School of Geography

Interview with our Cartographic Unit Manager

How would you explain cartography?

Cartography is the art, science and technology of map making. It is a dynamic discipline underpinned by the fundamental design principles of representing geographic information in the best way possible. A good map has to be fit for purpose, it has to work on many different levels, be clear, concise and aesthetically pleasing.

What inspired you to pursue this area?

My favourite A level subjects were, geography and art, so going into the cartographic profession combined these two perfectly. Both disciplines relate to cartography and are interdependent for correctly visualising and interpreting geographical information.

How would an average person engage with cartography in their daily life?

Maps perform a fundamental and indispensable role in daily life and people often engage with cartography without realising it, for example weather maps on the news, using the underground map in London, or using maps on electronic devices. Individuals also have mental maps in their heads which nurture their spatial awareness and understanding of the world. For instance, you probably know the best shortcut to your house, this is part of your own mental mapping. Maps have a wide variety of uses, from mapping the choreography of a ballet, to maps used by the emergency services, or even using social media data to create aid maps following international disasters.

What support do you provide to staff and how does your experience influence this?

I draw maps and diagrams that support teaching and research in the School of Geography and provide a cartographic service to the whole university as well as external customers. This work often appears in published books and papers. My experience enables me to produce maps that communicate the information efficiently and with clarity, enhance the quality of ideas and arguments being developed and looks good.

I teach and offer assistance to all of our geography students in the principles of good map design and production. I also teach on the PGCE Geography course in the School of Education to promote getting maps and mapping into the classrooms of primary and secondary schools.

I also manage the School of Geography map archive which contains over 85,000 paper maps. This fantastic resource supports my cartographic work as well as the teaching and research in the school. It is available for use by the wider University community and constitutes an important historical research archive forming part of the identity of the school.

What's been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Without doubt it was becoming a Fellow of the British Cartographic Society (BCS). The BCS is the leading UK professional body affiliated to the International Cartographic Association (ICA). Members of the BCS include the Ordnance Survey, the Hydrographic Office, military and government institutions, institutes of higher education, commercial organisations and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).

What's been the best map you have ever drawn?

It was map I drew for Professor Stephen Daniels to support his 'Trentside' exhibition at The Djanogly Art Gallery. It was a simplified map of the course of the River Trent, printed in silver and grey, which not only appeared in the exhibition catalogue but was also printed at a huge scale and was the first exhibit in the display. Seeing one of my maps enlarged like that and on public display at an exhibition was quite something!

What advice would you give to someone considering a degree in geography?

Here in the school we teach a wide range of modules, from human to physical geography that span different areas across the discipline. All students are encouraged to use maps in their research and dissertations. The breadth of a geography degree and the range of skills our students develop opens up fabulous career prospects for them. My advice for anyone considering geography at the University of Nottingham is to come to an open day and speak to our students, they are our best ambassadors.

You are a member of the technical team in geography what do they do?

The technical team have a broad and diverse skillset plus a wide range of expertise. We support teaching and research and also teach students either in lecture theatres, laboratories or outside on fieldwork. Team members can create everything from a map, to a sand box to simulate flooding. The team also build innovative bespoke pieces of equipment to support research projects, the latest being a camera stand that superimposes maps of Nottingham onto a 3D model. This research project received a 'highly commended' award for 3D mapping from the BCS in September 2018.

Posted on Tuesday 18th September 2018

School of Geography

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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