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/.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Students take the plunge! Ecology fieldwork in Northampton

Water quality is important to all our lives. Second year BSc Biology, BSc Environmental Science and BSc Wildlife Conservation students recently spent a day investigating the water quality of three sites along Dallington Brook, Northampton. Measuring water quality involves donning waders and using a net to collect samples of bottom-dwelling animals (snails, insects, crustaceans) by kick-sampling alongside taking measures of stream characteristics such as water depth, stream velocity, pH, temperature and conductivity. Back in the laboratory the animals are sorted, identified and classified according to their requirements for clean water. The biodiversity data help us to understand the ecosystem health of the river. The students will present their results in a special scientific poster session.

All ready to sample Dallington Brook

Friday, 25 April 2014

Careers Day for Second Year Geography Students

On 24th April 2014 second year geography students attended a Career Planning Day at the University. This event, supported by staff from the University’s Centre for Employability and Engagement, was designed to help students to think about possible careers and identify actions that they can take over the summer period to boost their employability. The day included presentations by careers advisors on enhancing your CV and getting relevant work experiences. Group activities helped students to find out about the sort of jobs Geographers do and to identify skills gaps. Students also had the opportunity to talk to current third years to find out more about what they can expect in the final year of their degree.

The Career Planning Day is just one of the ways in which students’ employability is supported. In their final year of study Geography students undertake a career planning module. This provides training in writing effective CVs, applications and covering letters, and includes a mock interview exercise. Recent graduates and employers give guest lectures, and one-to-one support is also available from careers advisors.

The students provided very positive feedback about the Career Planning Day. We are now looking to develop a similar event next year for first year Geography students too.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Research programme aims to explain the development of Namib sand dunes

Map showing the location of the Namib
 sand sea in southern Africa.
Ian Livingstone, the Professor of Physical Geography, leads a UK consortium of geographers who are working on the geomorphological development of the planet’s sandy deserts, concentrating in particular on the Namib Desert in southern Africa. This team has developed a digital geomorphological atlas for the Namib, and most recently has been involved in field investigations that will help us to understand the desert’s geomorphological history. Professor Livingstone started his research career in the Namib over 30 years ago, and since then has worked in deserts in Australia, USA, Tunisia and Oman, but he returns to the Namib whenever he can.

Automatic weather station 
The latest field excursion was undertaken in August/September 2013. It involved visiting an automatic weather station in the northern part of the sand desert that was established in 2012 to download the data that the weather station had collected and to carry out maintenance. The team then moved to the southern part of the sand sea to establish a second weather station which will allow them to compare the wind climate in the two areas. 

Sand dune in the Namib Desert
Alongside this, they undertook work on the form and the sediments of the dunes. The techniques used included surveying the dunes using a total station, gaining images of the internal structure of the sediments of the dunes using ground-penetrating radar, and collecting samples to help us ascertain the age of the dunes using luminescence dating techniques. The team has already published some of its research in academic papers and more are on their way. They have also presented their findings at international conferences.

Students in geography at Northampton can learn more about the development of deserts in a final year module called ‘Dryland Environments’. In recent years the Department has also provided its students with the opportunity to undertake field study of a desert with a two-week trip to the Mojave Desert in California.

Friday, 11 April 2014

University News: Science and Technology academic from the University of Northampton contributes to healthcare wastes management guide

Senior Lecturer Dr Terry Tudor, from the University of Northampton's School of Science and Technology, has contributed to a recent guidance document published by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).​

To read more about this please click here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area: Pollination Project

Kat Harrold, PhD Student

As part of my PhD at the University of Northampton I am investigating insect pollinators, specifically bees, butterflies and hoverflies in the Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area (NIA).  I am working on producing a model within ArcGIS which will create a map showing areas of high and low pollinator diversity and abundance. 

To make this model I am collecting information on different factors such as availability of natural habitats, water and differing agri-environment schemes, to see how they affect the insects.  The intention of the model is to inform groups such as conservation organisations or the planning sector, how land-use change may positively or negatively affect pollinators.  

In 2013 I assessed the diversity and abundance of insect pollinators on 14 grassland sites, a mixture of private and public sites including Summerleys and Stanwick Lakes.  In total 737 insects were recorded; 219 bees, 152 hoverflies and 366 butterflies.  It is interesting to note that of this 737 recorded insect pollinators only 5 were honey bees, highlighting the importance of wild pollinators!

Here is a habitat diversity map I have produce for the NIA, based on Shannon-Wiener diversity index, red areas show where there are areas of many differing types of habitat whilst blue areas are those which may contain only singular or few habitat types.  

Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area Habitat Diversity Map

Monday, 7 April 2014


Leo Cleverdon

The University of Northampton Students’ Union has developed PLANET TOO (P2), a student-led programme designed to transform thinking and behaviours around sustainable development and sustainable business ethics at the University of Northampton.

The aim of the project is to develop sustainability and create a long lasting legacy for all students at the University of Northampton. Being funded by the NUS Green fund; students have the opportunity to apply for grants that help to reduce the impact of their activities, such as hiring a minibus rather than using individual cars or the developing a student garden to promote edible growing on campus.

A key asset for the project is the creation of the Changemaker Society.  The Changemaker volunteers are pivotal in spreading the word of P2 and essential in delivering the different strands of the project. They have attended workshops and development seminars as well as photo shoots and other university events. These valued extra-curricular skills can be beneficial to your CV and desirable by future employers. The society members are friendly and committed individuals, with an aim is to enthuse others with the benefits of P2 and sustainability, as well as a lively social calendar.

Are you passionate about the environment? Would you like to make a difference? If so, why not get involved.

Contact simon.pole@northampton.ac.uk or leo.cleverdon@northampton.ac.uk.    

Friday, 4 April 2014

Physical Geography Local Field Visits

As part of the second year Physical Geography Practical module students develop a number of practical field skills. This module has three local field visits including one to Delapre Park in Northampton to carry out a habitat survey, a day trip to Sywell reservoir to learn about surveying and sediment coring, and, most recently, a trip to Eydon Brook to carry out a river survey.

On the 25th March 2014 two minibuses of second year geographers set off from a drizzly Northampton on a field visit to investigate river discharge at Eydon Brook, near its confluence with the River Cherwell. This is an important location, indeed it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where much work has been carried out by well known geomorphologists.

The aim of the field work was to investigate how river discharge has changed over time, and to think about the reasons behind this. Students worked in groups to collect data allowing them to estimate present day discharge at the site. These data were compared to geomorphological features which represent river discharge in the past.

Surveying skills learnt on a previous field visit to Sywell reservoir were used to survey the cross section of the river as well as the change in elevation that occurred along the river channel. The velocity of the river was measured using two very different techniques. One, the float technique, involved measuring the time it took a small plastic bottle filled with fine gravel to travel 50m in the river. The second, more technical, method involved the use of an electromagnetic current meter to directly record the velocity of the river. Together this information allowed the present day river discharge to be calculated.

Despite the unrelenting rain this was an enjoyable and successful trip with all groups collecting the data they needed to allow them to complete the associated assignment.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

University News: University of Northampton’s Professor Margaret Bates voted as Junior Vice President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management

Margaret Bates, Professor of Sustainable Wastes Management in the School of Science and Technology, has been elected as the next Junior Vice President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

To read more about this click here.

Waste Minimisation and Resource Efficiency in the Community

Environmental and Geographical Sciences students recently undertook a series of resource efficiency audits for community groups and schools in Northamptonshire.  Audit organisations include an umbrella organisation, Community Spaces, which runs twelve community centres in the county and Northamptonshire County Council (NCC). 

Over the course of the year students undertake resource auditing training as part of a 3rd year module. The first term involves a ‘training block’ of topics which take the form of a series of ‘Environmental Business Imperatives ‘(EBIs). The EBIs provide the students with the knowledge and skills to apply auditing techniques in organisations.  Upon completion of the module students receive certification as can be seen in the photo.

Monitoring consumption of energy, water and raw materials as well as waste and waste water is an essential first step in resource efficiency.  In their written report, students identify priority areas where financial savings can be made and ‘identify quick wins’ where savings can be made for no capital outlay.  The schools audits, in partnership with NCC, took on a much greater focus this year as part of a wider European project, ‘ZECO2’s‘.  NCC is committed to a series of actions in the project which aims to feed into the development of a community–focused zero carbon certification scheme. The emissions data collected by the students will form part of the baseline data to help schools reduce energy consumption and emissions and become examples of good practice.