Since 2009, the Society has annually awarded a small number of bursaries to first year university geography students who want to participate in an overseas research project led by a lecturer from their university.
The £2,000 grant gives each student the opportunity to work with their lecturer on scientific research for several weeks in their summer holiday. The experience of working with academics in the field for an extended period of time provides both a unique insight into research and the chance to acquire new skills and knowledge.
The scheme, which forms part of the Society’s Learning and Leading Programme, aims primarily to support undergraduates who would not otherwise have the means to experience overseas research.
The Learning and Leading Programme’s three other strands are similarly designed to give opportunities to those who have faced or are facing challenging circumstances. The Programme, which is now in its final year of existing funding, offers bursaries for maintained school A-level students to undertake fieldwork summer schools in the UK, awards grants to school leavers to go on a meaningful gap year, and provides fieldwork masterclass weekends for teachers.
To date, 29 Fieldwork Apprentices have joined research projects, with six more first year undergraduates undertaking overseas research this summer through the 2015 bursaries. Those awarded bursaries in 2014 completed field-based research on areas as diverse as rock weathering in the Arctic, palaeoclimates of the Late Glacial Transition in Jordan and historic sustainability in Iceland.
Innes Hamilton, from the University of St Andrews, was able to join a field project investigating the past climate of Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains during the last glaciation. Visiting valleys on both the Polish and Slovak sides of the Tatra Mountains, she helped map glacial features using a GPS unit, recorded sample characteristics to date the age of exposed surfaces, and worked to develop teaching materials. By the end of the research trip, she helped create a GIS database of the information gathered in the field.
Innes’ experience of the bursary scheme was typical in that her involvement with the project required a high level of co-operation and responsibility during the research trip, but her participation did not stop on her return. She was able to work with the team after the fieldwork to follow the development of the project and will be involved with publications derived from the fieldwork.
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