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Geography

About

The Geography Department was established in Mary Immaculate College in 1974. Today, the department provides geography to degree level as a major subject on the BA in Liberal Arts in both MIC and the University of Limerick (UL), as well as the BSc in Physical Education in UL. In addition, a geography elective module is provided for students on the B Ed in Primary Teaching offered at MIC.

The Geography undergraduate programme is one of the most popular, with typical enrolment in the region of 500 students. 

The department currently consists of seven full-time staff members. Our facilities include a dedicated teaching and resource area, including a map library, a GIS laboratory, a sediment analysis laboratory, and two microscope laboratories.

All members of the department are research active, and provides supervision for suitably qualified candidates wishing to undertake postgraduate degrees (MA and PhD) by research and thesis.

Contact
Head of Department of Geography
Professor Paul Aplin
+ 353 61 204210

Subject Overview

Undergraduate

Geography is concerned with both the natural and the cultural environments created on the earth’s surface and with the inter-relationships between them. It has links with a wide range of other disciplines, and is a subject with enormous contemporary relevance in a world facing challenges such as globalisation, increasing socio-spatial inequality, natural resource depletion, environmental degradation, climate change, and large-scale international migration and refugee flows. The aim of the MIC geography programme is to give students a holistic understanding of these issues, and the links between them, through the critical application of geographical concepts and methods of analysis.

The Geography programme includes modules in both physical and human geography. In physical geography, we aim to provide students with a sound understanding of the processes at work in the natural world, and of environmental change in both past and present times. The human geography programme focuses on the relationship between human societies and their environment, and how this relationship changes through time and across space.

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. There is a strong emphasis on fieldwork, and you will have an opportunity to participate in short field-trips to local destinations, as well as an extended residential field-trip which may be in Ireland or abroad. Students wishing to be registered with the Teaching Council as post-primary geography teachers are advised to discuss module selection with their academic advisor.

See below for a list of modules in the Bachelor of Arts programme in descending order from First Year onwards. The module 'Reading the Irish Cultural Landscape' is available as an elective module to students on the Bachelor of Education programme. Note that not all modules may be offered in any given academic year.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Available as an elective module on the Bachelor of Education programme.

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.

Students can choose to do their undergraduate dissertation in a topic related to Geography in consultation with department staff.

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. 

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.

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.

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 two days of fieldwork.

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.

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.

This module aims to provide intensive training in a wide range of geographical techniques through the format of a residential field course at an appropriate location. In addition students will engage in the planning and execution of individual and group research projects. The module will focus on interpreting both the human and physical landscapes of an appropriate location (either on the island of Ireland or overseas) and will cover some of the fundamental aspects associated with field work such as, but not exclusive to: field observations and accurate recording in a field notebook; qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques (e.g. archives, census data, interviews, survey questionnaires, photography, transects, surveying) and data analysis, interpretation and presentation. The topics that are covered in any given year will vary according to the staffing arrangements within the department.

Through the interdisciplinary framework of political ecology, this module will query the relationship between economics, politics and nature. Drawing on case studies from around the world, the module will explore such themes as: the unequal distribution of environmental resources, risks and vulnerabilities; environmental ideology and discourse; environment, livelihoods and politics; energy and natural resource management; nature conservation; agricultural production; environmental justice; and urban political ecologies. By focusing on issues of power and decision-making in securing access to resources, as well as analysing discourses surrounding the production and representation of scientific knowledge, students will begin to understand how political ecology can be used to inform policy makers and organisations of the complexities surrounding environment and development, and thereby to contribute to better environmental governance.

Postgraduate

The Department of Geography provides a supportive environment for postgraduate students pursuing both MA and PhD degrees by research and thesis. Financial support is available by means of Departmental Assistantships, and in addition postgraduate students will be supported to apply for external funding, Irish Research Council Scholarships. The department has its own accommodation for postgraduate students, located in Gerard House in close proximity to the geography laboratories.

For information on PGR Scholarship opportunities, click here. the Supervision is available in the following specialist areas:

Human Geography:

  • Regional and local development
  • Society and settlement in medieval and 17th century Ireland 
  • Social and spatial change in nineteenth century Irish cities
  • Urbanisation, urban development and spatial planning in Ireland
  • Sustainable development, particularly socio-technical transitions, low-carbon development and challenges of low carbon economy for urban and coastal communities 
  • Urban socio-spatial variation, with particular focus on housing, segregation and social deprivation

Environmental Geography:

  • Environmental reconstructions and environmental change
  • Ecological responses
  • Palaeolimnology, limnology and catchment based studies;
  • Marine micropalaeontology
  • Palaeoceanography and natural climate variability of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Urban ecosystem services
  • Igneous and sedimentary geology
  • Environmental remote sensing

Staff

Professor Paul Aplin

MA (Edinburgh), MSc (Aberdeen), PhD (Southampton), FRGS
Head of Department of Geography
  • Phone: + 353 61 204210
  • Email: Paul.Aplin@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: N31

Dr Julian Bloomer

BA (NUI Maynooth), MSc (Cranfield), PG Dip Statistics (TCD) and PhD (TCD)
Assistant Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 205110
  • Email: Julian.Bloomer@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: N3 Gerard House

Dr Helene Bradley Davies

BA, MA (NUI) and PhD (Univ.of Wales)
Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204967
  • Email: Helene.Bradley@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: N21

Dr Angela Cloke-Hayes

BSc (University of Liverpool), MSc and PhD (University of Southampton)
Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204577
  • Email: Angela.Hayes@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: SG7

Dr Catherine Dalton

PhD (University College London), MSc (Trinity College), BSc (DIT)
Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204931
  • Email: Catherine.Dalton@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: Foundation Building 205

Dr John Morrissey

BSc and PhD (UL)
Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 774758
  • Email: John.Morrissey@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: N18

Research

The Department of Geography at Mary Immaculate College is a compact yet dynamic department within the institution’s Faculty of Arts. The department has an excellent research profile with a strong record in securing external research funding and publishing research findings in leading international journals. Members of the department have held leadership roles in professional associations, including the Regional Studies Association, the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, the Irish Quaternary Association and the Geographical Society of Ireland. All staff members are research active, and have successfully supervised postgraduate research at Masters and/or PhD level. Faculty members and postgraduate students within the department form a strong and mutually supportive community of scholars, into which new postgraduate students are integrated.

Postgraduate Research Scholarships 2022-23

Applications are now open for a range of postgraduate research scholarships at the Department of Geography, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

  • MIC Doctoral Award: fee waiver + €12,600 annual stipend
  • Departmental Assistantship Award: fee waiver + €6,900 annual stipend
  • MIC Doctoral Studentship Award: fee waiver + €6,900 annual stipend
  • MIC Postgraduate Studentship Award: fee waiver + €6,900 annual stipend
  • We hope to announce one further €11,900 scholarship (+ fee waiver) soon

Scholarships are eligible for Masters (MA by research) or Doctoral (PhD) projects, with funding provided for up to three years and fees waived for up to four years (for the PhD programme).

The deadline for applications is 26 April 2022.

Further information on the PGR scholarship schemes is available on the Mary Immaculate College website: https://www.mic.ul.ie/research/research-graduate-school/supports/scholarships-funding-fees?index=0

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Head of Department, Professor Paul Aplin, at the earliest opportunity: paul.aplin@mic.ul.ie

 

PROJECT SUMMARIES

We welcome PGR project proposals on any topic that aligns with staff members’ research interests. See staff pages for details. The call for PGR scholarship applications is available here. Some example projects are listed below. Applicants are encouraged to express interest in these examples and/or submit their own project proposals.

 

Coastal communities and the climate crisis

Coastal zones are both highly vulnerable and of strategic long-term importance for 3 key reasons: 1) The concentration of population and assets 2) The exposure of these areas to climate-related risks 3) The decline in coastal habitats and undermining of key ecosystem services and coastal economies. Communities in coastal zones therefore face the prospect of threats to coastal economies, risks from rising sea levels, storm surges and extreme weather events and challenges of securing sufficient resource and investment support to ‘weather the storm’. As communities enact strategies to transition to a low-carbon economy, there is a need for nuanced spatial analyses which considers the geographical unevenness of transition processes, which recognises the importance of the local geographical context and which explores challenges and opportunities at national, regional and community scales. This project will investigate how communities on Ireland’s Atlantic corridor are dealing with sustainability, resilience and adaptation challenges. This project will conduct an interrogation of regional vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change, including application of risk assessment and scenario modelling approaches, as well as an evaluation and mapping of the capabilities, potentials and barriers present at regional, settlement and community scales. The project will interrogate the challenges presented by both low-carbon transition and climate adaptation imperatives, taking due consideration of socio-spatial differences in vulnerabilities and capabilities. The project will link with collaborators from ‘Project Blue’ based in Long Island Sound and Southern Connecticut State University, CT, USA.

Contact john.morrisey@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Retrofitting the city for sustainable urban living

An efficient use of the urban fabric, including the retrofit of existing buildings and sustainable re-use of brownfield sites, is essential to the delivery of sustainable cities. This is important to improve the energy efficiency of currently used buildings and to revive derelict and abandoned city centre locations. However, despite this, building energy efficiency activity is still a fraction of the wider construction industry. In addition, many Irish cities, including Limerick, are characterised by derelict and underutilised infrastructure in key urban core areas. While ad hoc action at the individual building scale remains important, an overemphasis at this scale risks fragmentation and overreliance on individual owners and tenants. What is required at the city level is a more co-ordinated, planned and strategic approach so that cities can be re-engineered, retrofitted and renovated for a more sustainable future. Many barriers exist to the sustainable re-imagining of existing infrastructure including: perceptions of risk; information gaps; effects of lock-in; split incentives; and market capacity. In addition, the sector is still applying out-dated and inappropriate business models. This project will develop new knowledge on sustainable urban environments through application of a mixed-methods study to the urban fabric in 2 Irish cities. The research will consist of 1) detailed mapping of functionality, use and energy efficiency performance at the streetscape level 2) extensive stakeholder engagement & business model review 3) scenario modelling to inform policy responses. Research will be inclusive and cognisant of the practical and operational needs of key stakeholders, ensuring policy ready, deployable and targeted outcomes.

Contact john.morrisey@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Justice, resilience and sustainability transitions

Uneven development patterns are presently problematic globally, evidence by global north vs. global south inequality, rural-urban imbalances and uneven access of urban centres to the world city network. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the potential for sustainability transitions differs spatially also, due to mismatches in resources, varying institutional capacity & investment potential etc. Sustainability transitions therefore are geographical processes, which rather than being universal and pervasive in nature, happen in situated, particular places and with differentiated societal impacts and varying implications for different social groups. Furthermore, as articulated by Agyeman, Sen and others, sustainability cannot simply be a ‘green’, or ‘environmental’ concern. Social and economic dimensions of sustainability are key for societal stability and continuity. For instance, citizens at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum are likely to be worst affected in any low-carbon transition due to higher proportional energy burdens and more constrained capacity to absorb additional costs. The transitions literature therefore has a number of significant gaps: scholarship has focused for the most part on technical dimensions; dynamic social contexts have been afforded insufficient study; transitions have been assumed to occur evenly across space; the literature is largely grounded in overly-optimistic assumptions of ecological modernisation and sustainable development. In sum, there has been poor consideration of socio-spatial differentiation to date, including consideration of issues of capacities and uneven development and the differentiation of patterns of vulnerability and disadvantage. Sustainability Transitions therefore present some fundamental societal questions: What are the spatial implications of transitions? Are there vulnerable groups exposed by transition and policy instruments of transition? How can existing and emerging social needs be integrally related to environmental limits? What does economic opportunity look like for communities constrained by sustainability imperatives?

Contact john.morrisey@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Tracking the evolution of a man-made aquatic habitat

Landscape transformation, as a result of urbanisation can threaten aquatic ecosystem health but can also create opportunities for creative conservation.  Newly created artificial urban lakes can act as important foci for wildlife and represent an opportunity to further enhance conservation interests in areas of degraded ecological value.  These circumstances apply to Bunlickey Clayfield pond in Limerick.  This pond was created as a result of clay extraction for cement production from c. 1940, is utilised for landfilling of inert waste, and was dissected in 2006 by a rock filled causeway supporting a dual carriageway.  Despite these major developments new aquatic habitats with locally distinctive features have evolved contributing to naturalness and diversity in landscape character in an otherwise highly disturbed and artificial setting.  This project will track the evolution of this artificial aquatic habitat using the sediment record to (a) examine baseline physicochemical properties and bio-indicator diatom assemblage change with time, (b) evaluate the pond in the broader landscape context using the concept of corridors, nodes and ecological networks (c) make recommendations which will optimize habitat and water quality and in turn conservation potential.  In cooperation with key stakeholders, Irish Cement, the National Roads Authority, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Limerick Co. Council, this project will conduct an assessment of Bunlickey Clayfield ponds with particular focus on aquatic biodiversity, sediment and water quality. This work will inform the regulatory framework, green infrastructure, and enhance environmental benefits.

Contact catherine.dalton@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Evaluation of physical obstacles within the River Maigue and tributaries

Key natural river processes erode, transport and deposit sediment from the catchment headwaters downstream to river estuaries and coastal plains.  These process act along the vertical (longitudinal) profile of the river influencing plants and animals. Additionally horizontal (lateral) processes, such as the migration of the channel and the connection between the channel and its floodplain, are also important as without this connection water quality and natural habitats are put at risk. Of particular importance to understanding these longitudinal and lateral processes are the physical river channel features or hydromorphological characteristics.  Key physical characteristics include natural characteristics (inflows, waterfalls, pools, pinch points and intact bankside (riparian) vegetation) and human modifications (channelization, embankments, drainage channels, outfalls, weirs, locks, dams, sluices, bridges, crossing points and outfalls).  These features or obstacles influence the relationship between river sediment loads, nutrients and plant and animal life while some can act as barriers and can inhibit these relationships.  In conjunction with the Maigue Rivers Trust (MRT) and the Office of Public Works (OPW) a detailed baseline survey of georeferenced historical natural features and historical river infrastructure will be assembled in the heavily modified and ‘at Risk’ Maigue catchment. Surveys of historical maps, contemporary aerial photography and field examination will track the evolution of these features, establish current condition and evaluate the potential for future restoration of the river connectivity. 

Contact catherine.dalton@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Public vaccination and the state in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland – a geographical analysis

The nineteenth century marked a great advance in public health in Ireland. By the close of the century, sanitary reforms, developments in public health provision and the availability of vaccines improved living conditions and reduced the prevalence of infectious diseases thereby reducing mortality, particularly in urban areas.  The state played a key role in these developments, initially through the Poor Law Commission and later through various statutory acts which improved general living conditions and access to healthcare. By the 1840s vaccines were viewed by the state as key instruments in the battle against poor health and the spread of infectious diseases. The roll-out of free public vaccinations was initially the responsibility of the Poor Law Commission; however, by the 1850s changes were afoot.  In the following two decades, four acts relating to vaccination were introduced in Ireland which placed the state front and centre in the ongoing battle against infectious diseases and in the public registering and monitoring of vaccine take-up. The aim of this research is to: 1) investigate the role and intervention of the state in the provision of public vaccinations in Ireland; 2) examine the institutional and professional contexts necessary to implement vaccination policy; and 3) evaluate the successes of public vaccination at the local level.  A number of key sources survive for Limerick City and County which will facilitate a detailed case study analysis. These include Medical Board Minutes for the Board of Guardians and the Register of Cases of Successful Vaccinations 1854-1912.

Contact helene.bradley@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Investigating anthropogenic impacts on coastal dune evolution using airborne lidar and hyperspectral image data

Coastal dune fields form a natural defence against flooding and coastal erosion, a defensive role that becomes more vital with predictions of significant sea-level rise throughout the 21st century. Sand dunes, though, are notoriously dynamic phenomena – constantly shifting position, size and shape in response to environmental, and anthropogenic, pressures – and we lack basic knowledge about how they evolve over time. This project aims to map, model and monitor Sefton Coast SAC, the largest dune field in England, investigating how dune evolution relates to natural and human processes. The research will be conducted as part of a 2018 NERC Airborne Research Facility data grant, providing airborne lidar and hyperspectral image data. Lidar data will be acquired to generate detailed 3D representation of the dune field, and this will be compared against a rich set of recent lidar acquisitions by the Environment Agency, enabling temporal analysis of dune morphology since 1999. Hyperspectral imagery will be acquired to classify vegetation and other land cover over the dune field, indicating how factors such as distance from coast, position on/in dune and proximity to human development influence vegetation cover. Lidar and hyperspectral data outputs will then be combined to drive predictive roughness modelling of dune evolution. Finally, dune morphology will be compared against environmental and anthropogenic impacts to start to unpick the causes of dune evolution over time.

Contact paul.aplin@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Can’t see the trees for the wood: drone-based investigation of timber species invading Chile’s native forest

Chile’s temperate forests are a global biodiversity hotspot, but face intense pressure from commercial timber production of non-native species. While large-scale plantations can be monitored using satellite imagery, gradual invasion of alien trees into native forest is hard to detect. Effective forest conservation relies on regular monitoring, and traditional remote sensing approaches – e.g. using medium spatial resolution Landsat, and now Sentinel, satellite imagery – enable straightforward identification of forest stands, both for native forests and alien plantations. However, identifying invasion of alien trees into native forest stands is far more challenging, and medium resolution imagery offers limited spatial, and potentially limited temporal, detail to achieve this goal. On the contrary, drone-based remote sensing can provide highly detailed and low-cost imagery, and also offers flexible, on-demand data acquisition. The research aim is to determine the pace and extent of biological invasion of alien woody vegetation into protected native forest areas in central Chile. Mapping the location of alien vegetation will indicate the extent of invasion, while determining the age of alien trees and shrubs will act as a proxy for the pace of invasion (i.e. age decreases away from the boundary and towards the interior of protected areas).

Contact paul.aplin@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

Intra-annual monitoring of plant functional types in southern African savannahs using high spatio-temporal resolution Planet imagery

Savannah ecosystems encompass one fifth of the terrestrial landscape worldwide. Savannahs provide great range and volume of ecosystem services, including, in protected areas, biodiversity and tourism. Environmental protection measures, though, can affect vegetation distributions, and currently there are significant concerns around woody encroachment in African savannahs. Conservation success relies on effective monitoring and remote sensing has been used widely for this purpose. However, monitoring frequency and accuracy has been constrained by available data, especially reliance on medium spatial resolution sensors such as the Landsat and Sentinel missions. The emergence of Planet imagery as a free source of high spatial and temporal resolution data provides new opportunity for accurate and frequent monitoring. This project aims to monitor detailed savannah plant functional types on an intra-annual basis, providing geospatial information of direct value for savannah ecology and conservation.

Contact paul.aplin@mic.ul.ie for informal discussion about this PGR project idea.

 

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