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NEWS > Alumnae News > Putting Elysia on the Map

Putting Elysia on the Map

Many congratulations to Elysia Sanders, Class of 2022, for winning a prestigious award from the Royal Geographic Society in recognition of her outstanding A level course work.

Elysia, who is now studying Geography at Durham University, gained the highest mark in the country for her Geography A level with exam board OCR. She was awarded the Ron Cooke Award last month for her course work, which posed the question ‘How have glacial and physical post-glacial processes caused variation in the landscape of the Troutbeck Valley?’

She was named alongside some of the most celebrated professionals in earth science as part of the RGS’ annual celebration of people who lead their field in geographical research, teaching and public engagement.

Elysia, who will attend the award ceremony at the RGS next month (June), says: “I was incredibly honoured to receive the award.  It was an amazing surprise and some excellent news to motivate me while revising for my first-year exams. I’m very excited at the prospect of meeting fellow winners at the award ceremony as I have studied several of the papers and theories they’ve written while studying at university this year!”

She was inspired to focus her A level course work project on the Lake District after family holidays there over the year instilled a love of the stunning landscape. “When I started taking Geography more seriously, I realised just how geographical the Lake District is, not just from the physical perspective but including all the ongoing debates about human use. I first visited Troutbeck (the little town in the valley) in 2020 and thought it was an incredibly beautiful setting as well as interesting due to its position on the edge of two different bedrocks meaning there is huge variation across the valley.

“In further research when I was contemplating my coursework, I discovered that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest which I felt justified the location as especially relevant. For the coursework, I planned and carried out my fieldwork in October 2021 with the help of my Dad to carry some very large ranging poles up two mountains. It sounds incredibly stereotypical of Geography, but I must admit a lot of the data collection quite literally involved getting my tape measure out and examining rocks on the path. I learnt so much, not just about the data and theory, but also the practicalities of carrying round equipment and completing fieldwork in an environment that can be rainy, cold, and physically challenging to walk up."

Elysia always enjoyed studying Geography at LEH, “largely at the hands of the fantastic teaching department” but it wasn’t until GCSE and then A levels that it became her passion. “I think realising that quite literally everything is connected to Geography has formed my love of the subject. It has something for absolutely everyone and gives you a real sense of understanding about the past, present, and future. I also think the multidisciplinary understanding that Geography provides is incredibly important for addressing 'big issues' like climate change, pollution, and population.”

At Durham Elysia is a member of the Geographical Society and the Climate Society and has completed training to be an RGS Ambassador. “I want to inspire others to share my love of Geography. Despite doing the human geography course, I’ve still managed to reference the Lake District in a few of my essays here! Honestly, I still have no idea where I’ll be after university, but I think it’s safe to say I’ll be visiting the Lake District very often whatever I am doing."

Everyone at LEH is so proud of Elysia and we wish her continued success in the future. 

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