Today is Ada Lovelace Day. As part of this international celebration showcasing women working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), we asked five of our Chartered Geographers how using geographical thinking has supported them in their careers and why geography is important to them.
Charlene is Head of Products and Services for the Building Research Establishment’s BREAAM portfolio, a world leading sustainability certification scheme that drives standards and performance throughout the built environment sector. She has a BSc in Geography and holds a Masters in Sustainable Planning.
She said: “My career up to this point has always had a spatial and geographical element whether that be in planning consultancy and urban design, in global strategy development or via the technical development of BREEAM’s globally applicable assessment criteria. Society and its needs vary and are shaped by geographies and the individual sense of ‘place’ - we can’t design, build and operate a built environment in ways that meet societal needs without this being a central and fundamental consideration.”
“Geography, for me, is a consciousness of who and where, and the present and future physical and political systems acting upon them. I struggle to think of a societal challenge or opportunity of today that can be successfully acted upon without geographical thinking being needed. Climate change? Health? Technological diffusion? They all have geographical dependencies and nuances. Geography is more than discipline - it is a mindset to realise success at scale.”
Naa studied for a BSc in Natural Resources Management at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and holds a Masters in Geo-information Science and Earth Observation from the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She’s now an Information Data Analyst at ITOPF, a not-for-profit organisation in London that provides marine ship pollution response advice globally.
“Throughout my career, I have practised geographical thinking, often unconsciously. As an information data analyst, it forms the basis of what I do. I’m often presented with questions related to where marine oil spills occur, their frequency in different regions across the globe and relationship between frequency of spills and other factors. I always look for spatial properties and try to identify patterns/trends and relationships in datasets, with a focus on finding answers to specific questions. I don’t always get an answer, but I always gain a better understanding of the situation.”
Karen is Service Manager for Natural England’s internal web mapping system. She holds a BSc in Geography and a Masters in Geographical Information Systems.
She said: “Through geographical thinking I have been able to provide access to geographic evidence and tools across Natural England. This allows connections to be made between a range of evidence, on a local, regional and national scale.”
“Geography allows us to link people, places and the environment. It is key to helping us understand the world we live in now and helps us plan for the future.”
Dr Angel Ng
Angel is Senior Geomorphologist and Geologist at Arup, currently based in London. She provides specialist geomorphological and geoenvironmental assessments from feasibility through planning, investigation, design and construction, and has been involved in several large infrastructure projects including High Speed Rail 2 and the Peru Reconstruction Program. She holds a BA in Physical Geography, a Masters in Slope Geomorphology and a PhD in Landslide Hazard Assessment.
Angel said: “Geographical thinking enables me to provide a more holistic approach in reading the landscape for hazard and risk assessments at various spatial scales through time, and integrate knowledge from other disciplines, to devise better solutions shaping a better world.”
“Geography is an integrated and diverse discipline that is fundamental in understanding a wide range of complex global issues between the natural environment and people, such as geohazard and risk, sustainable development and climate change. Key geographical skills and techniques such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), aerial / satellite image interpretation / remote sensing provide useful tools in which to analyse the physical and human interrelationships in space and time and facilitate insights across disciplines.”
Maria studied a BA in Geography at the University of Leeds. Now she is Secretariat and Policy Advisor at the Geospatial Commission, where she is responsible for overseeing governance arrangements for managing the delivery of the Commission’s core objectives, and supporting independent Commissioners in order to explore areas of specific geospatial interest. She is working towards Chartered Geographer status.
She said: “I am lucky that I get to work for a government body that is closely aligned to the discipline. I am able to use existing knowledge on geospatial and geographical information systems to inform the strategic direction of work, particularly providing valuable insight into the real-world application of geospatial and how this can support public services. Aside from core geography knowledge, my degree equipped me with a wealth of skills that are vital in the Civil Service including communication skills and the ability to provide sound judgment and negotiation skills in order to reach the best outcome for all stakeholders.”
“I believe geography is the most important subject as it is the subject of our times. The study of place and space, and how humans interact with the environment is extremely important to understand and respond to emerging global issues. Geographers are at the heart of the world’s most transformational issues, so having passionate people willing to prove the importance of geography is vital to create innovative solutions to real-life matters.”