Tag Archives: geography

Geography academic to feature on BBC4’s Oak Tree

Oak-TreeAn Oxford Brookes academic will feature in the BBC 4 programme, ’Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor’ due to be aired at 9pm on Thursday 1 October on BBC 4.

The 90-minute programme sees presenter George McGavin embark on a year-long study of the oak tree and its sophisticated biology. He investigates how the tree has adapted to the ever-changing environment and discovers how it became an important part of British culture and history.

By looking in detail at the pollen grains, micro fossils and other features preserved in peat, we can see how the climate has warmed and cooled at different times, how humans have cleared woodland and planted food crops

Dr Helen Walkington, Principal Lecturer in Geography, Oxford Brookes University

The programme’s study centres on a 400 year-old oak in Wytham Woods near Oxford and spans a year to chart the oak tree’s journey through the four seasons.

Dr Helen Walkington, Principal Lecturer in Geography at Oxford Brookes is called upon during the spring phase of the programme to explain how pollen can be used to understand the development of the landscape over the last 12,000 years. Dr Walkington said: “My research uses soils and sediment to explore changes in climate, vegetation and human impact in the past.

“By looking in detail at the pollen grains, micro fossils and other features preserved in peat, we can see how the climate has warmed and cooled at different times, how humans have cleared woodland and planted food crops, for example.

“Oxford Brookes students have been engaged in research on the peat core too as part of their geography degree.”

‘Oak Tree: Natures Greatest Survivor’ airs at 9pm on Thursday 1 October on BBC 4. The BBC trailer can be viewed below.

More information about the undergraduate geography course at Oxford Brookes University can be found on the Department of Social Sciences webpages.


Book launch celebration in the School of Education

Screen-Shot-2015-02-11-at-13.28.21-1024x452The School of Education recently celebrated the launch of several new publications across various subjects. Exhibiting the School’s expertise in research, the books centre on a range of research interests across the education field, from teaching science with drama to the impact of culture on teaching and learning the English language. Each author briefly presented their book by explaining the main themes and their process of writing.

Mary Wild and Alison Street’s Themes and Debates in Early Childhood is designed to help students understand and engage with current themes in early childhood, supporting the development of critical thinking skills. Key themes include children’s voice, child wellbeing, identities and professional relationships. Linking theory to practice, thought-provoking activities help readers get a deeper understanding of contemporary themes in early childhood.

Any teachers wishing to hone their practice to motivate children and improve their science learning and attainment will find Debra McGregor and Wendy PreciousDramatic Science an invaluable resource. It is a resourceful tool for any teachers and primary science leaders who have classes of 5-10 year olds. It provides the busy professional with a range of tried and tested techniques to use drama as a support and aid to the teaching of science to young children.

Graham Butt’s MasterClass in Geography Education, published in January of this year, is the most recently published of the books celebrated. It provides a comprehensive exploration of the major themes in geography education research and pedagogy, drawing on international research. This book will be essential reading for all studying the teaching and learning of geography on PGCE and Education MEd/MA courses.

Mary BriggsTeaching and Learning Early Years Mathematics is essential reading for all those teaching or training to teach Early Years mathematics, providing comprehensive subject and pedagogic knowledge for those responsible for the youngest children in school and their vital first experiences of learning mathematics. This text enables the reader understand and support how children learn to count and calculate, recognize shapes and begin to generalize their findings about problems.

Covering core topics from vocabulary and grammar to teaching, writing speaking and listening, Jane Spiro’s Changing Methodologies in TESOL shows you how to link research to practice in TESOL methodology. It is the first book to teach methods and practice in a global context (and in an accessible way), including links to the latest developments in the field.

Mary Wild, Head of School of Education, attended the launch and said:

It was a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our research expertise. The texts ranged from philosophical reflections on the aims and purpose of education through to more practical classroom guides and textbooks. A common thread was the commitment to practice that is informed by evidence, balanced with theory that is illuminated through practice.

Geography lecturer reveals 10,000 years of climate change in Oxfordshire

Dr Helen Walkington is working at Marley Fen in Wytham Woods to understand how the landscape has changed at the site overt the last 12,000 years and use this information to inform future management at the site. Students at Oxford Brookes University have been working on the peat core to help understand the vegetation changes and impact of humans on this landscape.

OBAH hosts introductory short course into Human Osteology

Isabele informing

Enjoyment and learning was had at the recent human osteology short course, held at Oxford Brookes University on 11 April 2014. The course was developed and taught by Dr Lauren McIntyre and Isabelle Heyerdahl-King, and supported by Dr Simon Underdown (Principal Lecturer in Biological Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University), Dr Hannah Russ (Consultant and Research Fellow, OBAH) and Nikki Lamb (PhD candidate, Oxford Brookes University).

The intensive one-day course was designed for anyone interested in acquiring a working knowledge of human skeletal anatomy, and for those working in associated fields who wish to broaden or refresh their knowledge. Both archaeological human remains and casts of human skeletal material were used to give participants an overview of human skeletal remains from an evolutionary perspective. The course covered the basics of anatomy and identification of individual bones. A summative identification quiz at the end of the day enabled participants to test their newly acquired knowledge!

Participants from across the UK travelled to Oxford to attend the course, which introduced human skeletal remains using lectures, discussion sessions and practical hands-on activities.

Based on the success of the day, and feedback from course participants a more intensive, 5-day course is now being planned for the summer.

‘Thank you so much for a great day, and for all the hard work by everyone that I know must have gone into making it such a success!’

‘Thanks so much for a very informative and interesting day’

‘Thanks – I very much enjoyed the day!’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the course and I look forward to the 5-day one!’

‘We both had a wonderful day, we learnt so much and I was genuinely surprised how I could start from nothing and know so much by the end of the day!’

‘I really enjoyed the day – exactly what I was after!’

‘I was nicely surprised having scored 30 on the quiz – I learnt so much!’

The course was run by Oxford Brookes Archaeology and Heritage (OBAH) and the Department of Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University.

Horse meat Scandal: First past the post(er)

Helen Walkington, Adela Cragg and Robert Wilkes, History of Art

Helen Walkington, Adela Cragg and Robert Wilkes, History of Art

This February will see Oxford Brookes represented at a Posters in Parliament event; an initiative that celebrates undergraduate research by allowing selected undergraduate students to present their research in Parliament.

The annual event, first held last year, is attended by Members of Parliament and is also open to members of the public. Adela Cragg; a third year Geography and Anthropology student, representing Oxford Brookes Social Sciences department, presented the results of her undergraduate dissertation on the Tesco horse meat scandal of January 2013.

The horse meat scandal was widely publicized and many people at the time were questioning how it would affect attitudes towards buying beef. For her dissertation, Adela investigated how the scandal had influenced the attitudes and buying habits of students, producing some surprising results! Of the 202 students questioned it was found that nearly 72% of them said that the horse meat controversy did not affect the type of beef they bought, with nearly 92% mentioning that it didn’t change where they bought their beef either.

Helen Walkington, Principal Lecturer in Geograpghy and Student Experience says of the experience

Taking students to the Posters in Parliament event is just one way that Oxford Brookes supports undergraduate level research. Doing your own research is really encouraged within our undergraduate modules, and Brookes regularly hosts faculty conferences where undergraduates have the opportunity to present their research. Geography students also have the opportunity to get their work published in the Oxford Brookes’ run national Undergraduate Research Journal ‘Geoverse’.

Dr Wes Fraser publishes article on changes in spore chemistry and appearance with increasing maturity

816832681Dr Wes Fraser leads a team investigating the chemical changes and alteration in physical appearance of plant spores under increasing thermal maturity conditions. The article is now available in Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology as an unedited online-first proof format for rapid access.

Citation: Fraser et al. (2014) Rev. Pal. Pal. 201, 41-46.

Something Fishy at Durham Cathedral

Hannah Durham Fish

Dr. Hannah Russ, Oxford Brookes Archaeology and Heritage (OBAH), has been studying the thousands of fish bones that were recovered through careful sieving of sediments during archaeological excavations at Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to a Benedictine monastic community. The fish bones come from deposits that have built up from disposal of domestic waste over the years of occupation at the site, and provide a unique insight into the diet of the Benedictine Monks that once lived there.

Hannah observes each fragment of fish bone, identifying the skeletal element and the species of fish that it represents. Other features on the bone are recorded including evidence for burning, cut-marks and gnawing by animals. Identifiable bones are measured so that the original size of the fish that were eaten can be reconstructed.

Fish was an important part of the diet for the Christian community of England during Medieval times, when consumption of warm-blooded animals was prohibited not just on Fridays, but also Wednesdays, Saturdays, during Advent, Lent and on other holy days. These dietary rules would have been followed to the letter by the Benedictine Monks. The medieval period saw considerable developments in the preservation of fish, especially in the cases of Atlantic herring and the larger cod family fishes (Atlantic cod and ling). While herring were preserved whole, pickled in barrels, the larger cods were processed to remove the head and then dried (known as stockfish). In these preserved forms the fish could be safely transported inland, and further afield, without the risk of spoiling. It might be expected that these fish would feature heavily in the Durham Cathedral assemblage, though this was found not to be the case.

While herring and large cod family fishes are present, they do not dominate the fish collection; instead the fish bones from Durham Cathedral represent a diverse range of fish species. In addition, the remains of the large cod family fishes that are present are represented by both head bones and vertebrae suggesting that they do not represent the use of dried stockfish, where only vertebrae would be present, but the consumption of whole, fresh, fish.

Overall, Hannah was able to conclude that fish represented a crucial aspect of the diet for the Benedictine Monks living at Durham Cathedral. But, it was not boring, repetitive consumption of pickled herring and large dried cod family fishes as might have been expected, but a diet where smaller cod family fishes were important and overall an exciting, diverse array of whole, fresh, marine, freshwater and migratory species were consumed.

Establishing a chronology for Late Holocene climate and environmental change from Mleiha, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

The aim of this research is to develop a detailed understanding of climate and landscape change during the mid- to late-Holocene period (5000 years ago until the present) from southeast Arabia.  To date no detailed climatic and environmental records exist from this region even though it is situated at the interface between two of the Earth’s most dynamic climate systems, namely the Indian Ocean Monsoon and the mid-latitude Westerlies.  Multi-proxy records of climate and landscape change will be constructed using chemical, physical and biological analyses of lake, fluvial and aeolian sediments from Mleiha, Sharjah, UAE.  From this a timeline framework of climate and environmental change will be pieced together against which the archaeology of the region can be set.

Zooarchaeological research at Rubayqa and Ruwaydah, northern Qatar

March 2013 saw me return to Al-Shamal, northern Qatar for a second season, continuing work on faunal remains recovered during excavation of two Islamic Period sites; Rubayqa and Ruwaydah. Directed by Dr. Andrew Petersen, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, excavations at Rubayqa and Ruwaydah have yielded substantial animal remains including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, marine molluscs, and crustaceans.

Rubayqa is a Late Islamic period settlement site located on the west side of the Ras Ushayriq peninsula in northern Qatar. Rescue excavations were carried out at this site prior to its expected destruction through the construction of the Bahrain-Qatar Friendship Causeway. The faunal assemblage contained a diverse range of mammalian fauna, including camel, horse, donkey, cattle, gazelle, sheep, goat, dog, cat, lagomorphs and rat. The bird assemblage was much less diverse, with the majority of remains representing cormorant (both great and Socotra appear to be present). The fish remains included taxa from fifteen families, including both cartilaginous and bony fish. The final report on the faunal remains from Rubayqa is currently being prepared for publication in a site monograph.

Ruwaydah is a much larger scale settlement, located on the north east coast of Qatar. Ruwaydah was occupied for a much longer period of time then Rubayqa, with evidence for occupation extending back into earlier the part of the Islamic period. (Petersen & Grey 2012). Excavations at Ruwaydah began in 2009 and are on-going. The excavation of midden deposits and a well in the 2013 season have yielded substantial faunal remains, dominated by fish remains. Although analysis of the faunal remains from Ruwaydah is not yet complete, it is already clear that it is quite different from that recovered from the excavations at Rubayqa, with comparatively fewer examples of wild animal use, and so far, an absence of horse, donkey and camel. The fish bone assemblage appears to be even more diverse than the one from Rubayqa. Remains of fishes from the families Teraponidae (Terapon sp. – various terapon species occurring in the region), Rachycentridae (Rachycentron canadum – cobia), Echeneidae (Echeneis naucrates – sharksucker), Gerreidae (Gerres sp. – silver-biddy), Pomacanthidae (Pomacantus maculosus – yellowbar angelfish) and Scombridae (including, Euthynnus affinis – little tuna/kawakawa, Thunnus sp. (most likely Thunnus tonggol – Longtail tuna, but possibly Thunnus albacores – Yellowfin tuna), and Scomberomorus sp. – narrowbarred Spanish/Indo-Pacific king mackerel) are all new additions.

A highlight of the 2013 season for me was the opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi and stay with Dr. Mark Beech to use his extensive library and impressive fish bone reference collection. Amongst other specimens, we managed to identify a caudal vertebra from a sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates), a mystery bone appearing in the Ruwaydah assemblage. Sharksuckers are certainly not targeted as a dietary resource, and potentially came to the site attached to a shark. Interestingly in some cultures shark suckers are collected and used to fish for sharks and other large fish (up to 10kg) by being tied to a line and allowed out to sea until they attach themselves to a larger fish then they are pulled back so that the larger fish can be retrieved (Hornell 1950).

Collaborators on this project: Andrew Petersen (University of Wales), Faisal Abdulla Al Naimi and Saif Alnuaimi (Qatar Museum Authority), Mark Beech (Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority), Jake Callaghan, Ifan Edwards, Paul Fingleton, Tom Jamison, Ciaran Lavelle, Jessica Tibber, Dee Williams, Lisa Yeomans, and Sheila Hamilton Dyer.