Welcome to the blog for Geography at the University of Liverpool. Follow this blog for regular updates on our work including our research activities, comments on news stories and updates on what our staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students and alumni are doing. We hope this will help give an insight into the dynamic world of geography at the University of Liverpool and that the blog will become a space for conversation about what we do. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment or email us.
By Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)
In the middle of August I arrived in Sweden as a flustered exchange student laden with suitcases and I could never have predicted what the next 6 months studying in this country would hold.
After an emotional farewell at Manchester Airport, Patrick, Diana and I (my fellow Liverpool students) departed for Sweden. The day we travelled to Sweden was the official arrival day for Lund University with 1100 exchange students arriving. After sorting out some essentials such as picking up the keys for my accommodation, I was taken to my halls ‘Greenhouse’ in a mini bus. It was on this journey I realised the distance of my accommodation to the main town which meant getting a bike became one of the first things on my to do list. Greenhouse is very isolated and located in the centre of Swedish countryside, this holds some disadvantages but these all disappear when watching autumn sunrises while cycling to your 9am lectures! The accommodation houses a small group of international students whom have become a tight knit community over the semester with many social events and everyday shenanigans.
The first two weeks in Lund consisted of an orientation period allowing time to settle into the new environment before classes commenced. During this period we were introduced to our international mentor groups lead by student mentors who arranged activities for the new exchange students such as a tour of the town, a trip to the beach and other activities to get to know people and explore the new surroundings. The orientation also included a Swedish language crash course and an obligatory trip to Ikea to sample some of those iconic meatballs.
Lund is a small picturesque town located in southern Sweden with university as the focal point. The campus stretches across the whole town with a number of flagship buildings including ‘the whithouse’, the AF Castle and the university library. Nations are scattered across the campus which are student organisations hosting a full weekly programme of activities including meals, pubs, clubs, sporting opportunities and more. Nations have a noivsch period at the start of the semester where you are put into mentor groups and compete against each other. This Novisch period ended with the Novicshfest which was traditional Swedish dinner party known as a sittning, this included ceremonious speeches, awards, singing and of course a little bit of drinking too. During my time here I have become very accustomed to the Swedish practice of fika which is a break in the day marked by coffee accompanied with pastries; I think I’ll be continuing this daily ritual back in Liverpool!
The Swedish university system varies compared to the UK. Only one module is studied at a time here, with a lot more contact hours. The class sizes are also significantly smaller ranging from 15-20 people. Modules consist of lectures and exercises with assessments in both group work and individual assignments. The courses are also very dependent on fieldwork and excursions which was a great way to explore Sweden. While in Sweden I decided to study geology modules, focusing on quaternary geology which has strong links to physical geography. The first module focused on glacial geology and this course began with a fieldtrip to Norway which was an unforgettable experience and undoubtedly a highlight of my study abroad semester. The trip included climbing up the Blåisen glacier to the plateaux and to Jökullhytta glacier. This required climbing equipment and training which had taken place the previous week at university by hanging from a tree outside the geology department and practising the procedure if we fell down a crevasse! The views on the glacier trek were incredible and quite unforgettable. Another highlight of the trip was abseiling down a crevasse and climbing back up using crampons and an ice axe. The second module I am studying is focused on palaeoecological methods and environmental analysis. This module involves analysing cores which we took in groups in Pilevad in Southern Sweden and ultimately creating a poster showing our findings.
In addition to university and everyday life in Lund I have had the opportunity to travel around a little. So far I have made trips to Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Helsingborg. In Sweden a child is classed up to the age of 19 which meant travelling to these places was relatively cheap. I also hope to make it to Stockholm before the end of my time here.
To summarise my time so far, I have made great friends, embraced the Swedish culture and created unforgettable memories. To any first year students thinking about applying for study abroad I would without hesitation encourage you to do so. I am now 4 months into my study abroad adventure and excited to see what my last 2 months in Sweden will hold. The winter is fast approaching with plummeting temperatures as low as minus 2 degrees, Christmas decorations are appearing round the town and I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas Swedish Style before my return to Liverpool in the New Year.
Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)
By Mark Green
I have just joined the department to take up a Lectureship in Health Geography here at the University of Liverpool.
My research interests lie in two interconnected areas. Firstly, I am interested in how body weight and physical activity vary within the UK population, as well as their association to various health outcomes. Secondly, I am interested in examining how neighbourhoods influence health outcomes and behaviours. I also have a broad interest in social inequalities in health and in understanding the processes through which they persist.
I joined the department having previously been based at ScHARR (School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield), where I was a Research Associate in Public Health (2013-2015). I was attached to two large research projects during this post:
- The Yorkshire Health Study: A survey of residents of Yorkshire collected every three years which began in 2010-2012. The aim of the survey is to better understand the health needs of the population of Yorkshire, as well as investigate the associations between a variety of personal, social and behavioural factors to long term health conditions. The study was funded by the NIHR CLAHRC for Yorkshire and the Humber.
- An analysis of the associations between the density of different types of shops which sell alcohol and alcohol-related admissions to hospitals at a small geographical scale (2002/03 to 2013/14). The study was funded by Alcohol Research UK.
Despite having a Public Health background, I am a Geographer by trade. I completed my PhD in Geography at the University of Sheffield (2010-2013), entitled ‘Death in England and Wales: Using a classificatory approach for researching mortality’ (supervised by Dr Daniel Vickers and Prof. Danny Dorling). My PhD explored the clustering of mortality patterns at a small scale for England and Wales through the creation of an area classification. I also have a MSc and BA(Hons) in geographical-related disciplines both from the University of Sheffield.
9th to the 16th October 2015
Each the MSc programmes in Climate and Environmental Change and Environmental Sciences begin with a 7 day fieldclass to the English Lake District. The programme involves a research training in techniques of Environmental Reconstruction and Characterisation focused on coastal (saltmarsh), lacustrine and wetland environments. The following slide-shows showcase the field activities
Day 1 the late glacial climate and environmental changes at Hawes Water (Lancashire)
Day 2 climate histories from lowland raised mires (Leven Estuary)
Day 3-4 sediment dynamics and environmental changes at Brotherswater
Day 5 saltmarsh evolution and radionuclides in the Irish Sea (Walney Island)
Days 6 and 7 involve small group work on individual projects presented on the last evening, before home and some deserved rest……
Post by Hannah Delohery and Chloe Dawes, Year 2 BSc Geography students
Days 1 and 2:
Days one and two of the six days that we had in sunny Lorca, Spain were our orientation days. They were completed with the purpose of introducing us not only to the area that we would be working in, but also to get our minds (somewhat fresh from the summer holidays) thinking about the key points and processes that we would be examining as part of that work.
Day 1: ‘Castillo de Lorca’
After a morning of searching for local bakeries and stockpiling the supermarkets’ supplies of biscuits, bread and water, having bought out Hotel Felix’s bar of Amstel and any other available beers the night previous, day one of Lorca Field Trip 2015 was underway as we made the short journey to the ‘Castillo de Lorca’ via the trusty field trip coach.
As we made the ascent towards the historical site of the 13th century castle; strategically located atop a hill due to its military origins, the history of the area became immediately noticeable in the increasing number of buildings with a more traditional architecture; the arch ways and pillars being highly distinguishable from the very clean cut white walls of the more contemporary builds.
The Castillo, or castle, placement gave our group of avid and definitely not hungover geographers, incredible panoramic views of the valley beneath and the city within, as well as the mountain ranges that encased the two.
The warm but clear conditions that had set in already, that we were to become accustomed to and given t-shirt tans by, made features of the area such as the variable topography, sporadic vegetation and anthropogenic installments easily identifiable. The view and introductory talks given by Janet Hooke, master of the microphone and Andy Morse provided a perfect introduction to the field trip and made it very clear that the damp streets of our lovely Liverpool and of course the equally as damp walls of ‘The Raz’ were far behind, and that we were about to put our first year knowledge to the test as we stepped into second year, in the sun.
‘Puerto Lumbreras’-Nogalte River Channel
Our next instalment of orientation day one took us to an area within the city ‘Puerto Lumbreras’ that had unfortunately fallen victim to multiple serious floods. As we stood within the dry ‘Rambler de Nogalte’ river channel, Janet informed us why two particularly devastating flood events had come to pass, described the effects and impacts upon the local people and showed us the visible examples of flood management that had been introduced since. As unfortunate as the results of the flood events were, visiting this site gave not only an interesting overview of some of the geographical issues of the Lorca area but a reminder of the importance of why geographers do what we do.
Stops 3 and 4 of day one were both key points of the Nogalte Channel, which has in a relatively short amount of time, experienced some severe changes that made them a must see. The ‘lecture in the field’ talks at these locations elaborated on some of the themes that had been introduced earlier in the morning including channel morphology, hazard management and introduced other key themes such as the concern of climate change and local land use. The first of these two sites also gave us an insight into the research that Prof. Hook has and still is conducting concerning primarily flow rates.
Whether you’re a keen Geographer or not or simply a fan of large-scale construction, Puentes Dam was a site to behold.
The huge dam before us, built in 2000 complete with helipad, represented the CHS’s most recent efforts with damming at Puentes, after developments were first installed at the end of the 18th century. It is in the CHS’s opinion, this most modern dam has indeed saved Lorca from the significant flooding event of 2012 and that without it we might not have had a Lorca to visit today!
The final stop of the day may not sound particularly exciting, but for those of you that don’t know, a gully is a major form of soil erosion and land degradation-both topics that physical geographers unashamedly get excited about! This site was a great example of why a considerable amount of research is being performed on gullies at present and for want of a better description, brought the explanation of their development to life in a way no Blackwell’s textbook could.
At the end of the day and after dinner, provided by the wonderfully friendly staff of Hotel Felix, whose service was fantastic throughout and massively contributed to what was a great experience…dedicated research into local past-times and liquor was of course continued by most students.
Day two of orientation was just as insightful and interesting as day one and followed the same format. We visited some truly beautiful places and as a result I’ll take this opportunity to show you, rather than describe it – they do say a picture says a thousand words. (It’s a shame that doesn’t apply to word counts in coursework though eh!)
Waking to temperatures of just under 30 degrees and hearing the rumours of the newly discovered sandwich shop, was a great start to the guided projects day. After travelling to El Muerto, we split into 5 smaller groups. We had 5 demonstrations, each on different topics including; meteorology, slopes and soils, infiltration, vegetation statistics and geomorphology. These mini–experiments provided us with an insight on what factors we might research in our individual reports.
Day 4 – Nogalte & Day 5 – El Muerto
We spent the next two days focusing on our individual projects.
Finishing in the field at 4, allowed us to spend a few hours exploring Lorca’s bars and pubs before sitting down for our evening meal at the hotel. With Prosecco on the table at dinner curiosity of the hotel and only a short walk to the Irish bar – O’Neils, the last night was a night to remember (or to forget)!
Day 6 – Departure
Up early, we headed straight to the airport. After rinsing the duty free of what looked to non-students like a year’s supply of Smirnoff, we landed back in rainy Manchester.
‘Mad about maps and all things associated with social difference’
Post by Dr Lucy Jackson
About me: I’ve just started as a lecturer in Human Geography in the department of geography and planning, having moved from a post-doc position at the University of Sheffield. I’d describe myself as a critical social geographer with specialist interest in feminist geopolitics (more about my research interests below). I’m currently enjoying getting to know Liverpool a little better and am feeling super welcomed by all of my colleagues in the department (thank you!) I love maps (obviously!) and was recently introduced to the undergrads (by Paul Williamson) as the new ‘resident Singapore expert’ (I will try to live up to that title). I also have a travelling Welsh Dragon, called Norbert, who attends all of my overseas research trips (look out for him below). If you are interested in any of my research then feel free to drop me an email/ find me for a chat (Lucy.email@example.com).
Biography: I completed my doctoral research in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 2012 having also studied for my BA (2006) and MA (2008) at the same institution. My doctoral research, titled ‘Alternative sites of citizenship: emotions, performance and belonging for female migrants’, focused upon ideas of citizenship as a relational practice recognising it’s ever more social and cultural nature.
After leaving Aberystwyth, I moved to the University of Sheffield to work on the ERC funded LIVEDIFFERENCE project, led by P.I Professor Gill Valentine. This project involved five inter-linked projects to explore the extent and nature of everyday encounters with ‘difference’. Each of these projects involved collecting original data in the UK and Poland. My research with LIVEDIFFERENCE was conducted within Project C ‘Contested Spaces: Group Identities and Competing Rights in the City’. Here, I specifically focused on the spaces of conflict and interaction between pro-life and pro-choice groups, and between faith and secular groups in the UK.
After this, I continued working with Professor Valentine on an AHRC project on Intergenerational Justice. This project involved work in Uganda, the UK and China to look at issues around resource use, consumption, and attitudes towards the environment across different generations, involving research with families, communities, and NGOs in each context.
Through this research I’ve developed a broad interest in the field of critical social geographies, though the research I conduct connects across the social sciences. Through my research I aim to re-address questions of ‘the social’, not just in terms of social justice, but in terms of socio-spatial politics and the performative politics of everyday life within different societies. Working with theories around everyday practice such as de-certeau and Lebevre I look to bring political philosophy into human geography. I’ve recently come back from a research trip in Singapore looking at ‘claiming citizenship in a constrained public sphere’ with Dr Dan Hammett at Sheffield. This research was part funded by the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), with a blogpost to arrive shortly on their website.
Specifically, my research interests centre on these core principles (links to recent articles you might find interesting associated with each theme).
Feminist geopolitics, gender and everyday practice
G Valentine, L Jackson, L Mayblin (2014). Ways of Seeing: Sexism the Forgotten Prejudice? Gender, Place & Culture 21 (4), 401-414. DOI:10.1080/0966369X.2014.913007
Winiarska, A, Jackson, L, Mayblin, L and Valentine, G (2015). ‘They kick you because they are not able to kick the ball’: normative conceptions of sex difference and the politics of exclusion in mixed-sex football. Available online: DOI:10.1080/17430437.2015.1067778
Jackson, L and Valentine, G (2014). Emotion and politics in a mediated public sphere: Questioning democracy, responsibility and ethics in a computer mediated world. Geoforum, 52, 193-202. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.01.008
*Just out* Jackson, L (2015). Intimate citizenship? Rethinking the politics and experience of citizenship as emotional in Wales and Singapore. Gender, Place & Culture, available online: DOI:10.1080/0966369X.2015.1073695
Jackson, L (2015). Experiencing exclusion and reacting to stereotypes? Navigating borders of the migrant body. Area, available online: DOI: 10.1111/area.12146
Home, belonging, emotions
Jackson, L (2014). The multiple voices of belonging: migrant identities and community practice in South Wales. Environment and Planning A, 46, pages 1666–1681. doi:10.1068/a46248
Harris, C, Jackson, L, Mayblin, L, Piekut, A and Valentine, G (2014). ‘Big Brother welcomes you’: exploring innovative methods for research with children and young people outside of the home and school environments. Qualitative Research, available online: 10.1177/1468794114548947
Post by Dr Paul Williamson
Congratulations to this year’s Edinburgh field class photograph competition winners. Here are the winning entries for the category ‘Views of Edinburgh’:
And here are the winning entries in the category ‘Students in action’:
The field class took place in late-April and saw 43 Year 2 BA Geographers and 3 staff heading north, enjoying the warmest and sunniest Edinburgh-based week on record as they to put into practice a variety of research skills acquired over the last year and a half of study.
These included interviewing Members of the Scottish Parliament; surveying any member of the public unable to run away fast enough; interviews with local activists; and participant observation of the local nightlife.
This year students researched topics as diverse as perceptions of the newly launched tram network, factors explaining Scottish political allegiance, tourist perceptions of Edinburgh and a comparison of the Liverpool and Edinburgh students’ sense of place.
The final part of the field class focussed on data analysis, ranging from traditional graphs and tables of survey results through to the deconstruction of interview responses.
The Edinburgh Field Class is just part of our wider three-year field class programme, which includes trips to Mid Wales, the Lake District, Spain, California and Singapore. All of these trips are designed an ethos of ‘learning by doing’. Or, in Edinburgh’s Case, ‘learning by doing whilst getting a suntan’. Happy Days!