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Showcasing GAP at the NI Science Festival 2016

The NI Science Festival will run from the 18th – 28th February and GAP staff and students are contributing to some nine events across six days. The festival provides us with an opportunity to showcase the diversity of expertise within the School.

Families will have a chance to engage in a range of fun scientific activities that include having a go at cave art, making a mummy, mapping Botanic Gardens, using geology to solve a crime and exploring past diet. The events are not just aimed at children.

Adults can enjoy a tour of our state-of-the art radiocarbon dating laboratories, learn how to create and customise their own maps or relax and listen to leading experts discuss the geographies of scientific knowledge. 

Members of the School are also involved in an event organised by the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences – ‘How to Survive an Apocalypse’ – that will no doubt be full of useful tips!

Details of GAP events can be found here, while more information about the National Science Festival and its programme is available at:

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GAP research on ancient DNA captures global attention

A team of geneticists led by Professor Dan Bradley from the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with GAP archaeologists Dr Eileen Murphy, Professor Jim Mallory and Barrie Hartwell, has sequenced the first genomes from ancient Irish humans, and the information is already answering pivotal questions about the origins of Ireland’s people and their culture.

The genomes sequenced were those of a Middle-Later Neolithic woman from Ballynahatty, Co. Down, and those of three Early Bronze Age men from Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim. Their landmark results were published in the 28 December 2015 issue of the international journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Substantial media interest has been shown in the research, which has been picked up on by over 220 media organisations, with pieces published in The Irish Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe as well as featured on BBC News Online.

The genomes show unequivocal evidence for mass migrations into Ireland during prehistory. These genetic influxes are likely to have brought major cultural changes, including the transitions to agriculture, Bronze metalworking and may even have provided the origin of the western Celtic language.

Further information about the research can be found at:,545708,en.html

The PNAS article can be accessed at:

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GAP UCAS Days 2016

We will be holding three UCAS Open Day events in the new year and I would be delighted if you could join us on one of the following dates (Click on the subject names for further details):

Saturday 23rd January 2016 (11am-1pm) Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology
Wednesday 24th February 2016 (2pm-4pm) Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology
Saturday 12th March 2016 (11am-1pm) GeographyArchaeology and Palaeoecology

Where to find us

These events are designed to give you an opportunity to visit the School, meet with our staff and students and learn about our teaching and research. I would be grateful if you could contact us, in advance, if you wish to join us on one of our UCAS days. You can book your place on line via the following link:

If you have already registered for this event we have recorded your response and look forward to seeing you on the day.

Should you have any other queries, please do not hesitate to contact us as follows;

Contact: Ms June Feeney
Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3350

We look forward to welcoming you to the School.

Best wishes,
Professor Audrey Horning (Head of School)

School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology
Queen¹s University, Belfast
Northern Ireland, BT7 1NN

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Graduation – December 2015

The end of the teaching semester was marked within the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology with the annual Prize-Giving and Pre-Graduation Ceremony.

Prizewinners and family members gathered at the School, before the formal graduation ceremony, to recognise the achievements of both students and graduates throughout their time at the School.

We congratulate all of our prizewinners and graduates and wish them every success in the future.

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Congratulations to GAP Masters graduate, Monica Romero, on her new appointment
Photo shows Monica (on left) at the National Library of Ireland during a visit as part of her MA in Space, Society & Culture.
Photo shows Monica (on left) at the National Library of Ireland during a visit as part of her MA in Space, Society & Culture.

Speaking about her degree, Monica continued: “I have a particular interest in migration and the MA in Society, Space and Culture allowed me to develop my knowledge and skills in that area. Since finishing my studies, I have returned to Mexico to work for the Office of Migratory Matters at Ibero-American University, where I am able to apply my learning on a daily basis.”

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Stop Saying Climate Change Causes War

Wars in the Middle East, climate change summit in Paris ... In the latest issue of the magazine Foreign Policy, GAP human geographer Prof David Livingstone warns of the perils of reducing the causes of war to climate change.

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Prestigious Award bestowed on GAP Student

Michael O'Mahony, a Level 4 GAP student currently undertaking the MSci in Cultural Heritage and Geographical Information Systems, is to be awarded the 2015 Society for Medieval Archaeology John Hurst Award for the best undergraduate dissertation in medieval archaeology in Britain and Ireland at a ceremony in Preston on 4 December. Described by the judges as a 'truly exceptional piece of research' Michael's dissertation was entitled "Access Analysis of the Gaelic tower houses of North-West Ireland." On hearing the news, Michael stated: "I am humbled to have received this wonderful prize and to have made my own contribution to the field of medieval castle studies. I'd also like to thank my supervisor, Dr Colm Donnelly, for all his help and expertise during the course of my research. This is indicative of the high-standard of teaching and supervision that is on offer within our School".

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World Geographical Information Systems Week in GAP!

Conor Graham and Lorraine Barry of the GIS Research and Teaching Unit at GAP hosted a free Online Web Mapping workshop in GAP on Wednesday 18th November. The workshop introduced 14 researchers, mostly new to GIS, across a wide-range of disciplines to the science and technology of web mapping, visualising spatial data, analysing spatial patterns and map sharing online, as a published  ‘Web GIS’.

On 20th November, Lorraine and Conor led a crowd-sourced GIS mapping analysis workshop for 120 year 10 students at Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry, County Down. The students focused on examining and mapping the risks from a hypothetical mega-volcanic eruption for the area in which they live. Students queried location and distance, elevation data, population densities, climate data, wealth indicators, traffic flows, proximity to emergency supplies and lifestyle data to obtain an overall measure of their risk. This web-based exercise, created by The Royal High School Bath, resulted in a global crowd-sourced impact map that had over 9,000 participants!

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GAP staff recognised by Vice Chancellor for 25 years of service to QUB

Dr Alastair Ruffell, Reader, and Ms Maria Bennett, School Manager, were honoured at a lunch hosted by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, on Wednesday 4th November, for their 25 years service to Queen's University Belfast.


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World GIS Day Wednesday 18th November 2015 at GAP - Web My Map!

As part of World Geographical Information Systems Day members of the GIS Research and Teaching Unit at GAP are hosting a free Online Web Mapping workshop at the School of GAP (Elmwood Building) on Wednesday 18th of November 2-5pm. The workshop will introduce the science and technology of web mapping, visualising spatial data, analysing spatial patterns and map sharing online, as a published  ‘Web GIS’.

No previous GIS theory or software experience will be required and the workshop will be based around  ‘Cloud’ GIS resources ( Participants are encouraged to bring their own data (BYOD) as an opportunity will be given to discuss individual GI research interests at the workshop.  Spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. To reserve a place or receive additional information please contact Conor Graham, or Lorraine Barry, at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology.

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Ghosts and Ghouls at GAP
Staff and students from INTO and GAP celebrate Halloween
Staff and students from INTO and GAP celebrate Halloween

Staff from the School of GAP invited a group of 40 international students from INTO to take part in a spooky Halloween themed event aimed at illustrating the diverse range of subject matter that may be studied through Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology.

Guests were welcomed to the School by the Director of Education, Professor Keith Lilley, who explained to the audience the broad international appeal of GAP’s programmes.

Dr Alastair Ruffell spoke chillingly about the Geography of Murder and the relevance of Geography to crime scene investigation and Dr Gill Plunkett unfolded the mysteries of the Otherworld giving an insight into the life and death of bog bodies.

Dr Eileen Murphy rounded off the event with a presentation and workshop on Burials, Bones and Bodies complete with skulls, skeleton and a fossilised cat! This Halloween themed event proved to be a great success with staff and students alike having a fun time, despite the dark subject matter!

For more information on INTO please visit:

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GAP wins Athena SWAN silver award

We are delighted to be able to report that GAP has received a second Athena SWAN silver award, in recognition of commitment to tackling gender inequality in higher education!

Athena SWAN

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Welcome Week at GAP

The School of GAP welcomes all our new and returning students at the start of the 2015-16 academic year!

A series of student induction events led by GAP’s Director of Education, Professor Keith Lilley (assisted by colleagues, peer mentors and students representing GAP’s two student societies), ran during Welcome Week.

The programme introduced students to key GAP and QUB staff and advised on the various practices, policies and procedures designed to keep them on track.

The programme concluded with a field trip to An Creagan where students undertook a series of on site exercises.

The weather held up, for the most part, and a fun day was had by all!

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Summer School Excursion to Dunluce Castle and The Giant’s Causeway

On Saturday 25th July, 44 international students, participating on the Irish Studies Summer School, attended a field trip to the Antrim coast, organised by Valerie Miller and Jim McAdam (of the Institute of Irish Studies) and Alastair Ruffell (of GAP).

The field trip visited Toome, Portglenone, Portstewart and Portrush with stops along to way, for discussion of the geology, topography, archaeology and history of these sites, thence via Giant's Causeway, Ballycastle, Cushendun, Glenariff and Carnlough before returning to Belfast.

The Festival of Archaeology was in full swing at Dunluce Castle, where, in glorious sunshine, there were demonstrations of medieval metal working, music and the firing of various cannons!

At Giant's Causeway the students learnt about this area's unique geology and magical folklore before breaking up to explore the landscape on their own, with some successfully identifying Finn McCool's wife, his boot and cooking pot!

The field trip was a great success with all enjoying the glorious weather, great company, stories and incredible scenery, all making for a truly educational and enjoyable experience.

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GAP Celebrates Prizewinners and Graduates

Rachel Tracey, PG (Archaeology) Research Student, with Prof. Audrey Horning

James Rodgers, BSc Geography Graduate

The end of the academic year was marked in GAP on Monday 6th July 2015 by a prize-giving and pre-graduation ceremony, at which the achievements of students, undergraduates, postgraduates and mentors were recognised.

133 undergraduate and postgraduate students celebrated the culmination of their studies. Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, the Head of School, Professor Audrey Horning, congratulated students and graduates for their efforts and for their commitment to their studies. She also thanked parents, family and friends for their support.

Full list of the prizes and prizewinners (pdf)


PG research student Rachel Tracey, who received the 75th Anniversary Fieldwork Prize commented: “I was delighted to receive the prize. The funding will be used to part fund a trip to the United States to allow me to gather data in support of my PhD thesis. It was great day and wonderful to celebrate with everyone on the day.

James Rodgers, from Dorset, who graduated with a BSc in Geography, said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Queen’s, I have had so many opportunities to further myself. I would like to say thank you to Queen’s and to the School for all the help and support". James has secured a management trainee position with a local employer.

The School congratulates all its graduates, and wishes them all the best for their future careers!

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GAP Photo competition

Results of the GAP Photo Competition! GAP postdoc Svetlana Svyatko won 1st and 3rd prizes with her pictures from Glendalough and the Mourne Mts, and GAP undergraduate Olivia Morris-Soper won 2nd, 4th and 5th prizes with her photos from the Rome fieldtrip. There were 66 entries, at an extremely high standard. Here are the five winning entries, along with Svetlana and her 1st prize photograph. Congratulations, and thanks to all participants!

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1st prize: Glendalough by Svetlana Svyatko 3rd prize: Mourne Mts by Svetlana Svyatko
GAP welcomes teachers and pupils as part of the Future Scholars Scheme

GAP recently hosted a visit from a group of teachers and pupils who had travelled to Belfast from Cornwall, Liverpool, Devon, Berkshire, Lancashire, Birmingham, Gateshead and Derby. Dr Keith Lilley and PhD student April Kamp-Whittaker arranged for the pupils to take part in a mapping exercise demonstrating the broad appeal and wide applicability of geography.

The Future Scholar Scheme gives pupils the opportunity to visit a Russell Group University to get a sense of what studying at university is really like, as well as enabling better links between schools and universities.

These pupils had a great time, and we enjoyed hosting them! If you know of a school that would be interested in seeing more of our work in geography or archaeology, we'd love to hear from you!

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Dr Ryan Rabett, Lecturer in Human Palaeoecology

We are delighted to be able to welcome Dr Ryan Rabett to GAP as Lecturer in Human Palaeoecology!

Ryan is a Palaeolithic archaeologist with a specialization in Zooarchaeology. He completed his PhD at Cambridge in 2002. In 2003 he (naturally, therefore) became a sessional lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, teaching on the archaeology and anthropology of ritual and religion. In 2003-04 he held a research associate position in zooarchaeology on the Niah Caves Project, Borneo – initially based at Leicester, before subsequently moving to Cambridge in 2004. In 2005 he became the John Templeton Fellow at Cambridge and began researching the regionalism in the emergence of modern human behavior. A project that explored how early human adaptive strategies forged under tropical conditions compared to those developed under northern Eurasian ones. Through 2006-07, he was the replacement lecturer in Palaeolithic Archaeology ‘From the Alps to the Americas’ course at the Department of Archaeology, Cambridge. In 2007, he took up a longer-term research fellowship and later senior research fellowship at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, exploring early human adaptive diversity. These projects became the backbone of a monograph: Human Adaptation in the Asian Palaeolithic: Hominin Dispersal and Behaviour in the Late Quaternary published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press.

Ryan’s current research is focused on the process of hominin adaptation and dispersal into different Late Quaternary environments, and the importance of their adaptive strategies as reference points to address modern day concerns. To this end, he is leading projects in Vietnam, Canada and the Mediterranean, as well as continuing zooarchaeological work on a project in Libya. He has recently (2014) co-edited a volume entitled Living in the Landscape (published in the McDonald Institute Monograph series. Since 2012 he has also become increasingly involved in World Heritage, most notably as one of the co-authors of a successful nomination bid with the Vietnamese State Party for the Tràng An Landscape Complex (inscribed in 2014). He is a member of ICOMOS, one of the two Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee, and a member of HEADS (Human Evolution: Adaptions, Dispersals and Social developments). He is interested in increasing synergies between academia and UNESCO in the field of World Heritage.

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Professor David Ley (UBC) visits the School of GAP

SSC's visiting scholar this academic year is Professor David Ley (University of British Columbia). Professor Ley will be here from Monday May 25 to Friday May 29. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Geography. David is a social geographer with particular interests in immigration to Canadian cities; multiculturalism and the governance of diversity; gentrification and housing policy in inner cities. During his visit he will deliver a paper at the “Spatializing Political Thought II: A Critical Lexicon in the Making” workshop hosted by GAP and will speak about “Millionaire Migrants” on Tuesday May 26, 2:30-4pm in Room G0/003 Elmwood. He will also a present a paper at the School’s Research Day on Friday 29th May addressing the theme “The Property State: Housing, Ownership and Political (Dis)integration in Hong Kong”. David will be occupying the Canadian Studies office, 01-004 Elmwood. Further details can be found here and here.

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Conference of Irish Geographers

We are delighted that the 47th Conference of Irish Geographers (CIG) will be hosted at GAP this week (21-24 May), in association with the Geographical Society of Ireland, for the first time in Belfast since 1999. Approximately 150 attendees will take part in a programme of paper, poster, workshop and fieldtrip sessions as well as social events. Keynote speakers are Prof. John Agnew (UCLA), Dr Mary Bourke (TCD) and Prof. Michael Heffernan (Nottingham).

More information on CIG 2015, including programme and events.


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Political Concepts Workshop

A host of leading international scholars, including Professor Mark Neocleous (Brunel University), Professor William Walters (Carleton University, Canada), Professor Jack Halberstam (USC, USA), Professor Chandan Reddy (Washington University, USA) and Dr Rahul Rao (SOAS) will be visiting SSC to participate in the second Lexicon for Political Thought workshop. The workshop seeks to initiate and compile original and critical essays on political concepts, both central and esoteric, with long traditions and with very short ones. The workshop also seeks to politicize concepts that are not usually thought in relation to the political, to bring together and juxtapose a variety of disciplines, theoretical approaches, as well as cultural and geopolitical backgrounds. Participants will offer new horizons and open new questions for those who think with and about the concepts under discussion.

The event is open to the public and no early registration is needed.

Full details and event programme

For more details contact Brendan Quail

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Visit by Professor Peter Atkinson

We are pleased to welcome Professor Peter M. Atkinson as Visiting Research Professor to GAP.

Professor Atkinson is a Geographer with an international reputation for research into remote sensing, geographical information science and spatial statistics. He was previously Professor and Head of the School of Geography at the University of Southampton, where he was part of the central team leading Southampton University’s REF2014 submission. He holds the Belle van Zuylen Chair in the Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University, the Netherlands and was also recently Visiting Fellow at Green-Templeton College and the Department of Zoology, Oxford University.

Professor Peter Atkinson will be working with Dr Jenny McKinley on developing geostatistical approaches for geoscientists and environmental disease modelling.

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Award for Prof Audrey Horning's book

Prof Audrey Horning (GAP's Head of School and Professor of Archaeology) has been awarded the 2014 James Mooney Award for best anthropological book on the South and Southerners by Southern Anthropological Society (SAS) for her book Ireland in the Virginian Sea: Colonialism in the British Atlantic.


The committee was unanimous that Audrey's book stood out among the nominees as a sophisticated, creative, and insightful comparative analysis of British colonization efforts in Ireland and Virginia, considering her use of anthropological theory and methods to be exemplary and a model for such work. Importantly, the committee understands Audrey's book to be an important step in placing the American South into a global comparative framework that moves us far from conceiving of the South as an isolated, insular region.

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GAP launches Geography Ambassador Scheme

On 25 March, 13 GAP students were successfully trained as by Geography Ambassadors by special guest Simon Faulkner of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). Sarah Hughes, president of our Geography Society, played a key role in bringing the programme to GAP and all thirteen students are now trained in how best to share enthusiasm for the subject to inspire pupils to continue studying geography at GSCE, AS/A Level and university.

Simon commented: “It was a pleasure to come to the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen's and train keen geography students. The Geography Ambassador Scheme aims to promote the relevance and importance of the subject to secondary school pupils in the hope that it encourages them to take it further. The training session at Queen's was full of great ideas, questions, enthusiasm and most importantly fun, and I'm really pleased to have the students on board promoting the subject in Northern Ireland”.

Sarah Hughes, president of the QUB Geography Society, played a key role in bringing the programme to Queen’s said: "It was absolutely great to be involved in being a part of introducing the Ambassador Scheme. I knew once I heard about it at the Geography Societies Conference in London last year, that it would be a great scheme for the School to get involved in. The scheme itself was extremely interesting and well organised. Simon, the coordinator made things so much fun and everyone in the training session had a ball. I would really recommend this scheme to everyone and I am proud to now say that I am a Geography Ambassador."

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Professor David Livingstone gives Dudleian Lecture at Harvard

On 19th February, GAP Professor David Livingstone will give the prestigious Dudleian Lecture at Harvard, on the subject of "Religious Encounters with Evolution: Place, Politics, Polemics". He will address the historical interaction of science and religion as it pertains to Darwinian evolution, using politics, polemics, and particularly place as analytical tools. Prof Livingstone reminds us that science is presented and received differently according to geographic space and enriches our understanding of the interaction between science and religion. The same day, he will be the discussant at a Lunch Panel in Harvard Divinty School on "The Climate of War: Violence, Warfare and Climatic Reductionism". On 20th February, Professor Livingstone will be one of the discussants at a second Lunch Panel on "Science in its Place", together with Professor Janet Browne, Dr Andrew Jewett and Dr Myrna Perez Sheldon.

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Dr Tristan Sturm, Lecturer in Human Geography

We are delighted to be able to welcome Dr Tristan Sturm to GAP as Lecturer in Human Geography!

Tristan is a political geographer, who finished his PhD at UCLA in 2010. He was formerly Assistant Professor from 2012 to 2015 at York University in Toronto, Canada. The main themes of his research concern the geopolitics of religion, apocalyptic thought related to climate change, and how nationalism and landscape are co-constitutional. He is currently working on a book project on how American Christian Zionists have performed their nationalism for Israel on landscapes portending the apocalypse. He is specifically interested in the materiality of how these geopolitical imaginations are enacted on the ground, in everyday life, and through tourist and pilgrimage itineraries at Tel Megiddo (Armageddon), Gaza, and the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount. Concomitant with this research, Tristan is interested in theorizing both what he has termed "the geopolitics of religion" (geopolitics by religious groups and their theologies) and "religious geopolitics" (secular discourses that utilize religious discourse). His main concern is fundamentalist religious groups, but he is also interested in how mainstream faiths have constructed their own geopolitical world visions and have justified violent territorial imaginaries.

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GAP student Jodie Jackson wins QUBSU ‘What’s the Big Idea?' award

Jodie Jackson receives her cheque from CEO of Ormeau Business Park Patricia McNeill at the awards ceremony on 10th December 2014

Among the winners of awards in the Annual Queen’s Students’ Union’s ‘What’s the Big Idea?' awards was GAP student Jodie Jackson for 'Best idea for a Social Enterprise'. Her proposal is for a new international project, Tiwala, working with the charity ‘TEN Foundations’ in rural regions of the Philippines. The aim is to focus on poverty alleviation through a livelihood program based on the creation and selling of soap.

The outcome of this project is to use the profit generated from sales to facilitate paid employment for those involved in the scheme and provide funding for the childrens shelter which has been established by TEN Foundations.

Organised by Enterprise SU, the annual Queen’s Students’ Union Business Idea Awards are open to all undergraduate and postgraduate Queen’s students with a novel and creative idea.

More details about Tiwala (pdf) 

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