Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Year's resolutions for GEESologists

It's that time of year again, the time when magazines and the internet bombard their readers with "New Year New You" messages, gyms are crowded with people in squeaky-new trainers and expensive workout outfits who will have lost their gym passes by February, and the low-calorie meals section in your local supermarket is three times its usual size.  For the first post of 2014, therefore, I thought I'd share a few resolutions related to the GEESologist parts of my life.

Naturally, my list needs to include something virtuous and worthy.  Resolution number one, therefore, is to include more philosophical roughage in my mental diet and put more thought into the philosophical underpinnings of my research.  As GEESologists, I think we are all sometimes guilty of running around applying our favourite method to interesting places or problems, like a kid let loose with a hammer in a world full of shiny, inviting sticking-up nails, and our approach to the history of our discipline tends to be in the form of stories about exciting discoveries and strenuous expeditions rather than considering the underlying conceptual frameworks.  Physical Geographers may be particularly prone to seeing that sort of approach as a Human Geography issue.  Therefore I resolve to make a start by reading two books, Inkpen and Wilson's Science, Philosophy and Physical Geography and Ford's Scientific Methods for Ecological Research, and to blog about them later in the year.


Resolution number two is to go to twelve places I've never been before.  Even someone who is fascinated by landscape and has a lot of professional opportunities to travel can fall into a bit of a rut - revisiting favourite places to hike or holiday, finding that conference venues are in the same locations etc.  I will allow myself to define 'place I've never been before' quite broadly - places within a day's travel of Hull that I've not visited like, say, Harlow Carr RHS gardens in Harrogate, will be allowed to count as well as more exotic possibilities.

Resolution number three is the one concerned with becoming a more serene and balanced person. I resolve to do more fossicking.  I found out when researching this post that the original meaning of fossicking is searching through abandoned mine workings in search of little fragments of precious materials, but I've always understood it as taking the time to go slowly and look and poke around in the natural world - fossicking along a hedgerow or a green lane can mean taking an hour to go half a mile, but involves finding nests and spiders-webs, spotting snails, identifying the early leaves of flowering plants in the hedge-bank, taking pictures of pebbles or admiring the bark of a tree.  If you find that difficult to do as a focused adult, borrow a small child and take them outdoors for an hour or so - they are natural experts at fossicking!
Path into North Cliffe Wood, Yorkshire - an excellent fossicking habitat (photo: me)


No list of resolutions would be complete without something which is easy and pleasurable, to increase the chances of keeping at least ONE of them.  Therefore Resolution number four is to bake a selection of recipes from the FSC cake chart and try them out on members of the Department's Writing Group.  The Field Studies Council are well known for their excellent field guides which help everyone from young children to professional scientists improve their identification skills and learn about the natural world, and as part of their 70th anniversary celebrations last year they produced this handy guide to fieldwork sustenance, which also helps raise money for a good cause.  It's even laminated - well adapted for use by messy home bakers like me.
 
Any other GEESology New Year's Resolutions to share?  Let's chat about them in the comments!


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