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East Anglia field class reports back

26 April 2017

First-year BSc geographers Katherine Gatehouse and Kendra Gattiker have recently returned from this brand-new field class from East Anglia which is a compulsory component of their degree programme. They explored with fellow students the long-term evolution of the coastline and the River Stour at Stutton Ness, worked on measurement of beach profiles and surface elevation – developing surveying, mapping and geospatial skills –, while also exploring issues and approaches to coastal management at Dunwich-Minsmere. Here they share some of their thoughts and experiences.


Students doing field sketching. © Michelle Day

Fieldwork is an essential part to being a geographer. The purpose of this trip for us was to learn how to use the equipment we’ve been taught about in class and use it in the real world, as well as getting some hands-on experience in the field and learning key physical geography skills.

On the first day, before arrival to Flatford Mill Field Centre, we stopped at Stutton Ness to look at the quaternary sediments and the evolution of the coastline. We learned how to do vertical profiles and logging to describe different sediments along the Stour estuary. Because this was a new method, it took a while for us to pick it up, but the more we did it, the easier and more fun it became.  


Getting to grips with surveying. © Michelle Day

The second day we personally enjoyed the most because we got to use equipment such as the total station survey and leveling to gather data and make a beach profile. We spent the whole day on a shingle/pebble beach and worked in groups of five going from a given benchmark inland towards the water. We really enjoyed this because it gave us a chance to take our desk-based studies out and develop them in the field.

Upon leaving, we went further north to the Minsmere Nature Reserve and were given a guided tour by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The purpose of this trip was to explore the issues with coastal management such as protection, restoration and conservation of the different habitats. Apart from doing a soil profile and multiple landscape character assessment forms, we got to observe some rare birds and enjoy lunch overlooking the sea before heading back home.

The knowledge we’ve acquired over these few days (with the help of our lecturers) will be handy to us in the future, because not only is it useful for upcoming assessments or even work, but now that we know how to fill out certain forms, work effectively in groups, meet new people and use certain field equipment, future trips will be more fun because there will be less time spent on learning something completely foreign to us.

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