Our research focuses on the UK, dryland regions, and developing areas of the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean. The department maintains close links with colleagues in a number of overseas institutions (particularly in Spain, the Caribbean, Egypt and Vietnam). Research facilities include a postgraduate office and new soils and geomatics laboratories with a range of analytical equipment and high level GIS and Image Processing systems.

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  • Teaching geography for social transformation

    Wellens, Jane; Berardi, Andrea; Chalkley, Brian; Chambers, Bill; Healey, Ruth; Monk, Janice; Vender, Jodi; University of Leicester; Open University; University of Plymouth; University of Sheffield; University of Arizona; Pennsylvania State University
    This paper considers how higher education geography is a discipline that can make a significant contribution to addressing inequality and engaging with the agenda for social change. It adopts the view that the teaching of geography can promote social transformation through the development of knowledge, skills and values in students that encourage social justice and equity. The paper explores how teaching about social transformation is closely interlinked with teaching for social transformation and considers some of the pedagogical approaches that might be used to achieve these. It considers how the lack of diversity of higher education geography teachers impacts on these issues before moving on to consider how the nature of different higher education systems supports or constrains geographers’ abilities to teach for social transformation. Finally, the paper ends by asking individuals and geography departments to consider their commitment to teaching for social transformation.
  • Nature, Nurture, (Neo-)Nostalgia? Back-casting for a more socially and environmentally sustainable post-COVID future

    Collins, Rebecca; Welsh, Katharine; Rushton, Megan; Cliffe, Anthony; Bull, Eloise; University of Chester; Newcastle University (Taylor and Francis, 2022-07-27)
    Commentaries on lived experiences of COVID-19-induced ‘lockdown’ have simultaneously directed public imaginations backwards to draw inspiration and fortitude from historical periods of national and global challenge, and forwards into futures characterised by greater environmental sensitivity and community resilience. In this article we argue that individuals’ and households’ practical coping strategies from different phases of lockdown within the UK offer clues as to how adaptive embodiments of close connection – to nature and community – both inform contemporary practices of everyday resilience and signpost towards enablers of a more socially compassionate and environmentally sustainable future. Our novel approach to conceptualising post-COVID recovery draws on ‘back-casting’ – an approach which envisages pathways towards alternative, ‘better’ futures – to work back from the notion of sustainable lifestyles, through participants’ narratives of coping in/with lockdown, to the forms of adaptation that provided solace and encouragement. We highlight how these embodied and emotional adaptations constitute a form of nascent ‘neo-nostalgia’ capable of reaching beyond the enabling of coping mechanisms in the present to inform long-lasting capacity for individual and community resilience in the face of future socio-environmental crises.
  • Editorial: Geoscience communication - Planning to make it publishable

    Hillier, John; Welsh, Katharine; Stiller-Reever, Mathew; Priestley, Rebecca; Roop, Heidi; Lanza, Tiziana; Illingworth, Sam; Loughborough University; University of Chester; Konsulent Stiller-Reeve & University of Bergen; Victoria University of Wellington; University of Minnesota; Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia; Edinburgh Napier University (Copernicus Publications, 2021-10-27)
    If you are a geoscientist doing work to achieve impact outside academia or engaging different audiences with the geosciences, are you planning to make this publishable? If so, then plan. Such investigations into how people (academics, practitioners, other publics) respond to geoscience can use pragmatic, simple research methodologies accessible to the non-specialist or be more complex. To employ a medical analogy, first aid is useful and the best option in some scenarios, but calling a medic (i.e. a collaborator with experience of geoscience communication or relevant research methods) provides the contextual knowledge to identify a condition and opens up a diverse, more powerful range of treatment options. Here, we expand upon the brief advice in the first editorial of Geoscience Communication (Illingworth et al., 2018), illustrating what constitutes robust and publishable work in this context, elucidating its key elements. Our aim is to help geoscience communicators plan a route to publication and to illustrate how good engagement work that is already being done might be developed into publishable research.
  • The road to ‘local green recovery’: signposts from COVID-19 lockdown life in the UK

    Collins, Rebecca; Welsh, Katharine; University of Chester (Wiley, 2022-01-19)
    Responding to the conspicuous absence of reference to the local scale in national and global discourses of ‘green recovery’ from COVID-19, this paper articulates a series of interlinked research agendas united by a focus on what a ‘green recovery’ might involve at a local scale within the context of the United Kingdom. We argue that geography as a discipline is particularly well placed to contribute to theoretical and practical framings of ‘green recovery’ as manifested at and through a range of scales, including the micro (individual), meso (household) and what we term ‘meso+’ (neighbourhood). Specifically, we signpost what might be considered ‘green shoots’ worthy of urgent empirical investigation – shifts in everyday life and practice catalysed by COVID-19 and with the potential to underpin longer-lasting transformations towards socially, economically and environmentally sustainable localities.
  • Geography and Virtual Reality

    Bos, Daniel; University of Chester (Wiley, 2021-08-16)
    Whilst virtual reality (VR) has a long history, recent technological advancements, increased accessibility and affordability have seen its usage become widespread within western consumer society. Despite the relevance of VR to Geography, these more recent developments have escaped scholarly attention. This paper takes a critical perspective on the development of VR and its varied applications, and how emerging theoretical debates within cultural and digital geography can critically attend to the social and cultural implications of VR technologies. The paper begins by considering how VR spaces are imagined and communicated to publics in ways that promote popular understandings of, and desires for, virtual spaces. Next, the paper critically addresses the cultural politics of VR content, particularly drawing attention to the socio-spatial differences evoked through VR. The paper goes on to argue for the need to consider VR through the concept of interface as a way of critically attending to the broader techno-socio relations and the embodied spatial encounters they produce. Finally, some methodological implications for thinking with and through VR are outlined.
  • Playful Encounters: Games for Geopolitical Change

    Bos, Daniel; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-12-07)
    Bringing together literatures on play, (video) games, and alter- (native) geopolitics this paper explores how digital games offer playful encounters that challenge popular understandings of geopolitics. While geographical scholarship has exposed the ways video games promote geopolitical and militaristic cultures, this paper concentrates on the disruptive qualities of play. More specifically, the paper focuses on This War of Mine (2014), a game which fosters playful encounters that encourage the player to reflect on the everyday consequences of conflict in urban spaces and their civilian populations. Drawing on an analysis of player reviews of the game, this paper demonstrates how play shapes imaginaries of the geopolitical context(s) of urban conflict and stimulates players to reflect on their attitudes towards violence. In doing so, the paper critically demonstrates how digital games offer important cultural outlets in encountering alternative understandings of geopolitics.
  • Nationalism, popular culture, and the media

    Bos, Daniel; University of Chester (Routledge, 2021-11-16)
    The media and popular culture play an integral role in how the idea of the nation has been developed, contested and contextualized over space and time. After acknowledging the media’s part in creating a sense of national community, this chapter reflects on the everyday geographies in which the nation is (re)produced via a range of media. While geographers have focused on the discursive construction of the nation in popular culture and the media, here I explore how nationalism is experienced, embodied and performed through everyday mediated encounters. I then consider the paradoxical relationship between globalization and nationalism and the impact of a society that is more and more digital. More specifically, I explore how the internet is increasingly involved in the everyday reproduction of nations at a range of scales. By drawing attention to the role of social media, I highlight the mobility of the “national image,” the weaponization of affect, and the transnational ties that have been forged and are reworking understandings of national identity and nationalism in the 21st century. To conclude, I offer future theoretical and methodological approaches in which geographers can contribute to understanding the mediated encounters of the nation and nationalism.
  • ‘Every partnership [… is] an emotional experience’: Towards a model of partnership support for addressing the emotional challenges of student-staff partnerships

    Healey, Ruth L; France, Derek; University of Chester
    The practice of student-staff partnerships is fundamentally about relationships. As new partnerships are formed, and existing power relations challenged, people experience a range of emotions. Despite their importance, there are few studies that have systematically researched the emotional challenges of student-staff partnership. Through a humanistic approach focused on analysing participants experiences of partnership we found that varying degrees of hope, pride, anxiety, and frustration, were experienced by both students and staff in a curriculum development partnership project. We argue that effective partnership practices should recognise and support the emotional wellbeing of student and staff partners. Drawing upon the effective characteristics of partnership support found in this research and the broader literature, we propose a flexible support model drawing on: 1) peer support, 2) mentoring, and 3) independent reflective writing. Partnership practice that actively supports the emotions involved in working in partnership may encourage more partnerships in the future.
  • Biocrusts and catchment asymmetry in Tabernas Desert (Almeria, Spain)

    Lázaro, Roberto; Calvo-Cases, Adolfo; Rodriguez-Caballero, Emilio; Arnau-Rosalén, Eva; Alexander, Roy; Rubio, Consuelo; Cantón, Yolanda; Solé-Benet, Albert; Puigdefábregas, Juan; Estacion Experimental de Zonas Aridas (CSIC); Universitat de Valencia; Universidad de Almeria; Manchester Metropolitan University; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2021-10-15)
    Catchment asymmetry is a fairly frequent phenomenon on a global scale but the main causes leading to its formation are still not well understood. Where the intervention of structural or tectonic causes is not relevant, asymmetry seems to result from differential erosion between opposite slopes that flow into the same channel, which is frequently associated with contrasted biocrust and/or vegetation covers. Biocrusts are known to be important surface stabilizing agents. However, their geomorphological consequences at the landscape scale are little known. In this study we combined field measurements with digital elevation models and image analysis to determine whether catchment asymmetry in the Tabernas Desert (semi-arid SE of Spain) is a local or general phenomenon, and to explore the main factors determining asymmetry occurrence, magnitude and direction. We pay special attention to the role of biocrusts. We found that catchment asymmetry is a very common phenomenon in the area; only 25% of the catchments are symmetrical, while approximately 40% present asymmetry with the relatively shady hillslope having a lower gradient, and 35% with that hillslope being the steeper. Solar radiation reaching the soil, surface area and channel gradient in the considered catchment stretch, as well as the total catchment area upstream from the lower point of the considered stretch were the main abiotic factors controlling the formation of the asymmetry. Microclimatic differentiation due to differences in radiation input caused by the uneven topography favoured the relative stabilization of the shadier hillslope and its colonization by biocrusts and later by plants. The effect of the biocrusts and vegetation protection against water erosion on shadier hillslopes is often stronger than that of the set of abiotic factors and gives rise to asymmetries with lower gradients in the shady hillslope by promoting lateral displacement of the channel. We hypothesised that the opposite pattern, with the sunnier hillslope having a lower gradient, occurs when abiotic factors control the development of asymmetry formation. In these conditions, the effect of biocrusts and plants would act in the opposite direction. We propose a conceptual model of feedbacks generating catchment asymmetry, with biocrust playing a crucial role.
  • Using virtual reality (VR) for teaching and learning in geography: fieldwork, analytical skills, and employability

    Bos, Daniel; Servel, Miller; Eloise, Bull; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-03-22)
    This article outlines how Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, software and content can be used as a resource for teaching and learning in Geography. Drawing on the authors’ first-hand experiences of using VR for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, we explore firstly how VR can enhance the development of fieldwork observational techniques, knowledge and understanding of place, prior to entering the field. Secondly, we show how VR can be used to enable students to develop critical analytical skills in relation to emergent visual technologies and the wider implications VR has for the representation of people, places and landscapes. Finally, the article will attend to the ways VR and Augmented Reality (AR) – due to its growing industrial application – can offer important opportunities for the development of unique practical employability skills which can be applied to the geovisualization of data and environments enhancing graduate career prospects.
  • Advancing rural as ‘something more than a human estate’: Exploring UK sheep-shaping

    Williams, Fiona; Halfacree, Keith; Swansea University; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2021-10-01)
    Periodically, the topic of defining rural is addressed within rural social science scholarship but done so in overwhelmingly human terms. This paper engages with this observation, arguing the simple but axiomatic point that the rural is not solely a human taxonomic creation but expresses a space that integrally and intimately involves the more-than-human. Consequently, the latter should be strongly, firmly and richly represented up-front within the defining rural debate. Adopting an established if, to date, still anthropocentricised three-fold model of rural space, the paper argues that each dimension – localities, representations, lives – feature the more-than-human in both passive and active ways. Overall, bringing more-than-human perspectives much further to the fore consolidates the idea of rural as inherently co-produced, a ‘baroque assemblage’ containing many more-than-human living things. Accounts of animals within such a rural must recognise their emplacing from a diversity of foci, interests and consequences. The paper begins to introduce details of this diverse co-production with respect to one ubiquitous rural animal, the sheep. It illustrates the ‘ensheeping’ of rural localities, representations and lives, with the practical significance of this brought together and drawn out through two rival accounts of sheep within the Lake District National Park. Finally, the seemingly modest call for rural studies to embrace animals more fully is argued to be enhanced today by ongoing and potentially imminent experiences impacting strongly on rural places.
  • Ambivalent storage, multi-scalar generosity, and challenges of/for everyday consumption

    Collins, Rebecca; Stanes, Elyse; University of Chester; University of Wollongong (Taylor and Francis, 2021-09-05)
    Storage plays an important role in domestic practices as a banal yet essential means of practically accomplishing ‘living together’ and caring for people and material ‘stuff’. However, storage and stored things also occupy a provocative and paradoxical place in debates around the sustainability of household consumption. Driven by renewed popular and scholarly attention to ‘decluttering’ and eschewing anything that does not ‘spark joy’, this paper considers the emotional and practical implications of generosity – as both concept and practice – in articulating the sustainability potential in storage and stored things. In so doing we problematise assumptions about ‘clutter’ as unsustainable. Drawing on vignettes from two projects concerned with material consumption in young adulthood, and drawing on – but going beyond – extant framings of geographies of care, we illustrate how shifting spatial and temporal liminalities of storage mediate opportunities to engage in and with different scales of generosity. We argue that spatialities of storage are often less about deferring acts of divestment than they are a space in which to situate materialisations of significant emotional, care-ful(l) connections. We reflect on the implications of storage for sustainable consumption in the home and suggest how future work drawing on geographies of generosity might usefully enrich our understanding.
  • The city‐island‐state, wounding cascade, and multi‐level vulnerability explored through the lens of Malta

    Main, Geoff; orcid: 0000-0001-8453-1527; email: g.main@exeter.ac.uk; Schembri, John; Speake, Janet; Gauci, Ritienne; Chester, David (2021-05-06)
    In this paper, we introduce the concept of “city‐island‐state” into a discussion of small highly urbanised islands. We place the “city” at the forefront of our analysis by bringing together the geographies of the “city” and “state,” together with a wider discussion of factors that may cause both the wounding of the city and an increase in the precariousness of the “island.” We apply this concept to the advanced city‐island‐state of Malta (Central Mediterranean), which is a densely populated, urbanised small island archipelago with about 500,000 inhabitants and operates as a single city with an urban core, suburbs, and a rural hinterland that is rapidly decreasing in size. This city‐island‐state is frequently considered as being “safe” from external geophysical, climatic, and anthropogenic wounding, but, in reality, Malta, as a city, an island, and an independent nation‐state, is faced with multiple internal and external pressures that increase its precariousness and vulnerability to such externalities. Some of these are socio‐economic, but others are environmental. We argue that the potential for wounding is particularly marked in Malta, that it is exacerbated by the contemporary globalised neoliberal world of flows and interconnectivities, and that this represents a multi‐level wounding cascade: wounding the city wounds the island and, by extension, the state.
  • How to persuade and influence people: The art of effective geographical debate

    Healey, Ruth; Leatham, Chloe; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2021-05-27)
    This article supports students to prepare to participate in a debate. We consider thorough preparation as the foundation for effective debate. Here we provide guidance on one approach to preparing as effectively as possible. We outline this before considering three key elements to this method of preparation: 1) substance: your knowledge and understanding of the debate topic; 2) style: how to present your points clearly and succinctly; and 3) persuasion: how through both substance and style you effectively persuade people of your argument. We conclude by summarising the key points raised in this guide and identifying how they apply to other assignment contexts. The discussion that follows uses the debate topic ‘Should an additional charge be applied to all single-use plastics?’ to demonstrate the approaches we suggest.
  • A Developmental Framework for Mentorship in SoTL Illustrated by Three Examples of Unseen Opportunities for Mentoring

    Friberg, Jennifer C; Frake-Mistak, Mandy; Healey, Ruth L.; Sipes, Shannon; Mooney, Julie; Sanchez, Stephanie; Waller, Karena
    Mentoring relationships that form between scholars of teaching and learning occur formally and informally, across varied pathways and programs. In order to better understand such relationships, this paper proposes an adapted version of a three-stage model of mentoring (McKinsey 2016), using three examples of unseen opportunities for mentoring in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to illustrate how this framework might be operationalized. We discuss how the adapted framework might be useful to SoTL scholars in the future to examine mentorship and how unseen opportunities for mentoring might shape how we consider this subset of mentorship going forward.
  • Resilience through flood memory– a comparison of the role of insurance and experience in flood resilience for households and businesses in England.

    Bhattacharya Mis, Namrata; Lamond, Jessica; University of Chester; University of West of England
    Resilience to flooding is influenced by adaptations or behavior that address risk reduction at all stages of the disaster cycle. This includes: physical adaptation of buildings to limit damage; individual preparedness and business continuity planning; and provision of resources for reinstatement through insurance or recovery grants. In the UK implementation of such strategies lie mainly with private property owner and their private insurer while government policy promotes greater uptake by these actors as part of an integrated strategy. In the context of increased flood events the provision of affordable insurance has been increasingly challenging and in 2016 a new insurance arrangement (Flood Re) was put in place to support transition to affordable market based insurance. However, Flood Re is specific to residential property and excludes many categories of property previously guaranteed coverage including small businesses. The research used a survey of frequently flooded locations in England to explore the different experiences and behaviors of households and businesses at risk from flooding with respect to insurance and recovery in this evolving scenario. The results show distinct differences between households and businesses that could point to greater opportunities for enhancing resilience if policy and practice recognized those differences.
  • Transitioning to Organic Rice Farming in Thailand: Drivers and Factors

    Miller, Servel; Seerasarn, Nareerut; Wanaset, Apinya; University of Chester; Sukhothai Thammathirat; Open University
    The Thai government has made it part of the long-term strategy to produce more organic rice, particularly for the Chinese market, to sustain Thai economic growth. However, whilst there has been an increase in organic rice farming, the rate has been relatively slow compared to conventional methods. This research focuses on determining the drivers and factors that influences conversion to organic rice farming in order to better inform local and national policies. It provides an insight into the processes in the decision-making process of famers and the practices they use. Questionnaire and interview data from farmers from the leading rice production region, Surin was analyzed using logistic regression to understand the driver for of organic rice farming and well as the barrier and challenges of adopting to this practice. The findings highlight the critical role of extension farm officers in promoting, educating and motivating farmers to take on organic farming. The ability to access (affordable) loans through local cooperative and land-ownership were also key motivational factors. Young people (under 25) are not engaging with farming generally and this is a major barrier to long-term growth in the organic rice industry in Thailand.
  • Student authored atlas tours (story maps) as geography assignments

    Treves, Richard; Mansell, Damien; France, Derek; Queen Mary University London; University of Exeter; University of Chester
    Atlas Tours consist of collections of animated maps and other elements woven together to make a narrative, they are a commonly used format on the web. Recent developments in software platforms such as Esri Story Maps have made producing them possible by Geography students. The study uses student written feedback and focuses groups about a module where stu- dents produce an Atlas Tour as an assignment. This is used to advocate the use of student-produced Atlas Tours in Geography teaching, the main argument proposed is that Atlas Tours are an excellent format to enable students to learn and practise graphical literacy (graphicacy). Despite this educational opportunity, Atlas Tours can cause practical problems for students and suggestions are made to mitigate this issue. Two other pedagogical strands are also advocated: Students being empowered to exercise creativity in creating Atlas Tours and how Atlas Tours are particularly well suited to fieldwork assignments.
  • Displacement in Casamance, Senegal: Lessons (Hopefully) Learned, 2000–2019

    Evans, Martin; Coventry University (Taylor & Francis, 2021-09-05)
    The paper reflects on fieldwork conducted since 2000 with displaced communities in Lower and Middle Casamance, Senegal, amid arguably West Africa’s longest-running civil conflict. While this is a small conflict in a geographically confined space, Casamance presents a microcosm of dynamics common to other displacement situations in Africa. In this context the paper explores how the understandings, lived experiences and practices of the displaced transcend normative categories used by aid actors to define and manage such situations. Five thematic areas are examined: enumeration of the displaced; complex mobilities, both rural-urban and transnational; historiographic understandings of displacement; political manipulation of displacement situations; and the dynamics of return and reconstruction. The paper concludes by summarising failures of understanding in these areas among much of the aid community, and their consequences. It argues that well-grounded and socially nuanced understandings of displacement may inform more effective aid interventions and enhance the peace process.

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