The RGS PGF committee is elected for a one-year term at the annual PGF Midterm Conference, and we would like to introduce the 2021-22 committee to you. The committee is comprised of a chair, an inclusivity officer and the conference and digital teams. A number of us have shared our geography journey and thoughts on what geography means below.
Jordi Buckley – PhD researcher, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial, focusing on hydrology, catchment management and water pollution.
I am the current Chair of the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum and alongside this I am also a member of the RGS-IBG Council as PGF representative.
I guess looking back it all started in Primary school. We had this house system which was associated with 19th century explorers. Such as Scott and Cook. As a young boy back then these were simply adventure stories, but they certainly fuelled an appetite for travel, exploration and a desire to uncover the many marvels which our planet and all its peoples have to offer. Actually, only recently I was gifted “Points Unknown: The Greatest Adventure Writing of the Twentieth Century” edited by David Roberts. This compilation of stories starts with Scott’s famous last expedition to the geographic South Pole. I think the RGS was actually involved in this! – anyways its a great read which I highly recommend. Now that I’m on a role, I’ve also just finished reading Tim Butcher’s fantastic travel account “Blood River” through the Congo. The point here is not to sound like a library catalogue, which at this stage you probably think I do, but rather to illustrate the genre of literature which has had a profound effect on my personal journey as a geographer – perhaps it can have a similar effect on yours as well.
As a teenager I was also very fortunate to visit a few corners of our planet, from Cuba to South Africa to North Korea, all experiences which have profoundly shaped my geography journey. If you’re interested, past RGS president Sir Michael Palin has a great documentary on his 2018 travels in North Korea. After leaving school I embarked on a BSc Geography degree at St Mary’s College, Durham. This was great fun and by the third year I had developed a strong interest in Geochemistry, Hydrology and Remote Sensing. Following on from this, and something my 18-year-old self would have been in disbelief at, I decided to become a Geography Teacher. Thus I completed a PGCE and MEd at St John’s College, Cambridge. From the back of this I got a job as a Geography teacher at a lovely school in Cheltenham – this has probably been the highlight of my Geography journey so far. I am now undertaking a PhD in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial, focusing on hydrology, catchment management and water pollution.
Geography for me is adventure. It is the confluence of ideas and ideologies, where the natural and social sciences meet. Personally, the study of Geography has meant an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the planet (e.g Earth Systems) and its peoples (e.g cultures and traditions). If you’re looking to explore what geography is, in a more formal sense, please visit the RGS page on ‘What is Geography’
Luke Green – PhD researcher in Human Geography at the Centre for Urban & Regional Development Studies and the School of Geography, Politics & Sociology, Newcastle University, focusing on real estate investment and development activities of higher education institutions in the UK
I am one of the committee’s Conference Officers, so I’m involved in organising the PGF’s contribution to the RGS Annual Conferences as well our very own events throughout the year, like our Mid-Term Conference.
After being captivated in my Geography lessons at school – thanks in no small part to some brilliant teachers – I went on to study Geography at university, knowing there was so much more to the subject than that which I’d already encountered. It was at the University of Edinburgh where I found the Geography I had been looking for, and I spent four remarkable years being inspired by some outstanding scholars in a truly awe-inspiring city. Then, wanting to cast my net a little wider, I moved on to the equally brilliant Geography department at Newcastle. Now, 8 years on from those captivating Geography lessons at school and drawing on all I’ve learnt since, I’m doing a PhD in Economic Geography. My PhD research is concerned with the real estate investment and development activities of higher education institutions in the UK. It asks in what ways universities are implicated in the changing economic geographies, urban form and financial futures of their host towns and cities.
I’ll defer here to the brilliant economic geographer Erica Schoenberger, who, in one of the one of the best quotes I’ve found in a methods textbook, articulates my own feelings about Geography better than I could: “I find being in a discipline with firm precepts about what it thinks about and how it thinks impossible. I need the big, capacious, disciplines that can go anywhere, that are methodologically heterodox and ontologically flexible. This simply feels right to me. I also think it is the right way to gain an understanding of the world. Geography in my view is close to being the perfect discipline and I don’t understand why more people don’t see that” (in Politics and Practice in Economic Geography, 2007, p.43).
Hannah Gumble – PhD researcher at CASA focusing on modelling the accommodation of micromobility in existing streetspace.
I am one of the Annual Conference Officers this year on the Postgraduate Forum Committee. During the pandemic when postgraduate students were disconnected from research institutions and peers, the postgraduate forum helped me bridge this disconnection and feel supported. I am looking forward to giving back to the postgraduate community through being an Annual Conference Officer and supporting other committee members, building upon the success of last year.
For me, Geography was the perfect degree to study as it allows for a broad range of places and issues to be examined from numerous perspectives. I completed a BA (Hons) in Geography at Plymouth University graduating in 2016. I then began my career in transport planning with a focus on transport modelling. Whilst working for an engineering consultancy I completed an MSc in Spatial Data Science and Visualisation at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London. I am currently working as a transport modeller and studying part-time for my PhD at CASA focusing on modelling the accommodation of micromobility in existing streetspace.
Thomas Lowe – PhD researcher at the Population Research Centre, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, focusing on older adult mobility experiences in the UK, Netherlands and India.
I am the communications officer within the digital team. I am also one of the Postgraduate Representatives at the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group within the RGS-IBG.
I completed my BA degree in Geography at the University of Manchester. During this degree, I also spent 1 year at Hong Kong University, where I conducted my Bachelor dissertation research on domestic worker empowerment. Then, I completed a MSc degree in International Development Studies at Utrecht University. I conducted my MSc thesis research in Ethiopia also on domestic worker empowerment. I have also conducted research in India, UK, Netherlands and Malta on a variety of geographical topics from gender mobility to the music scene. My PhD research focuses on older adult mobility experiences in the UK, Netherlands and India.
Geography and being a Geographer means that you can bring together so many other disciplines and truly be interdisciplinary. Geography is crucial in all aspects of life and remains as relevant as ever. It also gives us so many opportunities to approach subjects creatively, in such a way that Geography really can be for everyone. As such, Geography is a hugely welcoming discipline and a place for everyone to find what they are interested in.
Andy Harrod – PhD Researcher, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, focusing on outdoor group activities (green care) and long-term wellbeing
I am the blog coordinator within the digital team. I am also an ordinary member of the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group within the RGS-IBG.
I consider myself an accidental geographer even so I have a human geography undergraduate degree (2002) and geography was my favourite subject at school, which led to a life-long love of the North of England, especially the fells (there is a physical geographer somewhere in me!). In between completing my degree and starting my PhD I qualified and practiced as a person-centered therapist, which I have kept up alongside my PhD and is no doubt influencing my take on my research. My PhD brings together my interests in people, wellbeing and nature, and has led to a focus on how people and places weave together to facilitate health. Alongside this is a fascination with maps, cumulating in the use of life mapping in my fieldwork, so perhaps I am more of a geographer than I think!
Geography, for me, is fascination with people and place and, not forgetting, animals. Geography provides opportunities to both embrace and expand your interests, as it is a vast discipline, where you can find your niche, but also stay chatting to so many other researchers and practitioners. Geography will test you with its interdisciplinarity, but it is at those intersections we further our understanding, in a hopefully holistic manner for all on us on this planet and for the planet. Most of all, I have found, geography to be a place of friendship, exploration and creativity.