Geography: Brighton Uni Lecturer Visits Lower Sixth Classes


Bede’s Geography department was delighted to welcome Dr Annie Ockleford and Emily Burton of the University of Brighton to Bede’s last week to run a session about Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for our Lower Sixth Geographers. 

Dr Ockleford helped pupils to get to grips with mapping spatial data on a Google Earth map.  They were given some real data on wind speed that was collected at several intervals whilst walking up a hill near to Alfriston.

The data had been collected the day before, using a mobile phone that was able to record the latitude and longitude, as well as an anemometer. Pupils then plotted this data as a series of bars, on the point on the map that the data had been collected.


This is far superior to drawing a simple bar chart to analyse wind speed change, as it allows the user to analyse it whilst being able to see the landscape at the same time. 

The layering of data onto a base map is at the heart of GIS and is probably something that the average person does several times a day with their smart phone.

One example is using your phone for directions – you layer your position and intended destination onto a base map, which is a simple road map of the area that you are in. You can often also add in a layer to show existing traffic conditions on the roads. This is data that is all collected in real time as other mobile users go on their own journeys.


These systems are very useful for day to day life, but can even be lifesaving for those working in the emergency services; operators must plan the quickest routes to incidents, and GIS means operators are able to see where ambulances are located, for example, without the needing to contact each one individually.

Understanding and applying GIS is now a vital skill for Geography A Level, with this need driven by the rapid growth in GIS use across a wide variety of sectors. Pupils can expect exam questions on the use of GIS and they will also find it a valuable tool when we complete the coursework element of the A level in the summer term – so this made Dr Ockleford and Ms Burton’s visit all the more valuable!


Indeed, GIS even has become standard technology for insurance companies as they can give quotes based on the flood risk of individual properties. Urban planners can see where roads are frequently congested, aid organisations can build up information after natural hazards using information provided by individuals and researchers can compare glacial retreat or deforestation rates.

Everyone from utility companies to pizza delivery drivers to governments benefit from this technology, and it is thought to support at least 10% of the British economy!  

We were all extremely grateful to Dr Ockleford for giving up her valuable time to share her expertise with us. As a Geography Ambassador with the Royal Geographical Society, we hope she also enjoyed her visit and can return to us to share more of her wisdom with us in the future.


We are also grateful to Ms Burton of course, who is a current second year Geographer studying at the University of Brighton; she provided an outstanding role model for the Lower Sixth pupils, and answered lots of their questions about university - which was an added bonus!


Learn more about the Bede's Geography department >

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