From the Mersey to Mexico
26 May 2011
From the Mersey to Mexico – LJMU Geography students play a part at the Port.
Geography students at Liverpool John Moores University have been assisting in essential monitoring of the Mersey as part of their degree studies, helping to continue the effort to clean up the river despite intense commercial activities due to the regeneration of the port and the Liverpool economy. This research has also seen the students travel to Mexico to share their findings.
Programme Leader and Principal Lecturer in Physical Geography Dr Jason Kirby, commented:
“The LJMU BSc (Hons) Geography programme is designed to teach students about the natural world and the role of people within it. It is hands-on, with an emphasis on practical skills gained on a variety of exciting field trips. We want our students to learn how their degree can help the local environment and through this the economy.
“Liverpool is uniquely placed for the study of geography with easy access to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Peak District and North Wales, as well as a host of coastal sites including the Mersey and Dee estuaries. We take full advantage of this, and also lead students on memorable overseas expeditions, basically taking our Mersey research to Mexico and back to share knowledge in some cases. These trips provide a range of skills and prepare students for employment and further education. The students really enjoy this approach, which was reflected in the high Student Satisfaction results (93%) received for the subject in the National Student Survey last year”.
Having a clean and well monitored environment in a busy port really helps to boost the image of Liverpool. Students annually collect samples from both inside the dock system and out in the estuary, and recent tests have shown promising results – the river is in fact now so clean that salmon has been tracked all the way up to Warrington. The estuary environment is highly dynamic and well-mixed so the brown appearance is related to suspended sediment – not necessarily pollution. In fact, sediments collected from the bottom of the Albert Dock appeared remarkably clean and with good indicators of health, rather than concern.
Dr Kostas Kiriakoulakis, Oceans Expert and LJMU Lecturer, leads the Mersey boat trip with the students:
“The fact that the water quality continues to improve as the Mersey gets busier is in itself remarkable, but it is essential to keep monitoring this on a regular basis and we’re bringing a new generation to this work through the Geography programme. Environmental monitoring of the estuary is very important because you can see issues such as disturbance and pollution and their impacts on the wider estuary ecosystem. Of course, the water in the Mersey has travelled a long way and through various major industrial and urban conurbations – so it isn’t just port activities than can affect the water quality – but all of these things would be considered to have negative impacts such as pollution. But in fact our students are helping to prove the opposite and this has many beneficial effects on the City from tourism to reputation.”
Second year Geography student Jennifer Sutton said:
“As a student at Liverpool John Moores University studying Geography I have developed a strong interdisciplinary approach to many current environmental issues, especially those in Liverpool and the surrounding areas. With its strong industrial background, many people have preconceived ideas about the amount of pollution that still resides in the Mersey estuary; however our recent fieldwork carried out in the docks and estuary itself revealed healthy sediments and water chemistry. The analysis carried out onboard and later on in the laboratories of Byrom Street campus proved to be extremely interesting and provided data that could be useful for Liverpool’s industrial economy.
“It is thanks to the highly knowledgeable lecturers and outstanding facilities at LJMU that myself and my student companions have acquired many invaluable skills within our field of interest and other transferrable skills that put us in such a fortunate position for future employment. We also have access to the innovative World of Work (or WOW) programme, which awards students a certificate demonstrating to employers that specific key attributes have been acquired and developed, such as communication, numeracy, literacy and initiative skills. For these reasons and many more, deciding to study at LJMU and live in Liverpool was the best decision I have ever made and I feel that this exciting and forthcoming city has so much to offer, the full extent of which I have yet to unveil.”