The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences maintains world-class laboratory facilities and field equipment supporting research across the earth and environmental sciences. These incorporate state-of-the-art dating and geochemical research laboratories and a suite of advanced geomatics equipment including terrestrial laser scanners, robotic total station and RTK GPS.

The department also has up-to-date teaching and computing facilities for students including the Digital Map Library and a range of teaching laboratories which are utilised for class practical sessions and individual dissertations.

Services for staff include a comprehensive reprography and cartographic/drawing office and electronics/computer maintenance facilities.


Earth Observation Laboratory

The Earth Observation Laboratory is located in the Llandinam Tower and maintains state-of-the-art software and hardware for the processing, analysis and interpretation of spatial information. For general processing of remotely-sensed data, IDL ENVI, Erdas and eCognition are available, whilst for specialised processing of LiDAR and SAR data, Cyclone, TerraScan and Gamma SAR processing software are available. The Laboratory has also developed its own code base for processing a range of data (RSGISlib). The laboratories are equipped with dedicated Windows and Linux workstations. Field equipment includes a Leica Terrestrial Laser Scanner, differential Global Positioning Systems and forest inventory measures. There is also a dedicated research laboratory for PhD and Masters students with 15 workstations.  

Palaeoecology Laboratory

The Palaeoecology Laboratory is part of the Quaternary Environmental Change Research Group in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences. Researchers investigate the sedimentary records of climatic and vegetational change from lakes in Ethiopia, Kenya and Mexico. Other projects concern environmental history in Morocco, Turkey, Ireland and Wales, and computerised pollen recognition. The laboratory is equipped with a range of sediment coring devices, plus water and sediment samplers. The pollen preparation laboratories are second to none, and the microscopy lab has Nikon, Zeiss and Leica microscopes, and several networked PCs. The pollen reference collection has material from Europe, North America, North Africa and East Africa. Analytical techniques carried out in the Laboratory include pollen, charcoal, ostracod and diatom analyses, resin-embedded thin-section sedimentology, stable-isotope analyses of lacustrine carbonates (in collaboration with the NERC Isotope Geochemistry Lab), and trace-element chemistry of water and calcareous microfossils using the Institute's ICP-MS and Dionex DX-100 ion chromatograph facilities.

For the analysis of sediments, an XRF core scanner is available.

Aberystwyth Luminescence Research Laboratory

Aberystwyth Luminescence Research Laboratory (ALRL) prides itself on being a world-class research laboratory investigating the physical mechanisms involved in the production of luminescence by naturally occuring minerals, and applying this to the dating of sediments to elucidate Quaternary events, to enlighten our knowledge of the evolution of anatomically modern humans and to define the rates of geomorphological processes.

The laboratory's primary aim is to undertake innovative, world-class research in the development and application of luminescence dating. Research is undertaken by staff, postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows on a range of topics. Many of the PhD students and PDRAs trained at ALRL have gone on to run their own laboratories around the world. Additionally, the laboratory often hosts distinguished overseas visitors, either scientists from other luminescence laboratories around the world who wish to spend time interacting with researchers at ALRL, or people who have limited previous experience of luminescence and wish to learn the technique.

ALRL is a NERC recognised facility, both for collaborative involvement in specific dating projects, and for training researchers in the field of luminescence dating. In addition, since 2004 the journal Ancient TL dealing with issues in the application of luminescence and electron spin resonance dating has been published from ALRL.

Digital Map Library

The Digital Map Library opened in 2011 and provides individual workstations for students to access digital mapping resources such as Digimap and Getmapping. All workstations contain GIS software to help display and manipulate these data sets.

 Online Resources

  • DIGIMAP  The department subscribes to this service which delivers full and comprehensive Ordnance Survey map data and historic maps as well as BGS geological data.
  • IRELAND MAPVIEWER  An excellent browser-based Ireland map viewer with detailed street maps, topographic maps, aerial photography and historic maps at both 6 and 25 inch scale.
  • GOOGLE MAPS  A useful web-based searchable world map which also provides satellite imagery, directions, terrain maps, webcam links, traffic, weather etc.
  • The ubiquitous GOOGLE EARTH is installed on all map library PCs. It lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings. You can also visit the moon, Mars & outer space!
  • FLASH EARTH is a simple web-based world satellite image viewer that’s easy to navigate for general browsing.
  • LANDMAP provides spatial data and learning resources for the UK. It provides satellite image mosaics of Landsat, SPOT and ERS radar data and a high resolution Digital Elevation Model for the British Isles. This data is available in formats that are readily accessible to users of Geographic Information Systems, Image Processing and Desktop publishing software. (Requires registration!)
  • NERC SOIL PORTAL  A web based browser of soil information for the UK
  • USGS WORLD GEOLOGY & RESOURCE MAP  A useful browser-based world map showing oil and gas maps, geothermal maps and international surface geology. (Legends available in the ‘layer details’ icon)
  • ANTARCTIC  The Antarctic Digital database (ADD) is a compilation of medium-scale topographic data for the continent of Antarctica. It is derived from a wide variety of sources and aims to provide the best currently available data in all areas.
  • US NATIONAL MAP VIEWER  An excellent map viewer of the entire United States with a wealth of available data layers.

Paper Map Collection

The map library also holds a large collection of paper maps, particularly B.G.S geology maps of the UK and O.S maps of various scale and age. There are also a number of maps in storage of various parts of the world.

The paper map collection originated from the former Geography Department founded in 1917-18, but most items were acquired when the department moved to the Penglais Campus in 1965. At its peak, the collection contained over 80,000 maps and around 500 atlases and reference works. Following the creation of the Digital Map Library, a number of maps were donated to the National Library of Wales, local schools and private individuals