Geography at Leicester


In the Bennett Building our facilities include:

Student study centre

At the heart of Geography is our student study area, which is dedicated to our undergraduate students. This is a place for students to meet to discuss their work, with WiFi and a relaxed seating area underneath the touchscreen television for group interaction. Based on the ground floor, undergraduates are also welcome to use the Sylvester Bradley Resource Room for quiet study, and our Masters students have access to their own workroom with dedicated computers.

Section of Student Study Area

Physical geography teaching laboratory

Our large physical geography laboratory provides a state-of-the-art teaching and research space for a diverse range of biogeographical and geomorphological analyses. Along with an extensive range of equipment for soil and water analysis, the lab includes a laser particle size analyser for determining particle size distributions of soils and sediments, as well as an extensive suite of microscopy equipment.

View of the Physical Geography Teaching Laboratory

Equipment for fieldwork

We are well-stocked with a full range of equipment such as recording devices (loggers), digital cameras, pH kits, flowmeters, surveying equipment, soil temperature and moisture probes, etc. We also have a range of GPS equipment, including a differential unit capable of providing centimetre location accuracy. We have sets of handheld PDAs/iPhones/iPads/Microsoft Surface computers so that you can make and record measurements and view satellite data whilst in the field. In addition, we have interview recording and transcribing equipment.

Geography's Map collection has over 100,000 accessions (including aerial photographs and atlases). We have a number of eddy covariance flux towers and associated instruments that measure carbon, energy and water fluxes between vegetation and the atmosphere.

Female students using equipment on Spain fieldwork

Computing facilities

Geography is exceptionally well-equipped with high-specification computer facilities. Our large computer room (circa 50 PCs) is used for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, as well as research. The computers have specialist software for the analysis of geographical data (GIS), the analysis of satellite data (remote sensing) and modelling and visualisation of environmental data.

3D Stereo Virtual Reality Theatre

The School's virtual reality theatre uses 3D methods to visualise the way in which GIS works to bring landscapes to life. For example, it has been used by physical geographers to familiarise students with the landscape of Almeria (Spain) prior to their field trip, however it can be relevant to both human and physical geographers.

Students viewing 3D New York landscape on the VR Theatre screen

MSc teaching and computer laboratories

Masters students have access to a study room in Geography equipped with PCs. Other facilities include printers, plotters and scanners. Software resources such as Esri's ArcInfo and ArcView, ERDAS Imagine, ENVI IDL and IDRISI and open source systems are also available.

Palaeoecology Laboratory

A key approach to understanding long-term ecological and environmental change is the analysis of micro-fossils such as pollen, diatoms and ostracods. These are preserved in sedimentary deposits and peat bogs, and changes in their species composition and abundance allow us to interpret past (palaeo) environmental changes. Their analysis requires careful extraction from sediments and rocks, which is performed in our specialised palaeoecological laboratory.

Student working in the Palaeoecology Laboratory

Geochronology laboratory

The analysis of long-term landscape evolution and palaeoenvironmental change is predicated on the availability of reliable numerical dating ("geochronology"). We have a new laboratory, which focuses on the technique of optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. This, and the allied technique of thermoluminescence (TL) dating, allows us to estimate the time elapsed since sediments were last exposed to sunlight (burial duration) or heated (e.g. fired in a kiln). They provide chronological information relevant to both landform/landscape evolution and archaeological research over timescales of several decades to c.200,000 years.

Staff member working in the Geochronology Laboratory

Environmental stable isotope laboratory

This is a state-of-the-art research laboratory dedicated to environmental stable isotope research. The facility is ideally suited for organic compound specific (biomarker) d13C and dD analyses. In addition to this, the facility is used for the determination of d13C, d15N, d18O and dD on bulk organic samples and the isotopic composition of carbonates, water and air. In addition, the laboratory houses a standalone quadruple GC/MS system for the identification of biomarkers in complex organic extracts. Several methods are available to analyse samples for their chemical composition, including an elemental analyser for C, N measurements (e.g. total organic carbon, nitrogen and C/N ratios).

Staff and students working in the Stable Isotope Laboratory

Microscopy lab

Powerful light microscopes, electron microscopes for very high magnification and compositional analysis, and micro-FTIR system that analyses the compositions of samples underneath a microscope at very small sales. This is particularly useful for measuring microplastic pollution – an area of considerable international interest and concern at the present time.

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