My week as a lecturer – in pictures #2


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.

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