PhD student Briony Turner's enthusiasm for supporting and enabling others to achieve impact has seen her launch the Intrepid Explorers initiative to inspire others with tales of exploration in the field.

Impacts

  • Through mentoring, personal coaching and launching Intrepid Explorers as a safe environment for researchers at all levels to improve their communication skills, Briony Turner has helped fellow students increase their confidence, maximise the impact of their research and venture further on fieldwork expeditions. This contributed last year to a record number of King's College London students applying for the Royal Geographical Society's (RGS) geographical fieldwork grants.
  • She was one of the first, and encouraged other Intrepid Explorers presenters, to participate in the KCL outreach programme K-Link – going into schools and sharing experiences about the life of a researcher, to inspire pupils from under-privileged backgrounds to study geography and consider field-based research.
  • Since 2012, Intrepid Explorers has drawn together researchers, explorers and expedition professionals to share knowledge, experiences and gain invaluable advice on expeditions. It has attracted a wide audience through hosting more than 100 talks as well as film screenings, Q&A panels and three workshops on ‘funding and safeguarding intrepid travel’. Its public outreach events are regularly attended by more than 150 people including schoolchildren. The website has over 10,000 unique users and the newsletter over 700 subscribers.
  • Intrepid Explorers has inspired successful interdisciplinary collaborations between undergraduates, postgraduates and other universities, including a successful collaborative funding proposal by KCL with the Zoological Society.
  • Turner and her Intrepid Explorer co-founders developed strong links with the RGS; devising and running events and workshops in partnership with the RGS on field safety and expedition planning, and contributing to Explore, RGS’s annual fieldwork and expedition planning weekend.

"In more than 30 years of teaching I cannot think of a PhD student who has done more to inspire others to achieve success – from children taking GCSEs and A Levels, to fellow PhD students and, indeed, to academic members of staff and the Department more widely." (David Green, Vice-dean for Education, Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy, King's College London)

Background

Geographers travel all over the world conducting field research. Yet, on their return, few tell the tale of their experiences abroad. That's the thought that occurred to Briony Turner when she started her PhD in KCL's Department of Geography. Having conducted fieldwork herself in Tanzania and Botswana, she knew that behind all the academic findings, statistics and data lay some exciting stories waiting to be told.

"In 2012 a fellow PhD student and I realised that there wasn’t any space for sharing experiences, advice and stories of doing fieldwork, and that this was a missed opportunity," she explains. "Not only are fieldwork experiences informative and often exciting but, in sharing them, researchers can also hone their communication skills and possibly inspire the next generation of geographers."

To create a 'space' for researchers and guests to tell the 'warts and all' stories behind their projects, she co-founded Intrepid Explorers, initially as a weekly seminar series. Now in its fifth year, it's proved hugely successful, inspiring not just researchers and academics but also – through school and public engagement events – bringing the excitement of geography to a much wider audience.

"It's not easy to quantify the often 'hidden' impacts of an initiative like Intrepid Explorers," says Briony Turner. "But we believe Intrepid Explorers is already viewed as a really valuable activity with international reach. We aim to establish an international co-ordinating platform to link up participating university departments, enabling an even wider sharing of experiences and knowledge."