Ebony Acheampong

3, Environmental Science with Business Management
Environmental Science with Business Management student (2013-2016).

Clast shape analysis: Fieldwork in NW Scotland

Scope of study: Edge roundness of clasts and boulders on moraines of a Younger Dryas period in Strath Dionard , Sutherland, NW Scotland.

After research on clast shape analysis, I based my study on Lukas et al (2013) Clast shape analysis and clast transport paths in glacial environments: A critical review of methods and the role of lithology. I had three locations/moraine ridges along the valley were selected to collect the samples from. Using a systematic approach to clast shape analysis meant that I could fill a research gap in this field of study. 

Main path down Strath Dionard Valley

Monday 29th June:

Today leaving from Luton airport at 1pm to arrive in Inverness at 4 leaving half way to go to the destination being Durness, Sutherland, NW Scotland.

Finally arriving at Ard-na Bruthaich B&B around 7pm , it came to realisation that this area was very remote comparing with other places I’d visited.


Tuesday 30th June:

Waking up around 8 to cooked breakfast was defiantly needed after a long day of travelling yesterday. The owner of the B&B had also given us information about the area and that the geology and environment was a perfect location for my research. The workers at Durness visitors centre had a lot of useful information about walking along the Strath Dionard valley and the mountains Cranstackie and Foinaven which were amongst some local and nearby attractions.

We set off walking down the tracks to the entrance of Strath Dionard walking towards my first set of coordinates I had recorded showing where moraines with boulders were located, samples for this moraine was collected using clast shape analysis in a systematic approach to collection. This was repeated for a fluvial (water transport) sample.

Collecting water sample

Whilst having a break after sample collection we meet some other visitors who were out fishing in Loch Dionard, and a keeper at the close by estate. The locals along with everyone we meet that day were very friendly and the location of research proved to be a very beautiful place full of natural wonder.

Good old map reading

Wednesday 1st July:

The first day of the new month was spent with a long walk amongst rivers and mountains to the second location and moraine which clast shape analysis could be carried out…defiantly different to my usual mornings in the city. We managed to get a lift in a truck from the local keeper on his way to the Loch, which defiantly helped, as we were able to enjoy the scenery even more whilst resting our legs from the 7 hours out in the field on Tuesday.

We collected samples from this this location successfully along with another fluvial sample.

Realising the differences with the moraines and environment I started to get a better idea for setting out my sample collections and everything was falling in place. In good timing as we finished the samples we managed to get a lift back up to the main road. In the evening we went to the local Durness Sango Sands café which was definitely a treat after the hard work.



Thursday 2nd July:

A 9am start to the day out in Strath Dionard began with a lift with fellow visitors to the furthest location near Coire na Lurgainn which is part of the Foinaven mountain to collect samples from a moraine over 130 meters long. This day proved tiring but we managed to get a lot of data collection done and ended the work around 5 as we headed back to eat later that evening at the café Sango Sands. Now with more information collecting I was feeling much more confident with the dissertation research and further correlating with the previous research of the area and the glacial past. Today went very swiftly.

Admiring the view

Friday 3rd July:

Today marked an early 9am start, getting a lift down the track of Strath Dionard definitely helped save time for the task planned ahead. Samples were collected from the third moraine, using a strategic process of measurements being 50 m apart and different edges of the moraine ridge.

Sample collection from location 3 took up till 4pm as I was eager to get as much done in the time I had in Scotland, so after a break one set of supraglacial (on slope) samples were collected from Calbhach Coire making part of Cranstackie mountain. The weather permitted a day of hard work that truly paid off in the end including ventures over fences to reach the supraglacial samples located on the downward slope of Cranstackie.

Panorama of Foinaven & Cranstackie Mountain

Saturday 4th July –Wednesday 8th July:

Another supraglacial sample was collected this time as we went ahead to collect the samples we passed the beautiful Loch Tarbhaidh and Lochan Sgeireach. Working hard from morning to evening consistently had really in completing the sample collection.

Before leaving Durness , Scotland we enjoyed the view of mountains and outdoors one more time and said our goodbyes to the lovely people we had met to set of back home.

Mum having a short break from fieldwork

By the end of the trip my mum had gone from saying she couldn’t believe that she was spending summer on a geography ‘holiday’ to the fact that she had really enjoyed herself and would like to have this experience again. She was a big help throughout the whole stay up in Durness and the data collection went very well thanks to her help.

Days in the Cairngorms again – Geography and Environmental Science fieldwork diary

Second year students had the opportunity to return to the legendary Cairngorms fieldtrip this year to help first years explore this unique and wonderful National Park. From searching for the geocaches left by last year’s trip to checking out the finest Scottish food and drink…they’ve kept a diary of her experience to help you catch a glimpse of this world away from the city and the research opportunities it brings.

Ebony Acheampong, BSc Environmental Science with Business Management
Kana Alam, BSc Environmental Science
James Jarrett, BSc Geography

Friday 3rd April:
After a long journey to Aviemore, Scotland yesterday, today was spent supervising the first years exploring Glenmore Lodge and the surroundings of Aviemore.
We also tested out the geocaching method that had been successfully carried out last year. The first years found one of the geocaches and proved positive as the first years enjoyed the treasure hunt.
Prof David Horne also demonstrated coring in peatlands out in the Cairngorms National Park, this allowed the students to practise looking at soil profiles from the last Ice Age and that have accumulated over large periods of time.

Overall the day was well spent observing and recognising the components that formed such a beautiful surrounding such as the Loch Morlich, Green Lochan (little Loch), Cairngorms Park and mountains in the distance.

The evening ended with a review of the 1st year students fieldnote books and then relaxing at the bar area playing poker with tea and cake.

Saturday 4th April:
Today started with mapping of all the previous geocaching sites and locations. We were preparing ahead for the 1st year students to carry out the exercise in a few days. The walk along the bike trail today was challenging but we all managed to complete it, the beautiful views and landscape also played a part in motivation along with getting back to the lodge in time for tea and cake, which is always helpful of course.

One group of 1st years went up to the Coire an t-Sneachda whilst the second group went to Glen Feshie for a mapping exercise of the river landforms and sediments. This day I spent with Kana and James planning out the walk for the geocaching. This was a brilliant way in exploring the area up to an outdoor centre called Badaguish, which looked like such a relaxed eco village centre.

The geocaches we found in the first location and second were bird boxes with the clue ‘‘Feathery friends’’ which was set up by students from the previous year.

We then interviewed some students that went up to the Coire on the first day; these are a few of their experiences.

“It was really awesome as I felt like I was in the Arctic, since I’ve never done this sort of thing before being from the city,’’ Yasin Wadud.

“It was a unique experience, as it was a complete white out of fog then as it cleared up it was really beautiful,’’ Matthew MacMillan.

Sunday 5th April:
This day me, Kana and James went on the walk up to Coire an t-Sneachda with the group who carried out the mapping exercise. This brought back so many memories from the last year we visited; the walk took about 3 hours to the Coire including a stop to the ski centre and 2 hours back.
At the halfway point there was a buzz with people from different locations enjoying the facilities in the Cairngorms Mountains and ski centre.
The walk continued afterwards to the top point for another break and drawing of the landforms present.

The second group carried out a walk to Allt Mor which was lead by two members of staff from the School of Geography. The aim of this study was to carry out hydrological analysis in the river catchment.

Monday 6th April:
We took the first group to carry out the geocaching exercise we planned out in the previous few days.

The geocaching exercise was put together with a practice Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA). This was done in proposal for bike trails across Glenmore Forest. The two activities linked well as each geocache location had positive and negative aspects to a future bike trial. The students thought and discussed well into the effects on the nature and habitats, so overall the day was a success.

Tuesday 7th April:
The second group of first year students were taken for the geocaching exercise, this was a success as the teams found all the boxes and signed the notepads available inside. Two geocache boxes found were set up by the second years who assisted my year so it was very nice to see it all in place.

The food provided at Glenmore Lodge is also really good quality and selection, really reminded us all of home cooked meals we have missed being away from home. This was always looked forward to after a long day of fieldwork.

Wednesday 8th April:
Today we assisted the first year students in Alt Mor soil and water samples collections, for chemistry analysis of pH and minerals present. In addition to this we helped with ideas to further development of the fieldwork diversity policy for the school of geography. We came up with some good ideas to create a more interactive and realistic alternatives to exercises carried out.

Today after the fieldwork we spoke to some of the staff to learn about their experience working in Glenmore lodge. We spoke most with the Chef called Mike who had travelled a lot and finally settled in Aviemore with his wife and family. He gave us great advice that words of wisdom and how much he enjoyed being in Aviemore. We definitely think he is the happiest person that we’d had ever met; there was a joy about him that was radiant and almost alien to us.

Meeting people like Mike definitely is a perk to these trips and opportunities, which come by through being at university.

Thursday 9th April:
Today we arrived back in London after a long coach journey around 8pm; this was a faster journey than when we were setting off to Scotland. It was nice to arrive back into London at a good time, though it was equally sad to leave Scotland. Everyone was so friendly and this environment was so refreshing especially coming from London.

The trip overall was definitely worth going more than once and hopefully it will be possible for more students to experience Aviemore, Glenmore Lodge and the Cairngorms National Park.


Ebony, Kana & James


Images from fieldtrip:

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