Fieldwork is an important, stimulating and often challenging part of the PhD experience. The school provides opportunities for postgraduates to research in locations around the world.

Fieldwork is often a pivotal part of practising Geography and doing PhD research. For many, it proves the most challenging and exciting part of the research process, and researchers often admit to being profoundly affected by their experiences ‘in the field’.

From drylands to glaciers, caves to mountains, adventure tourism to yoga retreats, city finance to asylum detention centres, Bristol geographers explore and investigate a diverse range of environments.

Current Geography PhD research takes place in 13 different countries and spans five different continents. Postgraduates are:

  • drawing out the historical geographies of deaf communities in Québec, Belgium and France;
  • tracking creative industries policy in the UK and New Zealand;
  • interrogating cultural policy in Barcelona, Spain;
  • doing ethnographies of adventure tourism in Iceland and therapeutic massage in Spain;
  • studying microbial and biogeochemical processes in Antarctica, Greenland and the European Alps;
  • sampling cryoconite holes in the Dry Valleys, Antarctica;
  • working in a subglacial laboratory in Norway;
  • running rainfall simulations in New Mexico;
  • modelling slope stability in St. Lucia and fluid flow through porous media in the Bahamas;
  • monitoring and modelling flood inundation in the Amazon basin.

These are all alongside the always numerous field studies that are ongoing in the UK.

A whole raft of research techniques are deployed during fieldwork, both qualitative and quantitative, imaginative and critical, experimental and analytical.

Fieldwork provides an opportunity to gain a unique insight into the area of study, and usually a memorable experience or two.

Case Study

My research focused on the rain-driven movement of nutrients around the dryland environment of the Jornada in New Mexico, US.

A significant part involved several months of fieldwork overseas, in which I set up rainfall simulations over plots of different vegetation species and collected the runoff and eroded sediment produced during each simulation.

It was truly inspiring to be able to visit and work within the environment that I was studying and the whole trip greatly increased my understanding of the dynamics of this dryland area.

Debbie Lister, BSc (Sheffield)

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