Inbetween Freyja finishing and Amy starting blogging, I thought I’d include a photo of scientists and a farmer (and his dog).
Best wishes, Beth
Stories, hints and tips from young environmental scientists
Hello fellow environmental scientists,
Sadly, this is my final blog post but fear not Amy will be taking over my role in the coming weeks so keep watching this space! Getting some experience is really important and the reason for me taking on this job. I’ve found it an extremely interesting and valuable experience which has given me a load of new knowledge and skills which I would struggle to achieve elsewhere and may even have swayed me into doing a PhD in the future, who knows!
Personally, I feel experience in the field and lab work is really important for environmental scientists. The thing I love most about working in the field is it isn’t like a school or A level field trip. There is generally much more thinking involved. You’re taken to a place and asked to apply knowledge you’ve gained and have to wrap your brain around the process in 3D. So it’s no longer just an image of a glacier or a river but instead you’re walking on the glacier, looking into the crevasses and the river is in your shoes and halfway up your leg. The world is often much more complicated than text books make out, with processes happening on top of each other, human interference and it is all the more fascinating because of it. Personally, being able to see things for myself makes understanding how the world works so much easier.
Secondly, this sort of thing is not for everyone! My flat mate, another BSC Physically Geography graduate who has done exactly the same modules as I for the last 3 years thinks I am crazy. She was first put off by the topic soil and then after explaining that I spent several hours a day sieving soil, cleaning and writing notes in my lab book and will do the same again tomorrow and the next day and the next … was more than enough to put her off for life. Taking time out to see if this is something you are cut out for is always a good idea. I have found that the series of repetitive tasks which makes up lots of lab, a set of mini goals which I get a little satisfactory feeling by finishing one task and starting another. Sad but true. Having this mind set has meant I have really enjoyed my time in the lab and I thoroughly look forward to reading Beth’s paper to see what she does with the results I’ve collected!
So thank you for reading, I hope you’ve found it useful. Keep watching this space as Amy will be starting her leg of the blogging journey soon. If you’ve found this useful and are looking for a few more blogs like this I find both http://thesiswhisperer.com/ and http://mikewhitfield.wordpress.com/ both really interesting blogs on field work and academia. They focus mostly on writing PhD; however, I think the advice works just as well for undergraduates. Once again I hope you’ve found this interesting and maybe even useful!
I leave you with my favorite photo from my trip of Beth being followed or chased by a small flock of sheet!
First things first, you are now being communicated to by a full-fledged Physical Geography Graduate. Woo hoo! Graduating from Lancaster was an amazing experience, the sun was shining, I cried during my ceremonies and didn’t fall when shaking the chancellors hand, so all in all a great day. One piece of advice I cannot stress enough, is it to take time out to plan for the future. I myself intend to stay on at Lancaster and complete a Masters in Sustainable Water Management insert a link?. Others that I know graduated with no plan at all! And I know that a few of them are seriously regretting not doing just a little planning ahead. If you find university one great big stress or one great big party or maybe a mixture of both getting a job after you graduate seems like something very far away. But time flies and sneaks up on you, so plan ahead people!! Go see your careers office or send a friendly email to a lecturer, job hunting can be a daunting experience so getting some help along the way can be a big help! A career right now is not for everyone, doing a bit of travelling or like me staying in academia is just as good as getting on the job market. I chose to do masters because I decided that something hydrologically-based was what I wanted to do. It was the expert advice from three main places that made up my mind in favour of a Masters: First, an internship with the lovely people in LEC’s Enterprise and Business Partnerships department made me realise that a Masters could be the thing to make you stand out from the crowd! Another realisation occurred after an interesting conversation with a recruitment officer at an annual job fair. I was also blessed by a stroke of luck and ended up on a long train journey sat next to a gentleman who worked in the Environment Agencies Flood Management Department. Advice is out here, you just need to talk to people, ask questions and do some thinking about what you enjoy and what you find interesting!
Soil, soil, soil and even more soil! I admit during my time in the field I realised what Beth and I mostly did was collect soil samples. In fact a whole fridge full of soil! However, it has only recently dawned on me that each individual sample needs to be prepared and then analysed using several different methods to achieve Beth’s goals! For me this mountainous task consists of lots and lots of sieving. A repetitive and yet somehow soothing methodical task. This week has been a short week after graduating and our long stint in the field so can’t stay long as I’ve got soil to sieve! Next week I’ll go into more detail on the different analysis I’m doing and what they’re going to be used for and all the interesting things I have learnt !
See you next week!
After two weeks in the field, I am happy to say I survived. Through heat wave and rain clouds, soil pits and vegetation harvesting (which contained an awful lot more fence post removing than harvesting!). I have loved my time in the field and have collected a plethora of new memories, experiences, bug bites, bruises and more importantly skills. I am happy to report that I am pleasantly surprised at how tough I am. I have found that field work is a series of challenges set apart from the everyday. In my experience, field work is about pushing yourself, testing your boundaries and finding out what you can and can’t do. Hopefully, as I found, you will surprise yourself. One of our tasks was to harvest vegetation which had been fenced off since March. It was a surprise to find out that my black belt in karate came in great use here. Our original method (see below) was just not as successful as giving the post a good kick, whereby it came out of the ground easily! Another of my achievements was, climbing to the Peak of Starling Dodd after doing no serious walking for over 3 years!
Fence post removing (the hard way!)
Me and Beth at the top of starling Dodd!
My favorite parts of the field work began with our first ask. Here we spend just under an hour talking to Will, the farmer whose family owned the land we were working on. He went through, in detail, the history of the each of the pieces of land we were interested in. How the land had been managed, how some laws and legislation had influenced what management occurred on the Fell, what he had done to the land recently. It was really useful when out there in the field to have some background knowledge of what had happened before. Leading on after this using our vast map reading skills, Beth and I chose a feild, hopped a fence and began soil coring. After, a while we saw Will heading in our direction. Thinking nothing of it we waved and were greeted with the sentence “Thats not my field!”. Afterwhich we quickly replaced our stolen soil, re-hopped the fence and attempted to pretend like nothing had happened. Another was simply learning new skills and Beth’s reasons behind using them. I now know I will not be doing any vegetation sampling as grazing excluders are awful to remove, soil coring is not so bad and that when digging a soil pit, its actually quite small, not as I though big enough to bury a person in! I also enjoyed seeing how Beth completed her research, hearing what she had done in the past and learning from another like minded person’s experiences.
As I’m sure you have been told a thousand times, today’s job market is more competitive than ever. The way I have tried to make myself stand out is by getting involved in things I find interesting. This could be anything from joining a new club, volunteering at a local charity shop to doing long term internships during the summer months. I’ve attended several jobs fairs during my time at Lancaster and a recurring theme is that employers want evidence that you’re not just an academic that you can work with a range of people and that you have gone out of your way to do more than just get your degree.
Anyway that’s all from me! Next week it’s all lab work from here on!
As Beth explained I’m Freyja. A 21 year old, physical geographer from Lancaster University, graduating with a 2:1 next week (eeek!!!). My interest in geography stems from a love of nature and an amazing secondary school geography teacher. I love all things water: lakes, rivers, estuaries … glaciers. So when choosing my third year dissertation topic the Tees Estuary close to home seemed the perfect place to start. This in a roundabout way brings me to soil. My dissertation focused on flow of nutrients in the estuary soils and after extensive reading I found a new interest … soil. Around this time Beth was advertising a research assistant for her PhD and after completing an application form, test blog post and interview, here I am in the Fox and Hounds Pub, Ennerdale Bridge, Lake District in glorious sunshine, writing to you.
My past experiences of field trips have mostly been focused in two weeks away in the last two years. My first was an investigation into how volcanoes and glaciers interact on the south coast of Iceland. Which was a once in a life time experience to get up close and personal with some stunningly beautiful landscapes, my highlight being hiking up a glacier and standing across from Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano which caused all the issues in 2010. My more recent field trip was to the Cantambria region, the beautiful northern most mountainous region of Spain. Here we mapped the flow of water through the karstic system (caves lots of caves). Attached to both trips were essays, exams and stress over grades, but neither trip developed the same skills as needed in field work. The difference (in my opinion) is that in during field work you are stepping into the known; when on a field trip your lecturer, mostly, knows all the answers. Whereas here working with Beth I feel a part of some new discovery which (hopefully) will be beneficial to the farmers of this area.
From these small experiences I can say my expectations of field work, from my dissertation, where it rained, my Iceland trip, where it rained and various other field trips in the UK, field trips equal getting wet . For the first two days I was quite right … Wet Freyja. However wet and cold I was the landscape here can’t be described as anything but gorgeous. The Lake District must be one of the UK’s more beautiful places to work.
Which, as it happens, looks even better in the sunshine, which is what it’s been like for the rest of the week (hallelujah). Either wet or sunny there is something very satisfying in coming in from a hard day’s work in the field knowing that your aching muscles and soggy socks are all aspects of working towards something important.
So that’s all about me and my experiences in the past. Next week I’ll go more into what I’ve done over these past two weeks in the field and try to reflect on how it’s been useful to me as an undergraduate (soon to be post graduate).
I introduced myself in my last post, this is Freyja, who will be writing for the blog for the month of July. She is sitting next to me in the local Lake District pub (after a hard day’s work!) working on what she will tell you tomorrow! I include a photo here….
We are working on the west coast of the Lake District taking soil samples and harvesting vegetation, so we can map the carbon storage and nitrogen retention across different farms. I will then use this data, along with using satellite imagery, to see if we can tell what is going on below-ground from the information from the satellite images.
Anyway, will explain more soon. Freyja will be online tomorrow.