Undergraduate Environmental Science students contribute to cutting-edge research

studentsBSc Environmental Science students Valentin Meneveau and Jennifer Lam present posters at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) conference.

Jennifer’s research worked to improve the resistance and resilience of soils to extreme flooding events. She discovered that by diversifying farming practices, soils could resist disturbances to a greater extent.

Valentin’s project investigated the genetic basis for arsenic accumulation in the leaves of vegetable plants and was able to identify specific genes that allowed the vegetables to resist elevated levels of arsenic in the soil.

UROP provides exciting opportunities for undergraduates to work with staff on research projects across the University, contributing directly to the creation of knowledge, building new skills and strengthening the link between teaching and research.

The UROP scheme gives undergraduate students in the middle years of their degree* the chance to work on real research projects alongside academic researchers, contributing to the creation of knowledge. UROP placements last six weeks over the summer break and are paid- students receive a bursary of £1,320.

Lecturer Dr Hilary Geoghegan hosts citizen science conference

Image from: Cheli Cresswell ‏@chelicresswell   “Kicking off Day 2 of #BESCitSci. Today's focus: #citizenscience participants.  #citscipeople @DrHG @AlisonDyke_SEI”

Image from: Cheli Cresswell ‏@chelicresswell
“Kicking off Day 2 of #BESCitSci. Today’s focus: #citizenscience participants. #citscipeople @DrHG @AlisonDyke_SEI”

On 12th May, one of our lecturer’s Dr Hilary Geoghegan hosted a citizen science conference at the British Ecological Society in London. Working with colleagues from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, Hilary welcomed participants for a one-day event to discuss the ‘human’ element of citizen science – specifically the volunteers, professional scientists, practitioners and policymakers that make up this ever-growing field.

The event attracted over 40 researchers and practitioners interested in the social dimensions of citizen science. A widely accepted definition of citizen science is the participation of non-professionals in professional science projects. However, more work needs to be done to reflect on participation in citizen science – a research approach that is developing at a breakneck pace. Dr Geoghegan said: “My research area of enthusiasm, namely the emotional affiliation we have towards things and activities we care about, is of significant interest to professional scientists, research councils and policymakers as they establish the ways in which they will engage with citizen science in the future. Without an understanding of why people do and do not participate, citizen science projects may fail.” You can find tweets on the subject via the hashtags #BESCitSci and #CitSciPeople

Dr Geoghegan holds an ESRC Future Research Leader award and has used the time and resources offered by the grant to examine the social aspects of tree health citizen science. She has been interested in the place of ‘citizen science’ within emerging tree health policy and the enthusiasm of scientists, policymakers, press officers, web editors and database managers for citizen science. Her next step is to interview volunteers in tree health citizen science projects to understand why they survey and monitor trees.

In 2013 Dr Geoghegan joined the Department of Geography and Environmental Science and since then she has travelled to Australia to discuss enthusiasm for trees in Melbourne and Sydney. She has also spent time building networks with colleagues in Biological Sciences on tree health. She is a founder of the UK’s Tree Health Citizen Science Network.


If you’re interested in this area and would like further information please contact Hilary: h.geoghegan@reading.ac.uk or follow her on Twitter: @DrHG. She also hosts a blog www.hilarygeoghegan.wordpress.com focussing on life as an academic and her research interests.

Dr Nick Branch & Mike Simmonds attend 11th National Heathland Conference

Mike Simmonds (PhD candidate) and Dr Nick Branch attended a national conference organised by the Surrey Wildlife Trust – “11th National Heathland Conference”. The conference brings together practitioners engaged in heathland conservation and management at a national level including SWT, Natural England, National Trust, Forest Research, and Borough and County Councils.

photoNick chaired a workshop at the conference on “working with academia”, which included speakers from Imperial College (Silwood Park) and Mike. The aim was to share experiences about the working relationship between heathland managers and Universities (e.g. ecologists, geographers, environmental scientists, archaeologists), and to discuss how this relationship can be improved through co-production of research projects, and better communication of data.


PhD Student selected to attend the Tuscany Quality of Life Global Laboratory

Lorna Zischka, a HERG PhD student, has been selected to attend the Tuscany Quality of Life Global Laboratory in February 2015. Only 15 early career researchers from across the world were selected to attend this event.



Lorna is supervised by Marina Della Giusta (Economics) and Steve Musson (GES). Her PhD  focuses on the relationships between charitable giving and social cohesion and makes use of experimental micro data, international large survey data and case studies including South Reading.

Lorna said, “My work focuses on evaluating community relationships by the time and money that people invest into them. The more ‘giving’ our society, the better our joint quality of life. I’m delighted to be offered this opportunity to discuss these things at the Tuscany network and to learn from others researching this topic.”

Congratulations, Lorna!