GES Field Classes 2016!

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!





Cold war satellites help glacier research


View from mount Elbrus

View from Mount Elbrus, at 5150 m above sea level, the highest mountain in Europe. Taken by Stas Kutuzov

Maria Shahgedanova presented a summary of her research at yesterday’s research seminar.

Maria grew up in Moscow, Russia and studied meteorology at Moscow State University before completing a DPhil in climate science at the University of Oxford.  Among her research interests are the response of glaciers to climate change. The melting of glaciers will contribute to sea level rise and can impact on water resources for human populations especially in arid regions.

Maria’s research has focused on several locations in south-eastern Europe and northern and central Asia including extremely remote areas such as Polar Urals and Kodar Mountains where research is extremely limited. Using various techniques – analysis of aerial photographs and satellite imagery, ground surveys using Digital Global Positioning Systems (DGPS) and GIS, climate and glaciological modelling  – Maria and her colleagues increase the accuracy of our knowledge of glacier retreat showing that in northern Asia, glaciers lost between 20 and 40% of their area since the middle of the 20th Century.  Although glaciers are shrinking fast even in the coldest regions of Siberia, using satellite imagery the team discovered four glaciers in the remote Kodar Mountains in eastern Siberia which were not on the geographical maps before.

“One of the positive outcomes of the cold war is the extensive satellite cover of the former Soviet Union by US satellites providing us with a wealth of data” says Maria. “an now we work as an international, multi-disciplinary team including scientists from the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Russia and Georgia.”

Maria’s current research project, DIOGENES – Dust Impacts on Glaciated Environments, looks at the effect of dust on glacier melt and geochemistry of glaciated environments. Dust reduces the albedo (reflectance) of glaciers and can increase melt rates. It also provides additional nutrients for the aquatic systems nourished by high-altitude glaciers and snow pack.

Read more about the DOIGENES project

Read more about Maria

First Royal Geographic Society Field Centre Grant awarded to our drylands expert

The research station at Gobabeb, Namibia

The research station at Gobabeb, Namibia

The RGS Field Centre Grant is a new annual award aimed at supporting important field work at research centres in some of the world’s poorest countries. Each project must incorporate hands-on training of local early-career scientists.

Dr Kevin White, the first recipient of this award, reports on the project: “The aim of the project was to design and deliver a training workshop in modern dune survey techniques at the Biennial Congress of the South African Association of Geomorphologists, held at Gobabeb Training and Research Centre in September 2012. There were 60 participants from 10 countries at the conference, including 25 students. The location provided easy access to the Namib dunefield, allowing us to incorporate a hands-on fieldwork component to the workshop.

The workshop took place over two days. The first session began indoors with a presentation by Kevin White on Differential GPS surveying techniques. Mark Bateman (Sheffield) then introduced optical dating methods. Charlie Bristow (Birkbeck) wrapped up the presentations with an introduction to ground penetrating radar (GPR). Conference participants were then guided to Station Dune where Bristow and White had set up the DGPS and GPR equipment. The IAG sponsored students were taught how to use the equipment and they collected data along a transect up the west flank of the dune. The second session on the following day was led by Charlie Bristow who presented the results of the previous day’s fieldwork and discussed their interpretation. All sessions were very well attended and the workshop exceeded our expectations.

With the help of the conference organiser Dr Frank Eckardt (UCT), we were able to approach the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) to fund three bursaries to support the attendance of young African geomorphologists at the conference and workshop. The three recipients selected by IAG were Nandipha Mabuza (Swaziland), Christel Hansen (Namibia) and Johanna Niipele (Namibia).”

Watch a video about the workshop


Read about the RGS Field Centre Grant

Read about opportunities for Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in Dryland Environments