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"Refugee Hosts" Research Project

First Newsletter now available

A first Newsletter has been published by the Refugee Hosts research project.

Funded by AHRC-ESRC PaCCS (Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research), the four year project (2016-2020) is investigating local community experiences of, and responses to, the displacement of people from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, whether explicitly or implicitly motivated by faith.

Hundreds of interviews and participatory workshops are planned in nine local communities to gain a deeper understanding about how encounters between diverse groups are perceived and navigated.

The Newsletter contains more details about this interdisciplinary project, led by UCL Geography’s Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, with Professor Alastair Ager (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh), Dr Anna Rowlands (Durham University) and Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (UEA). Project partners and collaborators include PEN-International, English PEN, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, Save the Children and Stories in Transit.

More information is available on the 'Get Involved' pages, especially how to join in the group’s research conversations. It is particularly interested in publishing research, creative pieces, photo galleries and thought provoking items on its blog.


And also the Twitter and Facebook pages, for research updates, events and new blog posts.

Five new Migration Research Unit Working Papers

Research from Global Migration MSc
Five new Migration Research Unit Working Papers

Working Paper

Five new Working Papers were published on 24th March by the UCLGeography Migration Research Unit, showcasing the best work of students on the department’s MSc Global Migration course.

They include three which focus on the current refugee crisis, including a study of stakeholder response to sexual minority refugees in Turkey; an analysis of refugee housing provision in Cologne, and a case study of faith-based humanitarian corridors in Italy.

Other new papers include an analysis of the World Health Organisation response to the Ebola crisis and an evaluation of the relationships between internal migration and escalator regions in the UK.

The uncertain dimensions of the global water crisis

Simon and Richard on the importance of ground water resources
The uncertain dimensions of the global water crisis

Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia


Adequate supplies of freshwater to sustain the health and well-being of people and the ecosystems where they live remain among the world’s most pressing needs. This is reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4, to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

Unfortunately, according to a new study by PhD researcher, Simon Damkjaer, and Professor Richard Taylor, published in Ambio on World Water Day, 22 March, there are significant limitations to how ‘water scarcity’ is currently measured.

Misrepresentations of freshwater resources and demands are particularly severe in low-income tropical countries, where most of the global population now live and the consequences of water scarcity are most severe. As a result, they argue that we simply do not know the dimensions of the global water crisis.

Simon, working with the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, and Richard call for renewed debate about how best to measure ‘water scarcity’. It should be redefined, they argue, to reflect the freshwater storage required to address imbalances in supply and demand.

This would allow recognition of the contribution of groundwater, the world’s largest accessible store of freshwater, accounting for nearly 50% of global withdrawals.

Such a measure could also be used to explore a range of options, as well as dams, to address freshwater storage needs, including using renewable groundwater, soil water and trading in virtual water.

As Richard explains:

“How we understand water scarcity is strongly influenced by how we measure it. Grossly misrepresentative measures of water scarcity can identify scarcity where there is sufficient and sufficiency where there is scarcity. An improved measure of water scarcity would help to ensure that limited resources are better targeted to address where and when water-scarce conditions are identified.”

World Water Day

World Water Day, held on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. There are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. World Water Day focuses on the importance of freshwater and advocates the sustainable management of freshwater resources


The UK In the World/the World in the UK

Jason Dittmer at Duke University, NC
The UK In the World/the World in the UK

Jason Dittmer

On February 13, Professor Jason Dittmer was invited to Duke University,  North Carolina, Center for Global and International Studies, to give a lecture, The UK in the World/the World in the UK, drawing on his forthcoming book, Diplomatic Material: Affect, Assemblage, and Foreign Policy (Duke University Press).

He also gave a public lecture on Superheroes and the Donald Trump phenomenon.

The visit provided an opportunity for Jason to connect with leading scholars and practitioners of foreign policy and to promote the relevance of assemblage theory in scholarship on international relations.

He was also able to bring his earlier research on nationalist superheroes up to date with current events and present it to new audiences.



The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

Mat Disney co-organises Royal Society and NSF meetings
The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

TLS scans in Russell Square (Phil Wilkes)

Dr Mat Disney was co-organiser of a Royal Society-funded meeting "The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology ", held at the Royal Society's secluded and elegant 18th Century Grade I listed Chicheley Hall, in Buckinghamshire, on 27-28 February 2017.

The meeting, led by Professor Mark Danson (University of Salford), with other co-organisers Professor Crystal Schaaf (University of Massachusetts) and Dr. Rachel Gaulton (University of Newcastle), brought together around 80 scientists from all over the world, from ecology, biology, computer science, remote sensing and forestry, to discuss how terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is providing a totally new way of looking at forests.

TLS is attracting great interest across many areas of science, conservation and policy, particularly to understand how trees develop and adapt their form and function, and respond to climate and man-made changes. It also reveals how forests are subtle aggregations of individual tree and collective structural and ecological properties.

TLS is also providing measurements to test new ecological theories and open up new ways to monitor forests from space and ground. This is potentially vital in supporting policy frameworks, such as the UNFCCC REDD+ agreement on preserving tropical forests according to their carbon storage capacity.

Finally, TLS is providing new and often beautiful ways to visualise environments. Check out Mat's blog on his work in the tropics, at Kew, and even just around the corner from UCL (

Following the Chicheley meeting, many participants came to UCL Geography on 1st March, as part of a US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) meeting on terrestrial laser scanning.

Led by Professor Alan Strahler (Boston University), a long-time collaborator with Mat and Professor Philip Lewis (UCL Geography), the TLS RCN is a forum to facilitate collaborative research developing new TLS models and algorithms, field experiments and techniques, and applications.

The TLS RCN has around 80 active members in over 20 countries, including team members from the NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and the ESA BIOMASS RADAR spaceborne missions.

Both missions will launch in the next 2 years and attempt to estimate forest biomass and structure across the globe, with Mat working with both teams using TLS to improve the satellite retrieval of forest biomass.

The Royal Society and RCN meetings showed how lasers really are opening our eyes to new ways of looking at the world's forests.




See also:


Picturesque in Paris

Anpu’s video of Second Year field class
Picturesque in Paris

Street market in Barbès-Rochechouart

Following the successful Second Year undergraduate field class to Paris during the February reading week, Anparasan Sivakumaran has created an entertaining short video of his impressions.


Anpu writes:

The field class provided an excellent opportunity for UCL Geographers to build confidence in carrying out research, preparing them for their personal studies for their Third Year dissertations.

Paris was used as a case study in applying qualitative research methods, including ethnography, interviews, and visual and document analysis.

Various parts of the city were explored. We were not only exposed to the central Paris environment, but also conducted research on the outskirts of the city, 30km away, in a new town called Marne-la-Vallée, the home to Disney Land Paris!

Whither Resilience?

Pushpa invited to speak at Chennai conference
Whither Resilience?

Pushpa Arabindoo

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Urban Waters ARCUS Workshop, held from 15-18 February 2017 at Anna University, Chennai.

Organised by the Université Francois Rabelais de Tours, the Arcus programme of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs aims to establish innovative academic partnerships between French regions and other countries, in this case the regional state of Tamil Nadu in India.

The Urban Waters programme has been ongoing since 2014 and this was the final workshop to present the results of the research collaboration with the School of Architecture and Planning as well as Centre for Water Resources, Anna University, Chennai.

An alumnus of the undergraduate architecture programme, Pushpa was invited to present her research on hydro-politics in Chennai. Her address, entitled ‘Chennai post-2015 floods: Whither resilience?’ drew on her recent paper on the anatomy of Chennai’s 2015 floods. It developed further her concerns about how resilience discourse is superficially invoked, and emphasised the need to differentiate between city and citizen resilience.

For Pushpa’s paper, Unprecedented natures? An anatomy of the Chennai floods, see:

Simple rule predicts when an ice age ends

Chronis Tzedakis and colleagues unlock mysteries of the ice ages
Simple rule predicts when an ice age ends

Arctic Ice

A new study published in Nature on 22 February, led by Professor Chronis Tzedakis (UCL Geography, Environmental Change Research Centre), with colleagues from the Universities of Cambridge and Louvain, combines existing ideas into a simple model which predicts which solar energy peaks during the last 2.6 million years led to the melting of the ice sheets and the start of warm periods.

It has long been realised that the cycles of Earth’s climate, between cold (glacial) and warm (interglacial) periods, have been influenced by changes in the planet’s orbit around the Sun and the tilt of its axis. These affect the solar energy available in summer to melt ice at high northern latitudes.

The study of such fluctuations since the previous deglaciation shows that the succession of 110 solar energy peaks, about every 21,000 years, led to only 50 complete ice sheet meltings, every 41,000 years,

Chronis explains why this might be the case:

“The basic idea is that there is a threshold for the amount of energy reaching high northern latitudes in summer. Above that threshold, the ice retreats completely and we enter an interglacial.”

From 2.6 to 1 million years ago, this sequence predicted almost perfectly when interglacials started and the ice sheets disappeared. About a million years ago, however, the threshold rose, so that the ice sheets kept growing for longer than 41,000 years, and became larger and more unstable.

The research combined these observations into a simple model, using only solar energy and waiting time since the previous interglacial, to predict all the interglacial onsets of the last million years, about every 100,000 years. The reasons the energy threshold rose around a million years ago require more research, but may be due to a decline in the concentration of CO2.

Nevertheless, as Chronis comments, “Finding order among what can look like unpredictable swings in climate is aesthetically rather pleasing”.

See more at:

‘Where the Animals Go’ wins national travel publishing prize

Edward Stanford award for innovation goes to James and Oliver
‘Where the Animals Go’ wins national travel publishing prize

James receiving the prize

Where the Animals Go, by Dr James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, has won the London Book Fair Innovation in Travel Publishing Prize in the 2016 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.

The book demonstrates how data and technology have changed our understanding of animal movement, and showcases the latest research and data visualisation techniques.

The scientific content, and focus on animals rather than humans, make the book very different from what readers may think of as travel writing, so it was a real surprise to James and Oliver that they were nominated for the prize in a shortlist of six.


Commenting on the winners, Tony Maher, Managing Director of Edward Stanford Limited, writes:

“As the world grows smaller and in many cases more dangerous, travel writing in all its forms keeps us in touch with our global family. These disparate shortlists have one unifying feature – they are all marvellous examples of what travel writing and publishing does best, which is to show the reader a world far from our own doorsteps, made reachable by these glorious, powerful and unforgettable books.”



Life in NJ Muslim community under Trump

Tom Brocket’s account in The Independent
Life in NJ Muslim community under Trump

Tom Brocket

An article by UCL Geography PhD researcher Tom Brocket, about the reactions to President Donald Trump's 'Muslim Ban' in an Arab-American community in New Jersey, has appeared in The Conversation and been subsequently published by The Independent.

The personal reactions of various community members are described in the days following the imposition of the Executive Order. These range from young children imitating Trump's political performances to older adults finding comfort in small gestures of kindness and support from the wider New Jersey population.

The article also briefly places the ban in a longer historical context of governmental activities targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans, and the longstanding difficulties of 'Flying while Arab' in the United States.


Roger Tomlinson Prize established

Gift of ESRI founder Jack Dangermond
Roger Tomlinson Prize established

Dr Roger Tomlinson: (

An annual prize has been established at UCL by Jack Dangermond, founder of ESRI, the world’s largest GIS software developer.

The prize is in the name of Dr Roger Tomlinson, widely credited with being the ‘Father of GIS’, who obtained his PhD at UCL Geography in the early 1970s.

It will be awarded annually for the best PhD dissertation at UCL relating to the development or application of GIS, and is intended to support new PhD scholars in sharing ideas around the world and developing their careers.

The first Roger Tomlinson award has been made to Dr Faisal Umar Kaita for his work, Understanding spatial patterns of urban crime in a developing country.

Faisal collected the largest database of crime victimisation in a developing country, for Nigeria, impressing the examiners, Dr Aiden Sidebottom (UCL Crime Science) and Professor Martin Andresen (Simon Fraser University), with his breadth of knowledge and the potential of the work for further applications of GIS.


Faisal’s work was supervised by Dr James Cheshire (UCL Geography) and Professor Shane Johnson (UCL Security and Crime Science).


Notes on Asphalt: America 1950-1990

David Lowenthal’s photographs in French exhibition
Notes on Asphalt: America 1950-1990

Exhibition poster

Emeritus Professor David Lowenthal's photographs of the American vernacular scene in the 1950s are featured in an exhibition, Notes sur l'asphalte, une Amérique mobile et précaire, 1950-1990, at Le Pavillon Populaire in Montpellier, France, from 8 February to 16 April 2017.

The exhibition shows the work of six scholar photographers who immortalized the landscapes of urban and rural America between 1950 and 1990. Each was influenced by the work of J B Jackson at Harvard and Berkeley, grounded in vernacular, commonplace, everyday landscapes.


Undergraduate Dissertation Images Competition

Anna is first winner
Undergraduate Dissertation Images Competition

Calais camp

2016 saw the launch of the UCL Geography Dissertation Images competition, to celebrate the diversity of our undergraduate dissertation research.

In these studies, UCL Geography students do all sorts of things and go to all sorts of places as part of their dissertation research.

For the competition they were asked to submit images that would give a flavour of what they were trying to do in their research and how they were doing it.

Prizes were awarded for the best, and in 2016 the Overall Winner was Anna Knowles-Smith.

Anna’s research sought to unsettle images of refugees as depoliticized, powerless victims by looking at how those in the Calais camp sought to represent themselves. Her image conveys their defiance in the face of extreme hardship and an increasingly uncertain future.

Among other prizes were:

Winner of the ‘data’ category:
Tilak Joshi
: Soil samples collected to test for soil acidity at Croxley Common Moor, a 40-acre site near Watford

Winner of the ‘method’ category:
Holly Campbell: E
xploring female entrepreneurship in Turkey.

For these and other images, currently displayed in the Pearson Building, see link below.

Urban Floods in India

UCL Global Engagement support for Pushpa
Urban Floods in India

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo has been made an award by the UCL Global Engagement Fund to collaborate with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in organising a workshop on ‘Urban floods in India: A socio-engineering perspective.

This follows from Pushpa’s forthcoming publication on the anatomy of Chennai floods.

She will explore the issue further with hydrologists, meteorologists, weather scientists, geomorphologist and remote sensing scientists from IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay and IISc Bangalore.

See also:

UCLGeography alumnus made Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Distinguished career of Akin Mabogunje
UCLGeography alumnus made Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Akin Mabogunje

Professor Akin Mabogunje (University of Ibadan) who obtained his PhD at UCL in 1961, has been elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Described as the ‘father’ of Geography, and one of the fathers of the Social Sciences in Nigeria, Professor Mabogunje has received around 20 national and international honours in various academic and professional fields.

He was the first African president of the International Geographical Union (1980), and the first African to be elected as a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences (1999).

Once a regular visitor to UCLGeography, he last visited the department during its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2003.



The American Academy of Arts and Sciences:

UCL Provost’s Teaching Award goes to Joe

“Outstanding contribution to learning”
UCL Provost’s Teaching Award goes to Joe

Joe Thorogood in action

Joe Thorogood, in the final year of his UCLGeography PhD studies, has won one of this year’s two UCL Provost’s Teaching Awards for Postgraduate Teaching Assistants, having made, “an outstanding contributions to the learning experience and success of UCL students”.

As a PGTA Joe has taught on Global and Development Geography, Urban Geography and Cities and Modernity, well as in practical and seminar courses. In January this year, with fellow PhD student Anna Plyushteva and undergraduates  Fumika Azuma and Charlotte Collins, he co-organized the successful UCLGeography student-staff academic conference. He has also been active outside UCL, including through the RGS (with IBG) as a Geography Ambassador in schools.

Joe’s research is in the field of critical geopolitics, focusing on medicine in the early-mid 20th century and how its consumption and production became geopolitical through the League of Nations. He was awarded a 5 month ESRC Fellowship as a visiting scholar at the Kluge Center in the US Library of Congress in March 2016, and is currently in Vancouver until late June on an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit to the University of British Columbia.




See also:

Uncertainty in Big Data

Alyson again wins Best Paper prize
Uncertainty in Big Data

Home locations of customers using stores near Central London transport rail hubs

Alyson Lloyd, UCL Chorley Institute/Geography PhD researcher, has won the prize for the Best Paper by an Early Career Researcher at this year’s GISRUK (GIS Research UK) conference, held in Manchester on 18-21 April.

This was the second time in three years that Alyson had been nominated to receive the prize by conference delegates.

Her paper, “Challenges of Big Data for Social Science: Addressing Uncertainty in Loyalty Card Data”, detailed a number of innovations in tackling some of the uncertainties inherent in large consumer datasets.

Alyson's research more broadly aims to use the  Consumer Data Centre High Street Retailer dataset to understand the prospects for employing loyalty card data in social science research.

The prize is sponsored by Pixalytics.


GISRUK 2017:


The UCL Geospatial Analytics and Computing Research Group:

Alyson Lloyd:
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