Professor Mike Goodman on the benefits – and drawbacks – of celebrity activism

MikeGoodman_wProfessor Mike Goodman has been quoted by the Christian Science monitor in a recent article examining celebrity activism after Leonardo DiCaprio participated in a White House discussion on climate change. Research suggests that when people are exposed to a celebrity endorsing a cause, their main takeaway may not be the message itself but rather a desire to do more research on the issue themselves, says Mike: “They’re not necessarily picking up what these people say verbatim, but it gets them interested enough that they go out and look for further information.”

Read the article here:

SAGES receives Silver Athena SWAN Award

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.

Farm advice on benefits of organic matter for soil structure and crop yield from Tom Sizmur

On Tuesday 10th February Dr. Tom Sizmur met with growers in Essex and Hertfordshire at Manuden Village Community Centre to talk about how soil structure and crop yield can be improved by adding organic matter to soils and boosting earthworm populations.

Read the full story on the Soil Research Centre blog here.

Geography students win Chancellor’s Award for academic excellence

Congratulations to Grace Martin and Amelia Hart, current Geography students who are receiving the Chancellor’s Award this year for their academic excellence!

The Chancellor’s Award is the most prestigious student award scheme at the University of Reading, which recognises the very best and highest academically achieving students from across the University. This year, 60 students who achieved the highest results in their subject at the end of either their first or second year of study were awarded the prize and will attend a special awards evening tonight hosted by the University’s Chancellor Sir John Madejski and Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell in December.

Well done Grace and Amelia!

Emily Boyd gives talk on ‘everyday resilience’ in Stockholm

Emily Boyd gave a talk in Stockholm in conjunction with the 2014 Volvo Environment Prize, which was awarded to Prof. Eric Lambin who has developed novel methods of analysing satellite images by linking them to socioeconomic data. The event on Thursday 27 November 2014,  ‘Global Social-Ecological Connectivity and the Biosphere’, was hosted at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Emily presented on ‘Exploring ‘everyday resilience’ in the anthropocene’. She spoke on how everyday resilience is a novel entry point to tackling complex connections and tradeoffs between society and environment, from neighbourhood to the global. It was attended by academics, practitioners and public.

New report out today looks at growing cashews in Ghana and the effects on local people, food security and poverty alleviation

The work was led by Dr Ruth Evans, Department of Geography and Environmental Science in collaboration with Dr. Simon Mariwah and Dr. Barima Antwi, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana (funded by IIF and SHES, University of Reading).

For more information, check out the summary or full report and take a look at the video produced about the project.

Dr Emily Boyd’s Project to help African cities adapt to climate change wins UN prize!


A University of Reading-led project to help people in Mozambique ‘green’ their urban neighbourhood and make it more resilient to climate change has won a United Nations award!

The project in Maputo, Mozambique, co-led by Dr Emily Boyd, from our Geography Department, has been announced (6 November 2013) among 17 inspiring projects as 2013 Lighthouse Activities under the Momentum for Change initiative of the United Nations.

Climate change is increasingly having an effect on communities across the globe, but its effects in poor urban areas in Africa are often particularly extreme. Increasing risk of coastal flooding, heat waves and extreme rainfall could put the safety and livelihood of millions of people at risk.

The project’s aim was to help the community have more of a say in government and business plans for urban development. Since being implemented, local people have started a new community recycling centre, cutting down on litter, helped clean and maintain drainage channels to prevent potential flooding problems, and now have a stronger voice in urban planning and development decisions.

Dr Boyd said: “An exciting finding from this work is the evidence that local residents, including relatively uneducated citizens, both want and are capable of handling information about the climate, when it relates to their own experiences of problems such as flooding.

“By getting active involvement of people, literally at street level, we have shown the importance of helping people to speak up about the problems they are facing from a changing climate. This helps to compel government institutions and businesses to take action. By empowering individuals and showing them the important role they play, we have seen an effective way to motivate people to help change their communities for the better.”

The project was jointly undertaken between academics from British and Finnish  institutions, with involvement from the University of Reading, University College London, University of York, FUNAB and Aalto University.

Lighthouse Activities and the Momentum for Change initiative are spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat, to shine a light on the groundswell of activities underway across the globe towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient world.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said: “The 2013 Lighthouse Activities are true beacons of hope, demonstrating what happens when innovation and passion come together to address the biggest challenge of our time.

“There are thousands of examples of people taking action to address climate change all over the world. The Lighthouse Activities highlight some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change, which I hope will inspire others to do the same.”

For more information, please contact Sarah Marchildon, Communications Officer, United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, at or +49 228 815 1065.

For media information from the University of Reading, please contact Pete Castle, University of Reading press office, at or +44 (0)118 378 7391.

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Momentum for Change on Facebook

Momentum for Change on Twitter

 The 2013 Lighthouse Activities were selected by a 16-member, international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

The 17 activities will be showcased at special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland (11-22 November).

Interested stakeholders can interact with the activity representatives during two social media discussions ahead of the climate conference. A Twitter chat took place on 6 November from 16:00 to 16:30 (CET).
Participants can comment using the hashtag #m4c. A Google Hangout will take place on 13 November.

National Student Survey Results

The NSS results for 2013 have now been published!

The results for Environmental Science are excellent, with 100% student satisfaction!

We also scored 93% for academic support, and 98% for organisation and management.

Here’s the breakdown of our Environmental Science BSc results:

and our Geography department scored very highly too. Here are the survey results: