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.
The discipline of Geography has long been intertwined with the use of computers. This close interaction is likely to increase with the embeddedness of computers and concomitant growth of spatially referenced data. To better understand the current situation, and to be able to better speculate about the future, this article provides two parallel perspectives: first, we offer an historical perspective on the relationship between Geography and computers; second, we document developments—in particular the nascent field of data science—that are currently taking place outside of Geography and to which we argue the discipline should be paying close attention. Combining both perspectives, we identify the benefits of tighter integration between Geogra- phy and Data Science and argue for the establishment of a new space—that we term Geographic Data Science—in which cross‐pollination could occur to the benefit of both Geography and the larger data community.
Blog post by Rosa Blakelock, who graduates next week with a BA (Hons) in Geography
It is often said that university is the best time you’ll have, that you meet your “friends for life” and create memories that the rest of your days will struggle to live up to. These things are often said by those who are looking back, and no doubt some of these things are true, but memory is unreliable and this may not be the whole truth, and may mask parts of university life that re challenging and unhappy, stressful and upsetting memories. The truth is that university can be fun but can also be a very isolated place, which is strange to think, that you can feel lonely whilst surrounded by 25,000-odd people of your own age. When asked to write this blog post as a recently graduated Geography student, I was wary of exhibiting a cynical, Scrooge-like vibe, making readers feel disillusioned, but I am even more wary of contributing to the culture of not talking about issues faced by students, which helps paint a picture of university as clear as dishwater for those who are yet to come. Major organisations such as the NHS (where I now work) have reams of information about student mental health and Student Minds, which is a student mental health charity that provides information for students to look after their health, support others and create change. If you want to find stories written by other students, Imperial has a great blog section on mental health.
I think one of the things that is painfully ironic about university is that when you’re going through a hard time, it is so easy to think you’re alone because everyone around you looks as they’re having a ball. But the reality is that every single person, if not now, then in the not-too-distant past, has been through something very similar. From feeling homesick to feeling too dim to make it through the year, from discretely battling depression and having no energy to get up in the morning, to paranoia and anxiety developing, coming to terms with a newly diagnosed STI…what do all these things share, apart from being astonishingly common among the student population? They are hardly talked about.
Coming back to university after being sectioned in my second year (put in a psychiatric hospital for a few weeks), I felt more alone than ever in my life. I still had my wonderful friends who had stuck by me through the hell I went through, but they were now graduated and I was placed in a brand new year group…like a latecomer to a party where everyone has been hanging out for two years. I am generally a friendly person, easy to get along with you might even say, but man, my confidence plummeted hard during my last year in this new year group. I spent my days sitting on my own in lectures, not talking to anyone, isolating myself from a group of people I was convinced, had it together. Naturally I was given therapy and counselling after my episode and it wasn’t until a few weeks in, sitting in the overcrowded waiting room at the university counselling service that I realised, it’s not just me. The reason waiting lists are so long and appointments are so distant is because so many people apply for counselling that the services just can’t cope. A YouGov survey showed that 27% of British uni students report having a mental health problem whilst studying. And that’s only the people that actually spoke up about having one, I am confident that the percentage would be a lot higher if we were all honest.
Feeling alone is the worst thing in the entire world, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. But, if the fact that I am now graduated, married and in a full-time job bestows me with any wisdom whatsoever, I want to relay that anyone feeling down, anxious, lonely or a combination of the three, is certainly not alone. Your own mental health is more important than anything – good grades, friends, money, popularity, jobs, clothes, drugs, a flat stomach, approval from your parents…anything. So if any of these things are causing you to feel bad, I urge you, make changes, ask for help, take it from someone who’s been through hell and back because of bad choices, it’s just not worth it. Asking for help can be awkward but it is surely not shameful. After I took a year out of university from getting seriously ill, I lost all my confidence, and eventually realised that if I didn’t ask for help, my life would continue to be difficult for the rest of my degree. I sought guidance and advice from my tutor, who I will forever thank as the reason I made it to graduation. She told me that people like me, who have problems that affect their work, sometimes need a bit of extra help to push them forward to the starting blocks everyone else races from. Otherwise I would not only be battling through uni, I would be carrying the weight of my problems too, and no one needs that. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends or even your family, there are so many resources made specially for you! A quick chat with your GP will provide you with some general guidance, and although the university counselling services are stretched, they have drop in sessions and hundreds of leaflets with information that can help. Another good place to visit is the student support department, who have drop-in sessions tailored to give advice and help students out, because they know uni can be a really hard time. One thing that you can’t think is that nothing or no one can help. Initially reaching out for help is the hardest part, I promise. I used to think that getting help was giving me an unfair advantage, but actually, the help is there to give everyone an equal chance.
Anyway, to end on a lighter note, the person you will be when you graduate will be unrecognisable from your former self and for the best possible reasons. University teaches you to look at life pragmatically, develop into a mature version of yourself, and if you’re lucky, you’ll end up making friends that will be the godparents to your children one day.
Post by Simon Barton, year 2, BA Geography
In September 2017, I embarked on a semester abroad program for four months at the University of Calgary in the beautiful province of Alberta, Canada. After saying my goodbyes to friends and family, I departed from Manchester Airport at 9am on 4th September 2017 on a flight bound for Toronto, before catching a flight from Toronto to Calgary. After 13 hours of travelling, I reached my destination, the Hotel Alma situated on the university campus, this was my temporary base until I collected the keys for my accommodation.
I collected my keys the next day, entering an apartment of four people. I met my flatmates, which included two international students from China and Japan respectively and a Canadian from Edmonton, a city situated further north than Calgary, which is the capital of Alberta. I familiarised myself with my home for the next four months, before catching the Calgary transit (the public transport system) to explore the city centre. During my orientation week, I took part in activities which included ice skating on the famous Olympic Oval, situated on the university campus, which hosted speed skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary and watching the annual Canadian football kick off match for the Dinos, the team which represents the university in various sports.
The rest of September saw me settle into university life by getting to grips with a different academic system and establishing relationships with Canadian students who were from Calgary and other Canadian provinces. A highlight of this month was a day visit to the popular tourist destination of Banff, situated within the Canadian Rockies. The trip was organised by the Global Friendship Group at the University, which aimed to help International Students immerse themselves in all Canada has to offer! The trip involved the unforgettable experience of taking the Banff Gondola (cable car) to the top of Sulphur Mountain to observe the stunning scenery of the area. I met many exchange students from all over the world during the trip, and became good friends during my semester abroad.
October brought snow! I woke up on the second day of the month to find the university blanketed with a white sheet. I couldn’t contain my excitement, I immediately proceeded to take pictures when walking to class, to the bemusement of onlookers. However, this month also meant midterms. Midterms, being an entirely new concept to me, these are exams taken in October of the first semester, assessing everything you have learned since the start of September. Despite being ill in October, catching flu which seemed to be sweeping its way through my halls of residence and led to my hospitalization on two occasions, I managed to get through the month with the help of the lecturers and Study Abroad Teams in Calgary and Liverpool. October and November certainly seemed to be the months with the highest workload, with midterms, group projects and individual essays. I didn’t let this stop me managing my academic and social life to allow me to immerse myself in Canadian culture whether it be watching Hockey on TV on a Saturday night or ice skating with exchange students and University of Calgary students.
December brought the end of the semester with final exams held just before the Christmas break. Along with my roommate Mike and friends Tom and Jasper, I watched a live ice hockey match! Taking the transit to Stampede Park, home to the world-famous rodeo and festival known as the Calgary Stampede held every July, we walked to the Saddledome, the home of the Calgary Flames who are one of seven Canadian teams to compete in the National Hockey League (NHL). Kitted out in my Calgary Flames jersey, a gift from my new friends Tom and Jasper, I cheered on the team in what was a derby match against the Vancouver Canucks. Despite conceding an early goal, the Flames won the match 4-2 to the roar of the crowd. Having had a great time in Banff in September, my friends and I decided to visit the area once again. We drove along the Trans-Canadian highway to the town we had become so familiar with. After a rest from our long journey, we grabbed a bite to eat and explored the town. We then proceeded to Lake Louise, the famous lake named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter. The lake was busy with tourists taking pictures, skating and having fun. It was a fantastic end to a day I will never forget.
I certainly wouldn’t hesitate twice to apply for a study abroad program. I was very fortunate to have an amazing time in Canada. The experience allowed me to gain an insight into a different academic system, building up new ways of working and learning about issues facing people living in Calgary and Canada.I made friends for life, meeting Canadian students from different backgrounds and exchange students from all over the world. Although it can at first appear daunting and I was certainly nervous before I went, it is an unmissable experience. Coming home, you can look back on an incredible past few months! Grab every opportunity, go on apply for a Semester Abroad, Summer Abroad, Year in China or a Year 2 at XJTLU.
Simon Barton is a current second year BA Geography student, he spent his first semester of year 2 at the University of Calgary, Canada. Simon applied for a semester abroad via the University of Liverpool Study Abroad Team after attending the Study Abroad Fair held on November 2016.
More information on study abroad:
Further details regarding international opportunities available to students can be found online: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/goabroad/. Use the online Study Abroad search tool to find out the international opportunities available to your programme. Deadline: 19th February 2018 for Semester Abroad, Year 2 @ XJLTU and Year in China Applications and the 15th March for the Summer programmes
Last Thursday, CHSSoHMT had the pleasure of hosting ‘Shell Meets Bone’ the collaborative project of biominerals expert Professor Maggie Cusack, from the University of Glasgow, and artist in residence Rachel Duckhouse. Rachel is an award winning visual artist based in Glasgow. She has undertaken several research based artist residencies in the UK and abroad. In […]
How much more are home-buyers willing to pay for a house if they know it is close to a train station that is going to be upgraded? 2.4%, according to a recently published paper in the Journal of Transport Geography co-authored by GDSL’s Sam Comber and Dani Arribas-Bel, which presents a method for quantifying the…
Reblogged from Geographic Data Science Lab. To read more: New paper on the anticipation (causal) effects of Crossrail — Geographic Data Science Lab
PhD students, Postdocs and lecturers from the Department of Geography joined over 14,400 other scientists at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna from 24 – 28 April 2017. The General Assembly is one of the largest annual meetings of earth, atmosphere and ocean scientists in the world and offers a range of sessions for you to get your fix of the latest science. Geomorphology, hydrology, atmosphere, climate, energy and earth science feature heavily in an extensive programme of orals, poster and PICO (Presenting Interactive Content) presentations alongside short courses and debates.
This was my first time attending EGU and my week began with efforts to decipher the programme and create a schedule for the week. Overwhelming at first, I was able to navigate the huge conference centre and attend sessions on coastal morphodynamics, marine renewable energy, and estuarine processes to name but a few. The presentations offered a great opportunity to soak up data, results and information from projects around the world. Watching my MSc work presented as part of a talk on tidal lagoons and barrages in the Mersey Estuary was a pretty cool highlight.
The poster sessions at EGU are a site to be seen – rows of hundreds of colourful, detailed posters all displaying many hours of work behind them. Several students in the department had posters and it was great to see how successful each of these were. I presented a poster on the spatial variability of extreme water levels in the Severn Estuary in a session on Natural Hazard impacts in coastal areas. Ben Phillips, a first year PhD student also presented a poster in this session on his MSc work which looks at the impact of wave overtopping on beach morphology. The poster acts as a useful visual aid when engaging in in-depth discussions about your work: thanks to those who stopped, asked questions and gave incredibly useful suggestions on my own poster (sorry again to the associate professor I addressed as a PhD student).
It was also great to see friends and colleagues in action, giving talks and posters across a range of topics. Rachael Lem, a third year PhD student, presented her results on palaeoceanagraphic productivity changes in the Eastern Equatorial Atlantic to a packed room. Second year PhD students Chris Feeney and Kieran Newman presented posters on their research, and Siôn Regan presented in a PICO session. Xiaorong Li, presented a poster for work on her post doc about morphological change along the east coast of the UK. Dr Hugh Smith gave a highlighted session on predicting fire effects on water quality. Professor Janet Hooke presented work on the role of events, structures and morphology in ephemeral channels.
In addition to posters and presentations, a series of debates and short courses were also included in the schedule. Highlights here included debates on ‘How to make science great again’ and ‘Science communication in the age of Brexit and Trump’. High ranking panellists certainly drew the crowds to these sessions. These sessions encouraged young and established scientists to speak up for their discipline and gave advice on how to clearly communicate a message through stories, graphics and even poetry. Short courses on visualising your data to make it more appealing and understandable to a wider audience and tips to write a successful scientific paper were popular sessions which provided invaluable advice.
Overall, EGU 2017 was a great experience with lots of interesting science, new ideas and a great opportunity to get to know more people in the community. If you get a chance to attend the EGU General Assembly for the first time, here are some tips:
- Spend the time deciphering the programme to fill your week with an interesting programme of sessions. I found the EGU app incredibly useful in helping me create a programme.
- Don’t just search through the presentations and posters by just the disciplines related to your work. You might find some real gems if you go off piste. One of the best sessions I attended of the week was about how science communication can be strengthened when twinned with art, music, film and even board games!
- Don’t rely on the free coffee and cookies for sustenance – it’s a scrum to get them during the breaks. Bring a flask and a packed lunches.
- Ensure you find the time to explore Vienna and sample a local apfelstrudel and sachertorte. You will not regret it.
Thanks to ARCoES project for financial support to allow me to attend the conference.