Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under

Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under.

Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under

Today’s blog post comes to you from AUSCCER guest blogger Dr Hilary Geoghegan.

@DrHG in AUSCCER on her first day.

Every time I look out of the window from my desk here at AUSCCER I can’t quite believe that I am finally here in Australia. The light is different, the weather is different, and the trees are very different. I have been looking forward to this visit to AUSCCER for nearly 3 years. Yes, it has taken me that long to make it down here! 

I first read about AUSCCER from author addresses on journal articles. The place kept cropping up. I thought – there is some fascinating work happening here on the environment but also households and home. Two of my interests. I was in touch with a few of the team and before I knew it I was following them on Twitter,Facebook and finally managed to secure some funding to visit them.

I am in Australia for six weeks as part of my ESRC Future Research Leader award as I investigate enthusiasm for trees and the possibility/actuality of citizens as early-warning systems for tree health pests and diseases. This is part of a reconnaissance mission in the hope of inspiring a longer-term collaboration and more sustained trip in 2015.

View from the Novotel Wollongong.

I arrived in Wollongong in the sunshine. My hotel room has a view of the sea. I got the hassle-free shuttle bus to the University of Wollongong from the town. I arrived on campus and bumped into Chris Gibson within about 2 mins. He walked me over to AUSCCER. It was as friendly as I imagined and within the first couple of hours I’ve discussed my common interests with some really switched-on PhD students. The sort of environment that academic dreams are made of!

Day visiting Blue Mountains. A large Turpentine tree with hollow caused by 1948 bushfire.

My first week in Australia I spent in Sydney – flying the flag for my enthusiasm research at the University of Western Sydney – a department seminar offered the perfect opportunity to test out some of my ideas on an Australian audience. I was struck by the response to my rather European construction of nature, landscape, place attachment … in response I’m reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes to get me started. This research challenge prompted me to visit the University of Wollongong book shop after my lunch with Lesley Head. I couldn’t find too many texts of interest – although I did spot the copies of ‘Sacred Ecology’ by Fikret Berkes which “examines bodies of knowledge held by indigenous and other rural peoples around the world, and asks how we can learn from this knowledge and ways of knowing” (from the publisher’s website). Although this seems to me to maintain the binary of ‘other’ and ‘we’ that I imagine my audience earlier in the week were trying to shake me out of. I think this might be worth a look in combination with Tim Ingold’s work though.

I asked the bookshop staff about any books they have on Australian history – interestingly I was taken in the direction of primary school education texts to get me started. Whilst, this didn’t offer too much in the way of critical commentary, I was interested in the range of books written for school children on life in 1790s Australia, for example ‘My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove’ – the life of a young girl convicted of stealing and transported to Australia on the First Fleet.

Around the corner I found a stack of books for trainee teachers developing school-level courses and resources on indigenous Australia. There was a text book ‘Teaching Aboriginal Studies’ – the importance of which according to reviews cannot be overestimated, and a second book ‘My People’s Dreaming: An Aboriginal Elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness’ by Max Dulumunmun Harrison and Peter McConchie. The photographs persuaded me to buy the latter. Yes, I know, I am travelling around for 6 weeks – like I need another book! But – this one has already got me thinking… “We look to trees to tell us how the world is coping. … All trees live in tribes, just like people. When a tree is born and then it’s moved to another area for whatever reason, that’s like taking a person out of their country and putting them in a different country” (Max Dulumunmum Harrison, 2013). More thoughts on this to follow. Remember, it’s only my first day@AUSCCER.

To find out more about Hilary you can read her staff profile, visit her blog The Culture of Enthusiasm or follow Hilary on Twitter @DrHG.

Would you like to write a guest blog post for AUSCCER? Emailkmayhew@uow.edu.au.

First blog post from Australia on the MMU Light Research site

Trees at VIVID: @DrHG on #VividSydney: trees and bushland

The Qantas air steward said, ‘You must go to Vivid Sydney – the city is all lit up’. So on the first evening I took the train to Circular Quay and the Harbour. Wow. The Opera House, an off-white colour in the daytime, was transformed by reds, greens, blacks, animal prints… I am in Australia researching enthusiasm for trees and I’ve just finished reading a paper by Jodi Frawley (‘Campaigning for street trees, Sydney Botanic Gardens, 1890s–1920s’, Environment and History, 15(3): 303–22) about campaigning for street trees in Sydney Botanic Gardens in the 1890s–1920s. There is a fascinating history of trees in Sydney as a means of claiming space and encouraging settlement. For Frawley, trees were also important “as urban technologies, which added shade and beauty to [the] streets” (2009: 318). Light and shade in the form of trees continue to be central to Sydney’s heritage, and two installations at Vivid Sydney emphasise this.cadman

First, just opposite the Opera House, is Cadman’s Cottage, built in 1816 and one of the few buildings that remain from the first 30 years of the colony. The display is calledMystery of Creation (Fragments of the Seasons) by Heinz Kasper/Robert Faldner, and is described as a ‘poem of light and sound … projecting nature’s changes onto a concrete facade: Flowers blossom, only to wilt; trees wither, only to grow anew. The wind whispers in the tree; its leaves embody alchemy in the transformation of living colour, from green into yellow and red; leaves dance and drop off in a storm; and once again you see a bare tree’. http://www.vividsydney.com/events/mystery-of-creation-fragments-of-the-seasons.

urban tree project

The second stop was in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD. A clump of trees growing out of the street scene. This was impressive – watching the trees and animals climb higher and higher. – the Urban Tree Project’, produced by Nicholas Tory, Lucy Keeler, Martin Crouch, Julian Reinhold and Iain Greenhaigh’ covers the MLC building, offering a living tree within the dense urban jungle. The projection hints at Sydney’s bushland heritage.http://www.vividsydney.com/events/urban-tree-project.

Text and photographs by Hilary Geoghegan:

June 2nd, 2014 – 06:04am

(Re)enchanting geography, take II

DrHG:

Part two of my collaboration with Dr Tara Woodyer at Portsmouth.

Originally posted on materialsensibilities:

HOT OFF THE PRESS! My latest collaboration with Hilary Geoghegan is now available to view online.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.30.40

Abstract    Thrift [2008. Non-representational theory: space, politics, affect, 65. Abingdon: Routledge] has identified disenchantment as “[o]ne of the most damaging ideas” within social scientific and humanities research. As we have argued elsewhere, “[m]etanarratives of disenchantment and their concomitant preoccupation with destructive power go some way toward accounting for the overwhelmingly ‘critical’ character of geographical theory over the last 40 years” [Woodyer, T. and Geoghegan, H., 2013. (Re)enchanting geography? The nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography. Progress in Human Geography, 37 (2), 195–214]. Through its experimentation with different ways of working and writing, cultural geography plays an important role in challenging extant habits of critical thinking. In this paper, we use the concept of “enchantment” to make sense of the deep and powerful affinities exposed…

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Inaugural Science Slam (University of Reading)

Two weeks ago I helped host the University of Reading’s first Science Slam. It’s a fun, exciting research event with ‘performances’ from 6 PhD students using props and no powerpoint to explain their research. Here is our winner – Charlotte Hill – explaining her work on the potential benefits of cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy. I can’t wait for the next one!

My week as a lecturer – in pictures #3

So this post is slightly delayed – first I’m not organised enough yet to write my posts in advance so they can update automatically and second everyone needs a holiday (see last snap for evidence). So what was I up to last week?

Campus - deserted - students gone home

Campus – deserted – students gone home

Monday - My course GV1HUM Human Geography for 1st year undergrads finished last week, but I was busy marking their assignments today. 11 group posters on the relevance of human geography in the 21st century. The teams who had been working together since week 1 could select any example/case study they liked. We had posters featuring cyberspace, Macdonald’s, Coca-Cola, farming, transport, wind power, youtube, Haiti earthquake, slums, globalisation. Using the University of Reading conference poster template, the teams excelled themselves in producing professional looking posters. I really enjoyed this as an assessment exercise, particularly the poster display last week. The posters will be used for visit days and open days for prospective students. Next year – the assessment will combine presentations to the whole group. I met up with the second marker to finalise marks. I then ploughed on with writing up my notes for the 13 dissertations I had to second mark. Wow – a range of projects – very impressed again. Hopefully I can feature details of some of them in a future post.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser - Professor Sir Mark Walport

Government Chief Scientific Adviser -
Professor Sir Mark Walport

Tuesday  – Today looked like it was going to involve a transport headache. Travelling from Reading to Kew Gardens for 10am. But it was very pleasant. I took the train as usual to Paddington and then the district line to Kew Gardens. Being above ground on the tube, crossing the river Thames – it was a nice way to go to work! I was invited to Kew, or rather the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew, for the launch of the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative. The first presentation was by Professor Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, who assured the audience he represented not only science, technology, medicine but also the social sciences. I was there to present my research on tree health, enthusiasm and citizen science. There was a strict 5 minute presentation rule and then 15 mins for questions with the two other presenters in my session – it was over very quickly. They are making a video of our talks available. I will post it when it appears. The new Chief Plant Health Officer was in attendance, Professor Nicola Spence, in her closing remarks she mentioned my work -

Hilary is a science watcher.

I love this sentiment. I am. That’s what I’ve been doing and to see this work recognised as important in terms of understanding the role of scientists and policymakers in constructing the ‘tree health agenda’ (particularly for the public) was a real highlight. Now I need to get on with writing about it! After the launch I headed over to the Science Museum for the launch of The Science Museum Group Journal. The head of research and public history had organised a string quartet to entertain guests – nodding to the planned music and science exhibition in a few years time.

OPAL UK - new project partners

OPAL UK – new project partners

Wednesday - Back to South Kensington this morning for the OPAL tree health survey working group. Fieldwork!!! Brilliant. Taking out my notebook and cracking on with some research was great. I’ve been following the working group as they designed, produced, launched and re-launch the survey. I know everyone now in the working group and my work is making an important contribution to the survey itself and the work of OPAL more generally in the area of tree health. I am holding a workshop in a few weeks time on citizen science and tree health to help identify the next 18 months of my research. Most of the people around the table at OPAL will be attending. The task we identified as part of the workshop will be to ascertain the various citizen science projects relating to tree health and identifying their respective audiences. Helping the punter! I had to leave this meeting early as I was heading to Birmingham for the ESRC Pitch-to-Peers Workshop for their Transformative Research call. I hopped on the train at Euston and was there just in time for the meeting at 5pm. I can’t disclose any details but it was agreed by the panel and peers that this format of 7 minute presentations (following a two page case for support) is something research councils need to consider for other grant calls. The opportunity for applicants to ‘answer back’ and ‘clarify’ project aims, outcomes and potential impacts was regarded as invaluable.

Thursday – Birmingham as above.

Red Sea

Red Sea

Friday - Out of office on!

My week as a lecturer – in pictures #2

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Sunday I started a bit of lecture preparation on Sunday with some pancakes. Lemon and sugar, of course. On Twitter (@DrHG) I’ve had wonderful conversations over the years with a variety of people in nature conservation, academia, polling, government about pancakes and how they eat theirs. Recently it was suggested to me that tweeting about pancakes wasn’t going to do much for my academic credibility. I began to doubt the pancakes. But now I am back – those conversations built rapport, reminded me there are people behind the 140 characters and reveals Twitter isn’t only for (as some might have us believe) self-promotion. So the pancakes are back!

20140321-080354.jpg Monday Can you believe it…my last lecture of my first term of teaching arrived. 10 weeks have flown by. One of our department secretaries said, ‘just you wait…it only speeds up’. Uh oh. I’ve been teaching first year geographers on human geography principles and practice. It has been about figuring out who geographers are, how we think and what we do. The focus here has been on: disciplinary history – where has geography come from, what are the exciting new trajectories; the importance of concepts of space, place and scale setting us apart as a distinctive discipline; and an introduction of qualitative and quantitative methods. The culmination and highlight of the course was Monday’s group poster display and presentation. 11 groups took part in a mini conference discussing case studies demonstrating the relevance of human geography in the 21st century. Two prizes were awarded one for best poster as voted for by the students and the other the winner of The Great Geography Bake Off. Unfortunately the cake above (baked and iced by me and Jess (my postgrad demonstrator)) whilst very tasty – didn’t win.

20140321-081247.jpg Tuesday I was in the office holding personal tutor meetings. An absolute pleasure to see how two terms at Reading have helped these young geographers carve out a degree path that suits them. Notwithstanding the 6 essays due in by this Friday! I also completed the marking for the 11 posters as part of my course. Phew. No small undertaking.

20140321-081545.jpg Wednesday sadly this image does not do justice to the amazing day I had in the New Forest. I was doing fieldwork – attending a rather interesting conference on “encouraging community engagement, volunteering and citizen science in the control of invasive non-native species” organised by the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Fascinating contributions from Wildlife Trust leaders, volunteers, OPAL, RINSE and the Biological Records Centre.

I was struck by the words of one volunteer who before he started his talk said, “I’m a volunteer not a professional”. It set the direction of my thinking for most of the day – the amateur, volunteer, enthusiast, citizen scientist, professional, expert – labels often freely applied but with very important consequences. In the case of this chap – he might volunteer his time unpaid – but he manages a woodland for the Forestry Commission and engages other volunteers in the project. Hardly non-expert, non-professional, citizen-only science. Need to get these thoughts down on paper.

20140321-082552.jpg Thursday Another day in the field but with two hats on. First as a cultural geographer interested in citizen science and tree health and second an academic representing the ESRC. I was in London for the UK Environmental Observation Framework panel on citizen science. The group meet every quarter to share and advance citizen science working in the public sector. The group has representatives from all government environment agencies, plus a social science representative from the ESRC (me). Our biggest piece of work was commissioning Understanding Citizen Science and Environmental Monitoring by Helen Roy et al. We are now exploring the impact of this guide to citizen science and looking to future work.

20140321-083345.jpg Friday One week to go and then some annual leave – oh yes! But today is going to mostly involve 4 things – (1) preparing for tomorrow’s Science Slam. This is the University of Reading’s inaugural slam but it is sold out and promises to be fantastic (more next week); (2) meeting my dissertation students at BSc and MSc; (3) preparing a 5 minute presentation for the launch of the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative. My ESRC project was selected by organisers to feature in the section on ‘detection’ of pests and diseases; and (4) typing up the reports for my 13 BSc dissertations. A mixture but as always a pleasure. I heard someone say the other day nothing really is work unless you’d rather be doing something else…if you’d rather be doing something else then it’s too much like hard work and you don’t want to do it, and I think in life if you can find a balance of doing the things you have to do with the things you really want to do and that’s a unique balance and that’s what keeps me sane anyway.

My week as a lecturer – in pictures #1

20140314-071908.jpg Sunday – my week started on Sunday afternoon following a morning at The Vyne in Hampshire. A National Trust property. Went to meet-up with family who were on a coach tour there. We enjoyed the sunshine, walking around the lake and taking photos of trees. When I got home, I re-read my student essay plans and thought about the week ahead – lots of things to tick off the to do list. No writing on the cards this week. Just event-planning AND figuring out my 6 weeks in Australia!

20140314-065902.jpg Monday – I have been reliably informed that the first year of being a lecturer is the toughest. You’re preparing materials from scratch, you don’t know all the admin systems and, for me, I’m getting to know what makes geography students tick. This is compounded when you’re also trying to figure out what sort of teacher you are. Teaching my course #gv1hum Human Geography Principles and Practice has been a wonderful experience. This week I was offering collective feedback on essay plans. The question is: “Place is a center of meaning constructed through experience” (Tuan). Discuss.

20140314-065347.jpg Tuesday – I was meant to be in London this lunchtime but something had to give in the schedule. Research time has become a precious commodity this term. Re-arranged my meeting for next week. Popped out for a walk at lunchtime. Struck by how much I like the University of Reading campus. This is the library.

20140314-064831.jpg Wednesday – in my office, drawing up a set of priorities for my ESRC project on harnessing enthusiasm for citizen science. Key themes, identifying the contribution to the literature and realising I can’t do everything. I have a range of case studies but now need to be targeted in how I work with them.

20140314-064439.jpg Thursday – walking between my office and library for a meeting with colleagues in corporate relations and events. I’m hosting a citizen science and tree health workshop in May. Stopped to watch this duck on small pond under building.

20140314-070757.jpg Friday – foggy outside. Also foggy inside – think my hayfever has started and it’s only mid-March. Yesterday I collected the dissertations I am second marking, reminding me how much I love project work. This morning I’m meeting my mentor “off campus”. It’s a tiny bit crazy that meeting in our offices is too distracting. But people see you’re in the office and want to chat (guilty!). Hopefully this will focus the mind and the coffee should be good.