Field work in Geography and Environmental Science

Our field courses are among the most inspirational, rewarding and enjoyable experiences as an undergraduate student at the University of Exeter. They form an integral part of your degree, positioned at the very heart of our teaching in Geography and Environmental Science.

As one of the keystones of geographical understanding, field courses provide you with the ambition and ability to develop and apply the knowledge gained from our world-leading academic staff in the classroom into the central issues, concerns and experiences facing the world around us.

Each field course is carefully designed to bring theory to life, whether through developing fundamental field techniques in some of the most stunning landscapes the UK has to offer, or honing the more challenging, independent research skills that will ensure you develop and flourish as a geographer or environmental scientist. What is more, you will experience a variety of teaching styles and work in small teams undertaking your own practical research.

Our field courses will help you will gain a greater understanding of the interaction of people and landscape on a range of scales, as well as enhance your skills in teamwork and independent thought. As a result, many students describe the field courses as a highlight of their degree and among their most memorable and enjoyable experiences.

Exact field course module options are specified on each degree course page.

Streatham Campus, ExeterPenryn Campus, Cornwall

At the Streatham Campus the field courses we offer are*:

Bay of Naples
New York

At the Penryn Campus we offer the following field courses*:

Hong Kong
Isles of Scilly
West Penwith, Cornwall

Click on the accordions below for more information.

*Please note that field course destinations are subject to change.

This field trip aims to provide an inter-disciplinary field setting for a cohort of BA and BSc Geography students who would like to continue to pursue aspects of physical and human geography in an integrated manner. Within this broad aim, the field trip will aim to:

  • Demonstrate the ways in which geographical concepts and techniques can be explored and integrated in specific spatial contexts;
  • Develop the necessary skills amongst students for working in an integrated way through field observation, data collection and analysis that involves the use of natural and social science data and methods;
  • Examine the relationships between the natural and social worlds through contemporary challenges, using risk as a specific theme on the field trip;
  • Enable students to consider how working in an integrated way can be used to tackle a range of contemporary global challenges through integrated management.

Field trip themes:

The following themes provide a broad and indicative overview of the types of themes that will be introduced in advance and during the trip:

  • Disaster planning and tourism
  • Heritage and Tourism
  • Urban re-development and contesting the Neoliberal City
  • Climate change and sustainable tourism
  • Coastal change and adaptation
  • Ecosystem services and human wellbeing
  • Community resilience

Using risk as a framing device, the trip will aim to develop the following skills:

  • Inter-disciplinary learning and ‘ways of seeing’ the natural and social worlds;
  • Critical thinking on contemporary approaches for understanding and managing risk;
  • Integrated and mixed methods approaches for exploring risk;
  • Translating and (co)producing knowledge with non-academic stakeholders.

The trip will focus on whole group site visits for days 1-3 (Pompeii, Vesuvius, Herculaneum, Naples, Positano and Amalfi) followed by three days of student-led group work and assessment.


On this field course, we will focus upon Berlin’s cultural, political and historical geographies. We will examine the legacies of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, and its remembrance today in spaces both sombre and kitsch.

In exploring urban developments since re-unification, we will consider links between architecture, space, identity and power. In the context of Berlin’s role in WW2 and the Holocaust, we will reflect upon geographies of memory and trauma. We will also have the opportunity to encounter Berlin’s artistic and creative side, raising questions around space, creativity and lifestyle.

The field course has two main aims:

  1. to explore and understand the complex historical, political, social and cultural geographies of a particular urban space: Berlin;
  2. to think through, experiment with, and put into practice some of the methodological tools that enable us to encounter the city of Berlin.

The entire field course to Berlin will have this dual focus. On the one hand all of the activities will be helping us to understand Berlin as a complex site of social relations, flows and processes, and articulations of power. On the other hand, we will be thinking about the ways in which we come to know and understand the city – how we know what we know about this particular urban assemblage, and how we can take this knowledge and awareness and apply it to other places, other scenarios, other issues.

The Brazil field course is an opportunity for you to experience the diversity and functioning of tropical ecosystems in the Atlantic forest region. This region is a biodiversity hot spot. The field course is designed to cover several ecosystems including Atlantic forest, Mangrove, coastal vegetation and coastal lagoons. During your time there you will visit important conservation areas, including the Poco das Antas Reserve, home to the extremely rare Golden Lion Tamarin monkey.

The fieldwork will provide you with hands on training in field techniques, remote sensing as well as data processing and analysis for quantifying the main processes and understanding key issues for conservation of tropical biomes under human pressures.

In addition to fieldwork activities and visits to the various natural reserves and ecosystems, you will have the privilege to engage with local experts, who will give presentations on the different ecosystems, their biodiversity and conservation strategies, guided tours of ecosystems, and support on your projects.

Field projects are based on practical sections and choices of the themes can be done during the sections. Some examples of previous presentation themes include:

  • Bathymetry and flow of the Sao Joao river
  • Impact of invasive species on forest structure
  • Biogeochemistry of the Sao Joao river water
  • Influence of topography on above ground Biomass in a primary tropical forest
  • Spectral characterisation of different land cover types
  • Intra-annual seasonality of different tropical forest ecosystems
  • Fragmentation and influence of land cover on microclimates in tropical vegetation
  • Particulate Sediment Composition in Atlantic Forest Water Systems
  • A comparison of leaf structure in three ecosystems of the Tropical Atlantic Rainforest

Hong Kong is a bustling metropolis located in a region of high biodiversity. It therefore makes an ideal location to explore biodiversity and how humans interact with, influence, and threaten wildlife, from the exploitation of natural resources to things like the illegal wildlife trade. Hong Kong is also surrounded by several comparatively preserved natural ecosystems, from tropical forests through to marine habitats. Despite intense urbanisation, several ecosystems have also recovered and biodiversity remains high in surrounding forests and marine zones (especially for birds, mammals, fish, butterflies, and other invertebrates). Hong Kong therefore makes an ideal location to study biodiversity, ecology, evolution, and behaviour, and to explore the challenges facing wildlife on global and regional scales.

You will be based on HK island and undertake activities both in Hong Kong City, learning about threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, and more rurally studying ecology and behaviour, again especially focussing on human impacts. Further information on the module will provided in term 2 of the final stage, including practical details about the field course.

This field course consists of a week-long residential field course on the Isles of Scilly. It will enable you to develop the conceptual, analytical and practical research skills necessary for you to carry out independent research work, initially within this module, but also with direct applicability to project work through the rest of your degree (eg final year fieldtrips and dissertation) as well as in future workplaces.

The Isles of Scilly is an ideal location in which you will get to try out a range of methodologies used in study, from ethnography to geomorphology. In addition will we introduce you to key research skills such as sampling design, data analysis, interpretation of information, and field presentations.

This module is compulsory for students on the BA/BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Sciences and, BA Human Sciences programmes. During the module you will have access to lecturers to learn new skills and to help develop your plans for your dissertation.

This field course to Kenya will tackle a range of topics that you have been introduced to during your Human Sciences degree, including some of the biggest environmental and social issues facing the world today.

The module will be introduced through introductory lectures in term 1 of the final year, covering both practical details about the field course (health and safety and risk assessments, travel plans) and background to the issues that you will learn about on the field course.

During the field course you will experience first-hand a range of natural and social environments in Kenya, and carry out guided field exercises to investigate these environments.

Upon return to Cornwall help sessions will be provided to give you support as you prepare your poster presentation.

The field course will be based in New York City and will include a series of staff and student-led exercises in various districts of New York including Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan, Lower East Side, Midtown, Brooklyn, Central Park, Ellis Island (if possible), Staten Island and more.

The field course will address a number of specific themes in human geography including:

  • Immigration and national identity
  • Urban ecologies and natures
  • Neighbourhood identity, ethnicity and cultural spaces
  • Affective and emotional spaces
  • Heritage, style and the American dream
  • The street and the avenue
  • City iconographies

This field class will be based in Seville, the capital of Andalucía, ideally located to explore a range of locations throughout the region, including Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz and Malaga. Along with Seville itself, these cities and surrounding areas provide a rich research environment to explore geographical themes and experiment with different research methods.

The field class has two aims:

  • To explore the theoretical and practical ideas you have been studying in the ‘classroom’ in a ‘real world’ setting;
  • To develop your research skills through the design, implementation and analysis of a group project.

Potential themes to explore include:

  • Spain’s imperial legacy in Seville
  • Sustainable planning in Seville
  • The Civil War and Spanish culture
  • Managing marginal and arid environments
  • Sherry wine production and touriFlamenco and Spanish folk arts
  • Urban regeneration and Expo ‘92
  • Iconography of palaces and gardens
  • Sustainability in the compact city
  • Landscapes of power in the Moorish city
  • Religious and cultural tourism in Spain
  • Managing heritage environments

This field course module provides early career training in fieldwork techniques that are fundamental to your degree in geography. Cornwall is a natural laboratory with an incredible diversity of cultural, ecological and physical landscapes that you will have an opportunity to explore with academic staff.

Specifically, you will receive instruction on science and social science techniques including, but not limited to, participant observation, sampling strategies, experimental design and basic statistics, which is essential for your future career as a geographer.

This module will also provide advice and training on how to enhance your future employability by enabling you to undertake a full day of environmental volunteering alongside an expert in their field.

The location of the fieldtrip and environmental volunteering has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a high density of conservation areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It has been recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) containing some of Britain's finest coastal scenery, including Land's End and the Lizard peninsula, and provides a perfect setting for geographical exploration.

West Penwith field course video

Exploring West Penwith on the Geography/Environmental Science first year field course. View full size.