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, 30 July 2014

Reflections of a BSc Physical Geography Student - Sam Scarborough

My time as a BSc Physical Geography student at the University of Northampton has been truly wonderful from start to finish (and no, I'm not under duress to say this - honest!).

Since day one, the members of staff here have made everyone feel that they are included and that they are important - something that is much needed when starting as a first year and also when completing your degree three years later.

Throughout my time here I have met 15 or so of the lecturers - each focussed on their own areas of interest and each as enthusiastic to teach/help as the next. This leads to a very broad scope of the subjects on offer at the University of Northampton. I have found that this gives students their own chance to be inquisitive, and that it gives them the want to conduct their own research - especially true when it comes to the construction and completion of the undergraduate thesis.

My time at this University has given me some wonderful experiences - the second year trip to the USA being a prime example (see photo). Whilst there are other enjoyable and educational trips on offer here, the sights and memories of the USA trip will remain for the rest of my life; as will the memories of spending time with my course mates and spending time in the laboratory working on my dissertation.
Looking back at Monument Valley, Utah -
this is the spot where Forrest Gump stops running

Going to university should be both about the quality of education and the enjoyment you get out of that education (and time spent in the SU, of course).  So, would I choose a different course/university given the chance to turn back the clock? No - I honestly wouldn't.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Reflections of a Joint Honours student - Taonga Kaonga

Studying at the University of Northampton has been enriching but also an opportunity to understand the higher education system. The experience has taught me to work hard and work towards deadlines, work within teams and as an individual. My experience at the University of Northampton has prepared me for the working world and I feel that I have gained valuable skills that are essential within the working world. The lecturers' support was beyond my expectations and being able to study two subjects allowed me to understand which path I would love to follow once I completed my degree.

The University of Northampton has been very supportive in every aspect of my learning providing various avenues for development both within the academic field and outside by providing extra curriculum activities related to the courses being studied.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Graduate views on studying at Northampton

Following the graduation ceremony last week, a few of the new graduates have written short posts about their time studying in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at Northampton.  These will be appearing over the next few weeks.

Monday, 21 July 2014

School of Science and Technology attend Prestige lecture given by Dame Ellen MacArthur

Dr Waleed Montasser and Nicholas Head from the School of Science and Technology attended the Ellen MacArthur Prestige lecture at Cranfield University on 26th June 2014. Ellen MacArthur (DBE) is best known for her yachting achievement, but has also gone on to establish the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with significant buy-in from large corporate bodies such as Kingfisher Group and Unilever. 

Ellen has given impassioned keynote addresses at prestigious global events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos. She has also been interviewed on numerous media outlets including BBC Radio 4, Channel 4 News and Newsnight. In addition, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been working in partnership with the Schmidt Foundation and has awarded fellowships to aspiring students in various fields in order to examine opportunities for innovation in design, engineering and materials usage.

Ellen spoke of the importance of the circular economy model in offering us an opportunity to harness innovation and creativity to facilitate a sustainable and restorative economy. A circular economy is restorative by intention - it aims to rely on renewable energy, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals and eradicate waste, through careful design of products and services as well as through a more fundamental redesign of current production and consumption systems.

Ellen began the lecture with an informative and engaging discussion of her sailing achievements which were truly inspirational. She succinctly described the need for self-reliance and an ability to manage finite resources in the context of both sailing single-handedly around the world and from an economic perspective at the local and global scales.

Perhaps the most important message which came across from the lecture was the message that the economic model we currently follow is fundamentally flawed and the need for a more circular model will become increasingly observable over the medium term. We are faced with a choice: either take action now to build in resilience for the economy and move towards a sustainable position or be forced in the not too distant future to make some uncomfortable decisions.

The lecture was attended by high profile academics and industry CEOs as well as government agencies including WRAP and members of the CE100.

The CE100 is an initiative between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the global accounting and auditing firm McKinsey & Company, and includes the government backed Circular Economy Taskforce.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

British Exploring Expedition to Arctic Finnmark, Norway

Dr Naomi Holmes (Senior Lecturer in Biogeography and Palaeoecology) is off to Norway for a five week expedition with the charity British Exploring. Naomi is the Chief Scientist of the Arctic Finnmark expedition. The expedition is based in Finnmark, near to the Øksfjordjøkelen glacier. The expedition will comprise over 50 explorers, who, along with the Chief Leader, mountain leaders, science leaders, two Doctors and ten trainee leaders and their mentor, will spend their summer exploring and investigating the Arctic environment. All the training is now complete, including an induction weekend, winter skills training, meeting the explorers, and a wilderness first aid course.

British Exploring is a charity whose objective is ‘to advance the education of young people by providing inspirational and challenging scientific expeditions to remote, wild environments and so promote the development of their confidence, teamwork, leadership and spirit of adventure and exploration.’ (http://britishexploring.org/AboutUs.aspx). British Exploring have a scientific enquiry model based around the idea of ‘science with purpose’, which will hopefully inspire the explorers and encourage them to continue with scientific exploration in the future.

British Exploring Scientific Enquiry Model: Science with Purpose(Source: http://britishexploring.org/ParentsTeachers/ScientificresearchandFieldwork.aspx)

While in Norway the explorers will carry out a number of interesting science projects investigating many aspects of the varied glacial environment in which they will be based. The weather during the expedition will be monitored using Kestrel weather stations kindly loaned by the Royal Meteorological Society. Projects will be undertaken on the glaciers (weather dependent), meltwater streams and lakes. A local Tern population will be the focus of an ornithological investigation, while vegetation distribution will be mapped. The impact of the expedition on the vegetation and soils (e.g., erosion) will also be recorded.

For more information about British Exploring please see http://www.britishexploring.org/

Friday, 11 July 2014

International Association for Sediment Water Science conference, South Africa

Three academics from the Department will be attending and presenting at the IASWS conference held at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, in July 2014.  Simon Pulley (who recently completed his PhD), second year PhD student Mattie Biddulph, and Prof. Ian Foster will be participating in the conference.  Prof. Foster is a member of the conference organising committee.   

The International Association for Sediment Water Science (IASWS) seeks to promote, encourage and recognize excellence in scientific research related to sediments and their interactions with water and biota in fluvial, lacustrine and marine systems and with particular reference to problems of environmental concern.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Science and Technology academics present research at London seminar

Dr Waleed Montasser and Dr Terry Tudor from the Department of Geographical and Environmental Sciences, in the School of Science and Technology, recently presented the findings from two MSc projects, at a seminar organised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in London.

The projects entitled ‘Voluntary and Community Sector organisations (furniture re-use) and the sustainable consumption and production agenda in the UK’ that was undertaken by John Dururu and supervised by Dr Tudor and ‘The use of social media in local authority waste management practices in England’ that was conducted by Raheel Jafri and supervised by Dr Montasser, were funded by Defra and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

Dr Waleed Montasser presenting at the Defra seminar
The aim of the event was to examine the policy implications of the findings and to highlight areas for future research.  This was the first time in the seven year history of the CIWM/Defra programme that students and supervisors were invited to present their findings at Defra. The seminar was attended by representatives from Defra, the CIWM, the Wastes and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and other academics. 

Copies of the two MSc dissertations are available at the following link:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Dr Waleed Montasser chairs Future in Food UK 2014 Conference

Dr. Waleed Montasser has chaired the Future in Food UK 2014 Conference, which was held in NEC Birmingham on the 18th June 2014. Future in Food UK 2014 is a conference driven by sustainability in the UK Food and Drink Sector. The Conference had high profile speakers from national and international companies, such as the Head of Sustainability at Nestle UK, the Global Site Sustainability Manager at Mars Chocolate and the Head of Capital Strategy Global Beer at Diageo. The conference was attended by many CEOs and sustainability managers who discussed current challenges and future plans for the Food and Drink Sector.

Dr. Montasser chaired the conference with various discussion sessions between the speakers and the audience regarding how to face current challenges to the Sector. Waleed commented "The Food and Drink Sector has a major role in the UK economy, hence with climate change and global market completion, there is a need to have an efficient and sustainable sector." 

Dr. Waleed Montasser is a researcher at the School of Science and Technology, with national and international experience on wastes management, resources efficiency, and circular economy. Waleed has spoken in various national and international conferences on resource efficiency and circular economy.

For further information about the Future in Food UK 2014 please have a look at: http://futureinfood.co.uk/