Ulcer Wars – The Barry Marshall Story

I watched “Ulcer Wars” – a BBC Horizon documentary – when it was first broadcast in 1994. It tells the remarkable story of Barry Marshall and Robin Warren’s discovery of Helicobacter pylori and Marshall’s battle to gain mainstream medical acceptance of his well validated theory that H. pylori infection caused ulcers.

The documentary inspired me to include H . pylori as a water contaminant issue in my GG362 Water Resources module where it has remained since 1994.

Today the link between H. pylori and stomach ulcers is a matter of common knowledge but in 1994 the broadcast of this documentary was still controversial amongst some doctors (e.g. Colin-Jones, D.G. (1994) The Subtle Microbe, British Medical Journal. 308: 1378. http://www.bmj.com/content/308/6940/1378.full)

Today, the documentary provides an important historical insight into one of the major breakthroughs in medicine of the late 20th century.

In 2005 Marshall and Warren were rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease”.

Hotel Espana, Barcelona

Past students who enjoyed a downmarket Hotel Espana with me and colleagues on field trips in 2001 and 2005 may be interested in news of a revamp and a review in the Daily Telegraph which now rates it one of the best budget hotels in Barcelona:


The 2001 December field trip is infamous for the huge snow fall that fell on our first night and remained for the whole week, cutting off the region of Catalonia and causing power black-outs in the city. All our field work sites were inaccessible.



Ironically Barcelona in December was a late replacement for our usual summer field trip to the Yorkshire Dales. That year the Dales were largely out of bounds due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak.

Fieldwork in Nigeria

My research student, Balarabe Getso, is about to commence his wet season field work on the River Kallawa in Kano State, Nigeria. I intend to join him later in the summer.

Our research project is concerned with endocrine disrupting substances in aquatic environments. This has become a well researched subject in Europe and North America but little work has been done in the developing world despite significant and widespread associated pollution problems and impacts on aquatic life.

Crete Field Trip

The field trip to Crete (June 16-23rd 2009) involved three staff (Dr Alan Howard, Richard Tegg, Ken Beard) and 28 students registered for the degree in Human and Physical Geography at the University of Reading.

We were based in the village of Chora Sfakion in the Sfakia region of south west Crete. Fieldwork was undertaken in the village, at Loutro and in the Samaria Gorge.

Daytime temperatures ranged from 28 to 36 degrees and, whilst not in the sea, work was undertaken to model the extent and impact of a major flood in December 2000 in the Ilingas Gorge and the potential impact of tourist development on society in this area (Sfakia remains largely untouched by the mass tourism associated with northern Crete).

Group Photo - 22/6/2009, Chora Sfakion
Group Photo - 22/6/2009, Chora Sfakion

 During the field trip our students made use of various Web 2.0 technologies in order to produce group blogs and videos of their experiences. These were completed in the field utilising ubiquitous wireless internet access available in the village of Chora Sfakion and the mini Dell laptops we provided. The students did an excellent job and the process of writing daily entries on their group blogs (hosted on WordPress.com) enabled them to reflect upon the educational experiences they encountered. The blogs have been compiled here:


where you will also find all the light hearted videos each group produced while in the field. A random choice of video is displayed here:

How blogging may help students deepen their learning

If you would like to find out about how and why weblogs (‘blogs’) might be used to enhance learning watch this interesting video: http://lindsayjordan.edublogs.org/2009/05/29/blogging-with-students-how-and-why/ or read Lindsay’s full paper at:


I will soon be undertaking a field trip to Crete during which students will maintain a blog to enable individual and collaborative reflection on events and issues they experience.

Exploration is fundamental to Geography and Geographers have a long history of sharing their travel observations with the public through publication in books and journals. Blogging provides a new outlet for this oldest geographical tradition and the blogs written in Crete will feature other Web 2.0 technologies including photo sharing, video and twitter.

Results to follow…