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Monday 14 June 2021 5:12pm

Dr Ashraful Alam (seated front left) talks camera basics with research participants in Bangladesh.

As the University of Otago's School of Geography marks its 75th year it has extra cause for celebration – its students and staff have scooped half the recently announced New Zealand Geographical Society (NZGS) annual awards.

Dr Swati Shah

The NZGS President's Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography recipient was Dr Ashraful Alam, who is a lecturer and the School's Master of Planning Programme Coordinator. The President's Award for best Doctoral Thesis in Geography went jointly to Dr Swati Shah and Dr Emaediong Uko. The NZGS's President's Award for best Master's Thesis in Geography went to Hamish Prince.

Dr Alam says he was delighted to receive the NZGS due to a long-standing interest in research from Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Emaediong Uko

“My PhD training in Australia was strongly influenced by works from some prominent New Zealand geographers, such as Lynda Johnston, Robyn Longhurst and Sara Kindon and I see my membership of the New Zealand Geographical community as immensely motivational – receiving the award furthers my commitment to contribute to the Discipline and the Society with my future works.”

Dr Alam, who came to Otago in 2018, took an “unconventional pathway” to Geography, training first as an architect in Bangladesh, then as an urban planner at the University of Hong Kong.

Hamish Prince

His PhD thesis in Geography and Planning from Macquarie University examined ways landless rural migrants in Bangladesh, who he says are some of the country's most marginal communities, negotiate housing in regional urban centres. His latest article published in the Housing Studies journal highlighted the gendered dimensions, particularly women's mobility, in the negotiation of housing infrastructures in regional urban centres in Bangladesh.

Dr Alam's desire to embrace alternative methodologies led to him collaborating in 2020's 'podcasting' as a digital methodology, which captured the COVID-19 lockdown experience in cities across the globe. The work was published in the Royal Dutch Geography Society Journal, Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie.

Professor Nel

Geography Head of School Professor Etienne Nel, who received the NZGS' Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Medal in 2020, says having four recipients is recognition of the valuable and applied work done by Otago's students and staff.

“This is a real testament to the calibre of our staff and students and their nationally acknowledged success as researchers. I am delighted with Dr Alam's achievement and the recognition which its bestows and I am equally pleased with the support staff have provided the three winning students to help them achieve their success”.

The award-winning postgraduate theses and dissertations were:

Dr Emaediong Uko, "Policy and Planning in urban and peri-urban agriculture: The Case of Uyo and Benin City, Southern Nigeria"; Dr Swati Shah, "Envisioning relational reproductive justice in surrogacy"; Hamish Prince, "A climatology in New Zealand atmospheric rivers."

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