1st Year Fieldclass: day 1 in the Butharlyp Howe

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By Richard Chiverrell

9.00 am and all present and correct 28 intrepid first years set off from a snowy Liverpool via a snow-free Lancashire into a very snowy Lake District, thank god for that, last night was mildly concerned we would not get here. Particularly as the minibus slid most of the way across the Wirral in the snows when I took it home last night.

A quick and very warm welcome at the hostel, the rooms allocated, the 29th student arrived and we were set. Full cold weather gear in hand, we set off to explore the delights of Far Easedale and Easedale Tarn, snow everywhere, big drifts waist deep, snowballs a-flying. A quick run through glacial geomorphology, landscape history, the Neil Macdonald “stone age people, what did the Roman’s ever us??? Vikings, monks and the agricultural revolution in a chilly 3-4 minutes”, we stomped our way around the landscape including a detour to Easedale Tarn and a difficult descent in slippery conditions that everyone survived…..

A warm hostel awaited with luxury hot chocolate (cream, marshmellows, lovely yummmmmm), and a brief rest before a stonking meal, now stuffed with soup, fresh bread rolls, baked potatoes, bolognaise, and a sticky bun and custard. Rolling, a minor rest with a pint of Cockerhoop to plan for tomorrow. Rivers and slopes, and snow stability and shear measurements await…….

SOES Photography competition 2013 award winner Timothy Shaw

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I (Timothy Shaw) was very pleased to receive the award for ‘best environment’ and ‘best overall’ photograph in the recent photography competition within the School of Environmental Sciences open to staff and students. The winning photo, Fairy Glen Waterfalls, proved you don’t have to travel the world to find impressive features and was in fact taken in nearby Sefton Park, Aigburth, a popular suburb of Liverpool attracting students and postgraduates alike as residents during their degrees . Congratulations to the other award winners, nominees and everyone who participated for submitting such a variety of interesting, well taken photos.

Winner: 1st year Laboratory Teaching in Physical Geography wins an Award…..

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For 2012-13 and with the formal opening of the Universities new Central Teaching Laboratory, the Year 1 Physical Geography curriculum underwent a fundamental overhaul. We designed two new laboratory modules delivered entirely in the Central Teaching Laboratories, and intriguingly named Experiments in Physical Geography I and Experiments in Physical Geography II. These modules comprise whole day (9.00-16.30) exercises using the National Award Winning (The Guardian) stunning laboratories and array of state-of-the-art equipment.

To allow a comprehensive and more individual hands-on experience we designed for each semester ten whole day exercises that all run concurrently. So the students form research teams with a weekly challenge, rotating through the menu of practical exercises each week. Each exercise encourages teamwork as the groups develop their research strategy assisted by the module leaders and at the end of the day the groups present their findings and discuss the outcomes.

For these efforts the team were nominated for and won a Faculty Learning and Teaching Award. Congratulations to the teaching team on this reward for all their hard work: Richard Chiverrell (Semester 2 lead); John Boyle (Semester 1 lead); Andy Plater; Janet Hooke; Andreas Lang; Andy Morse; Fabienne Marret-Davies; James Cooper and Richard Bradshaw from the Department of Geography and Planning; Irene Cooper; Liz Rushworth and Josh Hicks from team Central Teaching Laboratories; and our postgraduate demonstrators Karen Hale; Daniel Schillereff and Tim Shaw.

1st Semester Menu….

  • How does forest cover affect soil development?
  • Discovering vegetation cover from pollen grains?
  • 200 years of atmospheric pollution from Manchester recorded in a peat bog?
  • Radioisotopes how quickly do they decay? And how can we use them to date sediments?
  • What are the controls on stream waters from mountains to the coast?
  • Evaporation from soils and sediments: what are the rates and controls?
  • Tree sequester carbon: but how much and how quickly?
  • River flows during storms: how does event sequencing affect the flood peak?
  • Meteorology: how do you measure the weather?
  • Patterns in the weather: how do you analyse weather data?

2nd Semester Menu….

  • How do variations in dirt cover on ice affects melting rates?
  • How can we use lake sediment records to measure both long-term soil erosion rates and carbon sequestration?
  • How do slope gradients and catchment cover (vegetation and urban) affect storm flow response?
  • What  regulates the delivery of sediments from catchments to lakes?
  • Why do slopes fail and soils erode?
  • Is the recent infilling of the Dee Estuary due to sea-level rise or sediment accretion?
  • Do changes in sand dune sediment composition reflect changes in wind speed and deflation?
  • What main factors control the rate of chemical weathering in soils?
  • Can particle size data be used to distinguish beach and river deposits?


Coupling relationships in the Howgill Fells with the 3rd Years

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By Richard Chiverrell

Spring??? well allegedly, let’s call it March, and a chilly Saturday in March, Janet Hooke and Rich Chiverrell set off for the arctic wastes of the Howgill Fells to entertain the final year undergraduates on our ENVS372 Fluvial Environments module. 2.5 hours up the M6 to Tebay at a measured 62 miles per hour we eventually arrived at the foot of Carlingill. The aim was to examine sites along Carlingill valley that illustrate the two main themes of the day’s work:
1) The post-glacial landform sequence, and its relation to Late Pleistocene and Holocene variations in the sediment system.
2) The dynamics of the modern landform system and its relation to the modern sediment system.

The landscape we explored preserves a record of the geomorphic response to environmental change over the period since the Last Glacial Maximum, as we followed if the footsteps of Emiritus Professor of the University of Liverpool Adrian Harvey. The Howgills form a deeply dissected upland in folded Silurian mudrocks, with a relief range of 100-660m, within the headwaters of the River Lune. Evidence for the Late Pleistocene – Holocene sequence of landform evolution comes from (a) morpho-stratigraphic relationships between landforms and sediments, (b) soil chronosequences, (c) radiocarbon dates of several critical sites, especially of buried soils, and (d) the environmental context provided by the peat stratigraphy at Archer Moss from the summits of the Howgill Fells.

In the afternoon the fieldclass tested some of these relationships:
1. Using lichenometry, the growth rate of a lichen called Rhizocarpon geographicum, to assess the age of gravel bars on the floodplain/ How quickly and regularly does the river move?
2. Assessing the maturity of soils on different landforms that range in age from the end of the last ice age ~ 18,000 years ago to 100 years ago.
3. Assessing the impact of varying supply of sediment from the hillslopes (stream-coupled gullies) and the response of the channel to sediment load (you can’t beat a bit of braiding….).

The journey back was uneventful marred only by events taking place in Cardiff…..

Further reading on the geomorphology of the Howgill Fells

CHIVERRELL, R.C., HARVEY, A.M. and FOSTER, G.C., 2007. Hillslope gullying in the Solway Firth – Morecambe Bay region, Great Britain: Responses to human impact and/or climatic deterioration? Geomorphology, 84(3-4), pp. 317-343.

CHIVERRELL, R.C., HARVEY, A.M., HUNTER (NÉE MILLER), S.Y., MILLINGTON, J. and RICHARDSON, N.J., 2008. Late Holocene environmental change in the Howgill Fells, Northwest England. Geomorphology, 100(1-2), pp. 41-69.

HARVEY, A.M., 2012. The coupling status of alluvial fans and debris cones: A review and synthesis. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 37(1), pp. 64-76.

Low Carbon Liverpool Event Report: How do we build a Successful, Sustainable and Green European City?

Last week Low Carbon Liverpool held our latest seminar, focusing on how Liverpool should continue to progress its burgeoning environmental agenda.

Councillor Tim Moore opened proceedings with an update on council proceedings, including the recent announcement of a Mayoral Commission on sustainability in Liverpool by Mayor Joe Anderson.  He also spoke about the importance of youth involvement in this agenda, highlighting the significance that several student and youth groups were present at the event, including members of the School’s Parliament and Geography’s own Dan Wilberforce and Jonathon Clarke.
Following this, and after a short introduction into the Low Carbon Liverpool project from Peter North, I spoke about the recent environmental audit that has been taking place.  Taking the form of a ‘dummy bid’ for European Green Capital, the audit covered 12 key areas of Liverpool’s environmental performance including climate change, transport, green space, waste management and energy performance.  Overall, the results paints a positive picture, with Liverpool’s performance sitting at the cusp of an average-excellent performance, when considered against past Green Capital winners.  These results were supported by excellent data covering Liverpool’s green/natural spaces, as well as the quality of the river Mersey and its cleanup over the last two decades.  However, several areas were flagged as under-performing.  They included cycle lanes, water metering, hybrid cars and recycling rates.  Moving forward, the key recommendations to stem from the audit were that the city now makes strides to improve the underperforming areas, while seeking to advance performance across all other areas.
After the interim audit results were presented, we heard from several speakers, talking about the platform for change in Liverpool.  Stuart Donaldson from the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority spoke about their plans to improve waste management in Merseyside, Les Bellmon spoke about the Eldonians’ strategy for renewable and sustainable power production in North Liverpool and Paul Nolan talked about the excellent work being undertaken by the Mersey Forest across the Liverpool City Region.

Then we heard from youth representatives, representing the University of Liverpool and Liverpool School’s Parliament.  They spoke passionately about the need to drive forward future action today and the important role that this agenda plays in making Liverpool an attractive place to live and work.
In the final session, the event broke into roundtable discussions on the audit results, and what Liverpool’s next priorities should be.  In particular, the groups suggested that the Mayoral Commission now focus on:
– Increasing recycling levels
– Improving the quality of the cycling environment (and improving attitudes towards cycling)
– Seizing the opportunities to promote a green economy.  In particular this should focus on eco-innovation which can underpin improvements in many other areas.
– Transport:  Moving across the city should become easier

As well as this, the audience suggested that this can be achieved through better communication from the council, as well as applying its existing strategies more effectively.


Now that it has a good evidence base in place, the city now seems keen to advance this agenda.  We remain positive that Liverpool is making some excellent steps in the right direction.  Now, the ball is very much in Liverpool’s court.

For more info, see: lowcarbonliverpool.com

Copies of the slide presentations are available here



Secret Diary of a… Leverhulme Fellow

Here’s a little insight into the trials and tribulations of an academic once the media takes an interest in exciting new research findings – and why shouldn’t they!! Gemma Catney, our Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow, has recently experienced a massive increase in media demand as her work on emerging trends in ethnic and social segregation in England and Wales goes viral.


A recent excerpt from Gemma’s diary is a great illustration of her recent fame and fortune:

Census Briefing: “Has Neighbourhood Ethnic Segregation Decreased?” published in February’s issue of The Dynamics of Diversity: evidence from the 2011 Census.
27th Feb: University of Liverpool issued the full press release:
27th Feb: My research is featured in The Guardian!
28th Feb: Interview with BBC Radio Lancashire (download here)
3rd March: Interview with BBC Radio Manchester (download here)
3rd March: Interview with BBC Radio Three Counties (download here)
4th March: Interview with BBC Radio Manchester (download here)
The Guardian article and radio interviews have been tweeted/facebooked all over the shop!
6th March am: Presentation to Prof. Gordon Marshall, Director of the Leverhulme Trust
6th March pm: Seminar as part of Engage ‘How to’ series (on ‘How to measure ethnic diversity and ‘segregation’) – filmed, to be put on YouTube in due course!
7th March: Tweet by Leverhulme Trust on my research.

Gemma is taking a weekend sabbatical to draw breath – and then it will be on to preparing for the one-day Demos event on 3rd April at Birkbeck College on ‘Diversity and the White Working Class: white flight, anti-immigration politics and integration’, which will include responses from Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey, Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, and Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central.

No doubt you’ll soon be seeing Gemma alongside Prof. Brian Cox celebrating the wonders of the human race on TV!! Until then, you’ll find Gemma continuing with her research.

I’m very happy to tell you that we are all very proud of Gemma here in Geography at Liverpool!

by Andy Plater
Discipline Head for Geography
Department of Planning and Geography
School of Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering

UK Human Geography No.1 in the World

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are releasing the findings of a benchmarking review of human geography

 The findings are:

 1. UK human geography ranks first in the world – it as an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that sets the intellectual agenda in many areas

 2. UK human geographers publish a considerable body of research in major disciplinary journals, coming first place internationally both in volume and citation impact.

3. UK human geography is radically interdisciplinary and has become an exporter of both staff and ideas to other disciplines

4. Research in human geography has substantial impact on policy and practice and addresses the challenges of the current impact agenda

And the best is what we do here at Liverpool: social and cultural, quantitative geographies!  Geography is cutting edge, has a great future, and should be invested in.

For further details, see: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/press-releases/25263/uk-human-geography-no.1-in-the-world.aspx

Peter North
Reader in Alternative Economies, Department of Geography and Planning