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Space to think

Professor Heiko Balzter, Head, Department of Geography: "This project will lead to better satellite monitoring methods to control tropical deforestation, help people affected by natural disasters and adapt to climate change."

Space to think

How Geography at Leicester is shaping our view of the world

Two diverse projects in the University of Leicester’s Department of Geography are literally challenging perceptions – by harnessing the latest technologies to change the way we view the world.

They demonstrate how Leicester is leading the way in enabling postgraduate as well as undergraduate students to develop the skills required for the environmental challenges ahead and to develop a better understanding of the way we live.

The Geography department has been selected as the hub of a £3.5 million centre to train skilled researchers to develop better methods in environmental satellite monitoring.

The University was chosen to lead the project as it has one of the world’s leading centres for space research and satellite monitoring and is internationally recognised for its cutting edge research training in remote sensing.

The new European Centre of Excellence in Earth Observation Research Training, GIONET, will develop better methods for monitoring climate change, environmental disasters and land cover change.

Coordinator of the project, Professor Heiko Balzter, Head of the Department of Geography, said: “This project will lead to better satellite monitoring methods to control tropical deforestation, help people affected by natural disasters and adapt to climate change.

“We will be training 14 young researchers in satellite remote sensing over the next four years. These young scientists will become the research leaders of tomorrow. They will be placed in industry and universities and experience working abroad, as well as getting the best technical and scientific education.”

Funded by European Commission, Framework Programme 7 and the Marie Curie Programme, GIONET is a collaboration between international partners from the private and public sectors: University of Leicester (Coordinator), Infoterra UK Ltd, Gamma Remote Sensing AG, Switzerland, Institute of Geodesy and Cartography, Warsaw, Poland, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena, Germany, Balaton Limnological Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, German Aerospace Research Establishment, DEFiNiENS AG, Germany, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Ispra, Italy, ITT Visual Information Solutions Ltd., UK, SpectoNatura, UK.

In a separate project within Geography, researchers have implemented a new technological system which will alter the face of excursions in the field once and for all.

Geography Undergraduates Integrating Neo-geographies and Social Science (GUINNESS) is a project designed to advance ideas and thinking with regards to the spatial exploration of a city. The scheme, which is funded by the University of Leicester New Teaching Initiatives, encourages the use and evaluation of mediascape technology in association with fieldwork to engage students with more modern techniques of learning about space and place.

In a fieldtrip to Dublin, second year students from the University’s Department of Geography demonstrated the successful use of these mediascapes in engaging with urban and cultural geography within the city where the use of digital media, such as images and audio enable critical reflection of places within the field.

Human Geography Lecturer, Dr Gavin Brown commented:

“This modern mobile technology challenges the thoughts of students while creating digital representations of place and space and could be soon seen nationwide on similar field courses.

“The technology also allows for students to add their own content to the mediascape, in a similar style to that already experienced on a much larger scale by Google Earth. Students were able to use film footage and personally conduct interviews to create a cumulative collection of information in the Monto district of Dublin.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011/Annual Report edition of LE1. Click here to read it online.

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