I spent a couple of weeks this month in Morocco, the majority of which was scouting out a route for a new physical geography fieldtrip for second year undergraduates at King’s College London. For the last several years the physical geography fieldtrip has been based on the Morocco coast at Agadir and Essaouira, visiting nearby sites. The new fieldtrip will take more of a transect approach, starting in Marrakech, traversing the High Atlas mountains and following the River Draa out to the edge of the Sahara (see map below).
As we work our way up and through the High Atlas one of the things we’ll consider is how vegetation changes and what might be driving those changes. In the picture below you can see colleagues on the trip Prof. Drake and Dr Chadwick (@DrMChad) debating (and betting on!) vegetation on the hills over-looking the town of Demnate.
For example, what are the relative influences of climate and human activity on the vegetation we see? In the picture below Prof Drake confronts one potential disturbance.
As this is a new trip and we’ll be staying in a new location each night, one of our tasks was to check the accommodation we’ll be staying in. Here hotel connoisseurs Drake and Chadwick relax in luxury in the gîte at Toufghine.
There’s some impressive geology in the High Atlas and we’ll discuss that as we go too. The scale of some of the tectonic features is illustrated by Prof Drake in the bottom right of the picture below.
We’ll also be surveying rivers, both their geomorphology and ecology. Another of our tasks therefore was to work out what we would examine and where along the various rivers in the region.
Once we get over the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas beyond we’ll follow the River Draa all the way to the desert. The Draa is a vital life-line for people in the region, with water drawn from the river used to irrigate agriculture (including wheat).
Once the water has all been used up we reach the desert. There we’ll look for evidence of previous flows of the Draa and of climate change. Some of the dunes can be steep.
But the view from the top is usually good, especially at sunset. We’ll stay a night out in the dunes with the students to get a feel for what it might be like living in such hostile environment.
And of course there will be camels! Below, our driver negotiates a herd as we head back north to Marrakech on the final leg of our trip.
So it looks like we’re going to have a great trip with our students in December and following years! The trip will allow us to investigate how climate, geology, geomorphology, ecology and livelihoods change across space and how they have changed through time.
I’ve posted some more of my favourite pictures on Panoramio so that you can see some of the locations we’ll visit.