Introduction

My teaching interests are centered within the broad field of environmental Geography, with a primary focus on applied methods including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis, environmental remote sensing, computational modeling and statistics. Courses I teach tend to have a substantial practical component, combined with ground work in theory and methods. For example, in my course on computational modelling, students use a flood inundation model in conjunction with a GIS to design possible options to try and solve or alleviate a flooding problem – through, for example, building embankments, improving drainage or planting forests. The options they present must be economically feasible and any potential negative consequences must be considered using GIS analysis. During this work, students use the same model code that I use in my research, for published study sites. In this way, students increase their awareness of current research practice and gain valuable hands-on experience in environmental management.

The importance of Geography

I believe Geography to be one of the most interesting and important disciplines for study at university: it brings together and connects multiple other disciplines, fosters holistic and critical thinking, provides both breadth and depth of knowledge, and addresses issues of great importance to society in the 21st century, such as climate change and its impacts. It also provides a strong grounding in both qualitative and quantitative methods, meaning that a Geography graduate possesses a highly transferable and marketable skill-set – particularly in growth areas such as GIS and spatial analysis.

In 2015, I was invited to contribute these thoughts as a chapter in an e-book titled Geography for the Curious: Why Study Geography?, edited by Prof. Kishor Vaidya from the University of Canberra, Australia. You can read my contribution on this page.

GIS and remote sensing analysis using open-source software

For many small organisations, particularly in regions such as as the Caribbean, one of the barriers to using GIS is the significant cost of implementation of commercial software. Now, though, there is a wealth of open-source options available, including some very complete and user-friendly systems (e.g. QGIS). However, due to the undoubted importance of commercial software to many major employers in the sector, in undergraduate teaching software such as ESRI ArcGIS tends to be the primary focus for reasons of graduate employability.  For me, this means that the barrier to GIS implementation for individuals or small organisations remains, since graduates often don’t have the experience needed to use open-source alternatives to commercial software.

Due to these issues, when developing a new third-year undergraduate course in Remote Sensing & GIS, I took a decision to use only open-source software and, as far as possible, freely-available remote sensing imagery. The course builds on the second-year Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, which uses commercial ArcGIS software. As a result, students in Geography at UWIStA are exposed to both categories of software.

You can see much of the practical material for the Remote Sensing & GIS course on these pages.