Geography is concerned with both the natural and the human environments created on the earth's surface, and with the relationships between them. It is an inherently interdisciplinary subject with links to a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and sciences.
The aim of the geography programme is to give students an holistic understanding of contemporary environmental and social issues, and the links between them, through the critical application of geographical concepts and methods of analysis.
The subject matter consists of both human and physical geography and their sub-fields. Topics covered by the programme include: landforms, processes and materials of the natural environment; population growth, urbanisation, and the spatial patterns of resource exploitation and consumption; the dynamics of development, and the distribution of economic activity and wealth; global, regional and local environmental change through time.
A balanced approach to instruction and assessment is adopted. As well as lecture courses, learning is fostered through laboratory work (part of which is computer-based), tutorials, seminars, and group work. Field work forms a central element of the programme, and all students taking geography to degree level are required to participate in a number of field weekends. Field work has taken place in a wide range of locations both in Ireland and Europe.
Outline Content of Each Module
First Year Modules
The Dynamic Earth
This module will provide an introduction to the key geographical processes that are fudamental to understanding the Earth's natural, or physical, environment. The module aims to demonstrate the dynamic nature, and inter-relationships through time, of the four components of the Earth's physical systems, namely the atmosphere, the geosphere, the hydrosphere and the biosphere. The topics to be covered will therefore include the following: continents and oceans - Earth's structure and materials, plate tectonics, ocean circulation; climate and weather - atmospheric processes, global, regional and local climates; the hydrosphere - water resources and management; cycles and patterns in the biosphere - soil formation and development, terrestrial flora and fauna. Lectures will be accompained by a series of laboratory classes providing an introduction to relevant geographical skills and techniques.
Processes and Patterns in Human Geography
This module will provide an introduction to key geographical processes and patterns. It will explore the relationship between environmental and human processes in diffferent geographical contexts. It aims to explain the nature of these interactions at the global, national, regional, and local levels. The holistic nature of geography as a discipline, and the need to understand the importance of processes in the natural environment as they relate to human occupancy and activity will constitute central themes of the module. These themes will be examined through the following topics: political systems; cultural systems and identity; land uses; demography; development and urban and regional geographies. In addition, the module will contain a skills-based component providing an introduction to cartography and map reading.
Second Year Modules
Evolution of the Irish and British Landscapes
This module examines the evolution of the landscapes of Ireland and Britain, firstly in a geological context, and secondly by focussing on the role of geomorphological processes that have modified and shaped the landscape. The first part of the module will examine the major mountain building episodes and associated tectonic processes that have punctuated the geological history of the Irish and British landscapes, providing the foundations of initial landscapes. The second part of the module will proceed to investigate the earth surface processes that have sculpted and shaped these landscapes to produce the characteristic landforms that we observe today. In addition, the general geomorphological principles that determine the nature and frequency of geomorophological processes will also be discussed.
Political Geography: Geopolitics and Governance
Political Geographers are ‘interested in how power relations build spaces and places and how, in turn, spaces and places mediate politics and conflict” (Flint & Taylor, 2007:4). These power relations can operate at a number of different scales from the global to national, regional and local. This module aims to enable students to identify, analyse, critique and classify models and systems of political and territorial organisation from the global to the local. This module will provide an introduction to the political geography of the world since the ending of the Second World War and the key theories and concepts which are essential to our understanding of this period. The module will investigate and analyse the relationships between political processes and the economic, cultural and social factors which shape our world.
Economic Geography: Globalisation and Uneven Development
Approaches to the study of economic geography; techno-economic paradigm shifts and the changing geographies of production; from Fordism to flexible production, the spatial impact of technological change; transnational corporations, foreign direct investment and economic globalisation; de-industrialisation and the growth of the service economy; the transformation of work and employment; new information and communication technologies and the changing geographies of services; innovation, industrial clusters and the knowledge economy.
Geographical Research Methods and Mapping
Nature and types of geographical research; using databases and electronic journals to find previous work; secondary data sources; theory and methods of sampling; methods and instruments for social surveys; introduction to the use of basic field equipment and instrumentation; coding and inputting data; exploratory data analysis; measuring relationships; analysing qualitative data; use of topographical maps; creating thematic maps; writing a research proposal.
The module introduces students to the study of biogeography as an important and multi-disciplinary area of contemporary science linking the earth sciences and the life sciences, the influence of which has spawned a more environmental and holistic view of the world. The central focus of the module will be on explaining spatial patterns in biodiversity. Natural processes and human interaction with the environment have together produced a wide range of characteristic landscape features with a rich variety of distinctive flora and fauna reflecting natural and cultural diversity. This course will examine how the distribution of plants and animals has been moulded naturally through time, via the influence of man, and how this remarkable landscape legacy is now threatened by powerful forces of change, e.g. climate change. Two field visits as part of the GY4744 module will provide opportunities to observe unique biogeographical features and enhance students understanding of the processes and changes that shape the physical landscape.
Reading the Irish Cultural Landscape
The aim of this module is to engage the student actively in deciphering the various clues and codes from the past that are contained within the contemporary Irish landscape. This module will focus on colonisation, settlement and subsequent landscape change, inquiring how, when and why peoples of differing cultural origins, traditions and technical abilities established new economic and social patterns, and altered the Irish landscape. The topics to be covered will therefore include the following: pre-historic Ireland, geography and archaeology; ‘celtic’ landscapes; society and settlement in the iron age; early medieval Ireland, Vikings, proto towns, the development of the early Irish church; medieval landscapes in Ireland, from Gaelic to feudal power; plantation landscapes; society and settlement in 18th century Ireland; landlords, enclosures and famine, the changing nature of the 19th century landscape.
Final Year Modules
Reconstructing Past Environments
This module will explain and illustrate approaches to the reconstruction of past environments through geological time, using evidence ranging from the well-dated and more complete palaeoenvironmental records of the Quaternary Period to the fragmentary and less well understood records dating back to the Precambrian. The module will survey the different types of evidence that can be analysed as well as the principles and techniques that are used to reconstruct past environments and detect environmental change. The main dating and chronological techniques and their limitations will also be examined. The module will highlight the importance of understanding past climate variability in order to anticipate or predict future climatic variations.
Sustainable Regional and Territorial Development
Concepts of the region and the locale; area-based or geographical development; policies, practices and innovations; the development of urban and rural territories; neighbourhood dynamics and interventions; economic processes and disparities; peripherality and deprivation; territorial competitiveness; drivers and agents of development; spatial planning; transnational and inter-territorial collaboration.
Tourism and Heritage Management
This module aims to enable students to identify and critique the key geographical characteristics of heritage and tourism management, and to understand the influence heritage and tourism have on the economic, social and cultural fabric of everyday communities and landscapes. The topics to be covered will therefore include the following: understanding heritage, concepts and methods of analysis; heritage landscapes; heritage management; heritage providers; heritage representation in areas of conflict; heritage interpretations; future role of the heritage industry; understanding tourism, concepts and methods of analysis; prospects and challenges for tourist provision, global, national and local issues; rethinking tourism impacts; economic impacts; physical impacts; social impacts; tourism planning and policy at the international and supranational level; tourism planning and policy at the national and sub-national level; sustainable tourism.
Global Environmental Change
The future of the global environment is now a matter of major scientific and public importance. This module focuses on some of the more pressing environmental issues, including problems such as greenhouse-gas induced global warming, deforestation, pollution, and the loss of natural habitats, all of which have grave and often uncertain implications. The module will consider the complex and cumulative impact of people on the environment in three key areas of environmental change: (1) global climate change; (2) human-induced change on the earth surface; and (3) water resources and pollution. Using applied case studies, each aspect of environmental change will be examined in terms of the problematic symptoms, the science, the political debates and the possible scientific solutions. The module will normally incorporate 2 days of fieldwork
Urbanisation, Urban Geography and Planning
Contemporary patterns of urban growth and development; differential urbanisation and the cycle of urbanisation; the size distribution of urban settlements; specialisation and diversity in the urban economic base; the distinctive city; world cities and transnational urban networks; models and patterns of land value and land use; household location and the socio-spatial structure of urban areas; social polarisation and residential segregation in the post-Fordist city; the urban role of government; land use planning, zoning and development control; urban renewal and regeneration; the sustainable city; governance and jurisdictional fragmentation in the contemporary metropolis.
Geography of the Developing World
This module explores the concepts of development and underdevelopment, and evolving perspectives on both concepts. Case studies are utilised to examine issues, challenges, approaches and strategies in developing societies, in respect of issues such as environmental conservation, natural hazards, resource management, land use, food security, infrastructure, health, education, governance, economic development, security, welfare and human rights. The module explores how climate change, globalisation and other factors emanating from ‘developed’ societies impact on the majority world. The module looks at strategies and initiatives that seek to promote sustainable development, and it considers actual and possible solutions to the problems associated with underdevelopment, as well as the roles of citizens, NGOs, educators, international organisations, governments and the churches in promoting well-being and development.
Oceans cover approximately seventy percent of the Earth’s surface, regulating our climate and maintaining our atmosphere. This module will investigate the broad scale features and dynamics of the Earth’s oceans emphasising the role of basic scientific principles in helping to understand the geological, chemical, physical, and biological processes that occur in ocean environments. The module will explore a range of global processes such as the origin and history of the oceans; ocean chemistry and circulation; ocean currents and marine ecosystem dynamics and discuss their impacts on local and regional issues such as coastal erosion and management of fisheries.
Project in Geography (BA only)
Supervised study of an approved geographical topic, in which students apply the concepts and methods of geographical analysis.