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Why Fieldwork?

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Abstract

For centuries, fieldwork has been geomorphology’s heart, entwined with observation and imagination, bound to its place in space by practitioners. Yet nowadays fieldwork often gets tossed along the wayside as a reason for holiday (or similar experience), especially when advanced GIScience and new laboratory applications/techniques are readily available. As this chapter outlines however, fieldwork—as a concept and endeavor—continues to enliven geomorphology as a discipline and should be incorporated into pedagogical strategies, lest it become forgotten. Fieldwork remains a valuable commodity in geomorphology, just as fieldwork practitioners remain important components of the discipline (and science more generally). Fieldwork helps verify data/hypotheses, enhances sense of place, generates excitement for the discipline in upcoming generations, functions as a bridge between/across disciplines, and helps challenge established paradigms. It should remain at the forefront of geomorphology.

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Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore students' perceptions of their confidence to use research evidence to complete a client case analysis assignment in preparation for participation in fieldwork and future practice. Participants: A convenience sample of 42 entry-level occupational therapy Masters students, included 41 females and one male, ages 24 to 35. Methods: A quasi-experimental pretest-posttest design was used. Students participated in a problem-based learning approach supported by educational technology. Measures included a pre- and post-semester confidence survey, a post-semester satisfaction survey, and an assignment rubric. Results: Based on paired t-tests and Wilcoxin Signed Ranks Tests, statistically significant differences in pre- and post-test scores were noted for all 18 items on the confidence survey (p< 0.001). Significant increases in students' confidence were noted for verbal and written communication of descriptive, assessment, and intervention evidence, along with increased confidence to effectively use assessment evidence. Conclusions: Results suggest that problem-based learning methods were significantly associated with students' perceptions of their confidence to use research evidence to analyze a client case. These results cannot necessarily be generalized due to the limitations of using non-standardized measures with a convenience sample, without a control group, within the context of a single course as part of one academic program curriculum.
Article
During the last decade, technological developments in computer hardware, software and networks, combined with increasing pressures on staff and students, have led to a proliferation of Communication and Information Technology (C&IT) within the Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) disciplines. This research investigates the role of C&IT within field courses, which in this paper are conceived of as a specific approach to teaching in the GEES disciplines. Through a national survey of field courses, the general level of usage of C&IT in the field was established. This was supplemented by an expert group analysis, which focused on the reasons behind the use of C&IT in the field. It was concluded that most use of C&IT in the field is driven by technological rather than pedagogic innovation.
Fieldwork is considered central to an education as a physical geographer. However, there are doubts whether all students benefit from it equally. A preferred way of learning may have an influence upon its perceived value. Attitude surveys were administered to 1191 2nd- and 3rd-year physical geography undergraduates across 16 British universities. The survey assessed individuals' perception of the “value” of fieldwork and also their preferred learning style (using Kolb's LSI). A total of 421 returns (35%) were analysed using multivariate analysis. Seven groups of students emerge with respect to the value they place on fieldwork. There was an overall positive view, especially with respect to the social aspects. However the hypothesis that learning style affects the value of fieldwork appears unfounded in this instance.
Article
This paper provides an overview and discussion of a study concerning student ideas about the terms ‘weathering’ and ‘erosion’. It describes the results of a survey conducted on 236 students, aged 16‐19, to ascertain details of their ideas about these two terms. The main factor students use to discriminate between weathering and erosion is movement. A majority of students appreciate that weathering occurs in situ, whereas erosion involves transport. Many students regard weathering as solely related to atmospheric elements, which results in some erosional and weathering processes being incorrectly classified. Human actions are perceived as types of accelerated erosion, but uncertainty surrounds whether animal activities are bio‐erosion or biological weathering. This uncertainty is also reflected in the literature. Taken collectively the results have a number of implications for teachers addressing these concepts and for the students they teach.
Article
Understanding the complex, non-linear ways in which linked ecological and geomorphological systems respond to disturbance is important to improving both theoretical understanding and practical environmental management. Some simple conceptual models have been proposed to describe biogeomorphological responses to disturbance within fluvial and aeolian environments, and are reviewed here. Recent research on the interactions between ecological and geomorphological processes in rock breakdown, aeolian, hillslope, fluvial and coastal wetland process regimes indicates a number of additional factors which need to be considered by such models in order to provide a more realistic representation. In particular, many empirical studies point to complex interactions between vegetation, microphytic crusts and animal action (bioturbation and grazing) in a wide range of sediment systems, which act as intrinsic feedback factors complicating the response of these systems to disturbances such as climate change and human action. Improved understanding of these interactions will help effective environmental management, as exemplified by salt marsh restoration schemes. Furthermore, better specification of biogeomorphological interactions can provide insights into large-scale, long-term Earth systems dynamics problems such as the long-term carbon cycle. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Apart from the engineering approach to soil as movable regolith, most specialists who study soil view it as a plant-linked, land-only, and Earth-only entity whose character and properties are explained by a mix of four environmental factors—climate, organisms, relief, and parent material—that operate over time. These factors function to produce soil, where S=f (cl, o, r, p, t …). This relationship constitutes the five-factors, “clorpt,” explanatory model of soil formation that lends itself to the survey, classification, and mapping of soil for agricultural and environmental purposes and aids in soil valuations and soil conservation-management needs. In geomorphology and Quaternary research, it has met success in soil chronosequence and age-dating studies. But inasmuch as soil is the most complex and unparsimonious of all natural science entities, is any model so conceptually endowed that it allows a deep understanding of the full range and nuances of soil-forming processes? Can a conventional model provide new visions and different levels of knowledge beyond conventional levels? We present a multifaceted and biodynamic approach that views soil in different ways. One is that soil is the outer integument, or “skin” of all lithic-composed celestial bodies, planets, their satellites, and such. But Earth differs from others because water covers nearly three-fourths of its surface and life covers nearly all of its surface and produces a biodynamically mediated “epidermis”—a biomantle that other planets lack. The biomantle constitutes a subaerial-subaqueous continuum across the globe. Life imparts myriad biomechanical and biochemical processes—biodynamic processes—to the soil-biomantle continuum, and these coact with physical processes in producing soil landscapes. This multifaceted approach is embedded as a component of the dynamic denudation framework of landscape evolution, which carries useful and different explanatory and predictive powers for studying the global soil-biomantle that may be invisible, unacknowledged, or unstressed in other frameworks, including one where “organisms” essentially means plants. To appreciate how our approach differs from conventional views of soil formation, and to provide a historic context, we reflect on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century turning points in Earth sciences, mainly in geography, geology, and soils, which led to the five-factors (clorpt) model as the sine qua non way to explain soils. The details of our approach then follow.
Article
Equilibrium is a central concept in geomorphology. Despite the widespread use of the term, there is a great deal of variability in the ways equilibrium is portrayed and informs practice. Thus, there is confusion concerning the precise meanings and usage of the concept. This confusion has arisen because of the enshrinement of Gilbert's original ideas as a myth that supports a narrow, short-termist, process-based approach to geomorphology that developed following the quantitative revolution, and is furthermore essentially untestable. It may be better to represent equilibrium as a metaphor that underpins many geomorphological concepts and ideas, which are utilized in our everyday practice and which are built upon a relatively narrow, modernist perspective of the discipline.
Article
A comparison is made of the reproductive effort (RE), considered as the investment in sporophyte relative to gametophyte biomass, of eight species of moss occurring at sub-and maritime Antarctic sites. Six of the species showed smaller sporophytes and game-tophytes at the climatically more extreme maritime Antaretic sites and one species showed no size difference between regions. The remaining species, although showing no regional difference, showed some evidence of a reverse pattern, with higher altitude samples having greater biomass than lower altitude samples. Spore counts indicated a measure of compensation in maritime Antarctic samples, with no significant decrease in spore output in several species despite smaller sporophyte biomass. The relationship between sporophyte (S) and gametophyte (G) biomass within samples was described by an allometric curve (S=aG b ) which gave a better fit than a straight line for six species. This form of model allows comparisons of patterns of RE to be made between samples with non-or partially overlapping size distributions, even when the relationship involves size-dependence. An allometric curve was not appropriate for describing samples of one species (Andreaea regularis), and insufficient data were available to identify any relationship in Polytrichum alpinum. The exponent (b) differed between species, but there were no statistically significant differences between exponents from samples of the same species. Samples of two species could further be described by the same coefficient (a), indicating that they lie on the same curve. However, samples of three species from sub-Antarctic South Georgia gave significantly higher coefficients, indicating increased RE relative to maritime Antarctic populations.
Article
The Nullarbor Plain is the largest karst area in Australia (220,000 km2) and one of the largest in the world. Its climate is arid (Kppen BWk and BWh), and the surface relief is less than 10m. The landscape is divided into extensive closed karstic depressions separated by low rocky ridges, and the dominant vegetation is chenopod shrubland. The extent and severity of soil degradation has been assessed using remote sensing. GPS rectified images from 1972–1973, 1979, 1983, 1988, and 1991 have been compared for two sites on the Nullarbor. Over the 19 years the total extent of bare soil has reduced significantly, but some areas around water points have degraded and there is some disturbance due to fossorial wombats. Sheet-flow processes occur during intense rainfall events, which happen two or three times per decade. Runoff only occurs after the 10– or 50– year return frequency events, and at these times turbid water ponds in depressions and enters caves. Surface soil sorptivity and hydraulic conductivity differ markedly between ridges and depressions; the ridges are clearly zones of groundwater recharge, while ponding is evident in most depressions. Sorptivity is influenced by the extent and nature of ground cover and cryptogam crusts on the soil. The landscape has been divided into classes on the basis of vegetation type and percentage of foliage cover. In each class the activities of fallout radionuclides will be determined by high resolution spectroscopy. Preliminary results suggest that in undisturbed sites little sediment movement has occurred over the time scale of cesium-137 (the last 35 years) but that the landscape has been well sorted over a much longer time scale. Future work will investigate disturbed sites to estimate relative soil loss during the pastoral period.