Presenting at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference as a PhD Student

Authored by Louise Mitchell

I am a PhD student at the University of Salford, doing research on ageing in different green environments across the North-West. In August 2019 I presented at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, which was my first major conference.

RGS wall

This blog post provides an overview of the conference submission timeframe, a personal account of attending the conference and few tips for other post-grads considering submitting an abstract to present.

Timeline for submitting an abstract to the conference:

  • December/January – Research groups circulate calls for session proposals.
  • January/February – Convenors circulate calls for abstracts for themed sessions. The RGS also issues an open call for abstracts relating to the core conference theme.
  • February/March – Authors are informed by session convenors on whether their abstract has been selected
  • May/June – Convenors are informed by RGS on whether their session will be included in the conference programme
  • June – Early bird registration for the conference
  • August – Conference takes place

The RGS-IBG International Annual Conference website:

Attending the conference

I was really nervous, but I wasn’t totally sure what about. However, I now know that I didn’t have to worry as the RGS International Conference is welcoming and caters for all.  Luckily, any anxiety was put at ease as soon as I collected my badge and programme from the front desk, as everyone was very welcoming.Louise badge

I was directed to key areas, such as the garden for lunch and the pop-up exhibition space. Sessions are held in various buildings, which are easy to find using the maps in the programme or on the conference app.  I found the garden a great place to informally network as people seemed to easily strike up conversations asking about my research and what I hoped to get from the conference. If you do want time out there were rooms allocated for this, such as the downstairs library which had computers and a chill out area.

During the conference there were various lunch time events, relating to different fields of geography, including networking events and the AGMs of the Research groups. Attending these are great, because they offer opportunities to become more involved in the RGS community. Postgraduates often have social or research related events scheduled for lunchtimes, evenings or as pre-conference workshops. These sessions are useful for building a network which will continue after the conference ends.

The presentation

My presentation fell on the second day of the conference, which was great as it allowed me to enjoy all three days, building confidence at each session. It is suggested if you are presenting to get to the session room at least 10 minutes before. This gives the session chair the chance to meet the speakers, upload presentations and explain the timings. The session chair was extremely helpful and helped load my presentation and also settled my nerves by introducing me to the other presenters.  I was the most inexperienced presenter; however, everyone was very friendly and supportive.

Louise presentation slides 1.png

Despite being very nervous, I delivered my presentation which was on my research aims, methodology and some pre-liminary findings. To make my delivery as interesting as possible I kept it concise and included various pictures, graphs and tables to highlight the importance of my research, whilst also summarising in a powerful manner.

I received really positive and supportive comments from the audience, who asked engaging questions and gave useful suggestions on different approaches I could use to collect participant feedback.

Attending and presenting at this conference was a positive experience and one I plan to repeat over the span of my PhD career and into the future. To end this piece, I provide a few tips for attending or presenting at the conference.

A few pointers for post-grads  

1.Pick which option is right for you, when going to these conferences.

  • Attending
  • Poster
  • Presentation

Personally, I really like presenting, as it provides the opportunity to receive lots of feedback, which can strengthen or clarify research ideas. Check out the different calls for abstracts. Either submit to a relevant themed session or to a post-graduate snapshot session, which usually involves around five presentations, each lasting around 10 minutes.

2. You will be asked a lot: ‘What is your research about? Prepare for this, make sure you can summarise your research in a short paragraph. If you don’t know exactly what your research is going to look at, then say that. People are happy to hear your ideas and offer suggestions on what to include.

3. Attending the RGS Midterm is a great way to prepare for the main conference, but on a smaller scale, with other post-grads and early career researchers. The midterm provides a space to practice presenting, get a sense of the conference environment and connect with researchers in similar fields. It ultimately makes going to the Main RGS a little easier, as you will recognise some people, allowing you to network or have a better understanding of what sessions to attend.

Midterm website:

4. Bring a refillable bottle – the RGS is an environmentally conscious organisation and so there are lots of places to fill up.

5. If possible, get there the day before, sign up to a pre-conference event or take time to explore the area. Make a trip out of it!

6. When networking, get people’s contact details. Don’t walk away and hope you will remember email addresses. Similarly, make a note of the presentations you enjoy and the authors’ contact details.

7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time between sessions. There will be a large selection of presentations that you want to attend, but you won’t have time to see all of them. Make a list and prioritise those you don’t want to miss. You can do this using the RGS conference app.

In short, the RGS conference is a great place to present research ideas during the PhD process. I hope to see you at the next conference, whether that be at the international or Midterm.

Louise Mitchell



The Three-Day Effect

Authored by Andy Shipley

How can spending three days in nature affect health and wellbeing? This guest blog post on ‘The Three Day Effect’ was written by Andy Shipley, founder of Natural Inclusion – a brilliant enterprise offering nature connection and sensory immersion activities, workshops and group facilitation. The article was originally posted on Sensing Nature a website set and managed by Sarah Bell, who has given permission to share on the GHWRG website.


Photo by vadim kaipov on Unsplash

Andy has been visually impaired for most of his life, and has channelled this experience into his work as a consultant, campaigner, speaker, facilitator and coach. His work is fuelled by his twin passions for an inclusive society and the natural world. He works with individuals, groups and organisations, collaborating on a range of innovative projects to expand understanding and practice of inclusion.

Andy recently wrote a great blog piece after hearing about ‘The Three-Day Effect’, and has kindly shared it with Sensing Nature.

So in Andy’s words…

“I’ve just been listening to an Audible Originals podcast, ‘The Three-Day Effect’. Created by journalist and author Florence Williams, The Three-Day Effect examines the science behind the apparent wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.

Florence joins men and women who have undergone extreme trauma in their lives, to spend three days in nature, hiking, rafting and sharing adventures. It reveals how this can open us up to a process of inner transition, with the potential to release the effects of our trauma.

Listening to the participants describing Nature’s transformative effects on their relationships with their trauma and themselves, I was led to reflect upon my life with sight-loss, and how being able to connect with the natural world has affected me.

My immediate observation is that Nature meets me where I am. What I mean by this is, contrasted with the human world, with its prejudices and exclusionary design of physical and digital environments, the natural world is always available in ways that are accessible to me. I don’t need adaptive computer software to hear a bird sing or to feel the breeze ruffle my hair. Or what’s left of it at least!

The grass holds no assumptions about who I am, or my capabilities, as it allows me to sink my toes into its midst. The sun warms my face even though I’m not able to see it shining above me. The scent of the ivy, climbing the wall near my flat, meets me on my doorstep, without any need for me to ask for its help to do so.

These are all experiences that allow my attention to focus on something that is real and not a product of human attitude or artifice. In these moments, I am released into a realm within which I feel both held and free. Unencumbered, with licence to be my true self, feeling unjudged, unconstrained, alive and present. It is this experience I want to share with others through”

Do you have news or a blog article that you would like to share with the GHWRG community? Send to Ailie Tam 

The Potential of Periods: a feminist exploration into how NGOs are responding to menstrual poverty in Africa

This year Hannah Springford was a highly commended runner up of the GHWRG dissertation prize.

Hannah’s dissertation was titled ‘The Potential of Periods: a feminist exploration into how NGOs are responding to menstrual poverty in Africa’

Hannah was awarded a prize of £25 from Health & Place

Headshot‘My research focuses on NGO response to menstrual poverty in Africa, blending feminist geographies with geographies of development to place the body as an important site for development. I was inspired to research this topic as I learnt that within academic literature and international policy there remains a huge gap about menstruation, yet inadequate knowledge and access to products has devastating effects for both women and girls.

Through discourse analysis of website material and interviews with key stakeholders, I was able to critically assess NGO response to menstrual poverty. I focused on the role of communication in breaking a taboo surrounding periods for girls in school, as well as how solutions to menstrual poverty offer an economic opportunity for women through social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Finally, I turned to the discourse of empowerment to explain the portrayal of the girl-child, and how this often succumbs to prevailing stereotypes of both mind/body dualisms and wider development tropes.

Overall, I argued that studying menstruation allows for the opportunity to transcend personal boundaries into the global, and provide an opportunity for embodied development. Most importantly, my dissertation highlights how the body, and menstruation, should not be ignored in development geography any longer.

I am looking forward to continuing my academic research studying for a Masters in Geography at Durham University, as well as continuing campaigning and raising awareness about period poverty.’

More about the GHWRG dissertation competition can be found here


‘Plastic-free periods? Exploring the barriers to reusable menstrual products’

This year Natalie Clarke won the GHWRG Dissertation prize.

Natalie’s dissertation was titled ‘Plastic-free periods? Exploring the barriers to reusable menstrual products’

Natalie was awarded a prize of £150 from the journal Health & Place 

IMG_0807e (2)“My research explored the barriers against women’s adoption of reusable menstrual products, instead of single-use plastic products, which can have multiple negative environmental, financial and health impacts. I was empowered to conduct this research after reading extensively about plastic pollution during my university degree and the ways in which consumption practices are bound up in social and cultural norms. I found that menstruation and its associated products are under-investigated and under-theorised, despite a large percentage of the world’s population experiencing this monthly cycle.


I conducted focus groups and surveys to investigate whether it is a lack of knowledge around reusable products that hinders women’s use of them, or other factors such as cost. My findings ruled out the oft-cited upfront cost of reusable products as the principle barrier to their adoption and demonstrated that the problem is multi-factorial. The socially constructed knowledge and taboos surrounding menstruation were found to be more significant in influencing women’s decisions to choose reusable products. Through proposing the idea of Menstrual Geography, I hope to inspire others to research this topic more thoroughly, alongside the growing interest in gender and embodiment within Human Geography.


I am looking forward to continuing my work with single-use plastics research and reduction in my new role as Environmental Sustainability Project Officer at the University of Manchester, with a specific focus on single-use plastics and food waste.”

Geographies of Territorial Stigma and Health

This year Patricia Ma was a highly commended runner up of the GHWRG dissertation prize.

Patricia Ma Dissertation was titled ‘Geographies of Territorial Stigma and Health’

Patricia was awarded a prize of £25 from Health & Place

Patricia Ma photo

“Throughout the summer of 2018, I investigated the role of territorial stigma in perpetuating health inequalities across Nottingham, collecting qualitative data through interviews and focus groups. Focusing on the highly stigmatised neighbourhood of St Ann’s, I found interest and comfort in engaging with the local community, especially as I am a local resident not far from the site of study.

This project was inspired by a gap in health geography literature, in which I noticed urban sociological understandings of place are seldom explored. Not only did I challenge this gap in literature, I decided to focus on the stigma of place as a way of understanding how people’s health is affected. This interest was inspired by the works of Edinburgh-based Dr. Jamie Pearce, who wrote about the blemish of place and I was also kindly guided throughout this process by Dr. Niamh Scott at the University of Edinburgh.

The final write-up of my dissertation was titled: ‘Geographies of Territorial Stigma and Health: An investigation into the salience of stigmatised neighbourhoods in perpetuating health inequalities in St Ann’s, Nottingham’. Through this investigation, I found three prevalent themes in which health and wellbeing of residents were affected: 1) by personally internalising the stigma, 2) negotiating their notion of social capital, and 3) the challenges of the current political economy have on the structural factors in St Ann’s.

Now, I am continuing onto my postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh in MSc Urban Strategies and Design. Though this may seem different from health geography, I look forward in continuing my understanding of health and wellbeing through socio-spatial perspectives of the built environment. As I enrol on the Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing course, I am enthusiastic to explore the role of urban planning and architecture in influencing health further.”


Two Postdoctoral Researchers (Health & Environment) Centre for Research on Environment, Society & Health (CRESH), Edinburgh

Posted on behalf of Jamie Pearce

Two Postdoctoral Researchers (Health & Environment)

Centre for Research on Environment, Society & Health (CRESH)

We are currently seeking to recruit two Postdoctoral Researchers (Health & Environment) to join the CRESH team at the University of Edinburgh and contribute to two studies on the geography of unhealthy commodities.

The first position is part of the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) Consortium – SPECTRUM (Shaping Public hEalth poliCies To Reduce ineqUalities and harm). SPECTRUM has an ambitious programme of research, knowledge exchange and public engagement focusing on the commercial determinants of health relating to tobacco, alcohol and food.

The second role will contribute to an ESRC funded project ‘Change in alcohol and tobacco availability, population health and the lived experience’ which will measure change in the availability of alcohol and tobacco in Scottish neighbourhoods over time and explore how this change relates to health outcomes and how residents experience the availability of alcohol and tobacco in their neighbourhoods.

Closing date for both positions is 16th October 2019.

Please get in touch with Professor Jamie Pearce or Professor Niamh Shortt to discuss either role:


The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

RGS GHWRG Undergraduate Dissertation Prizes 2019

Winner: Natalie Clarke, Manchester University, ‘Plastic-free periods? Exploring the barriers to reusable menstrual products’

Natalie was awarded a prize of £150 from Health & Place (Editor: Jamie Pearce)

Dissertation prizes were also awarded to two ‘Highly Commended’ dissertations:

Hannah Springford, Durham University, The Potential of Periods: a feminist exploration into how NGOs are responding to menstrual poverty in Africa

Patricia Ma, Edinburgh University, Geographies of Territorial Stigma and Health

Each runner up was awarded a prize of £25 from Health & Place.

Thanks goes to Health & Place and the editor Jamie Pearce for the support of the GHWRG Dissertation Prize.