World Animal Day: Zoology vs Animal Science – What is the difference?

To celebrate World Animal Day, we’re finding about the people that study animals – Zoologists and Animal Scientists and finding out what the difference between these subjects actually is.

First of all, both are branches of Biology, the study of all living things. Zoology is the study of the animal kingdom, including the distribution, evolution and behaviour of animals. Animal Science is the study of animals under human control, such as pets and farm animals, but what does this mean to our students?

We quizzed Chess, who recently finished her Zoology degree, and Iona, currently studying Animal Science, to find out what the courses were really like for them.

Why did you decide to study your course?

Chess: I always knew if I was going to university it would be to study Zoology. Sciences were always my strongest subjects and I’ve had a love of animals for as long as I can remember. I explored veterinary at first, but the day to day working life of a vet wasn’t for me. After spending six months training to be a field guide in South Africa I became certain that I wanted to work in either conservation planning or research. Therefore, studying zoology was an essential next step.

Iona: I came across the course on an open day, having come to Newcastle to look at Biology and Zoology. I liked all of the courses but Animal Science stood out for me because it focuses on the physiology, biochemistry and behaviour of domestic animals alongside the issues surrounding the industry.

Iona with her pet dog

Do you get to go on any cool field trips?

Chess: When I was studying the options were Kielder forest, Millport in Scotland, or Crete. I chose to study birds in Kielder forest where we surveyed them by their calls. Other groups studied deer, small mammals, and beetles. There is also the option of a residential field course abroad in an additional module. In my year the group went to Thailand, others have been to South Africa. Everyone who went had nothing but good things to say about it.

Iona: We’ve been to the Northumbria Mounted Police stables, local animal shelters and a couple of zoos. They were all very different and provided unique learning experiences. We have also visited both of the two uni farms to look around the pig and dairy units which really helped to reinforce what we learnt in lectures.

A macaque monkey, photo taken by Biology Grad, Matt Pindar, on his Thailand field trip.

Have you ever done any work experience or a placement related to your degree (either before or during uni)?

Chess:  I did a summer vacation scholarship between stage two and three, and I received maintenance funding to undertake an eight-week research project over the summer. This was an invaluable experience for me. It was the first opportunity to experience what a career in research would involve by working with academics to design and deliver a piece of my own research.

Iona: This summer, I spent some time with a multinational feed company, working with ration advisers, sales reps and regional managers. I’ve also worked with farm managers and herdsmen on large dairy units and sheep farms.

Chess with her research poster the the British Conference of Undergraduate Research

What do you hope to do after your degree?

Chess: I still want to continue into a career in research. After graduating, I completed an MSc Global Wildlife Science and Policy also at Newcastle and I am now just starting my PhD.

Iona: I am currently undecided about what I’d like to do after I graduate but I am looking into livestock nutrition or consultancy roles.  Quality control and marketing also interests me so I’m currently exploring these options.

How much time do you spend in labs vs in the field vs in lectures/seminars?

Chess: The most time is spent in lectures. At stage one there are weekly lab sessions and regular field visits though the amount of these at later stages depends on the optional modules and projects you choose to undertake.

Iona:  I spend the majority of my uni time in lectures and seminars but we’ll have a couple of field trips per term. We had about one lab session per week in Stage one and it varies in Stages two and three depending on the modules you choose.

The great thing about Animal Science is that we are a small cohort so our class sizes range from 20 when it’s just our course to 150 when we take modules with larger courses. You become very close with your course mates but also have the opportunity to make friends on different courses.

A student at Newcastle University’s Nafferton Farm

What do you think the biggest difference between Animal Science and Zoology is?

Chess: The biggest difference is definitely that Animal Science shares a lot of modules with Agriculture, so it focuses on domestic animals. This includes their care and management in an agricultural setting. Zoology on the other hand shares its first year with Biology. Therefore, the focus is on understanding the natural biological systems involving animals.

Iona:  Animal Science mainly focuses on domestic species and the issues surrounding both companion and farm animals. Sustainability is a major theme that runs through the modules and topics are usually linked to current and future management techniques. I think that Animal Science contains the best aspects of Agriculture, Biology and Zoology.

Zoology focuses on mainly un-domesticated animals and their conservation along with physiology, behaviour and evolution.

Most importantly, what is your favourite animal?

Chess: In terms of unexplainable connection, a wolf. In terms of research interest, all species of rhino.

Iona:  The dog! The wide range of dog breeds is incredible and the variety of roles they can play in our lives is endless.

Advice from the Experts

We also asked for an input from the lead academics from the courses what their advice would be for anyone deciding between the two.

Dr. Richard Bevan, a Senior Lecturer for Zoology said:

In its simplest form, I’d say that Animal Science can be thought of as ‘Applied Zoology’ and concentrates on farm and domestic animals while ‘Zoology’ deals with animals (all of them) in the wider context: from amoeba to whale. It is then an easy choice – if you are more interested in fish, sloths, crabs etc. then choose Zoology. If you are interested in how domestication has affected animals then Animal Science would be a better choice

From Animal Science, Dr. Catherine Douglas advised:

Animal Science – it’s not Veterinary or Biology or Zoology – it’s a bit of all of the these and more. I would suggest students look carefully at the topics (modules) covered and the species that each particular university specialises in.  If you love domestic mammals, you don’t want a zoology course that focuses on wild animals, insects and birds.

Richard Bevan with students on the Farne Islands

Career Prospects

Graduates from both our Zoology and Animal Science degrees have gone on to a range of exciting career paths. Animal Science graduates have gone on to work as Animal Nutritionists and Geneticists and many have gone into further study with Masters in Animal Behaviour as well as Journalism and Museum Studies. Some graduates have also gone on to study Veterinary Medicine.

Zoology grads have gone on to work in research as well in education and charities. Their job titles range from Research Assistant to Football Analyst to Events Officer at the Royal Society of Biology.

Find out More…

Explore our course pages to find out more about Animal Science and Zoology. Or if ocean wildlife is more your thing, we also offer a course in Marine Zoology.

What I Wish I Knew About Studying Civil Engineering Before I Started

I have just finished the final year of my Civil Engineering degree and it has been completely different from what I had imagined, so I’ve put together a few things that I wish I had known when I started my degree:

1. Being good at maths and/or physics won’t get you far. In fact, I now know many people who got lower grades at A-Levels or didn’t do physics at all who consistently got great marks during the course because of their work ethic. You will need to work very hard to get a good mark. Also, now, anything above 70% is a great mark.

2. Your lecturers and lab-technicians want to help you as much as possible and will welcome curiosity, don’t be afraid to ask them questions or engage in class discussions. Doing so will help your own understanding of the topics. And make sure you pay attention to the first slide of the first lecture of every module – that’s the one with the lecturer’s contact information and office hours.

3. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, there is a strong emphasis in most modules on identifying errors and methods to improve in the future – critical reflection and self-awareness is always rewarded. In a lot of the coursework we did, particularly the reports, I did not get the “right” answer, but still got great marks. This encouraged me to develop skills such as self-awareness, reflection and professionalism. Additionally, I have come to realise that getting a “good” grade isn’t everything. It is important to have academic goals that you work towards, but it is far more important to improve your skills, your understanding, gain a variety of experiences, and take care of your mental health. Students are under a lot of pressure and I know too many who have become physically ill due to stress.

4. Group work isn’t that bad. A lot of the people you will be grouped with have the same interests and aspirations as you do, so you will make some friends from group work and be able to produce something that you’re proud of. As the years progress you will learn two incredibly important skills that you will need regardless of your career path: teamwork and conflict resolution. By third year, most of the modules will have some form of group work, so there will be plenty of opportunities to hone these skills.

5. Engineering is fun. It’s really, really fun. You and your peers will get to use your creativity and technical knowledge to design and build a number of things, you will get to do presentations, use cool software and go on trips. It will be difficult at times and there will be a lot of late nights, but remember to enjoy it!

Jasmine

A Short Guide to Studying Civil Engineering (Year 2)

In this post, recent Civil Engineering graduate Jasmine continues her guide through the degree, and details what you can expect to study and gives some helpful tips on what to prepare for. 

Exams and Coursework

This year written exams are 55%, practical exams are 2% and coursework is 43%. Although the percentages may change, second year always tends to have a lower percentage of written exams and a higher percentage of coursework compared to first year.

During second year, I found that making notes and taking pictures during practicals (when allowed) helped me with the coursework and practical exams. And as with first year, asking questions is a great way to engage with the work and definitely helped me with my understanding.

This year contributes to your final degree mark, so make sure to set goals and work towards them during the course of the year. There is a lot of coursework and there are a lot of tests this year, so it is a good idea to use a calendar or planner to keep track of coursework, exams and other commitments.

Should I Choose Civil Engineering or Civil and Structural Engineering?

During second year you will have the opportunity to switch between Civil and Civil and Structural (depending on the amount of spaces available and your grades). In third year, Civil Engineering students and Civil and Structural Engineering students have the same modules except for 3: Civil students have Spatial Data Modelling and BIM, Design of Transport Infrastructure and Hydrosystems Engineering, while Civil and Structural students have Introduction to Architecture, Design of Building Systems and Structural Analysis 2. Consider which modules you would enjoy more and which would most suit the career you want to pursue.

Should I do BEng or MEng?

This is definitely something you will have to decide on during second year to avoid any confusion and disappointment during year 3. I chose BEng because MEng is not regularly accepted in South Africa (where I’m from), so if you are an international student or want to work in a different country, look into what qualifications are accepted in that country.

Something else to consider is finances. An MEng degree is considered one degree although it includes undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. If you do a BEng and then decide to do a Master’s at Newcastle University, this will be two separate degrees and will be priced differently – to clarify, the final year of an MEng degree and a Master’s degree will have different tuition fees. Be sure to contact the relevant people to get more information on how each option will affect you financially.

Finally, to progress onto an MEng course, you need to have a minimum Year 2 average of 55% (this may change).

A Short Guide to Studying Civil Engineering (Year 1)

In this post, recent Civil Engineering graduate Jasmine gives us a brief overview of what the first year of the degree is like to study.

What Should I Bring to Lectures?

In First Year, the main thing to bring to lectures is something with which to take notes and something on which to take notes. You’re given a tablet with a stylus during Induction Week which you can use for the rest if your degree. If you are going to use your tablet, bring the charger with you as first year has the most contact hours compared to the following years, and most days start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. However, if you prefer using a pen and paper, make sure to bring along a pencil with you to lectures as we draw a lot of diagrams.

Just as important is a calculator. Before you start the course, make sure that you have the correct calculator as there are only certain types that are allowed in assessments:

  • Casio FX-83
  • Casio FX-85
  • Casio FX-115

Throughout the degree, we use calculators in lectures, labs, field practicals, etc. So using the correct calculator during the course will help you during exams as you will already know how to operate your calculator so you won’t waste any time trying to figure it out.

Exams and Coursework

This year is 60% written exams and 40% coursework. Because tests are considered coursework, there was actually a lot more studying in Year 1 than I expected. Other coursework included reports and presentations, which I found to be particularly nerve-wracking at first, but really helped with my confidence and presentation skills.

In my experience, going to lectures really helps with studying because you will have had the information explained to you at least once by the time you get to revision. I also found that asking questions during lectures and practicals is a great way to engage with the work and definitely helped me with my understanding.

If you have a disability, specific learning difficulty, mental health condition or injury, make sure to contact the University’s Student Health and Wellbeing service as soon as possible to discuss alternative arrangements for exams.

Where to Get Academic Support

The Writing Development Centre offers advice and guidance on writing and works with students form all years and disciplines. Maths-Aid provides tutors who can help undergraduate and taught postgraduate (PGT) students from all disciplines, except those who are in the School of Maths and Statistics. Appointments are available throughout the academic year (except for weekends and University closure days). You can find more information on, and contact both through the Academic Skills Kit Website: https://internal.ncl.ac.uk/ask/.

Work/Life Balance as a Civil Engineering Student

Ever wondered how to balanced a degree like Civil Engineering with social activities, relaxation and part-time work? It can seem tricky, but recent graduate, Lizzie Templeton has got it covered. In today’s blog post she explains how she managed her time. 

 

I’ve recently graduated from my MEng Civil Engineering degree and as a student I remember deciding on what mattered to me when choosing a university to study my passion.  One thing I get asked about is the difficulty of managing the work life balance and how I found it.

When I first started at Newcastle University in Stage 1, I remember feeling daunted by the number of hours that appeared on my timetable.  After comparing timetables in Fresher’s week with my new flat mates, it soon became apparent that, as Engineering students, we were in the minority with our 20+ hour contact time weeks.  However, any worries soon disappeared once we got into the routine of our new adventure.  The time we were in Uni was very hands on and practical – we were in labs almost every week, keeping things interesting and different.  I remember being surprised how broad the range of modules were, incorporating many subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry, and biology.

The difference from Stage 2 compared with Stage 1 was very noticeable.  Many of the modules in Stage 1 were theory based, teaching us the basic engineering principles that are pivotal to design.  However, from second year there was more of a focus on design standards and applying the knowledge we had previously learnt.  This was particularly noticeable in a second semester module “Steel and Concrete Structures”.  I also noticed a big increase in independent learning, in our 20 credit Design of Sustainable Engineering Systems module (DSES).

The move to Stage 3 saw more design-based modules following on from previous years, with exams in Geotechnical Design and Design of Building Systems. Again, there was a push towards independence and creative, innovative learning in DSES 3, where we had to develop a basic, client Project Brief into our own detailed Brief.

With the intense workload that comes with a degree in Civil Engineering, it is very important to be able to “switch off” and relax, away from the stress of work.  One of my favourite ways to do this was to get out of the house and go for a drink with my housemates. I find it helps to get out, especially if I’d been been cooped up in the library all week.  I also liked socialising with friends off the course, allowing me to really relax and not think about any upcoming deadlines.

With regards to managing my work/life balance, I found it regimented in Stage 1.  The structured 9-5 timetable made it relatively easy to complete most of my work while in Uni, allowing me to often have the evenings off to relax.  However, as I progressed through to Stage 3, more discipline was required from my perspective.  The contact hours significantly decreased, to approximately only 12 hours a week.  Therefore, in efforts to reduce last minute work and stress, I still endeavoured to maintain structured hours in the library, even when I was not timetabled in Uni.  I find this helped me to work without distractions and, apart from during exam period, I often got home to a free evening for my own time.

Successfully following this structure, I had plenty of time to enjoy playing with the Women in Engineering Netball team on Saturdays.  This was a fun, relaxed way to keep up my hobby without the pressure of training and away games with the official Newcastle team.  Additionally, despite the busy timetables and workload, I managed to work part time as a student ambassador.  This suited my work balance extremely well due to the flexibility of the role – allowing me to choose when I’m free to work and for specified hours.

Global Engineering – Expedition to Tanzania

In this blog post Laurence, a Stage 4 Civil Engineering student, tells us all about his involvement in the Raleigh International expedition to Tanzania…

The Global Engineering module presented a fantastic opportunity to undertake an international design and build challenge within rural Tanzania, applying engineering skills and knowledge developed in university. A vital aspect of this challenge involved improving the country’s access to basic amenities such as water and sanitation facilities, an issue which is particularly deficient in the Dodoma region where almost 50% of the population have no access to safe drinking water supply, and 90% having none to improved sanitation. In tackling this challenge, an essential feature of this international experience required my team, the engineers, to communicate and engage with the local community to understand their most significant needs while considering the impact our work would have on all age generations throughout the village.

In the initial stages of the expedition, myself and five other university colleagues travelled to Tanzania and arrived in Dar Es Salaam airport at approximately 10:00 AM, where it was extremely sunny with temperatures rising as high as 40°C. We spent the first week of the expedition at Raleigh’s field base in Morogoro, a five-hour trip away from the capital of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, and this week presented some valuable guidance on how the team would embark on the upcoming tasks. It involved meeting many of the other volunteers, understanding the culture of Tanzania and more importantly understanding our responsibilities for our design and build challenge – this was important as it made me realise how a fundamental aspect of this project required us to learn the in-country aspects to then consider before partaking in the design.

Throughout the design and build challenge, my team (Alpha 3) consisted of six students (including myself) from Newcastle University, along with eight other volunteers, who either came from different countries or were Tanzanian volunteers. Personally, I found this very important as travelling to Tanzania required my team to have a basic knowledge of the language; although I found this initially difficult, having in-country volunteers allowed me to improve my communication as it was easier to learn from them too.

The design and build challenge

My team’s design and build challenge was located in Mvungurumo, a remote village within the north-eastern region of Dodoma. The project involved the construction of a set of toilet blocks and the installation of a water tank facility. The new set of toilet blocks were designed to replace the existing toilet blocks, which was over capacitated by 400 students (including both boys and girls), and the several teachers. While the existing toilets occupied six latrines, the main problem concerned the lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene due to the absence of water supply. This clearly highlighted the importance of the task at hand – to improve hygiene and sanitation in the school through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) lessons, and the provision of reliable water supply.

Life on the expedition involved eight hour working days with early 08:00 AM starts, where the temperature would severely increase at each hour. The project required numerous amounts of manual labour, where digging, concreting, brick-laying and steel bar cuttings formed a focal point of the tasks in constructing the toilets. The design for the new set of toilet blocks consisted of three designs for the boys, girls, and a separate teacher block for the school. The girls’ toilets had a particular design focus, where a menstrual hygiene management room was added to aid the menstrual hygiene for female students – this was important given that many girls in the village had started to drop out of school due to the lacking privacy and absence of adequate facilities.

Our team’s project was a continued development from the previous group’s work, and it was seen that much of the work was behind schedule due to limited material supplies. With only 18 days to finish all essential tasks, careful planning, team management and communication were at the forefront for the delivery of a successful project.

After the 18-day period had completed, we had managed to achieve our own objectives, along with extra-curricular tasks which added value to the overall project. These included the construction completion of the male and female students’ toilets, the erection of the teacher’s toilets, installation of the water tank, and the provision of WASH lessons, where many students’ in the school had learnt of the importance to maintain good hygiene levels.

Life in the remote village of Mvungurumo

The Tanzania expedition offered a unique opportunity for myself and my team to see the social aspects of sustainability in this country and through all tasks in the design and build challenge. While the majority of university modules in my course (Civil & Structural Engineering) have addressed the importance of sustainability, I was highly overwhelmed by the difference that engineers can make in the developing world. As well as the provision of appropriate infrastructure in Mvungurumo, another priority of this expedition was to ultimately raise awareness for the importance of good health and hygiene practices to enhance the impact of the new facilities provided. Much of this was achieved through WASH lessons with many of the school students, community meetings with villagers of different ages.

When initially arriving in the village, I was nervous with how the community may welcome our group as we were among the first foreigners in Mvungurumo (along with the previous group who visited). However, it was overwhelming to see how welcoming the community were; many of us were invited to church services, to play football, and allowing us to engage with many of the children – a fantastic way to finish the day off after working! All of our group and the community formed a solid bond which enormously motivated us to complete the task at hand. Effectively, we managed to finish our objectives before our set period, given the small time that may have been given to us for the project.

The particular highlight of my trip was on the 15th day of our time in Mvungurumo Village, where a ceremony took place on ‘Action Day’. This day presented an extraordinary occasion for my team to fulfil our bond with the community. This was achieved through numerous activities, games, dancing and speeches to commemorate the efforts that us, Raleigh International and many of the villagers as a whole made to enhance the way of life for much of the community. This day also allowed every person to appreciate one another for their efforts in this project. As an engineer, this ceremony really made me aware of how much difference the design and build challenge can have on a community, where much of the village residents were able to express what they had learned in community meetings and in school lessons. However, I felt that these meetings, coupled with the abundant combination of ideas shared between the multitude of engineers and volunteers effectively made this project successful, and thus this made the Action Day ceremony more special for myself as an engineer.

Advice for future students embarking on the design and build challenge

The Global Engineering module was a truly fantastic experience for myself as a prospecting engineer, and I am so glad I participated in a project that made a far-reaching difference. This expedition offered a once in a lifetime experience, providing the chance to adapt, learn and work in a completely different culture while living without modern technology in the 18 days I was in my village. For anyone seeking, considering or weighing up the option to participate in this challenge, I cannot recommend this opportunity enough and hope to offer useful advice on some aspects of the project.

Fundraising for the expedition was challenging as this occurred during the degree modules and required continuous commitment. I would highly recommend making the earliest start while using any term-breaks as opportunities to plan and partake any fundraising activities. It would also be much useful doing this with a group of people, not only because of the possibility of reaching the fundraising target sooner but also because it provides the opportunity to bond with potential team members – although this may be time-consuming! On the other hand, setting personal targets for fundraising can sometimes help motivate you to complete this task sooner.

An essential aspect of this expedition allowed volunteers to take ownership of the project, where effective decisions could be made. While it was surprising to see Raleigh staff members take a backseat, the control of the project allowed me to see how much I could develop a good understanding of the challenge, while considering the needs of the community and the scale of works to be completed in a short period. I would strongly advise breaking down each task and communicating with every person involved in the project to solve construction problems before site work while acknowledging the health and safety of all colleagues and the outer community.

On top of the design and build challenge, there are opportunities to go on a week’s trek and potentially a safari across the country with Raleigh. This presents another chance to make more friends, create stronger bonds and develop any prior weaknesses!

Personally, the Tanzania expedition was a life-changing experience which enabled me to improve as an engineer in tackling real-world engineering problems through a social aspect and was amongst the highlight of my life. For this reason, I cannot recommend this module enough for any future students looking to see where this experience takes them!

Diagram showing water research at Newcastle University

How Newcastle University is helping deliver #water4all on #WorldWaterDay

In this post, Brett Cherry – our Writer in the Lab blog author, talks about the global water challenges we are facing and how Newcastle University is tackling them.

The challenges we face for water are similar if not more critical than that of energy. While both are necessary to survival, water is even more essential to life especially clean water. Access to clean water and sanitation is largely taken for granted in richer countries, while the vast majority of the world’s population struggle to live without them.

But even the UK, where it is often quite wet is threatened by water shortages in the future, indeed some parts of the country have already experienced them and will likely continue to. The main pressures here are climate change which will result in water shortages due to drought and a population increase of 8 million people by 2050.

Think for a moment that while many of you reading this will have access to a working toilet, over 2.3 billion people do not have such a luxury. The consequences of inadequate sanitation are many, not to mention deadly. 1800 children die every day from poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

The challenge for us in the ‘more developed’ world is to find solutions that are not merely scientific, technological or even economic, but also social, educational and governmental. Enter the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub that brings together 94 organisations from 25 countries to tackle challenges around water security.

Water security for all

If we are to make sure that no one is left behind in making available clean water and sanitation for all then we must work together to achieve this. No single university, government, industry, NGO or individual will be able to do this alone. There are of course obstacles in collaborating with those whose objectives and values may slightly differ, but the stakes are simply too high not to.

Sometimes working together may be easier than originally thought, as the questions from one field may be answered by an entirely different but related one. If authorities ask why a population behaves or acts in a certain way, social scientists or NGOs may be best placed to answer.

The solution is simple: make provisions for clean water and sanitation available to those who need them. But the answer to ‘how do you do it?’ may be far from simple. Similar to the problem of making energy low-carbon, there is no one way to make clean water and sanitation a global reality.

If a community needs a low-tech, low-cost approach to supplying or storing clean water, engineers may have a solution for them. If knowledge of it needs to spread throughout the community then education will be involved. If national policies are needed for it to be adopted in a uniform way across the country, then it involves governance.

The Water Security Hub aims to work in an interdisciplinary way that cuts across disciplinary, national and professional boundaries. It is looking to highlight and enable hidden voices, such as young people, to be heard as they are one of the main stakeholders for SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.

For more info about the Water Security Hub check out this podcast:

https://soundcloud.com/user-634032444/ukri-gcrf-water-security-and-sustainable-development-hub-part-1

Wastewater and sanitation

The impacts of poor wastewater treatment and inadequate sanitation have already had global knock-on effects. After all it should come as no surprise that the combination of concentrated populations in cities, for example, with little to no sanitation, dramatically increases the risk of antimicrobial and drug resistance. It also spreads.

Numerous studies from researchers, such as Professor David Graham and colleagues at Newcastle University, have repeatedly shown from their field work that microbial resistance to antibiotics is spreading from regions of the world with high populations, but little to no adequate sanitation facilities like toilets.

As announced late January, AMR genes have been found in the High Arctic, what many would consider one of the last pristine environments on Earth. But as this and other research has shown, there are few if any places in the world that have not been touched by human influence.

To stop the global spread of antimicrobial resistance the world must work towards Goal 6 everywhere. The health and welfare of local communities and the wider global community depends upon it.

Flood risk management

While some parts of the world struggle with not enough water, others struggle with too much water. Water giveth life and taketh away. It is a force of creation as well as destruction. Similar to wastewater and sanitation, managing flood risks also must involve a holistic approach.

Flooding in urban and rural areas alike leads to incredible damage to life, property and livelihood. In the UK the cost of flooding is around £2.2 billion per year. But there are now tools for modelling and better understanding flood risks that enable cities and rural areas to mitigate or at the very least learn to live better with flood hazards.

Flood research at Newcastle University employs high resolution, integrated models for flooding that include the influence of climate change. Climate affects flooding in a big way. In the summer climate change intensifies short bursts of rainfall known as ‘convective storms’ (intense showers formed by rising air).

Forecasting tools integrated with high resolution climate models make possible more accurate forecasts, and modelling the movement of water through a sewer system leads to more accurate simulations of flooding. Not to mention ‘digital twin’ technology which has the potential to create a real-time digital replica of an entire city. This makes it possible to prepare in advance and manage flood risk more effectively.

Climate impacts and adaptation

Climate hazards are numerous throughout the world. They include not only floods, but droughts, heat waves, storms and other extreme weather events. We need to ask the question ‘how much more likely are these events under a changed climate?’ to get a more accurate picture of how climate change affects us.

To improve forecasting research led by Professor Hayley Fowler and colleagues, uses high-resolution climate scenarios that scale down these extreme events to the local areas they impact. All of this work is about improving adaptation to climate change.

Climate change has major implications for infrastructure, such as energy, water, health care and transport. We need to understand also how these different infrastructures are interdependent, for example how a major power outage affects health care infrastructure like hospitals, or blocks emergency services.

Shortages in water affect energy services as it is used to cool down power plants. For these and many other reasons climates risk should be factored into infrastructure planning.

In a recent speech given by Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the UK Environment Agency, he says all water companies in the country ‘identify the same thing as their biggest operating risk: climate change’. This means we need infrastructure that can act as a water sink as well as a water supply, a reason to make infrastructure ‘blue-green’.

Blue-green cities and resilient infrastructure

Green walls, rain gardens and permeable surfaces that serve as buffers for rainwater are examples of ‘green’ infrastructure. Ponds, pond systems, leaky dams or water courses that store water on the surface are forms of ‘blue’ infrastructure. Put them together and you have ‘blue-green infrastructure’.

Blue-green infrastructure is potentially an important tool for allowing cities to adapt to climate change. It also can improve air quality and enhance ecosystems.

Newcastle University research on blue-green cities spans modelling, monitoring and demonstrating blue-green infrastructure. The National Green Infrastructure Facility, led by Dr Claire Walsh and Dr Ross Stirling, based at the Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle Helix, evaluates the benefits of blue-green infrastructure. An important part of this research is using digital sensors to monitor say how much water a tree stores or a swale.

While there are many good reasons for using blue-green infrastructure in cities, testing them with science makes possible new innovations that may not have been known or made possible before. To make cities resilient to flooding means overcoming any existing barriers to sustainable flood mitigation. Cities are also part of a wider water catchment that should be taken into account.

Catchment and water management

A water catchment is the area where water is collected in the landscape and drains into a water body or course such as a lake or river. Whether in the countryside, the city or somewhere in between we live and interact with a water catchment, although the ways in which water travels through the landscape may radically differ as cities have mainly paved surfaces.

In rural catchments much of the research from Newcastle has focused on ‘natural engineering’ approaches to slow, store and filter water. This means working with the landscape to mitigate flooding and combining multiple sets of expertise from science and engineering to social science and knowledge of local communities.

Most of the problems of flooding and drought are due to enhanced loss of water from the landscape. This means finding ways to retain water within the landscape makes it possible to manage the catchment in an integrated way that takes into account ecosystems and communities.

The programmes of research at Newcastle University on water are many, to discover more visit the Global Challenges Academy’s website.

World Wildlife Day

To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we’re taking a look at some of our favourite wildlife that is local to Newcastle and the North East.

 

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes
Image by Ian Cook, RSPB

These seabirds are known for creating their nests on cliff-tops and rock ledges around the UK’s coast line. Since the 1960s a colony of Kittawakes have made a disused-flourmill-turned-art-gallery their home. This groups of Kittawakes nesting on the Baltic building in Newcastle upon Tyne are famous for being the furthest inland colony in the world.

 

Red Squirrels

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Once common across Europe, the number of red squirrels found in the UK have decreased since the introduction of the grey squirrel 150 years ago. It’s now thought that only around 15,000 red squirrels are left in England so they are difficult to spot. Luckily for us, around half of that population live in Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

 

Cheviot Goats

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Image by John Dalrymple

This wild group of British Primitive Goats live so remotely in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland that they are genetically distinct from others of their species. Such goats were once domesticated and brought to the UK around 5000BC as farm animals. The group of Cheviot goats are thought to have been wild for at least 2000 years. Our researchers are now tracking the goats using GPS to gain an insight into their range and behaviours.

 

Rock Pools at Cullercoats

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Not far from our Marine Biology Lab in Cullercoats Bay there is an entire ecosystem of wildlife to be found on the rocky shore. In the tide pools you can find hermit crabs, limpets, velvet crabs, starfish, sea snails, and maybe even a lobster if you’re lucky.

 

Seals

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There are a few places you can visit in the North East for Seal-Spotting. If you’re after Harbor Seals, head to Seal Sands at the mouth of the Tees for the North East’s only breeding colony. If you fancy seeing the even bigger Grey Seals, head to the Farne Islands. There over 8,000 grey seals there, making it one of the largest colonies in Europe.

 

Puffins

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These distinctive birds can also be found in abundance in the Farne Islands. No wonder David Attenborough said this was his favourite place in the UK for “magnificent nature”. Puffins can be found on the islands each year between April and July for their breeding season, the rest of their year is spent out at sea.

 

 

A day in the life of…a Civil Engineering student

First year Civil Engineering student Toby Loveday talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hey,

I’m Toby, a first-year Civil Engineering student at Newcastle University. I remember when I was deciding which Uni to attend; the hassle of writing my personal statement, attending the open days and interviews it was all a bit of a nightmare, until I found Newcastle.  The mix of student life coupled with a word class university was a no-brainer.  With so many different routes into my future career, Newcastle was by far the best option for me. Newcastle not only has great connections with industry but has world leaders in the Civil Engineering industry, which is incredibly inspiring.

Most mornings, I’m up by 8 and in uni for the first lecture of the day by 9. Contact hours vary throughout the year with 4-5 hours being common, but as exams rapidly approach some days can have up to 6 or 7. Although this may seem daunting, it is all beneficial, well that’s what I tell myself! I also try to spend another 2 hours in the library after lectures, catching up with content as well as reading around my course modules.

Being a Civil Engineering student, I study a wide array of modules from engineering maths to environmental systems, which in my view provides a great mix.  So far, my favourite module is design of sustainable engineering systems which continues through the first two years. One of our recent projects for this module was designing and building an aluminium truss, then testing it to destruction.  This was an incredible experience; it taught me practical skills, helped me to appreciate my design and to see if my calculations were correct!

Another important module which I have enjoyed studying is Geographical Information Systems, which allows engineers to model and analyse spatial data. This module is extremely important as it is the future of engineering and planning development. Although challenging at first due to no prior knowledge of ArcGIS, after multiple tutorials and one to one help, I managed to design and present a residential development right here in Newcastle.

Civil Engineers at Newcastle are encouraged to join the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Being a student member of ICE opens up opportunities to attend conferences and improve my contacts into the industry. Through ICE, I have expanded my knowledge and I get the opportunity to speak to experts in the industry.

Outside of my academic studies I am a member of the Cross Country and Athletics team, as well as the Cycling Club. After a hard day of studying, I often find myself going for a run with the Cross-Country team where I get to catch up with some great friends. Being a member of both clubs, I get the opportunity to travel to various events all around the country competing for the university.

Not only do I love to participate in sport, but I also like to watch the ‘Toon Army’ play at St. James Park. One of the best things about the city of Newcastle is the nightlife.  With a variety of student friendly clubs, pubs and venues there is always somewhere to go. When you make the right decision and come to Newcastle you may see me out sometime.

Thanks for reading!

Toby

A day in the life of…a Geographic Information Science student

Second year Geographic Information Science student Sheoma talks us through what a typical day is like for her studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone!

My name is Sheoma and I am a second year undergraduate student studying Geographic Information Science (GIS).

Newcastle University was the obvious choice for me as the city seemed very small and friendly and the quality of the teaching on my degree was extremely high.

My typical day consists of being at university from 9AM – 5PM for lectures and practicals. After, I usually head home to work on assignments. Sometimes I socialise with friends by heading to the cinema or catching student deals at my favourite spots.

Lectures

My course consists of many lectures and modules that are all interconnected and contribute to my overall learning experience. Practicals give me the opportunity to practice skills or theories that may have been discussed in lectures. They also allow you to gain a better understanding of the course content by giving you hands-on experience. Don’t worry if you find yourself saying ‘aha’ during a practical. It is expected that they clarify things that may have been otherwise difficult to comprehend. There are also occasionally a few seminars where specific topics are discussed to stimulate ideas and encourage everyone to participate. Although there are many lectures and practicals, you will appreciate them when you realise that they have equipped you with all the skills necessary to be one of the best in your profession.

Social Life

As a GIS student, you can become a member of the Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEGsoc) society. They organise a variety of events that range from socials to paint balling. A particular favourite of the society is the annual Christmas Ball where everyone puts on their most exquisite attire! If you fancy something else, there are over 160 societies to choose from, as well as the many adventures that await you in the ‘Toon’.

The thing that I find most interesting about my course is the strong links with industry. We constantly have the opportunity to network with employers who value and appreciate the level of academic excellence at Newcastle University. This makes the placement and graduate process more straightforward because we have already been exposed to a lot of different companies and have an idea of what they expect from graduates.

Hope to see you soon!

Sheoma