Teaching out in the field
Education out in the field


The establishment of the Navarino Environment Observatory (NEO) – in cooperation between Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens and TEMES, a Greek company – now provides a platform for research, teaching and outreach that is intended to increase knowledge about and awareness of the vulnerable environment around the Mediterranean Sea. A research station at Messinia in the Southern Peloponnese in Greece is under construction and will be inaugurated in 2012. But climate and environmental research is already underway in several areas, and the first group of students recently came home from a one-week excursion.

The landscape here has many natural archives – in caves, tree rings and land formations – that provide good possibilities of studying climate change in the past. The landscape is also interesting in terms of tectonics and geomorphology since it is in the collision zone between the African and Eurasian plates.

Five research areas

Research in the NEO programme is divided into five areas:

  • Atmospheric composition changes
  • Simulations of air quality and climate change at global and regional scales
  • Climate and environmental changes in the context of tourism and urbanism
  • Past climate and environmental evolution in Messinia from natural archives
  •  Tectonics, geomorphology, geology and landscape change

Students coming to the NEO are given a unique opportunity to follow the researchers in the field and learn about the latest research. Messinia offers several different types of natural environments and phenomena, making it ideal for field studies. In January 2011 the first group of students from the Natural Geography and Quaternary Geology course, 30 credits, went there to study bedrock structures, slope processes, faults, land use, forest fires and vegetation. Their field course included excursions to wetlands, coasts, sand dunes, mountain landscapes, rivers, a canyon and a cave. Sara Cousins is a teacher on the course and she has had positive reactions across the board from the students. She sees great benefits in holding parts of the course in the field.

- Going out into the field at the beginning of the course enables us, as teachers, to refer back to various phenomena that we study later on in the term. The students gain an understanding of differences and similarities compared with other places and see that the different components they study are actually inter-related. You have to see the parts to understand the whole picture in the landscape, for example climate, soils, land use and environmental problems. Standing out there in a landscape and seeing it there generates huge benefits in terms of your understanding since it is no longer just all abstract words and theories.

The field course is a clear example of how cooperation with the other parties has worked well. TEMES has been very helpful and arranged accommodation and other matters for the students. Since there are some language barriers, having local partners is an asset. One of the initiators of this cooperation is Ingmar Borgström, who also teaches on the course.
- The great advantage of this type of external cooperation for us is that we can use the winter period for excursions and field courses in an interesting area with access to a research station.

When the research station is ready, more researchers and students will be able to go to Messinia to do field studies. In the near future, information activities will also be integrated into the project. The plan is to build a centre with exhibitions hold conferences. Ingmar Borgström has a lot of faith in the NEO and this cooperation.
- In the future I hope that we will have courses and study programmes within the first-cycle as well as PhD students at NEO and that the research conducted here will have ripple effects so that the NEO will grow into meeting point for climate and environmental research in the Mediterranean Sea.