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Undergraduate Fieldwork Opportunities in the Department of Geography

The BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Management, BA Human Geography and BSc Development and Globalisation programmes all contain a number of fieldwork opportunities. We believe that fieldwork is vital to expose students to a wider range of settings, both cultural and physical; to teach important skills in data collection and analysis and to bring together students to build relationships.

Because Birkbeck is special in catering particularly for students who have work or caring responsibilities, all our compulsory field trips are within the UK. In addition to our compulsory trips, a number of our optional modules are taught at least partly in the field. For compulsory field trips, the Department of Geography covers all costs apart from student travel to the starting location. For optional field trips, students cover their full costs themselves.

Compulsory fieldwork

In the first year of your programme, you will attend two day trips in the autumn term, associated with the level 4 modules Humans and the Environment and Introduction to Spatial Thinking. These run over the same weekend, with a night away on the Saturday. (For part-time students they can be attended in two separate years when the modules are studied).

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We also run trips within London for both level 4 and level 5 modules.

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We also run a weekend field class in Norfolk in the summer of year 1 as the final part of the level 4 module Introducing Natural Environments (compulsory for BSc Geography and BSc Environmental Management programmes).

Optional modules

Optional fieldwork

Students can apply to take part in optional modules that involve a wider range of fieldtrip options. Option modules that include a fieldwork component (this can change from year to year) have included:

Urban Studies – Urban Studies Field Project (from 2017/18)

  • The Urban Studies Field Project module will provide students with an opportunity to understand patterns of urban development and associated patterns of socio-spatial inequality with reference to a major world city, such as Berlin. The underpinning thematic focus is the ongoing creation and recreation of urban space and place in relation to social inequalities. Key sociological and geographical urban themes will be examined: divided cities, multi-ethnic cities, creative cities, gentrification, globalisation, housing, urban regeneration, squatting and anti-gentrification struggles. Different neighbourhoods of the city will be visited with a view to highlighting specific aspects of urban development. Prior to the fieldwork, students will learn about the historical and contemporary development of the city to be visited in relation to sociological and geographical themes and issues. On the field visit, students will have the opportunity to gather material for their Field Project Report. Following the fieldwork, students will discuss their findings in class before they write these up into the Field Project Report.
  • In 2018, we will be visiting Berlin. The cost of the Berlin trip to each individual student is yet to be finalised.

Research Applications in Human Geography – Delhi Field Project (from 2017/18)

  • This Delhi Field Project aims to introduce you to issues of globalization, urbanization and economic development while providing the opportunity to apply research methods in the field. The main fieldwork component will take place during spring term. The fieldtrip will focus on the city of Delhi, to examine urban redevelopment, new global industries, cultural change with a focus on gender, and creative interventions in the city to manage processes of change.
  • The cost of the Delhi trip to each individual student is approx. £1,300.
  • The number of places available on the trip will be capped at 16, including a designated number of places for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Registration for this option will ONLY commence in the first week of Autumn term. Priority will be given to students studying on programmes in the Department of Geography, and the MSc Global Environmental Politics and Policy programme. A waiting list will operate once 16 places have been filled.
  • Due to conditions in Delhi, this fieldtrip may not be accessible for all students. Please contact the module coordinator before registering if you would like to discuss this further.
  • Delhi 1
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Storms, Seas and Rivers (Mallorca)

  • In this module we study how water moves through porous materials (namely soil) and how this relates to rainfall and runoff generation. The largest component is a five day residential field trip in Mallorca, exploring hydrology in semi-arid environments. There is also a one day field trip in the UK, exploring how hydrological processes form an important control on slope stability, through the example of cliff failure and shoreline retreat.
  • The cost of the Mallorca trip to each individual student is c. £500.
  • Storms FW 2

Landscape Change: Past and Future

  • This module introduces students to the response of different landscapes to large-scale climatic fluctuations during the Quaternary period (last 2 million years). We look at the driving forces behind landscape changes in response to climate and project these into the future in relation to human-induced climate change. As part of this, we spend a day in the New Forest looking at sediments that were laid down in a large river system that used to flow down the Solent seaway.
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Fieldwork safety

  • Fieldwork is an activity involving inherent risks and hazards - e.g. coastal exposure, quarries, river sections, power stations, farms, and some urban areas. The Department of Geography is committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of both student participants and staff members during fieldwork.
  • In order to ensure adequate control of health and safety risks during fieldwork, staff within the Department, carry out a Risk Assessment in close coordination with other parties at Birkbeck University of London. This ensures that potential risks are minimised, and that contingency plans are in place in the event of an (unlikely) accident.
  • A fieldwork safety guide provides important information for students undertaking fieldwork. The document Fieldwork Safety Guide describes the safety guidelines that are relevant to the Department of Geography fieldtrips, provides information and instruction to students, and details the responsibilities of the student for their health and safety. The guide also contains appendices of forms and procedural information.
  • For issues relating to activities at the London campus we refer to the Birkbeck University of London Health and Safety Services