Teaching Matters

Professor Dave Reay - School of Geosciences

Professor Dave Reay shares his thoughts on teaching.



Professor Dave Reay – School of Geosciences

“[To students] Okay, so Portobello beach, which is the main beach resort in Edinburgh and we're here obviously to look at what is a beautiful beach, rocky shore and the sand behind us, but also somewhere which is potentially very vulnerable to climate change.

So one of the things I want us to do first of all today is look at the wildlife on the beach, look at the, if you can find star fish or crabs or seaweed and have a think about how sea level rise and warming and acidification of the oceans, this thing where more carbon dioxide gets into the oceans, makes them more acidic, how might that be a threat to the marine life on the shore?

And then once we've done that, then we'll get stuck into the real threat for this coastline, which is sea level rise.

[To camera] In our masters which is called Carbon Management, we talk a lot about climate change. And we talk a lot about the theory of climate change, particularly how important the oceans are, and how sea level rise a big threat around the world, and that's all in a lecture theatre and that's all well and good, but actually one of the best things I think you can do is get out there and see some of it.

So what we've done today is come down to the beach, looked at was living on the shore, how that's vulnerable to climate change.

We also had all the students calculating the height of the beach and then that the houses behind the beach to see how at risk they could be from climate change. So it's really an opportunity for hands-on experience.

So it's backed up by stuff we've been covering in class, but it means we get some sunshine, some fresh air and yeah, a really nice day out in Edinburgh.”

Georgina Wade – Postgraduate student

“Oh it's really cool, I mean we're in Carbon Management so it's all about like I mean, we're studying climate change, but being able to actually go out and like see it and how it's affecting different places and how it could eventually affect these houses that are behind us right here, it's just really cool to have like a hands-on experience with it.”

Kevin Meier – Postgraduate student

“We are building sandcastles to try and show how sea level rise might affect kind of areas close to the coast. And by recreating our own kind of little towns near the coast, we're trying to build defenses and to see if we can - how much we can prevent sea-level affecting our little towns.

And in terms of the course it's a nice analogue to what we've been learning in class about projected climate change and how it can cause one metre, two metre, four metre, and just to see how that will affect nearby coasts.”

Professor Dave Reay – School of Geosciences

“So one of the things employers tell us all the time is that at Edinburgh our students get access to some of the best knowledge in the world. We have brilliant academics, great research, and they love that, but they also want real world experience, you know, some hands-on techniques that the students have worked with, experience of actually working with real people and real environments.

That's something we've tried to increase in our course over the years, so that when our students graduate they know all about climate change in theory but they also know the practice. That's really valuable.”

Frederick Brown – Postgraduate student

“You know sometimes we get sort of like, slumped into the fact that we're going to lectures day and day, and obviously it's something we enjoy, but it's just nice to come out here (obviously it's a nice day as well today), but it's like refreshing to come out, you know, and be in the surroundings that potentially we would be in a job-like situation some of us may do in the future, if we choose to do that.

It's also opportunity to socialise with a lot of our classmates in a different way and more of a, again, like a career-based atmosphere that you don't get in the classroom.

It's that different change of perspective, which I think is quite important.”

Professor Dave Reay – School of Geosciences

“Some of the students are very new to Edinburgh, never been to Scotland before. They're seeing Portobello at its best today, but it's really nice thing for them to see I guess the environment that we were working in in terms of Scotland working on climate change.

And you can see because we've got them working in groups, they're getting to know each other really well; they're working out in terms of their relationships as a cohort as well.

Yeah, this day's been really good fun all around.”

Georgina Wade – Postgraduate student

“Scotland's so geographically diverse so it's really cool that we've been able to go around and see different parts of it. The beaches here also very different from, like I'm from America, and so just like the terrain that you can find on the beaches here is just completely geographically different from what I've seen in my part of the country.”


“Most importantly, are you going to win the sandcastle competition?”

Georgina Wade – Postgraduate student

“We're building a lot of moats right now, which I think is like a key feature and getting the water to go away, so I think we'll probably win it.”