Posts Tagged ‘fieldwork’

My penultimate year at QMUL Geography

From volunteering in North London to travelling in a helicopter in New Zealand, my penultimate year at Queen Mary has been exceptionally busy but nonetheless another great and exciting year.

I’ve travelled to the other side of the world, become the President of a volunteer group, achieved a Silver Green Impact Award, undertaken environmental audit training and even presented my dissertation project to prospective students. Just when I think there are no more things to be involved in, another springs up and at the end of my second year with the ‘what will I do next?’ question looming, this year has definitely provided me with countless options.

In March I travelled to New Zealand for a 10-day field trip around the South Island. The scenery was breathtaking and it was definitely a trip of a lifetime! We got to take a helicopter ride up to the Franz Josef Glacier which we walked across. We went on many walks through valleys, exploring the processes that shaped them and discussed how they might look in the future, which affirmed the knowledge we’d gained from lectures leading up to the trip. Skills developed on fieldtrips like this such as filling out field notebooks and documenting results outside of the lab have definitely prepared me for my dissertation.


Tasman Proglacial Lake, New Zealand


The obligatory task of measuring rocks for clast shape analysis (a must for any Geography student)

Since my first year I have been involved in the QMUL Canal Clean Up Volunteer group who are affiliated with Thames 21 who kindly provide equipment, training and most importantly extra pairs of hands on events! From simply volunteering at an event on campus got to know more about Thames 21, the work they do and the opportunities of leadership training. By undertaking the training, I am now the President of the group as well as an Event Support Team Member for Thames 21 outside of university. I recently helped lead an event in Edmonton, North London, where a buried river is being resurfaced to create a wetland. I’ve developed my team work skills, organisation capabilities and learnt to work to a schedule as on events you can be working with 20 or so people. These skills are going to be transferable into the workplace but primarily I really enjoy helping out and using what I learn at university to teach others the science and reasoning behind such projects like the one in Edmonton.

clean up

All the volunteers getting ready for a canal clean up!

green impact

The 2015 Green Impact Awards

In my first year, I also got involved with Green Impact which aims to make the university more sustainable and environmentally aware. Having achieved Bronze last year, my team has completed the Silver Award. Again, being organised, able to achieve on a deadline as well as working and communicating with a team are all skills I’ve gained from the experience here at QMUL, but still it’s being able to put what you study and understand into practice while working with like-minded people that I enjoy most about Green Impact. Through being a Green Impact Project Assistant, I was able to undertake an IEMA approved audit training. It was an insightful day where I got to see what other Green Impact Teams were doing as well as developing experience and skills that will set me in good stead after I graduate.

Now…to get ready for my final year… 🙂

Team Alps 2015: Why are we going back?

In November 2014, I wrote about the rain we encountered during the Team Alps 2014 fieldwork trip.  As it turns out, four of us are going back, along with three others, for TEAM ALPS 2015! So, why are we going back?

Well, the good news is that two undergraduates appreciated their research so much still after handing in their third-year dissertations, that their inquiring minds are willing to explore yet more unanswered questions! So, while they have signed up to carry on studying at masters level (here at QMUL Geography – yay!) we get to return and start exploring their MSc theses!

Nature Nap

Lucky enough to have inspired these two undergraduates to come out for a second summer. Are they ready to work hard, or enjoy the art of the nature nap?


Unexpected findings last summer led to a side project primarily investigated by my supervisor, Dr Sven Lukas, and this project will be revisited for more information. My personal project will also be revisited following the findings of last year, primarily the need for more robust methods for mapping landforms.

Additionally, three new Team Alps members bring a diverse set of fieldwork skills, backgrounds, and adventurous spirits to help us tackle our research questions and to perhaps develop their own.

This leads to what I like to think of as a mini-workshop for the group this summer. We will be conducting terrestrial laser scanning and ground penetrating radar to better understand the morphologies of landforms in two valleys. These techniques are new to our group, and will therefore allow each of us to broaden both our skill-sets as geomorphologists and the findings of our projects.

Schwarzensteinkees Colt

Maybe this young one will be in the valley again this year (although all grown up)! It’s always nice to have someone greet you as you walk into your field area for the day.

Those of us returning are so excited to get back to the magical Berliner Hütte (complete with excess amounts of meat and cheese, bathing in sinks, and [hopefully] less rain) and of course to show off one of our favorite fieldwork base camps to a new crop of researchers!

Dinner’s view of the Hornkees (left) and Waxeggkees (right) glaciers from the back porch of the Berliner Hütte.

Dinner’s view of the Hornkees (left) and Waxeggkees (right) glaciers from the back porch of the Berliner Hütte.


Did that last photo look familiar? Maybe you have seen some of the Austria tourism ads throughout the London transport network; the Berliner Hütte is famous! (Here: Green Park tube station)

Did that last photo look familiar? Maybe you have seen some of the Austria tourism ads throughout the London transport network; the Berliner Hütte is famous! (Here: Green Park tube station)

Where Geography meets Biology! Environmental Science students visit Croatia 2015!

Ever wondered what Environmental Science students in the School of Geography get up..? Well, below is a glimpse of what happened when they joined students from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences on a field class to Croatia!

“As a part of our biology module in Environmental Science we had the opportunity to visit Croatia. On a day-to-day basis we were taught by professors specialised in their field from the University of Zagreb. We were taught through interactive fieldwork and we covered a different aspect of biology everyday. This involved studying springs, lakes, and vegetation to bats, crayfish, birds and frogs.


Croatia 2015

First sunset in Croatia, before the fieldwork begins

Sunset in Croatia, our first night before the field work begins!

Croatia 2015   Croatia 2015

Croatia fieldwork 2015  Cetina springs, where students were classifying invertebrates, measuring water pH, and conductivity.

  Wading in... 


Krka National Park, Croatia

Bat hunting

Eco-Location! (Bat communication) On our way to a Bat cave




Boat trip, fieldwork on a boat! Does it get any better!!  Boat trip

Tree frog

Tree frog

Prof. Nichols demonstrating to the students

Croatia 2015

Bird watching.. It isn’t as easy as it looks!

Field work


Franziska, PhD student & demonstrator with our little friend we found along the way!


Crayfish galore! No animals were harmed during the taking of this photo.

Professor Nichols exploring Church of holy salvation

A little history lesson whilst in Croatia!




Durham and beyond: geographers head North East!

Hi everyone! Below is a glimpse into my recent field trip to the North East as part of the first year of my BA Geography course – enjoy!

Sunday 29th March 2015, Day 1:

Here comes a Queen Mary Geography cohort! A six-hour journey leads us to the North East. This evening, we have a lecture from economic geographer Dr Stuart Dawley, from the University of Newcastle. Dr Dawley provides us with a historical view on the North East’s development challenges. The opportunity to questions is taken and concludes the day.

The street of our student accommodation at St Chad's College, North Bailey

The street of our student accommodation at St Chad’s College, North Bailey


Monday 30th March 2015, Day 2: 

Economics and society. We experience stories of the North East at Beamish Open Air Museum, situated in years 1825 and 1913, by talking to actors and touring the area. Our class then splits into smaller groups and my group travels to Newcastle to explore science-led regeneration in Newcastle Science City and the Centre for Life.

Many groups from the community are brought together for science in Newcastle's Centre for Life

Many community groups are brought together for science in Newcastle’s Centre for Life


Tuesday 31st March 2015, Day 3:

Politics and austerity. My group attends a talk from Simon Magorian (Newcastle Unites) regarding austerity’s effects on racism in Newcastle. We then carry out street surveys, establishing local thoughts on Newcastle. Our class also gets to question Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council on city-wide political issues. Before returning to Durham, we visit to the magnificent Angel of The North.

The Angel of the North

The Angel of the North

Sculpture of swans taking flight at the Civic Centre, where offices of Newcastle City Council are located

Sculpture of swans taking flight at the Civic Centre, where offices of Newcastle City Council are located


Wednesday 1st April 2015, Day 4:

Health and austerity. We attend a lecture on regional health inequalities by Professor Clare Bambra, an academic at the University of Durham. After this, the class fragments into groups again and my group meet Elouise Robinson (Sunderland City Council). Elouise shares various health schemes introduced by the city. In the evening, we perform role-plays, testing our knowledge of health inequalities in the region!

One of the buildings on Durham University's campus where Professor Bambra's lecture was held

A building on the Durham University campus where Professor Bambra’s lecture was held


Thursday 2nd April 2015, Day 5:

Saying goodbye! We have breakfast and return our room keys; the end of the trip is here. I feel grateful for this extremely beneficial field trip and I recommend it to every first year human geographer. If you join QMUL Geography, I hope you thoroughly enjoy your academic experience in the North East!

The historic Durham Cathedral overlooks the River Wear, basking in the afternoon sun

The historic Durham Cathedral overlooks the River Wear, basking in the afternoon sun


Some more photos:

Beamish Open Air Museum-




Newcastle City Centre-



Made in Dharavi – Geographers head to Mumbai

We travelled to Mumbai, India, as part of our final year here at QMUL Geography – and here’s a bit more about the project we undertook exploring the economy that underpins one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi.

For our project in India, my group conducted research on Dharavi’s leather industry and how leather is a local and global commodity. Dharavi is widely known as the largest slum in Mumbai, but less people know about the economic activity that occurs there!


Leather sheets in a factory

Leather sheets in one of the many factories in Dharavi


For the first part of our project, a tour guide took us around Dharavi, where we had the chance to go to various factories and see the leather production process in action. Most of the leather production process occurs in Dharavi, excluding tanning, due to the fact it is very polluting. The factories create the raw materials through several stages, and then the raw material is used to make leather products such as belts, wallets and bags.


Leather sheets

Leather sheets


After our tour of the slum, we were driven ten minutes down the road to Megha’s office, owner of Dharavi Market. Her company sells leather products, amongst many other items such as clothes, jewellery and clay pots, made by craftsmen living in Dharavi. The website aims to promote the work of people living and working in the slum and demonstrate that Dharavi is full of economic activity. She told us that ‘the whole point is to make Dharavi more visible, provide a platform and I want to make it more mainstream where regular people…who have this perception of the slum being this notorious area… I want to change that attitude and mind-set’. Furthermore, she explained that she also wants to improve Dharavi in many ways through her website – ”It’s not just going to be returns in terms of more business but also social good, so improve the lifestyle, the whole final aim would be to improve the living conditions [of Dharavi]”.


Dharavi Market (

Dharavi Market (


The people that make the products upload photos of their products to an Android app. After approving the items, Megha sells it online to international buyers. She explained that ‘it’s nice for them to know that people around the world are buying from them’. If you’re in need of some new products, her website is You can choose from a wide range of commodities, while benefitting people living in Dharavi. They have a Facebook page too so make sure to check it out!


Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market and our team

Team Alps 2014: Luxurious (?) Alpine fieldwork

Hi all! My name is Cianna, and I am currently in the 2nd year of my PhD in Physical Geography, studying a specific type of glacial deposit in the European Alps. My research background includes hillslope and glacial geomorphology and sedimentology with research locations in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Olympic Mountains in Washington, and the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

I clearly picked this vein of scientific research based on the places I know it can take me, and this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire month doing fieldwork in the Austrian Alps in between my first and second years. This was also an opportunity for four undergraduates, who are interested in Quaternary glacial dynamics and modern alpine river systems, in the summer before their third years to accomplish fieldwork for their dissertation projects

There is something to be gained from rugged, camping-based fieldwork, and I have had these experiences. But sometimes, it is nice to come back to a warm dining room at the end of a long day of digging with a four-course meal waiting. It is particularly nice to have this warm dining room (with Backgammon and tea) when an incredibly wet July has barred you from going outside for safety concerns.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.



The fieldwork group started as six, until my supervisor (Dr. Sven Lukas) left about 10 days in. Then, it was down to me doing my PhD fieldwork and monitoring four undergraduate students as they completed fieldwork for their dissertation projects. The undergraduates worked in pairs, while I was off to my study area (with interruptions from curious horses and attention-starved sheep). We would work from shortly after breakfast to shortly before dinner, when we would all meet up again to discuss the day’s progress, questions, and stories.

Curious Horses

A herd of horses spends summers in the Schwarzensteinkees valley, my primary study site. Some are curious and nosy, others keep to themselves. It is certainly nice to have some friendly faces around on long days!


Little Lamb

“Pay attention to meeee! I am so much more adorable than the rocks you are trying to measure!” A flock of sheep also spends the summer in the Schwarzenstienkees valley, and are quite needy for human attention.

The amenities provided by a popular Alpine hiking hut create quite cozy fieldwork. That is, until we were stuck inside for periods of days while stuck in a cloud of relentless downpour. We quickly tired of board games, cabin fever struck, and the drying room was a terrifying place of dampness and stink. As students, we seldom paid for a hot shower and instead learned the fine art of hut trough washes in the cold bathroom under near-icy water from the tap.

Foggy Day

An example of fieldwork in “The Cloud”. Sometimes, visibility was reduced to less than 5 meters! But, that’s still better than a relentless downpour…


Stay tuned for more about the scientific excitement (and the despair we overcame!)…

©2019 QMUL Student Blogs