The School of Geography’s Laboratory and Field Suite supports research carried out by staff and students concerned with environmental systems, their processes, and their interactions in the present and past, as well as in the uncertain future.
Observational, experimental and computational techniques are of paramount importance to our interdisciplinary research, where students are provided with opportunities to undertake hands-on field research, combined with state-of-the-art laboratory analysis.
Within the School of Geography our research is built on strong collaborations that are national and international in scope, our group also serves as a teaching platform for the next generation of ecosystem and earth system scientists.
All our graduates can expect to leave us with a range of both subject specific and transferable skills, including skills relating to data collection and analysis, the interpretation and evaluation of complex ideas and evidence, problem solving, individual and group project management, and more. These skills can be used in almost any career and are essential for the next generation of ecosystem and earth system scientists.
We explore a range of environmental factors and processes including:
- concentrations of pollutants (for example heavy metals in landfill sites)
- nutrients (for example in river systems)
- carbon and nitrogen, and greenhouse gases
- environmental change through the analysis of sediments and fossils
- glacial systems
- river processes
Research focuses on the description, interpretation and measurement of components, features and fabrics in soils and sediments at a microscopic level. Our analytical instrumentation, in combination with our fieldwork, provides ample opportunity for the varied undergraduate classes. Students are introduced to laboratory analysis in their second year and taught the skills that will set them up for the field and laboratory research that they can undertake for their independent research (dissertation) projects.
Our team has expertise in researching a wide range of biological and sedimentological evidence in order to understand past environments and climates. There is particular attention to characterising conditions under which early human populations established themselves in Britain during the past million years. Using our microscope facilities, undergraduate students are typically involved in work such as the palaeoenvironmental analysis of macrofossil and microfossil assemblages.
The River Laboratory offers unparalleled facilities in London for research aimed at understanding the behaviour of rivers. Digital camera equipment and supporting software enables river morphology to be captured in 3D. Two flumes – a sediment transport demonstration channel and a river simulator – allow geographers and environmental scientists to explore the ways in which changes in the magnitude of river flows can affect not only the movement of materials downstream but the shape and configuration of the bed too.
Aquatic and terrestrial environments
Leading world researchers from the School of Geography, in collaboration with the School of Biological and Chemical Scientists, provide students with a contemporary approach to investigating environmental science. A range of instruments are available for a variety of environmental applications; from the analysis of nutrient cycling in rivers to greenhouse gasses in London. Constant investment into the analytical facilities provides the laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment for both teaching and research use.
Contaminated land and marine ecosystems
Researchers within the School have built strong interdisciplinary connections to explore ecosystems at risk due to climate change and anthropogenic factors. Research links have been established allowing students access to within London, and country sites, for sample collection; assessing current ecosystem services and post-restoration functioning. Students are provided with both field and laboratory analytical equipment enabling a range of techniques to be employed.
Laboratory work was something that I had not experienced before coming to QMUL. Learning to use a range of equipment not only enhanced my knowledge through being able to try the techniques that I had read about, but also widened my horizons when it came to picking a dissertation topic. It meant that I could confidently use equipment independently for my own research
Katharine Parker, Geography BSc 2016