Welcome to the blog of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton. This will keep you up to date with both student and staff activities.

The Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences includes staff with interests in biological sciences, conservation, ecology, environmental sciences, environmental statistics, geography and waste management. We offer a range of degree programmes and have a number of postgraduate research students. For more information about studying with us please visit http://www.northampton.ac.uk/.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Second year geographers learn about community development in Mawsley village

On Monday 12th December, second year geographers braved icy conditions to go on a fieldtrip to new urban developments in Northamptonshire.

After a series of lectures about postwar urban development/expansion policies, the fieldtrip allowed students to visit Mawsley village: a new village development near Kettering. Students completed a guided walk of the village, in search of evidence of community development, accessibility, safety, design/architecture and village identity.

Rob Bailey, Chair of the Mawsley Villagers’ Association, was kind enough to join us for a Q&A session in the village community centre (warm and comfortable!) Rob provided some fascinating insights about:

         the development of community spirit and identity in a new village;
         pros and cons of living in a ‘new village’;
         ‘waves’ of housing development in the village;
         plan for, and responses to, future development on the site.

Members of the Geography class meeting Rob Bailey (Chair of the Mawsley Villagers' Association)

Friday, 12 December 2014

University Wheelchair Basketball team attend Geography class to discuss accessibility issues on campus

Big thanks to Brian, Gianluca and Kieran from the University of Northampton Wheelchair Basketball team, who visited today’s first year Geography class to share experiences of using a wheelchair on campus.

Members of UoN Wheelchair Basketball Team, telling first year Geographers about their experiences of university life.

It was really helpful to hear first-hand experiences of university life from the perspective of wheelchair users. For example, we learnt about:

·         long routes and delays involved in getting around buildings;
·         stress and hazards caused by inconsiderately parked bikes and cars;
·         frustrations caused by blocked doorways, congested corridors, and engaged disabled toilets;
·         experiences of feeling ‘pitied’, ‘stereotyped’ and ‘patronised’;
·         the hard physical effort involved in getting across campus in a wheelchair;
·         the challenges and dangers of everyday activities like buying a coffee and pastry!

The discussion will be really useful to students preparing to research wheelchair accessibility for a forthcoming assignment.  This links to a series of classes all about geographies of disability.
We also heard about the excellent opportunities to get involved in volunteering, sport, exercise and/or fundraising with the Wheelchair Basketball team. Hopefully some students will be inspired to get involved. For information and contact details click here: https://www.facebook.com/UoNWheelieBBall

Friday, 28 November 2014

So what do your lecturers do when they are not teaching classes?

Outside of the classroom, your lecturers are engaged in all sorts of activities – researching new teaching methods, managing courses and modules, supervising research students, recruiting new students and / or doing blue skies or applied research; or just writing papers and applications for new research grants. So what happens when you get some funding for research? Here, Ian Foster tells you about a recent research grant made to a consortium of Universities and research-led organisations funded by the UK Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The grant (in excess of £200,000) employs participants to work on a project officially called: SP1318; Scaling up the benefits of field scale protection measures to understand their impact at the landscape scale (April 2014 - 2016) (Figure 1). OK - not a very sexy title and it is a really difficult project to deliver upon so this brief introduction tells you what we are trying to do (and a bit about how) and where we have got to so far in this early stage of the project.

We have up until this post (28/11/14) had several meetings, Skype meetings and telecom conference meetings to work out what we are trying to achieve and how we will get there and have just completed our first workshop at the ADAS headquarters in Wolverhampton with a panel of experts on erosion in the UK. However, what surprised us all is that we know so little about the magnitude of the problem and the most efficient way(s) of solving it.

Figure 1  The Defra – funded project SP1318

Our funder is Defra but the consortium of researchers comes from Cranfield University, ADAS, Rothamsted Research, Anglia Ruskin University and, of course, the University of Northampton.

We are trying to establish the natural and management-based risk factors and build tools that tell us what background erosion rates should be and how we might reduce current rates to these levels. One problem we have is that there is ‘no one size fits all’ in terms of background rates in the UK so we must accept, for example, that background erosion rates in Cornwall may be very different from those in Yorkshire but that both are perfectly normal for the region. We are working with a range of databases to establish baseline soil erosion risk.

Whatever measures we (as a consortium) recommend for adoption must be suitable, applicable, compatible, implementable and, of course, be evidence based. That is a stupendously big ask. But that is what makes research so much fun and very challenging. You can judge how we have done 2 years from now as our report on project SP1318 will be made available to anyone who wants to read it on the Defra web site.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Representative of CAFOD leads workshop on the Millennium Development Goals

Have you ever considered how voting takes place at the United Nations? Have you ever envisaged being the President of Malawi for two hours? How would you allocate 1 billion dollars to achieving just one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in your country? Can you argue a case for a single goal to be given priority?

These and many other issues were the central topics of a session in the GEO1010 Geography and Development module delivered on Wednesday 12th November by Frank Sudlow, representing the UK NGO, CAFOD. Student groups were each given a country to represent at the United Nations and had to argue for major funding for one of the MDGs. Several rounds of voting took place with the Presidents of countries being given the opportunity to persuade their counterparts to vote in a particular way. 

At the end of a very enjoyable session in which delegates adopted their roles with much enthusiasm, two of the eight MDGs were selected. One was MDG 2 dealing with universal primary education and the other MDG8 dealing with global partnerships. 

It was pointed out to the ‘delegates’ that a similar exercise is currently being undertaken by representatives of over 180 countries, each having a single vote at the General Assembly. They are trying to agree a set of Goals for the next 15 years; goals that will hopefully continue and develop the many positive gains made since 2000.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Seminar on healthcare waste management

The Healthcare Waste and Resources Group, which is hosted within the School of Science and Technology at the University of Northampton, recently held a one day seminar on healthcare waste management.

The event was attended by delegates from the NHS, and the waste and environmental sectors.
The event, which was attended by around 55 delegates from the National Health Service (NHS), the waste industry, environmental consultancies and academia, was held at the Bywaters recycling facility in East London.  In the morning, delegates heard from a range of speakers including Andrew Hartley from the Green Investment Bank, Scott Crossett from ICERMS, Matt Wormsley from the Environment Agency, Anne Woolridge from ISSL, Peter Selkirk from Pyropure and Anna Sliwinska from the University of Northampton. The afternoon was dedicated to a site tour.

One delegate noted that:

“Not only did I enjoy the presentations and tour of the plant, I also made a number of NHS contacts whom I have arranged to visit, with a view to comparing good waste practices at different hospitals”

The seminar was approved by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and sponsored by Frontier Medical Group and Sharpsmart, as well as SRCL, GV Health, ISSL and MITIE.