicultural populations getting along in an unstable, adapted, contingent living together and recognized the contradiction of both resentment and resilience around ethnic tensions and conflicts. However, conviviality has more recently drifted towards a focus on passing civilities, light socialites and ‘low social demand’ interactions of disconnected, diverse but proximate populations. In turn this thinking has been questioned for overstating these interactions and their connective possibilities. In this critique conviviality is defined more as an urban etiquette or civility for managing and masking older hostilities and racialised anxieties.

Her paper asks how then might it be possible to go beyond these positions and argue for the revival and relevance of the concepts of community to conviviality thinking?  The paper uses qualitative data from Living Multiculture, a two year, ESRC funded research project (2012-2014) to explore how membership of, and relationships within, a variety of social leisure groups in three different English urban geographies can throw light on the dynamics of sustained encounters of cultural difference and social care over time, within localized and affective geographies, emphasizing a collaborative doing and social exchange within a variety of (semi-formal) social leisure groups.

She will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on the 4th February.

 

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In the latter part of November 2015, one of the SAGES doctoral researchers, Saeed Abdul-Razak, had the immense privilege to deliver a presentation to kids of the Fulham Preparatory School in London. The presentation was on the ethical dimensions of climate change and sustainable development with over 120 students in attendance. The talk employed interactive approaches including videos (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRLJscAlk1M), pictures and questions to the audience.

Harvey Glover presents fair trade chocolates to Saaed

Harvey Glover presents fair trade chocolates to Saaed

The kids were introduced to the causes of climate change, development problems around the globe, the new 2015 -2030 sustainable development goals and the role of climate change in achieving these goals. There were case studies from Ghana on climate change mitigation (precisely REDD+) and climate change adaptation (for coastal communities) to explain the ethical implications of climate action.

 

The ethical dimensions aspect of the topic was treated in light of decision making and processes between developed and developing countries at the international level; elites/authorities and citizens at national level; and for the community level, it focused on the vulnerable such as women, children, the poor, etcetera. The presentation concluded on a positive note by encouraging the students to go green, to think globally but act locally as the earth’s resources are finite and human action/inaction are important factors that impact everyone.

Letters from kids of FPS

Letters from kids of FPS

In appreciation for the talk, the school’s current head boy, Harvey Glover, presented Saeed with a jug of fair trade chocolates. A couple of weeks after the talk, the kids wrote lovely letters appreciating the talk and Saeed’s time; some expressed their new inspiration to be green; others had follow-up questions and the remaining expressed how informative the presentation was and how they shared the new knowledge on sustainable actions with their parents, families and friends in order to ‘save the future’.

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Professor Danny Dorling

Professor Danny Dorling

Our first speaker is Professor Danny Dorling who is a social geographer well known for his popular social science texts on injustice, inequality and population. He is currently the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford and has previously worked in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield and New Zealand. With a group of colleagues he helped create the website www.worldmapper.org, which shows who has most and least in the world. Much of Danny’s work, which concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education and poverty, is available open access (see www.dannydorling.org), and his recent books include “Population Ten Billion”, “The Social Atlas of Europe” (with Dimitris Ballas and Ben Hennig), and, in 2015, “Injustice: why social inequality still persists”.

His talk – “Cohesion, sustainability, equality and education… is geography the missing link?” – is about ideas inspired by pictures, graphs and world maps. Through trying to answer the question – what is it in the differing nature of the economy of cities and regions which results in different outcomes? – he explores why social cohesion and trust is higher in Japan than in the UK and questions how we can make cities more sustainable in general.
His presentation will look at some summary statistics for 25 affluent countries and thus for the largely urbanized populations within them. The UK and Japan are very different states in that household income inequality is very low in Japan and very high in the UK. An updated version of these statistics are presented and then the relationships between economic inequality and over consumption of goods, of meat, of food in general, of water, of clothes, or air flights and of gasoline is considered.

Finally, he compares the education outcomes of countries and argues that it is hard not to conclude that, at least statistically, the UK comes out of any comparison poorly when it comes to cohesion, sustainability, regional inequalities, and city planning, and general educational ability. Japan (again as a comparator) appears similar to other more efficient and more equitable countries. However, even in Japan people consume too much and do not trust each other enough. If everyone in the world behaved like an average citizen of Tokyo we would still need two planets to live on. If they behaved like an average citizen in London we would need nearer four planets.

He will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on Thursday 21 January.

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