Magazine article Geographical

Explore 2014

Magazine article Geographical

Explore 2014

Article excerpt

Each November, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) brings together a unique mix of researchers and explorers at the RGS-IBG annual expedition and fieldwork planning seminar. Here's why it's an event not to be missed

The acquisition of new geographical knowledge through expeditions and field research has been a key component of the Society's activities since its inception. For the past 38 years, the Explore weekend has inspired and informed those wanting to turn an idea for an expedition or field research project into reality.

Although the emphasis of the weekend is on expeditions with a research component, many other sorts of challenging journeys are catered for. From independent travel to long-term environmental monitoring in remote locations, Explore has something for everyone and is an event that should be front and centre in every geographer's diary.

More than 90 leading field scientists and explorers will be speaking on the main stage, delivering specialist workshops, and providing one-to-one advice. Many of the speakers will have recently returned from their own expeditions, having been in the audience just a year before, ready and eager to share their new-found knowledge and experience.

Here, four Explore attendees and panellists describe how their own adventures have been inspired by the time they spent at previous years' Explore weekends and why, whether you're planning your own expedition or just have a thirst for adventure, this year's event is a must.

Name: Ben Toulson

Expedition: Flora and fauna study in Cambodia

Inspired by the workshops and people he met at a previous year's Explore, MSc Ecology student Ben Toulson led seven undergraduate students from Exeter and Falmouth Universities and eight Khmer students, on an expedition to the island of Koh Rong Samloem, 20 kilometres from the coast of Cambodia.

The expedition documented the terrestrial flora and fauna on the island, specifically birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, orchids and pitcher plants. The information they gathered has been distributed to in-country collaborators and the developers that own the island, with recommendations on how the island's biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural beauty might be maintained.

For Ben, his experiences at Explore were instrumental in putting together the expedition. 'I have been there the past three years and each one is as inspiring as the last,' he says. The atmosphere is always fantastic and it's great to mingle with some of the most exciting names in exploration and science. There are so many talks and workshops; you can cover many aspects of your expedition in just a couple of days.'

Since returning from Cambodia, Ben and his team have been focusing on making expeditions more accessible to other students at Exeter and Falmouth. Ben has assisted in developing a website with planning documents and advice ( This has helped further expeditions come together, including Expedition Loholoka--a research project based in Madagascar, supported by an RGS-IBG Geographical Fieldwork Grant.

Ben now gives advice and assistance to students planning their own expeditions: 'I would say the most important things to remember would be: give yourself plenty of time to plan the expedition--12-24 months; don't go it alone, seek out as much help as possible; be very flexible with your plans, they will constantly change; and, of course, attend Explore. Whether it's from an inspiring talk or just chatting through your logistics and planning with a renowned expert over a cup of tea, you will learn a great deal!'

Name: Anna Bidgood

Expedition: Mapmaking in Greenland

Anna Bidgood, along with three other undergraduate students from the Earth Science department at Oxford University, embarked on a project during the summer of 2013 to make a geological map of a small section of land close to the town of Igaliko in southwest Greenland for their dissertations. …

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