Liverpool Geography Student studying at the University of Hong Kong

The first month studying at the University of Hong Kong has flown by.

As I stepped off the airplane –the heat, humidity and busy nature of Hong Kong was overwhelming. Arriving at the Halls of Residence where I am staying was easy and stress free. Living in a 16-floored high rise building for a semester is still a surreal concept, but being part of hall life here is a unique experience. The first week consisted of the local students practicing hall songs and chants at 6am every day. Sports teams and cultural teams are taken very seriously and the inter–hall competitions are extremely competitive. The halls I am living in consists of 300 students, 5 of us are international exchange students. The local students are very welcoming, helping the exchange students to embrace their culture. The international community is large – on the first week there were multiple orientation events for the international students – enabling us to meet other exchange students from all over the world.

View of the Hong Kong Skyline from the Peak

View of the Hong Kong Skyline from the Peak

The HKU campus is on Hong Kong Island and has great accessibility to the rest of Hong Kong.  The campus itself is very modern, the geography department is situated in the Centennial Campus which was built two years ago. A lot of Hong Kong is built on hills and steep regions and the HKU campus is no different. It is built on different levels – making it very hard to navigate around it. I still get lost going to the same lecture theatres every week. The lecture style here is similar to Liverpool, however there is less group work here in Hong Kong, the classes that I am enrolled in vary from 20 students to 100 students. Most of the assessment here is based on coursework throughout the semester and a final exam in December.



 Hong Kong is a very busy and bustling city, a place where you can never get bored – I doubt that I have explored a half of the city yet and I have been here over a month. In my free time I have spent my time investigating the attractions that Hong Kong has to offer, both the main tourist attractions and the more local attractions, for example hiking to the peak, going to local bars, going to the Hong Kong light show, visiting temples, haggling at the markets, camping at the beach and eating a lot of the local cuisine! On the third weekend here, I managed to fit in a trip to Singapore, arriving on the Friday and leaving on the Monday morning – I got a brief impression of Singapore. Last weekend Hong Kong prepared itself for the hit of typhoon Usagi, all the shops were packed with people stocking their cupboards up, the local students and authorities advised everyone to stay inside for the Sunday, which was the expected day for the typhoon to hit Hong Kong. Luckily for Hong Kong, the typhoons path changed meaning Hong Kong wasn’t a direct hit.

Tai Long Wan Beach

Tai Long Wan Beach

The opportunities that are available studying here are incredible. Studying abroad has definitely lived up to my expectations – it’s amazing!

Anna Durbacz (BA Geography, Year 2)


Weekly radio show

Cat Wilkinson at KCC LIVE

Cat Wilkinson at KCC LIVE

Post by Cat Wilkinson – 1st year PhD student
On Wednesday (22nd May) I start a weekly radio show on local station KCC LIVE. I will join Rob Tobin to present a three hour show every Wednesday from 10am – 1pm. I’m doing this as part of my PhD in Geographyat the University of Liverpool, researching how a community youth-led radio station can connect communities and create social capital in times of social, economic and political uncertainty.

My PhD is funded by the ESRC NWDTC and is a collaborative (CASE) studentship with KCC LIVE as my case partner and supervision in Geography at University of Liverpool and Manchester University. As part of the PhD I will spend a minimum of 12 months at the station. Getting involved in everything that they do – including broadcasting!

Myself and Rob covered KCC LIVE’s drive show in April, and we both really enjoyed it. The show was a great success and after receiving lots of positive feedback, we decided that we wanted to work together more often as co-presenters, and it just happened that the Wednesday morning slot became available at the right time.

I am very excited about having a show on KCC LIVE. My research involves participant observation at the station, and I believe there is no better way to achieve this than to fully immerse myself in the research setting. I have completed work experience at local newspapers before, so I have knowledge of the importance of community in such media settings and am looking forward to bringing my former knowledge to the field site of study.

Rob and I work really well together on and off air, and we have put a lot of effort into preparing a strong show. The station targets 10-24 year olds in Knowsley, so our show has to be suitable to the young listeners. We have plenty of ideas to work with, one thing you’ll be able to catch if you have a listen is “The Adventures of Catman and Robin”, Knowsley’s favourite superheroes! We’re not going to reveal too much though, you’ll have to tune in to find out more!

Rob, who is Assistant Programme Director at KCC LIVE, and also works at Radio City as a producer, says “I’m really looking forward to working with Cat on a weekly show. I do loads of radio stuff at KCC LIVE and elsewhere, but in the past I’ve only worked as a solo presenter, so working with a co-presenter is an exciting new prospect for me too. Cat’s on air ability when we covered drive was really impressive, especially considering she didn’t have any radio experience elsewhere. She’s great to work with as a co-presenter and I’m very optimistic about what we can achieve together as a duo. It will also be great first hand experience to help with her research!”

You can listen to Rob and Cat on KCC LIVE on 99.8FM in Knowsley and Liverpool or online at every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm starting 22nd May.

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?


A Visitor from Notre Dame

Sophie Higham, an A2-level geography student from Notre Dame Catholic College, recently completed a 6-week placement in the Department under the supervision of Tim Shaw and Andy Plater.  Sophie’s placement was funded by the Nuffield Foundation through a bursary scheme that is open to competitive application each year from talented and enthusiastic school students.   The project work focussed on the zonation of saltmarsh foraminifera (or forams) from sites and the Bay of Cadiz, with the purpose of scoping the potential for using forams for historical sea-level reconstruction.  This project links to current research collaborations with IMEDEA at the University of the Balearic Islands who funded an MSc dissertation project in 2011, completed by Frazer Bird.

Sophie Higham from Notre Dame Catholic College proudly displays her gold award-winning poster. Thanks to Suzanne Yee for her assistance in helping Sophie to design the poster.

Sophie learned how to identify different foram species using low magnification microscopy and developed an understanding of the environmental controls on foram distribution, i.e. intertidal exposure, salinity, grain size etc.  The results revealed a very clear relationship between foram distribution and saltmarsh surface elevation – which is the essential basis for sea-level reconstruction using a transfer function approach.  This methodology forms the core of Tim’s PhD research on sea-level trends for the Adriatic coast of Croatia, which in turn follows on from Hayley Mills successful PhD on recent sea-level trends for the Mersey Estuary.

Tim Shaw helped Sophie learn how to identify the various species of saltmarsh foraminifera and to process the results.

Sophie joins a successful cohort of Nuffield Scholars who have been hosted in Geography: Dan Marks (2007), Matthew Sweeney and Matthew Thomas (2008), Stoffer Bruun and Lizzy Goodger (2009).  Their projects have all focussed on coastal evolution and environmental change.  This year, at the Celebration Event Hosted in the World Museum at Liverpool, Sophie received a gold award for her poster describing the outcomes of her research.  Quite an achievement, and very much deserved!