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/.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Gdansk Erasmus opportunity

BSc Environmental Science students now have the opportunity to spend a term at the Gdansk University of Technology, Poland (course taught in English) on an Erasmus exchange programme. Dr Duncan McCollin visited Gdansk earlier this year and was not only very impressed with the facilities and staff in Poland but also with the city of Gdansk itself. This new partnership is in addition to existing exchange schemes with the University of Padua (Italy) and the University de Castilla de Mancha (Spain).

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Operation Wallacea- Guyana

Joe Gosling

The expedition started with a 12 hour mini-bus ride from George Town (Guyana’s capital) to the Iwokrama river lodge which is in the heart of the Iwokrama rainforest. Here we spent a few days getting used to the hot, humid conditions, getting to know the other research assistants and the researchers, as well as finding out exactly what we will be doing. We then had a 2 hour boat ride up the Essequibo River to our first camp, Turtle Mountain, where we spent 4 days.

Each day we got to sign up for a morning and evening session to help out one of the researchers and we got time in the middle of the day to relax when most of the animals are inactive. These included a mammal transect, dung beetle transect, a herp walk (reptiles and amphibians), fishing, bird mist netting, bat mist netting and river surveys. My personal favourites were the herp walk where we were catching frogs, snakes and lizards for DNA samples and fishing where we caught all kinds of menacing looking fish and a lot of piranha!

The second camp we stayed at was called Cabucalli where it rained a lot! The fishing was particularly good but I think we were all happy when we moved on to our third camp, Rock Landing.  This camp was my favourite as we could have refreshing afternoon swims in the river and there was a huge diversity of wildlife. For me one of the highlights of the trip was here, catching a tree boa with my hands from a boat. Our fourth and final camp was called Sandstone which also had a huge diversity of wildlife. A few lucky research assistants got a glimpse of a giant river otter and I was lucky enough to see a pygmy anteater in a tree while on a river survey. Our final afternoon and night before we went back to George Town was spent at the Surama Eco Lodge on the Rupununi savannah. Here we had a football match with the local people and after they had a party for us. 

This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life spending a month in a remote tropical rainforest and seeing a huge variety of wildlife. As well as this, I met some really good friends and the staff were extremely enthusiastic and willing to have a laugh. We all had a great time together and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the biological sciences. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Professor of Biodiversity visits Brazil for teaching, National Botanical Congress and research field work

Jeff Ollerton, Professor of Biodiversity within the Department, spent the last two weeks of November 2013 the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil undertaking field work on the ecology of plants and their pollinators.​

The field work is the final stage of Professor Ollerton's month long visit to Brazil, a trip which has seen him travel over 2,500km, speak at the National Botanical Congress, and present lectures at institutions throughout the country. Professor Ollerton has also taught a one-week long pollination biology course to a group of postgrads and professors at the University of Campinas, which included the students undertaking field work on their own campus.

In the field, Professor Ollerton collected data on the proportion of animal versus wind pollinated plants across different Brazilian plant communities.  His data collection will compare plants in dry tropical vegetation (in the Serra do Cipó National Park), to those growing in the mountain ranges of Serro do Mar in the South East of the country. The plant species are given scores based on the type of flowers, pollen release and flower visitors that they have. The research undertaken so far fits with predictions made in Professor Ollerton's 2011 study, published in the journal Oikos, suggesting that 90 per cent of plants within tropical communities are pollinated by animals, compared to 70-80 per cent on average in the temperate zone.

The trip is part of an ongoing collaboration with PhD student André Rodrigo Rech and his Brazilian supervisor Professor Marlies Sazima as part of the "Science Without Borders" scheme.  Staff and students were able keep up to date with Professor Ollerton's adventures as he blogged each week from Brazil, beginning here:  http://jeffollerton.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/brazil-diary-1/