School of Geography

Methods learning in the Lake District

24 November 2017

Geographers Jemma Stears, Joana Costa Figueira and Tomasz Kopczewski have recently returned from a five-day field class that took over 40 undergraduate students from QMUL to the Lake District. This new trip is a compulsory component of the degree programme and is part of the second-year Environmental Research Methods module which aims to give students a hands-on experience with different types of fieldwork, and to provide a foundation for final-year independent research projects.

The Lake District is a perfect location to give students a hands-on experience for different types of fieldwork © Tomasz Kopczewski

The module provides training in key research methods for physical geography and environmental science, and builds on knowledge and skills acquired in the first-year. It includes practicing laboratory and field techniques, data analysis and interpretation, digital cartography and reporting skills, and is delivered through lectures, laboratory practicals and a residential field course.

Students on the way to one of the field locations © Tomasz Kopczewski

“The trip to the Lake District enabled us to learn new techniques for fieldwork which we would be able to incorporate into the methods for our dissertations as well as being able to apply theory learnt before the trip into real-world scenarios,” said BSc student Jemma Stears from Kent. “We completed coursework each day on the various activities, analysed data we collected, completed mapping exercises, and followed it up with a write-up. The strict deadlines meant we had to be concise and methodical.

“The field centre we stayed at was located in a picturesque setting with amazing views over parts of the Lake District and most of the locations we did fieldwork at were accessible by walking (up many steep hills!). It catered for everything we needed with classrooms and labs as well as a boot drying room which seems like a minor aspect but actually proved the most useful because it meant we didn’t have to put on our wet and muddy boots from the day before!

“The trip was thoroughly enjoyable as, for most of us, it meant visiting somewhere we’d never been before. A lot of what I learnt I am adapting and applying to my preliminary thoughts on dissertation project ideas.” 

Portuguese student Joana Costa Figueira said: “Each day out in the field equated to a different theme; river systems, forest ecology, and mapping. We analysed different characteristics of a river (width, water depth, water flow, etc.), looked at different techniques of measuring forest ecology and worked with GIS to model the Glenridding Beck Catchment area. 

Standing in Glenridding Beck, looking down the valley © Jemma Stears

In all honesty, I wasn't mentally prepared for the adverse weather conditions and having rain and hurricane force winds during the three days we were out on the field, but I still managed to have a fun time! I got to know even more people from both the Environmental Science and BSc Geography courses, saw some breath-taking sceneries, and had a laugh when one of my friends fell into the river.

“My favourite part of the trip was after a hike up the Glenridding Beck river to Kepple Cove. The clouds parted for about 10 minutes revealing a beautiful view of the lush mountains. It really made everyone appreciate all the hard work we'd been doing during those few days. All in all, it was like any geography trip – hard, but very rewarding!” 

“This trip taught me how to sample locations out in the field, how to use specific equipment, for example to measure the velocity of a river, and most of all it showed me how academic geography is used in the field,” added fellow student Tomasz Kopczewski.

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