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Leanne Hughes

Leanne Hughes
Course studied:
Physical and Environmental Geography
Year of graduation:

Survey Geologist

Leanne Hughes works for the British Geological Survey, a public sector organisation responsible for providing geological advice to industry, academia, the public and government organisations. She provides railway engineers, utilities suppliers, mining companies and other public and private sector organisations with the vital geological information needed to do their jobs.

“My job has evolved over the years but initially I was looking at Ice Age sediments in the UK,” Leanne explained. “We make maps of glacial deposits on a national scale that other industries and organisations can use in their work. I enjoy it a lot and I get to use the skills I developed at Staffordshire University.”

Glacier Studies

Leanne’s interest in geography and the natural world began when she was young. “I grew up in Derbyshire,” she said, “and right from being small I was paddling in streams, developing an interest in how rivers behave. To be able to explore that interest in a degree and then a job was exciting and exactly what I wanted to do.”

While studying geography, biology and English at A Level, Leanne visited Staffordshire University, which led to enrolment in 2005 to study Physical Environmental Geography.

“My biology teacher took us on a trip to the University’s forensic department for a day of forensic science – which was a lot of fun – and that was my first visit. I ended up visiting seven times before I started my degree, on open days and other trips. I liked the university, the set-up, the course and the large amount of fieldwork involved, and how the geography department looks after their students.

“One of the highlights was a two week trip to Iceland – to a place called Sólheimajökull – to look at how glaciers have shaped the landscape. In my third year I did a project on how the shape and length of the glacier changed over the years in relation to climate. I was very fortunate to be able to continue that interest in my job.”

GradEX Judge

Leanne started her job at the British Geological Survey three weeks after graduating, in 2008. “I now make 3D models and maps showing where glacial deposits are in the UK. During my time at Staffs, field trips to local areas like the Cheshire basin and up to Scotland, looking at ice age deposits, has helped me identify similar deposits in my job. Actually seeing them in the field is subtler than a textbook – that experience was really key.”

Based at the organisation’s headquarters in South Nottinghamshire, Leanne has also helped train a group of geologists from Saudi Arabia and will soon travel to Liberia to instruct on computer-based geological mapping. She also returns to Staffordshire University each year to support the geography department, delivering talks on geography careers and judging in the annual GradEX exhibition.

“I love going back to Staffs and seeing my old lecturers again. I go back once or twice a year. This year I’m judging the geography posters at GradEX, which are the third year undergraduates’ final year projects condensed into poster form. There are always projects of an incredibly high standard that could be developed further. It’s always an interesting event.”