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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Exploring Tenerife’s diverse landscape

Published: 2 May 2013
Students exploring the volcanic lan

This month students and lecturers had the opportunity to explore physical geography first-hand by visiting the volcanic island of Tenerife as part of the second year ‘Research Design, Methods and Techniques’ course. Below Dr Jo Nield shares her experience of the trip.

Although part of Spain, Tenerife is west of the Moroccan coastline and upon our arrival we were treated to large scale geomorphology in action, with a ‘calima' bringing dust from the Sahara desert (part of the climate cycle with deposited iron rich dust particles helping to fertilise the Atlantic Ocean). 

During the week, students were given the chance to explore two very different sides of the island: the arid, young interior (Mt Teide) and the ancient laural forests and barranco (river valleys) in the north of the island. With an Aeolian Geomorphologist, Palaeolimnologist, Remote Sensor and GIS expert on one island, the project possibilities are endless and throughout the week students worked in small groups on topics which interested them. 

Activities included:

  • Designing evacuation routes should the volcano erupt
  • Investigating the macro-invertebrate communities living in the rivers on the island and the environmental controls on these
  • Measuring wind speeds at the top of the mountain and comparing wind transport of pumice to quartz grains
  • Exploring temporal and spatial patterns of surface moisture on a black sand beach
  • Determining carbon budgets for different forest communities both above and below ground
  • Comparing plant habitat variation with elevation
  • Callibrating spectral signatures from surface cover and satellite images.

As well as the chance to explore the inspiring and diverse landscape, there was also plenty of time for interactions with staff and the evening presentations illustrated just how much students had learnt during their intense time in the field.

Student team, 'The Beach Moisture Project Group' (Sophie Bath-Stirk, Katherine Brimming, Emma Corderey, James Cosgrove and Elizabeth King) found the trip incredibly beneficial: "The second year field trip to Tenerife has been the highlight of our degree so far. We enjoyed and benefited from interactive learning with experienced lecturers and had fun socialising and meeting new people."

Theory is great but you can't beat actually seeing processes and environments in real life to reinforce lecture materials and start to develop hypotheses about the landscape you are surrounded by.

The trip was led by Dr Jo Nield. To see photos and commentary visit the Geography Twitter stream.

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