USA Pacific North
West Fieldtrip. Photograph by Professor Jon Shaw

USA Pacific North West Fieldtrip. Photograph by Professor Jon Shaw

Fieldwork and experiential learning in the development of knowledge and understanding are essential aspects of geography
Subject Benchmark Statement Geography, UK Quality Assurance Agency (2022)
We provide a leading fieldwork programme taught by geography academics who are expert researchers in their field. Students gain experience of hands-on research, investigating critical contemporary social and environmental issues in a wide variety of environments. The skills gained from fieldwork such as project design, data collection, teamwork, and working in different settings are highly sought after by a range of employers.
In addition to local field visits associated with specialist modules, residential international fieldwork is an integral part of our degree programmes. Current and previous field courses have run across four continents and included Sweden, Iceland, Western Australia and the USA. Destinations vary from year to year but our Plymouth geography degree courses all contain a zero cost international field trip option. A supplementary cost may apply to some destinations.
We believe that worthwhile and responsible international travel provides an important context for us as geographers to better understand different cultures and landscapes. This international theme is also a core part of our BA (Hons) Geography and International Relations course. We've signed up to the Royal Geographical Society's (with IBG) principles for undergraduate field courses. These encompasses safe, sustainable, ethical, accessible and inclusive fieldwork. Additionally our field trips comply with the British Standard (BS 8848) for educational activities abroad including university and academic fieldwork. More information from two of our previous field courses to Western Australia and the Pacific Northwest of the USA can be explored via these links.
Dr Mark Holton, Geography Programme Leader

Year 1

Early in the first year we undertake a range of daytrips across Devon, ending with a group dinner in Plymouth after the final day. These field visits explore a range of local topics within human and physical geography. Importantly, they allow students to get to know each other, the geography staff and make new friends early on as they settle into their new degree programme.    

Year 2

Put your research methods training in practice on a residential field course to one of a range of exciting destinations around the world. Recent trips have run to Australia, Belize, Borneo, China/Hong Kong, France, Iceland, Ireland, Morocco, Portugal, Sweden, and the United States. 
The trips involve both student-led and staff-led work, and allow you to sharpen your research and transferable skills while you investigate in the field issues you have learnt about at the University.

Year 3

Depending upon the modules chosen, there are opportunities for local fieldwork visits in support of these advanced courses.

Costs and availability

All Plymouth geography courses offer a zero cost and low carbon international field course option. This is currently to Brittany in France. This is inclusive of travel to/from the University campus and accommodation. Spending money is recommended for purchase of meals etc. Trips to more expensive destinations (e.g. Australia and USA), although subsidised by the University, require a student top up contribution. For 2024 these are in the range of a £700-775 student contribution plus food and flights.   
Local day trips within modules in other years are provided at no additional cost. More information on course, equipment and trip costs. In addition, students will need to provide their own suitable footwear (sturdy trainers or walking boots), waterproof clothing and hold a valid passport.   
Fieldwork locations and costs may be subject to change due to staffing, student preference and external factors such as public health or individual student visa requirements. Our current field course destinations offer visa free travel to most UK passport holders.    
Geography fieldwork USA2016
Climbing up towards the Mt St Helens volcanic crater in Washington, USA
Kings Park - Students on glass bridge, Western Australia  
Kings Park - Students on glass bridge, Western Australia


Fieldwork is a vital part of geography and ours is among the very best programmes in the UK.
This short video shows some of the issues explored by our final year students on their trip to the Pacific North West region of the USA in 2016.

"One of the highlights of my degree was the North West USA fieldwork module." Amy Sparrow, BA Geography

Oscar, BA (Hons) Geography student, shares his experience of a course field trip in Torquay.

Geography students investigate causes and impacts of devastating forest fires in Oregon

For the past decade, geography students on our Pacific North West field course have been examining the causes and effects of wildfires in Eastern Oregon. Working with the United States Forest Service, they have explored how fire impacts on slope hydrology and how the forest itself has coped with fire.

Wild fires are a natural part of the ecosystem along the Pacific coast and tree species present there have evolved to make use of fire to propagate and win competitive advantage. Challenges for the present day come not just from climate change but arise from a more complex history of 20th and early 21st century fire management, private property rights, and political and economic drivers, among others.

During the field courses students have learned specialist techniques, such as tree coring, to gain first-hand experience of how to research and address these challenges.

students in front of
burnt forest
students in front of burnt forest, image courtesy of Jamie Quinn
Geography fieldwork - Pacific North West
Geography fieldwork - Pacific North West - 

tree coring 5
Geography fieldwork - Pacific North West - 

Students tree