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/.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Science without Borders

Aline Coelho, Cassia Broca, Giordana Flor, Edvania Rocha and Matheus Passos; Science Without Border sStudents

Science without Borders is a Brazilian Government scholarship programme which aims to send 101,000 Brazilian students on undergraduate sandwich courses, PhD sandwich courses and full PhDs to study in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and creative industries at top universities worldwide.

The UK is well-known for its high level of education and some of the best universities in the world are located here. This alone is enough to be convinced about which country we wanted to choose to study in. Furthermore, as a unique opportunity to experience living abroad, studying in the UK allowed us to live amongst a society of great cultural diversity we had never seen, which has enriched our perception of the world.

We have chosen the University of Northampton as it has been recognised as a Centre of Excellence for waste management education and research. Indeed all the team of lecturers are well prepared and experienced, both in academic and industrial terms, giving us confidence that the knowledge learnt here will be fully applied to our professional future.

Beside this, the University has a good support structure, and special attention is given to international students. If we could bring back to Brazil some of them, we would say that the Tutorial Scheme, Academic Librarian Support and CfAP (Centre for Achievement and Performance) are very welcome. The Student Union (SU) provide very well for students’ needs. We hang out at SU events and always have a good time. We also highlight the support that we received from the university Welcome Team. It was essential when we first arrived here. We were able to do many activities such as movie nights, sports days and day trips. 

The town of Northampton itself is very pleasant to live in and well located. Thus we have had the opportunity to travel to many cities nearby such as London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Oxford. There are so many beautiful parks, like the Racecourse Park in front of Avenue Campus; we wonder how it will look covered in white, when the snow comes. By the way it will be our first time seeing snow; and we are looking forward to it! 

Finally, it has been a wonderful experience to study and live in Northampton. We have met so many nice people. Moreover, we acquired personal and professional knowledge that we will bring to all our lives. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

London Waste and Recycling Board’ COO gives seminar to UoN environmental management students

Students on the Wastes Management and Environmental Management programmes recently had the opportunity to gain an insight into the manner in which waste is managed in London. The talk was given by Mr Wayne Hubbard, the Chief Operating Officer of the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB).

Mr Hubbard, who has over 17 years experience in the waste sector gave an informative and enlightening presentation on the work of the LWARB, the direction he thought the waste sector in London should be in going in, in future, and also provided some career tips for the students.

The students got to hear about some of the infrastructure development work that the Board was currently engaged in, including significant investments in treatment facilities. There was also a lively discussion about the ‘politics’ of managing waste in the capital, as well as Mr Hubbard’s views on where resources should be focused currently and in future, to ensure a sustainable approach.

With respect to career choices, the advice was simple. He noted that it was important for those seeking to get into the field to be able to think and work independently. Those that worked hard were rewarded and progressed in the sector.

The presentation enabled both students and staff the opportunity to engage with a key figure in the sector. It also served to provoke much discussion on issues around sustainable management of resources in the UK, both during and following the talk.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Virtual reality field trips

A number of Environmental and Geographical Sciences students recently took part in a project looking at the use of Virtual Reality devices and field trips. This is an ongoing collaborative project between Dr Naomi Holmes (Department of Environmental & Geographical Sciences), Dr Scott Turner (Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies) and Adel Gordon (Learning Technology Team).

Virtual field trips are not a new idea; they have however, in the past, been perceived negatively by students, often due to a poor representation of reality. This project is investigating whether the Oculus Rift, described as a ‘next-generation virtual reality headset designed for immersive gaming’ (http://www.oculusvr.com/) provides a more immersive, and therefore, more real experience.

The Oculus Rift was investigated as a tool for preparing for field trips. A number of students volunteered to test the Oculus Rift. The Tuscan house and gardens demo that comes with the Oculus Rift (available through the Oculus Rift developer centre https://developer.oculusvr.com/) was used as the basis of the test. The students spent some time immersed in the virtual environment and then provided feedback. Many students also suggested a number of potential other uses of the Oculus Rift within their degree programmes.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tropical field course opportunities available to students

A partnership between the Department and the Tropical Biology Association (TBA) is giving our students the opportunity to undertake conservation field work in Africa and Asia by taking part in one of their field courses in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Borneo.

The TBA is a non-governmental organisation that was established in 1993 and involves 44 university departments (including our own) and research institutions in its subscribing membership. The TBA’s offices are located in Cambridge (UK) and Nairobi, Kenya.

The TBA aims to promote expertise in tropical ecology and conservation by giving both students and conservation practitioners practical experience and training in management of biological resources, monitoring of biodiversity and research in tropical biology. In addition, participants on TBA courses learn the skills required for research project design and execution.

TBA courses are unique because they bring together in equal numbers African and European students and academics. The value added to the students’ degree studies is clear for both the African students (who encounter the most up to date ideas and techniques within the field) and for European students (who are exposed to the particular issues around tropical conservation biology, usually for the first time). This significantly increases their employability, and in fact previous European and African TBA alumni are now employed at universities or as conservation practitioners in their home countries and return each year to teach on TBA field courses.

This approach also enables continued exchange of expertise and funds after the courses by catalysing collaborative activities between European and African institutions. To date the TBA has trained some 1500 biologists from Africa, Asia and Europe and the USA during the more than 50 courses it has run since 1994. Although not strictly a social enterprise, nonetheless the TBA fulfils many of the criteria of being one as it works within the community of researchers and students (both in Europe and Africa), enhancing their expertise and employability. The TBA directly employs staff within the UK and Kenya and any profits made from fund raising and so forth are directed back to support TBA activities.

For more information on how to apply for one of the TBA’s field courses, visit their website: http://www.tropical-biology.org/