Beyond your PhD: Tim Meadows, Lecturer in Physical Geography, The University of Manchester

If I had to describe the approach I’ve taken to my career so far I would have to go with ‘decisively indecisive’: decisive because I’ve made a couple of bold decisions without really questioning myself or thinking twice; indecisive because those decisions have resulted in a couple of significant changes in direction, both geographically and professionally. Let me explain…

I ended up doing a PhD much more out of luck than judgement. Throughout my undergrad geography degree at the University of Nottingham, I’d always really enjoyed the rivers modules. This was in part due to my seemingly innate love of all things rivers, as well as some genuinely inspirational teaching at Nottingham and several memorable field trips to glamorous mid-Wales. So I always thought I wanted to do ‘something about rivers’, but that was as far as my career plan had developed. That was when a couple of chance conversations with Colin Thorne around Easter of my third year put me onto the PhD trail. Unfortunately, our first application for funding was promptly rejected, forcing me to hastily develop and execute Plan B – this turned out to be doing an MSc in GIScience, again at Nottingham. In retrospect this was a pretty good move as I developed some key skills that have turned out to be quite useful further down the line.

With my MSc all but secured, Colin and I submitted another funding application – this time to do some modelling work aimed at assessing flood risks caused by elevated sediment yields from catchments that were severely disturbed during the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens. This project was deemed worthy of funding, and I consequently embarked on my PhD in the autumn of 2010. Looking back on my PhD now, it was an enjoyable and ultimately rewarding experience and I’ve come to realise just how much of a privilege it is to spend three years researching a topic that you have a genuine interest in. As a scientist, there’s really nothing better you could be doing. However, by the end of my time at Nottingham I had become fairly convinced that academia wasn’t for me. So keen was I to leave, in fact, that I took up a job with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Edinburgh long before I was ready to submit. In retrospect this was a bad idea and resulted in a fairly painful year of late nights and seven-day working weeks – not something I’d recommend.

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The North Fork Toutle River draining the north flank of Mount St Helens: my PhD study site.

Despite the poor timing of my move to Edinburgh, the two and a half years I spent at SEPA were great and I learnt a huge amount about rivers and practical river management. I worked as part of SEPA’s Hydromorphology Technical Group to provide advice regarding the potential impacts of proposed river engineering works on fluvial forms and processes. This advice was used to inform decisions regarding licence applications and, ultimately, to protect and improve Scotland’s rivers. It was really rewarding to be able to apply my knowledge of fluvial geomorphology to real-world problems and to contribute to environmental protection in this way. I covered the southern half of Scotland and another great part of the job was having the opportunity to go out and visit rivers in such a diverse and beautiful country.

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Bank erosion on the River Tweed at Drumelzier: my first case as a Senior Hydromorphologist at SEPA.

However, a little while after I finally submitted my PhD at the end of 2014 I began to realise that I was missing academia (this is what I mean by indecisive). In particular, I missed the relative freedom to define my day-to-day work and the ability to keep up with (and participate in) new and exciting research – I longed to go to a research seminar or to read a journal article! So I started looking for new jobs…

After a short while I came across a job posting for a Geomorphologist at the Environment Agency in Nottingham. Although this was a very similar job to the one I was already doing at SEPA and not the move back into academia that I’d hoped for, the opportunity to return to my University city was one that I couldn’t pass up. I was lucky enough to be offered the job and this prompted another rewriting of my career ‘plan’. It was another really interesting job but after only a few months my hankering to get back into academia returned. The rivers of the East Midlands are also somewhat less exciting geomorphologically than the Scottish ones I’d been dealing with for the past two years, so I was once again on the lookout for other opportunities.

A short job hunt later and I landed my current position at the University of Manchester where I’ve been working as a lecturer in Physical Geography since September 2016. Although this has probably been the busiest job I’ve had so far, it’s also been the one I’ve enjoyed the most. My main responsibility at Manchester has been to develop and deliver a first year course on river catchment science and management from scratch. Although this has taken a lot of work and has left me with little time to further my research agenda, it’s been a really rewarding experience that has enabled me to further hone my knowledge of rivers and to develop my lecturing skills – I have a newfound respect for all academics who make delivering a two-hour lecture look so easy! I’ve relied quite heavily on things I saw and learnt while working at SEPA and the EA to develop my course, so these experiences have been incredibly useful and have enabled me to promote the ‘employability’ side of geomorphology – something which I think can be lost on students sometimes.

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Second year UoM students having a think about a geothermal (and pretty degraded) river in Iceland: helping out on field trips is another great perk of the lecturing gig.

I guess that brings me to my future prospects and career plans. Unfortunately, I’m on a one-year fixed-term contract here at Manchester which means that I’ll soon be restarting my job hunt again. Although short-term contracts seem to be pretty common in academia these days, particularly for those of us at the start of our academic journeys, they are, of course, not unheard of in other sectors too – I was on fixed-term contracts at both SEPA and the EA. Whilst the lack of job security is not ideal, I try to think of the exciting opportunities that might present themselves during my job hunt that I would have otherwise been oblivious to. There’s always a silver lining… My experience is that something will tend to come up, provided you are flexible and keep an open mind – geomorphologists have a great skill set that is valued both within academia and beyond.

I think this is the final point that I would like to leave you with: geomorphologists are highly employable and there are many people out there in several different sectors looking for good geomorphologists. Like me, you may have to move around a little bit and take a few risks, but doing so is likely to yield some great rewards. I feel genuinely privileged to have been able to do the jobs that I’ve done so far, and I think the odd change in location is a small price to pay for that privilege. If my experiences can tell us anything, it’s that you don’t need to have everything figured out by the end of your PhD – embrace any opportunity that presents itself and see where it might take you, you can always change your mind later! Good luck!

A summer of boats, bears and bugs

Last year my summer was filled with adventures: June was occupied by a hiking expedition across a remote part of Swedish Lapland, whilst late July and most of August were filled with my first visit to new PhD field sites in South East Alaska. Although I had never visited the region before my supervisors had and there is a wealth of academic and lay literature about the region, its geomorphology and ecology. So before I had even boarded a plane, let alone the ferry or small landing craft to be used throughout the field season, I believed I knew what was to come.

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Figure 1. Three young brown bears fishing for pink salmon in a stream mouth. Bears posed a major logistical challenge as sites were often inaccessible as a result of their presence.

However, accessing sites through thick willow and alder scrub, where the only passable route is along the tracks forged by brown bears, is hard. Tracking the thalweg of a waist deep, boulder laden stream whilst recording on a cumbersome GPS unit… and watching for the aforementioned bears is harder. That’s before you mention the accidental dips into the freezing waters of the bay; the pieces of kit that are lost downstream after slipping on slimy boulders in the middle of a stream; failing to buy suitably water resistant electronic scales and dodging icebergs as we cruised up the bay towards its remaining glaciers. Nonetheless my first taste of the wilds of Alaska and of fieldwork in such a changeable environment were addictive.

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Figure 2. Field team disembarking the research vessel the Capelin. Credit Dr Lee Brown

My research catchments are located in Glacier Bay National Park, which was first established as a National Monument in 1925 under pressure from a number of eminent conservationist including John Muir and William Cooper. Now the national park is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and a United Nations biosphere reserve. The region has experienced rapid deglaciation since the 1700s, exposing a bay 150km long and 20km wide. Research here has focussed on glacial retreat, changing environmental conditions and the succession of ecosystems from bare ground through to coniferous forests. This succession of communities from bare ground to forests results in a diverse range of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the bay. As you move up the bay (and streams get younger) streams display a decrease in habitat complexity and a shift from slow flowing habitat types (such as pools and glide) to fast flowing habitat types (such as rapids and riffles).

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Figure 3. Map of Glacier Bay with principal research catchments marked in white. Age of streams in brackets.

The summer of 2014 saw atypical, persistent, heavy rainfall across much of South East Alaska, driving sustained and repeated flood events in Glacier Bay throughout June, July and August. These floods form the primary focus of my PhD, which is interested in how stream ecosystems respond to extreme flooding and the role habitat availability and complexity play in conferring resistance to, and resilience following floods.

To understand how an ecosystem responds to a disturbance event it is important to understand how habitat availability and complexity, before and after the event, may drive ecological processes and community change. As such my project has two main aims: to quantify habitat change and availability associated with the floods and to quantify how the ecosystem responds over a number of years.

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Figure 4. Waterfall and plunge pool holding over 1000 pink salmon at Wolf Point Creek.

There is a long history of stream research in Glacier Bay, focussed on ecological and geomorphological succession. As such I have access to a broad range of secondary datasets collected, in the main by my supervisors, over the last 40 years. My task was to identify the most relevant pieces in these datasets and then collect data to allow for comparisons of pre and post flood conditions. Understanding how habitat availability affects response in a diverse range of species with drastically different life history traits (think fast moving juvenile Coho salmon versus tiny midge larvae clinging to a rock) requires an equally diverse approach.

Consequently, my habitat mapping work has three main strands; mapping channel geomorphic units (CGUs) along 1km long reaches; repeating regularly collected cross sections at study sites and sampling sediments in an attempt to understand variation in microhabitat availability for aquatic invertebrates. These activities were pursued at all of my study sites in an attempt to elucidate the role of both meso and microhabitat in ecological response to disturbance.

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Figure 5. Dr Megan Klaar resurveying longstanding cross sections. Credit Dr Lee Brown

Mapping CGUs is a slow process which occupied the majority of time at each field site. The process requires an individual to identify CGUs based on a hierarchical system, combining visual and physical characteristics of the river channel and flow at any given point, and then to walk the thalweg of the CGU with a mapping grade GPS. The process is then repeated for all CGUs along the study stretch to produce a CGU map of the river. This presents a number of challenges. Walking the thalweg through deep pools is often dangerous, and at times impossible due to their depth, whilst the thalweg of rapids can have such a high flow rate it is almost impossible to walk with or against it the flow. Secondly, consistently allocating CGUs to the correct category across sites with numerous physical differences and ensuring this is repeatable from one year to the next was challenging. Reaches were mapped from the tidal extent of the stream in an upstream direction until at least 1km had been mapped or to any structures (high falls) impassable to salmonid fish (a group of particular interest to the study).

Due to the time consumed mapping CGU’s there was less time than anticipated to focus on other fieldwork goals. The field team successfully rerecorded cross sections which will add to long standing datasets. Additionally some microhabitat data collection was possible, however only a limited number of sediment measurements were taken at each site, instead of a comprehensive analysis originally proposed. This will now become a major focus of future field campaigns.

In addition to this habitat data, aquatic invertebrate larvae, fish and algal samples and data were collected to allow us to map how ecosystems and communities of these organisms respond to the floods through time. These samples represent another core topic of my PhD.

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Figure 6. Collecting aquatic invertebrate samples. Lawrence Eagle (Author, far right), Prof Sandy Milner (Centre) and Captain Todd Bruno (napping, far left, after safely guiding us up bay in his vessel the Capelin). Credit Dr Lee Brown

Now I am beginning the arduous task of processing geomorphological data and biotic samples (this requires me to identify thousands of individual bugs – before dissecting them and identifying their stomach contents!) in advance of a proposed second field season through the summer of 2017.

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Figure 7. Channel geomorphic unit map of Wolf Point Creek.

The field season was supported by the BSG, water@Leeds and the Staffordshire Educational Endowment fund and I offer my thanks to each of these organisations for their continued support.

By Lawrence Eagle, University of Leeds

Windsor Workshop 2016

Many months have passed since the Windsor Workshop at the beginning of December, so we thought it was about time we post a short blog on it to encourage PhD students who may have started in January to attend the workshop this year!

The annual British Society for Geomorphology Postgraduate Windsor Workshop was held once again for 2016 at the Cumberland Lodge in the Windsor Great Park. This year’s newest group of geomorphology PhD students met for 4 days of networking and preparation for the next 3 years of their PhDs.

The week started with an introduction and the nature of the PhD – letting us know what we had let ourselves in for during the next 3-4 years! Over the course of the workshop we covered a range of topics covering the variety of geomorphological PhDs we were researching between us; from programming code to using social media to gain exposure of our research projects – all useful techniques to carry into our PhDs. We also had the opportunity to present our research projects to small groups and receive useful feedback and questions from others with different backgrounds and perspectives.

The location was lovely – a picturesque and historic location with views towards Windsor Castle. A great way to relax was going for a walk in the grounds after the information packed sessions. The food was plentiful with three course meals for lunch and dinner and substantial breakfasts – no one was going hungry! Along with a plentiful supply of tea and coffee to keep us well fuelled!

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The week at Cumberland Lodge gave us the opportunity to meet with other new PhD students and experienced researchers. It enabled us to network with potential future collaborators and friends who I hope will be able to meet up at future events and conferences. It was a great week and I would recommend it to any new geomorphology PhD students!

By Anne Stefaniak, Windsor Workshop Deputy Chair.

Second year blues and how to beat them

The second year blues is often something that you hear about in the first year of your PhD, but is difficult to fully grasp until it creeps up on you. It may not happen in your second year, but this seems to be the most common time that PhD students experience a dip. There are many blogs that have described this period in the PhD process, and for me, the most useful one is from The Thesis Whisperer. If you are feeling like everything is getting on top of you, just take a few minutes to read about ‘The Valley of Shit’, it will help.  I’m not going to use this post to describe the second year blues using a clever analogy as it has been done many a time. For me, it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with my work and that caused me to lose motivation and confidence. Any work I did wasn’t good enough in my eyes, even if my supervisors said it was. I just didn’t believe them. But the important thing to remember is that you won’t feel like this forever. The PhD process is fraught with highs and lows, and there are plenty of things that you can do to help you through the bad times.

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Firstly, it is vital to look after your own health. Working long hours in the office takes its toll, and can often make you feel more stressed. This is because it takes longer for you to get work done because you are tired from working so many hours. It is counterproductive, and can be a vicious circle. Try not to work weekends unless it’s absolutely necessary. Eat healthily, have a good amount of sleep, and do some exercise. Exercise is a great distraction from work, and gives your brain a rest. Make sure you also have time off. Treat the PhD like a 9-5 job because this means that you are allowed to have multiple holidays during the year. N.B. Fieldwork does not count as a holiday! Finally, talk to other PhD students around you. They may be going through something similar, or will have done in the past. Just knowing that you are not on your own can feel like a weight off your mind.

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In terms of work, the way to get through is to keep ploughing on. It is common to feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall when you are doing a PhD, but something will change. You’ll find a paper you had missed that leads you onto a new line of research, or a landowner will finally get back to you with permission to access a vital field site. Don’t think about the project as a whole because this is overwhelming, focus on doing the little things. Lastly, remember that you are being paid to research a subject that you enjoy (unless you are self-funded, but that’s another story) and you are not working in a boring job that you hate where you have to be in work at specific hours.

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Fran Falcini

PhD student at the University of York

Beyond your PhD: Dr Daniel Schillereff, Teaching Fellow, Department of Geography, King’s College London

We asked Dr Daniel Schillereff, a former member of the BSG postgraduate forum to tell us about his academic journey leading up to and after his PhD. Thanks to Dan for sharing this!

Growing up in Newfoundland, where much of my childhood was spent on rocky coasts and in conifer forests, it was perhaps inevitable that exploring why the world looks and works as it does would appeal to me as a subject to study. Looking back, I have said ‘wow, that is fascinating’ about so many different themes that could be classified as geography since I first set out as an Undergraduate on a BSc Geography degree at the University of Liverpool. In my opinion, its comprehensiveness is one of the greatest strengths of the discipline, and there is unlimited scope to chop and change and merge your interests. If I was to describe my specific discipline, I suppose I am a palaeobiogeochemorpholimnologist. Or something like that. Similarly, it would be difficult to put a finger on a specific piece of advice I received or could offer about moving through a PhD and beyond, but there are some common strands: an open mind, a bit of luck and don’t restrict where your interests lie.

Choosing to do a Master’s degree was really a function of personal interest. I had become hooked on collecting sediment cores as an undergraduate and the MSc Environment and Climate Change at Liverpool offers many opportunities to collect cores! As I progressed through the programme, I really gained much more insight into the world of academia, which made me seriously consider a career as a researcher and I started looking for PhDs. It took many applications over the course of a year and a half to secure PhD funding, and the project ended up being back in Liverpool. My thesis explored whether palaeoflood laminations could be detected in sediment sequences from lakes across Britain, and was a great blend of geomorphology, hydrology, palaeo and contemporary limnology and integrated field, lab and computer-based work.

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Mist lies over Brotherswater (one of my PhD field sites) and the Patterdale Valley.

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The view looking south over the catchment of Brotherswater.

Since I submitted my PhD in September 2014, I’ve spent a year working as a PDRA on the NERC-funded ‘long-term, large-scale (LTLS) macronutrients’ project, split between the University of Liverpool and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Lancaster, and I’ve been employed as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Geography at King’s College London since the start of the 2015-16 academic year. These positions have been tremendous, not least because I have learned so much and done so many new things. That is something I will continue to strive towards.

As one example, part of my postdoc work involved exploring macronutrient cycling in peatlands. The visual appearance of minerogenic lake sediments has always absorbed me, whereas I was less keen on the homogeneous browns and blacks of peat, and I suppose I presumed they were less interesting… How wrong I was! Having been ‘forced’ to analyse peats, I quickly realised there are so many fascinating and important questions that remain unanswered; I am now hooked. More broadly, this idea of being open-minded definitely applies to identifying opportunities to branch out from your PhD research by securing funding. You can achieve a huge amount with a good idea and a modest amount of money, and that money is out there! Most societies have Postgraduate or Early Career funding schemes – the BSG, for example! There may also be competitive institutional or faculty pump-priming pots. You probably will not be eligible to apply directly as a PhD student but approach your supervisor, and take the lead on writing the application. There is also growing impetus among institutions and external bodies alike to fund innovative teaching activities; these can lead to productive research outputs too! King’s colleagues and I secured money from our Faculty for the coming academic year to enable a student team to design and building Arduino-powered sequencing sediment traps. These will be tremendous upgrades to the hand-made traps we have installed in several Cumbrian lakes! There are also lots of opportunities and funding for outreach initiatives; BSG colleagues and I convene the Communicating Geomorphology Fixed-term Working Group, for example.

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Another nice core sequence successfully recovered

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Must maintain our energy levels…

I also mentioned luck. Finding that balance between PhD writing, job hunting and putting together the strongest applications you can is tough. I admire (but also do not envy!) friends and colleagues who took up a position before submitting their PhD. As my PhD submission deadline approached, I had had had several failed applications before the luck came through, in terms of timing. A colleague at Liverpool was co-I on the LTLS project and his Post-doc went off on maternity leave two years into a three-year position. That suddenly opened up a one-year post, that conveniently began one month after my submission date. So, I learned that positions crop up at the most unexpected times through a lucky set of circumstances.

Fixed-term teaching contracts are becoming more and more common. Having completed a full academic year at King’s, I believe that Teaching Fellowships are great, although that endorsement comes with three major caveats:

i) Friends’ and colleagues’ experience of such positions varies enormously from institution to institution, not least the number of hours you’ll be expected to teach (and thus not do research). Make sure all parties are clear on this front and don’t be scared to say no!

ii) Obviously this is easier said than done, but my advice would be to complete a Postdoc before applying for a teaching position. My one year as a researcher has led to papers and new research ideas that I am taking forward.

iii) Aim to undertake new teaching duties each year. This was sage advice from a senior colleague some time ago, and makes a lot of practical sense. If you enjoy the teaching, that’s great, and you can take a lot of pride and job satisfaction from the role. Ultimately, though, you are looking to bolster your CV and duplicating teaching responsibilities year after year will not do that.

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The team extracting sediments from a forest hollow in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia.

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The heather in full bloom and excellent peat recovery makes for a happy team.

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An innovative field sampling technique in Brunei Darussalam.

In summary, my experience of academia thus far has been wholly fulfilling. I’ve strived to remain open-minded, in terms of identifying interesting opportunities but also the realistic fact that forging a career in academia is highly competitive and my long-term success is uncertain. There have been tough and stressful times along the way, but they are vastly outweighed by the remarkable experiences, many of which are unique to academia: fieldwork in exciting locations, working with like-minded and enthusiastic colleagues, teaching and engaging with students and ultimately discovering new things.

 

 

A summer expedition – Indian Himalayas

I recently returned from a 3-week expedition to the Indian Himalayas with the British Exploring Society. Having previously lead on expeditions with BES as a science leader to Arctic Norway and Svalbard, I decided it was time to venture further afield – to the Himalayas.

British Exploring expeditions aim to develop Young Explorers through challenging situations with a good dose of science thrown in! While in the Himalayas we discussed and looked at a whole range of scientific disciplines including botany, lake sediments, geology, meteorology, geomorphology and by no means least, glaciology! Each science leader had their own area of expertise and designed suitable projects for the explorers to contribute to including identifying various plants and soils and looking at pollination methods. One project incorporated glacial geomorphology and glaciology, looking at the way glaciers had shaped the landscape we were camping in. This involved mapping large moraines systems using Google Earth imagery prior to the expedition which was then ground truthed with data collected in the field during the expedition.

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Geomorphological mapping of the expedition region in Ladakh using Google Earth imagery (completed by expedition participants prior to the expedition).

Of course when on expedition, or fieldwork for that matter, nothing ever goes exactly to plan; especially when dealing with altitude and young people. It took us 4 days to slowly make our way to basecamp at Pensi La due to the steady acclimatisation period. We travelled from Leh located at 3505 m up to 4400 m. Even arriving in Leh, the effects of altitude could be felt but with some rest and taking it easy for a day or so we were able to head towards our basecamp. Once at basecamp we spent a few days training and gaining skills such as ice axe arrests and walking on difficult terrain. After the training phase we managed to get onto the Drang Drung glacier and camped in the valley. The Drang Drung glacier is heavily debris-covered on the right hand side and enabled us to have a look at some of the impacts of debris on a glacier system. For many it was their first experience of being on a glacier and proved to be the highlight of the trip. In addition to exploring the glacier, we explored the ridge behind basecamp and managed to exceed 5000 m of altitude.

Ice skills training including ice axe arrests and students taking a break viewing the Drang Drung glacier.

It was a great expedition with the YE’s being able to get involved in all sorts of science projects, camp life and even our own expedition Olympics! We left the 5 week expeditioners at basecamp in Pensi La and made our journey back to Leh via Kargil.

Walking back to basecamp after a long day hiking. View of the Leh monastery which overlooks Leh.

To find out more about the expedition see the BES Science Journal detailing the science projects which will be available online later this year.

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Anne Stefaniak is a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University and the BSG Postgraduate Deputy Chair. The expedition was undertaken with the British Exploring Society.

How we spent our summer…

It has been a busy summer for all members of the postgraduate forum whether that be on fieldwork, completing laboratory work or writing papers. The focus of this blog is to find out what each member of the forum has got up to this summer so we can demonstrate the diversity of a geomorphological PhD!

Scott Watson, University of Leeds

‘One of my main activities this summer was a five week field trip to the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal. This was the second of three trips to gather field data for my PhD and I also used the opportunity to climb a 6000 m peak on a day off. Aside from that, I’ve been writing the second paper towards my PhD, which is investigating ice cliff dynamics in the Everest region using fine-resolution satellite imagery. I’ve also been easing my way back into trail running following a lengthy injury (acquired during the first field trip), and preparing for my final field trip in September.’

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Francesca Falcini, University of York

‘It’s been a relatively quiet summer for me in terms of fieldwork, but I did attend the QRA field meeting to Skye in May. Lots of glacial landforms and rock slope failures to see, which make for an amazing landscape that lives up to the hype. Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip was being in the presence of not just one but both Benn and Evans, who arguably wrote the glaciology bible.  I also enjoyed a week in Ireland helping fellow BSG postgrad forum rep Lauren with her fieldwork. In between those trips I’ve been in the office working on my upgrade documents, method development and planning papers.’

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Rachel Hurley, University of Manchester

‘It has been a relatively uneventful summer for me with a solid block of labs, barring one week in the Cretan mountains. I’m working to finish off all of my analytical work before the new term so that I can get my head down in my writing up year. I have also been putting together the first publication from my PhD  – it will be exciting to see my work out in print!’

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Danielle Alderson, University of Manchester

‘After the wonderful summer that I had last year visiting Florida followed by an undergraduate field trip to India, I have unfortunately been experiencing solely the climes of Manchester this year! As I approach my submission pending year I have largely been glued to my chair in front of my desk analysing data for my third and fourth papers as part of my PhD. I generally seem to have two computers open at all times in addition to something on Netflix to keep me sane! It finally feels like everything may begin to come together at some point soon which is certainly a very exciting feeling and one that every PhD student seeks. I have had a busy September, firstly attending the Plymouth AGM (particularly the conference dinner in the National Marine Aquarium!) followed by an undergraduate field trip to Keswick and finally a week away in Turkey!’

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Lauren Knight, University of Portsmouth
‘It’s been a very busy and exciting summer, full of fieldwork. In May I was back in the Wicklow Mountains, Ireland, for a second (very sunny) field season. I also attended the QRA Skye Field Meeting, where the geomorphology was amazing. In July I helped a colleague with fieldwork atHardangerjøkulen in Norway. We camped on the southern side of the ice cap and collected a lot of useful data in some challenging conditions. Finally, in August I returned to Wicklow for my third and final field season. Despite horrendous weather I managed to finish all the required geomorphological mapping and sedimentology. I even managed to continue triathlon training with several local runs and evening swims in a nearby lough. Now I’m back in the office, starting on analysis, which feels very strange after busy and active summer!’

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Anne Stefaniak, Nottingham Trent University

‘This summer I spent 3 weeks in the Indian Himalayas in Ladakh with a group of young explorers on expedition with the British exploring society. The aim of the expedition was to take the young explorers to a new environment and look at a range or scientific and adventure projects. As well as going on the Drang Drung glacier and climbing our way up to over 5000 m of altitude, we also had a go at learning a variety of scientific techniques. The projects ranged from geology, meteorology, lake studies, geomorphology and not least glaciology! The work from the expedition will be presented on a few different posters at the BSG conference this September.’

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Daniel Sperl, University of Cologne

‘When Danielle asked me about my PhD life summer activities, I first thought: “Daniel, what did you do during summer and what should I write about?” My summer was very diverse: (1) I stayed away from Cologne for one month at the catholic university at Louvain-la-Neuve to prepare samples and discuss my work with my co-supervisor. (2) After I returned, I helped pack our “collection of stones” (more than 3 t of rocks), due to the reason that our department is moving into a new building. (3) I attended a summer school in Germany on “Dates and Rates of Change in Quaternary”. It was a great week, meeting friends that I made during the Windsor Workshop last year. We had a great time together and are planning a future trip to the Highlands of Scotland. (4) Finally most of my time was spent writing papers during a rainy summer here in Cologne, as is displayed in the picture!’

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Owen King, University of Leeds

‘Like Scott, the biggest focus of my summer so far has been preparing for and carrying out a second field season in Nepal. We were back in the Khumbu valley this May to repeat surveys we carried out last October/November, and I’m currently working through the processing of this second huge batch of data. Some preliminary results look really exciting though, and the rate at which the Khumbu glacier is changing and losing ice is really alarming. Sadly that’s my fieldwork completed now, but the next couple of months should be really interesting writing the fruits of my labour up into a second paper towards my PhD.’

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We hope fellow postgraduate members of the society also had wonderful summers! Please get in contact if you would like to tell us about them, or if you have anything you would like to raise with the postgraduate section of the society!

Danielle Alderson (danielle.alderson@manchester.ac.uk)

Twitter- @BSG_Postgrads

Facebook- BSG Postgraduates