“But Geography isn’t a real science”

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a colleague who was looking for a PhD. As an environmental scientist, they said that they completely forgot to look in Geography departments to see what they were¬†advertising as they never really considered Geography a “real science“. I felt a little compelled to write a bit about it when I was thinking about their comments last night.

Firstly, having covered now a few disciplines including physical geography, geology, palaeobiology and geochemistry, I can say they are highly interdisciplinary. In my time at the Geography department in Leeds I came across academics studying such a wide range of subjects from glacial and fluvial geomorphology to plant-atmosphere interactions to the effects of dissolved organic carbon on riverine environments to international policy and corruption in sustainability. In my degree alone, as geographers I find we are expected to be a jack of all trades master of none, I covered aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, statistics, maths to name a few without doing a lot of them since I was in secondary school. I’ve seen some of my lecturers working on glacial outburst floods in the Himalayas, critical and vital work in order to protect the people living there, I’ve watched them use leaf stomata to track changing atmospheric composition throughout time and show the dangerous rises in recent times and i’ve seen them publish work for corporate companies such as Yorkshire Water on the danger of increased dissolved organic carbon in our upland areas.

Unfortunately ¬†in academia, there is a lot of subject snobbery, I myself am guilty of it. “Why is that artist getting paid to do abstract work when it could go into medical research”. But as I was laid thinking last night, if all of us were physicists or chemical engineers, for example, the creme de la creme of academic subjects, who would write up books, who would report the news, who would sit in court and aid with the judicial system, who would go into homes and work with families on their social issues. I would have no clue where to start. So every subject is important in its own way I think. I just wanted to praise Geography a little bit because I do feel like we are told we will all become Geography teachers with no other options to us, and whilst this is an amazing and rewarding career for many, we Geographers are leading and aiding some of the most cutting edge and vital research as the world faces uncertain and scary times.

So you go Geographers and anyone in any academic subject, we work hard for little reward, little pay and little gratification. I think we all need to praise each other no matter what we do.



Frolicking around on the Isle of Wight

This weekend I had the pleasure of undertaking a field trip to collect some samples for my masters project (hopefully more to come on that).

I think a love of the outdoors and field trips are what attracts most physical geographers/ geologists to the job. We had a very pleasant 17 degrees with a slight wind day in the sunshine collecting fossils on a virtually empty stretch of beach, which was absolutely blissful. I had not really been on a proper field trip since I went to New Zealand in 2015 so it was really nice to get my teeth into some proper outdoor work and get hammering into the rock.

We stayed in an air bnb on the island which was home to some rather “diabolic” cats as the owner described them, who seemed to want to be petted and then tried to bite and claw you as soon as you went near them! That was an experience! Nonetheless, I enjoyed having them around for the night it reminded me of being home.

The stars on the island were something else, on our way to the bnb we got out of the car, hopped over a sty and into a field to take a quick look. Being in Bristol for seven months now I had quite forgotten the amazing night sky and aside from a few shooting stars I had seen back in Yorkshire in my back garden, I don’t think I have ever seen anything so breathtaking. I would highly recommend a trip to the island just to go look at the stars for a few hours away from the light pollution of the mainland, truly amazing!

Here are some photos from the trip – this sequence is the Greensand Formation both lower and upper beds which produced a lovely orange sand on the beach. Highly recommend a trip there to sit on the top of the cliffs and enjoy the view – make sure you take plenty of snacks and water if you want to hike up the cliff side!


British Science Week March 2017

How did erratics move? Was it dinosaur football?

This week is BSW17 and STEM week and i’ve been getting involved in all sorts of outreach from directing an assembly on palaeoclimate on Monday where I received my favourite answer of the lot titled above, and also told that one child once saw a fossil that looked like a blue peter badge… what do you even reply to that?

I had a really good experience at the school, I directed an assembly towards KS2 so I had a bunch of enthusiastic YR3-6 children shouting answers at me. I was especially impressed by the boy that knew about insect gigantism during the Carboniferous having not really come across it myself until that Isle of Arran trip every budding geologist undertakes at A- Level.

I’ve been so impressed and dumbfounded by how much children know about palaeontology and dinosaurs, perhaps its being sort of close to the Jurassic Coast in Bristol but I will be interested to see if children know this much when I move back up North in September. Which also reminds me – coming from Yorkshire I got asked if I was from Scotland today… hmm.

The dinosaur takeover workshops at Bristol Museum seem to have been going really well. It becomes a little challenging to keep the YR1 students engaged but I have found some of the older children to be really interested and keen to answer questions and discover things all things dino.

I am really enjoying being part of STEM week and trying to encourage more young minds to get into the paleo field. I definitely expect to see some of them on my course in Bristol in a decades time, many knowing way more dinosaurs than me (not that I know many!).

Looking forward to seeing how much more we can push science and education to the future generation over the course of my masters and PhD. BSW17 seems to be a success so far!

S. IMG_4552



So to avoid coursework following coursework following exams I took a trip to Robin Hood’s Bay. Found numerous interesting Jurassic fossils including some pyritised ammonites and a pentacrinus fossil. Aside from that I had some nice chips and an icecream, staple of any trip to the seaside.

Now apparently I need to actually do some work…