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Fieldwork Equipment Service

Fieldwork Equipment Service

Fieldwork is often the primary element of Physical Geography. All other activities are secondary to the collection of samples and data from the field whether it be from an artificial environment (such as Hydrology Research, Wallingford, Oxon.) or in a distant site (for example Haute Glacier D'Arolla,Switzerland). The correct functioning of equipment used in Geography fieldwork is of prime importance. The Fieldwork Equipment Service is operated in conjunction with the Geography Science Laboratories


Laboratory and Field Equipment Services Manager:
Chris Rolfe BSc PhD

Laboratory and Field Equipment Services Technician:

Instrumentation Laboratory Technician:

Fieldwork resources

The Fieldwork Equipment Service maintains a pool of equipment for use in graduate and undergraduate teaching, undergraduate and MPhil dissertation work and for PhD and post-doctoral research projects. An illustrative list of fieldwork equipment is available online. There is also a searchable equipment inventory, which will allow loans to be requested on-line. An alternative loans form is also available for bespoke non-inventory items, or for prospective borrowers applying from outside the department.


Site Logistics - Before work can commence, an appropriate site or sites must be selected, considering the logistics of visiting to establish and maintain equipment, and a proposal to carry out experiments with clearly defined objectives must be made. Having selected a site and obtained permission to use it, the types of physical and chemical measurements to be made are decided (e.g. soil temperature, soil suction, rainfall, pH etc.). Spot measurements are made with a range of hand held instruments kept by the Geography Science Laboratories (e.g. pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved Oxygen meters etc.). Data loggers can be used to provide time-series data for a range of variables.

Site surveys - Field sites can be thoroughly and accurately surveyed. Communication during this phase is important, particularly on safety grounds. A Leica total station, dGPS and Scan Station laser scanner and available. There is also a range of standard levels accompanied by levelling staffs and ranging poles.

Soil and Sediment sampling - Samples may be taken to determine the structure and type of regolith, sediment or soil. Cores of sediment can be taken to a significant depth (>10 metres) to determine the distribution of physical attributes. A comprehensive range of sampling equipment is available including petrol-driven drilling rigs. Other hand-operated tools available for specific purposes are: helical, gouge and Dutch augers, and Hiller, Russian and Livingstone corers, covering a variety of sediment types. Soils and sediments are analysed in the Geography Science Laboratories.


Instrumentation of field sites - Deployment of measuring sensors can range from the simple task of inserting erosion pins into the ground and making regular height measurements, to using expert divers for the placement of pressure transmitters on the bed of estuaries. In the case of glacial research, a high pressure hot water jet washer is used to drill to depths >100 metres.

Data collection - Data collection is the end product of all the preceding efforts and in most cases requires an electrical connection between the sensor and the monitoring devices. The Field Equipment Service has most commonly used a series of microprocessor based data loggers manufactured by Campbell Scientific Ltd. Several of these loggers are used in environmentally protected housings to minimise the possibility of damage and subsequent loss of data. In most cases, data is taken from the loggers using an interface and portable computer at the site, or by using telemetry. Data analysis is normally being carried out back at the base camp or in the Department.