During the first week of September 2018 I was lucky enough to participate in a research project sponsored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) that aimed to address and improve access to field trips for geoscience students with disabilities.
This took place in Anglesey and was a unique trip that involved meeting 11 other students from various universities across the UK. We were able to test a range of technology and teaching methods as a group (shown below) that aimed at increasing inclusion on field trips. As well as this we were able to learn a lot about the geology of Anglesey which is not a field site visited during my degree.
Technology used during the week:
- Tour guide system
- Relay stations (using Wi-Fi) connected to remote cameras and iPads.
- Walkie talkies
- Ipads and Android tablets with apps and pens to annotate
- Virtual Mapping
- Portable microscopes
- Camera able to instantly relay photos back to car/van
Below I have summarised what we did each day and how the inclusive practises helped us as a group:
Day 1 – Parys Mountain
On the first day we visited an old opencast copper mine called ‘Parys Mountain’ which has been used as a Doctor Who filming location due to its vivid colours!
The morning was spent identifying 3 major rock types: rhyolite, shale/mudstone and blue/ yellow ores formed during the cooling of hydrothermal fluids. This was the first opportunity to test out some of the technology. Relay stations were positioned at the top and bottom of the mine in order to connect staff and students at the top of the mine to what was happening in the pit with live video. A camera was also used for close up examination of vein networks in the centre of the pit with the pictures being instantly sent to students with iPads. Despite some initial difficulties with the technology we were all able to experience the geological features within the mine and had a good start to the trip!
Day 2 – Red Wharf Bay and LlanfairPG
Investigating the carboniferous sandstone’s and limestone’s on the beach was a good opportunity to test out the tour guide system. Every student had an ear piece to listen to the staff member speaking. This meant we didn’t have to crowd around the speaker or worry about missing something as everything could be heard using the earpiece! This proved popular with everyone as it meant we all knew what was going on and what we were meant to be doing, helping to increase the feeling of inclusion within the group. By the end of the week it had been named ‘Chinchilla radio’ due to the fluffy round microphone that had to be held by the speaker’s mouth!
There were some very interesting sandstone ‘pots’ and columns sat within limestone beds at the beach- strange! The layers above appeared to be subsiding which all together made this a fascinating and unique locality that everyone was able to get access to.
Day 3 – Lligwy and Cemlyn Bay
A visit to Lligwy bay meant we were able to see some deformed Old Red Sandstone and staff were able to make improvements to the tour guide system so that everyone could hear despite the strong coastal wind. Being careful to avoid the quicksand 5-10m away from the rock exposures!
The afternoon took us to Cemlyn Bay to look at rocks part of the Cambrian New Harbour Group shown in the photo below. A trip to the pub after a day out in the field was a good way of getting to know everyone and relax looking at views out to the Snowdonia National Park.
Day 4- Llanddwyn Island
I took the opportunity to try out using a tablet to produce my field notes instead of the usual paper notebook. This worked well even in the rain and I could annotate photographs which helped a lot with understanding. After speaking with everyone else in the group we all agreed that they are a great way of reducing the stress of trying to get field notes done in time, especially to students with a learning disability. The pen meant you could choose to type notes or draw e.g. annotations which made it more flexible as well as the range of apps available to make notes on or even to assist with taking dip measurements!
There was some very interesting geology as this location including pillow lavas on the beach and a “melange” on the tip of the island made up of a total mix of rock types! Probably the coolest geology example I had ever seen!
Day 5 – Rhoscolyn Mapping Area
During the second to last day we familiarised ourselves with the mapping area we were going to focus on during day 6.
I got the opportunity to learn about metamorphic geology in more detail by sketching and understanding the plastic deformation of a cliff face showing z and m folds. The relay system was used extensively due to the steep cliffs and difficult access for vehicles. Walkie talkies were essential to coordinate the group and ensure everyone got to participate.
As we got more familiar with everyone in the group we felt more comfortable asking each other what equipment worked best and how we could work as a group to ensure nobody missed out.
Day 6 – Virtual Mapping
The bad weather on our final day meant we were forced to stay indoors. It provided a great opportunity to test out a virtual reality mapping landscape of Rhoscoyln that a couple of the trip organisers have been working on for years. Using a laptop to load the virtual Rhoscolyn site you were able to walk around the mapping area (accurate to the real locations we visited the day before!) looking for outcrops with notepads. These gave you details of the rock type and measurements for the dip and dip direction so that a full geological map could be completed the same as if you were in the field.
Overall this was a truly amazing opportunity to learn about alternative teaching methods and how fieldtrips can be thought about differently in future, with the student and staff on the trip making everyone feel very welcomed and relaxed. I came away from the trip a lot more knowledgeable about the different ways a fieldtrip can be organised to improve inclusion and access, and keen to share what I learnt with academic staff.
DiG-UK is the branch of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) that is focused on improving access to geoscience within the UK. More detail about the organisation set up in the UK can be found at: