10. Maps, Maps and More Maps

Having never written a blog post before I’m not sure how this will turn out, but here goes….

Hi, I’m Emily Hill and I’m a first year Physical Geography PhD Student at Newcastle University. My project is looking into outlet glacier retreat in northern Greenland, relating this to changes in external environmental forcing (atmospheric/oceanic and sea ice) and investigating the impact of ice tongue loss on inland ice velocities and glacial ice discharge.

Last week I finished off writing something to send to my supervisors, so this week I had allocated the time to start working back on my data collection and processing (unfortunately not the most exciting week to write about – but it’s all part of the process!). As I am trying to look at glacier retreat over the past 50-75 years I have spent a lot of time (and will spend even more) on collating and processing satellite imagery and remotely sensed data.


Today was mainly spent organising getting hold of some imagery I need to conduct my project. I had to order some imagery from the United States Geological Survey and organise payment, I made enquires to the European Space Agency about further satellite imagery and began to look into radar imagery download and the different scenes I need to cover the glaciers I am studying. All mundane tasks unfortunately, but it’s exciting to start bringing data together!


I began the day by looking back over some historical map charts I downloaded a while ago. These need to be georeferenced so I am able to use them to map glacier changes. I spent a lot of time faffing around with this to no-avail, despite researching the method. I think I’m going to need to get in touch with the data source institution to see if they have any advice on why they might not be lining up correctly.

Myself and fellow IAPETUS (http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/) Newcastle University PhD students were invited out for lunch with the lead organiser of the Doctoral Training Partnership in Newcastle. It was the first time I had seen him since my interview a year ago so it was nice to get to chat in a more informal setting, oh and the food at Fat Hippo Underground is amazing, if you ever find yourself in Newcastle I would definitely recommend it.

EH1Our IMPETUS lunch location – Fat Hippo Underground. Amazing burger and chips.


The morning was spent doing more GIS stuff – playing around with more maps, to try and set them up to use for mapping glacier retreat. Time seemed to fly by before going along to an internal seminar, where two of the Physical Geography lecturers were doing short talks to the rest of the Physical Geography research cluster over lunch time. It was really interesting to hear about the research other people in the department are doing, often I find I don’t know the projects they’re all working on currently. Both talks were really interesting.


A screenshot of georeferencing historical maps to recent satellite imagery.


Myself and other Physical Geog postgrad students have been doing a small reading group – admittedly we set out for this to be every week but we’re lucky if we find time once a month. Despite that, it seems to be great to read a paper not necessarily related to our projects and discuss what we thought about it with each other. So Thursday morning was our (monthly!) reading group session.

I made an enquiry to a guy in America about the historical map issues I’d been having, he replied super quick, giving great advice and offering to look at it more detail for me. People are often so much more willing to help than I sometimes imagine they might be.

Two hours of the afternoon was spent demonstrating in a computer practical session for an upcoming undergraduate fieldtrip to Iceland. The students were looking at satellite imagery to better understand the field site they’re going to as well as handing out field equipment and hearing a logistical briefing from the module leader. Very excited to be helping out on this trip next week – although the weather is looking very chilly!


A screen shot of current Iceland conditions for the fieldtrip – looking very snowy still!


This morning was spent doing something rather different to normal which was doing an off-road driving training course organised by the University at Karting North East. We were each given a 15 minute one to one session (while our peers were sat in the back of the 4×4, secretly judging our driving skills, based on how much they got bounced around!), and we drove around a great course covering lots of different types of terrain – great fun! And the skills I learnt will come in very handy for the Iceland fieldtrip should I be required to drive the 4×4 hire vehicle while we’re out there.


Sonja, Charlie, Arminel and Me sat on the front of a 1996 Land Rover Defender.

The afternoon was spent helping out in another computer practical session for joint 2nd/3rd years who were using satellite imagery to look into glacial like features on Mars. I really enjoy the opportunity to help out with these sessions, not only to improve my troubleshooting skills, but I find I actually learn a lot of techniques and content I may not have done otherwise.


This week like many others has left me feeling like I haven’t achieved much, or certainly as much as I had hoped. I had a massive amount of things on my To-do list I aimed to do (probably doesn’t help the excessiveness of my list), and I’ve been meaning to immerse myself in the world of Matlab for months with little spare time to do so. But actually, I’m slowly starting to realise that I need not panic, keep working hard (but give myself enough breaks!) and I’m not as behind as I keep thinking I am. All in all a relatively productive and exciting PhD week, onto the next one….