Alumni donations help students fight climate change

The Aurora Borealis in Greenland

This year, donations from alumni and friends of the University have given Geography students first-hand experience of using an advanced ‘differential Global Navigation Satellite System’ or dGNSS. This high-tech piece of equipment can pinpoint the exact location of the user’s receiver anywhere in the world, enabling students to measure and predict the effects of climate change.

Students in the Department of Geography, took advantage of the donor-funded dGNSS whilst on a field trip to Greenland over the summer of 2018. The students learned how to measure the location and movement of a glacier to within a centimetre. This level of detail allowed the students to compare the ice motion with subtle changes in air temperature and ice surface melt. For students and researchers in the Department, understanding how changes in climate affect the motion of the ice in this part of Greenland is crucial for predicting how it will contribute to rising sea levels.

"It was a really useful experience learning about and deploying the dGNSS in Greenland. It was the first time I had used anything other than a handheld GPS, so it was interesting to learn about the different ways in which a dGNSS can be used, and the extra positioning accuracy they provide. I enjoyed setting up the base and rover receivers, and it was interesting to experiment with the controller and see the number of satellites it used!”

Pete Tuckett, MSc Polar and Alpine Change

Thanks to the donations of alumni and friends, the dGNSS will directly help the Department in their research, as well as giving hundreds of students the chance to gain hands-on experience. For students, gaining practical skills and learning how to use this world-class survey equipment is invaluable for their careers, especially those hoping to continue into climate research.

Geography students on a field trip to Greenland Specialist equipment funded by donations

Following the field trip to Greenland over the summer, MSc Polar and Alpine Change graduate Beckie said that working with the dGNSS allowed her to gain the transferable skills she needed to pursue a PhD.

Donations also provided the students with a new tent for the trip, and will be used by future cohorts of students and researchers setting off from the research centre in Greenland.

This small piece of equipment will have a lasting impact, as students will continue to use the dGNSS on future field trips to Spain, New Zealand and Death Valley.

Dr Andrew Sole from the Department of Geography said that with the dGNSS they are able to put on an exciting range of practical field trips, which is great for attracting students to study at Sheffield. Staff are also planning to use the equipment across undergraduate and postgraduate courses, so as many students as possible will benefit. And, it will help the Department achieve their impressive aim of becoming a world leader in Geographical Information System (GIS) teaching and research.

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