Author Archives: j.r.catterson

About j.r.catterson

A PhD candidate studying within the geography department in the School of Environment at University of Dundee. I am a social geographer with keen interests in street-connected young people, family relationships and disaster management and risk reduction. At present, I am conducting my fieldwork in St Andrews parish and Kingston, Jamaica. Previously studied MSc in Applied Population and Welfare Geography also at the University of Dundee.

Living and Learning in a New Culture

During my fieldwork, I have been fortunate enough to become affiliated with the Geology and Geography Department at the University of West Indies Mona Campus here in Kingston. My supervisor at the University of Dundee, Dr Susan Mains was a member of the teaching staff for many years (and sorely missed may I add). It is through her connections that I have been allowed to connect with the academics here, something I am really appreciative of. The staff’s research interests include Environmental Sustainability, Biogeography, Hydrology, Agriculture and Tourism. The campus also boasts a Geo Informatics Department and Disaster Studies Unit which tie in with the hazards element of my work.

On Thursday, I presented at one of the ‘Brown Bag’ sessions that take place in the department on Thursday lunchtimes. This is an opportunity for lecturers and postgraduate students to come together and learn and converse current research occurring in their own department and from outside research community. I was very impressed with the engagement of my audience and the huge amount of feedback, advice and interest in my work. This was especially significant as a majority of those in attendance were native to Jamaica and gaining context specific knowledge from locals is invaluable to my thesis.

One of the many reasons behind choosing to study street-connected young people in Jamaica was the limited amount of literature that I had access to in the United Kingdom from the Jamaican and wider Caribbean context on the topic. In my opinion, this is due to both a greater emphasis on the cause within other regions of the world namely; Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa and additionally a lack of international circulation of some excellent work being done in the Caribbean.

By having access to the facilities here on Mona Campus, I have become more attuned to the perceptions and concerns of Jamaican academics on the subject. Personally, I have also been fortunate to live with a local Jamaican family in Kingston which has been a really positive and insightful experience. Being able to discuss and query events, interactions and ideas with them on a daily basis has been such a bonus and is making my time in Jamaica a much more culturally rich one.

My social background and appearance make it difficult to become completely immersed in Jamaican society but I like to think that I have made a strong effort to engage with the culture and everyday practices of both my young participants and the wider population that I encounter daily. Interestingly friends and colleagues in Jamaica have been equally fascinated in learning about my own cultural background, some aspects of which I may promote this weekend for St Patrick’s Day… 🙂

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona CampusView from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus


Earthquake Awareness in Jamaica

Hi all,

Apologies for the delay in blogging recently; having passed the mid-way point of my stay here in Kingston, my schedule has gotten a little crazy as I push to explore all possible avenues in my research topic. Fieldwork is going as hoped though and I am happy with the progress so far. Of course there are always setbacks and challenges, especially when using a variety of different participatory methods with a range of young people. I am definitely excited to share some of my findings though when I return to Scotland in a few months.

Aside from working with street-connected young people, I have been making efforts to enhance my knowledge on the natural disaster element of my thesis. As a social geographer, this aspect of the fieldwork is something I am less acquainted with but through the support of various environmental and disaster management organisations in the city, this is quickly changing.

The week ending 18th January was Earthquake Awareness Week here in Jamaica and I was fortunate enough to attend the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Open Day. The Open Day brought together a range of experts from media, emergency services, charities, researchers and governmental organisations. All of the representatives demonstrated their own contributions to disaster management and risk reduction efforts through talks, activities and displays.

A group of young representatives from a range of schools in the city came along to the event and performed on stage under the theme of Earthquake Awareness. In true Jamaican style these performances were soulful, vibrant and very entertaining for everyone to watch. Music is a very important aspect of life in Jamaica, particularly for young people, so I felt that allowing students to learn about disaster risk reduction through song and dance was a particularly clever approach.

Jamaica encounters approximately 200 earthquakes a year, usually with a magnitude under 4.0 which means a majority of them go unnoticed by the general public. Nonetheless, Jamaica has not experienced a serious major earthquake since Kingston was hit in 1907 and experts have warned that another one is very overdue. Well documented reasons for this include poor building regulations and overcrowding in Kingston and the reclaimed land in the surrounding areas. ODPEM’s motto is “Disasters do happen…be Prepared” and I believe that they, with the support of other likeminded organisations, will continue to promote the importance of planning within the wider community over time. Through my own research, I am interested to know to what extent street-connected young people can participate in these preparations and hopefully as my fieldwork continues, this will become more apparent.

Jade Catterson

Tower Street, Kingston after the 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Tower Street, Kingston after the 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston after 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston after 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

New Year and New Experiences

Hi all,

Hope everyone had an enjoyable Festive period and New Year wherever and however it was spent.

I spent my holidays in Kingston, a completely different experience from my usual Christmas activities in Ireland. The food was fantastic – ackee and saltfish (national dish of Jamaica) and all the other trimmings. Can’t say I missed the cold weather either…

Fieldwork resumed a few weeks ago and I have now moved on to my second case study area in the outskirts of Kingston. The area in question (which will remain anonymous for now) has had recurring problems from storms, hurricanes and landslides for many years due to the terrain and soil quality there. Gilbert, Gustav, Dean and Sandy have all troubled the location and made life incredibly difficult for those who live there, particularly the young people who walk up to two hours to and from school everyday in this challenging environment.

I have been meeting with a group of young people between the ages of eight and 14 for the past two weeks and so far their cooperation and response to the research has been really positive and enthusiastic. Previous efforts with the mapping element of my participatory techniques hadn’t proved to be as straightforward as I had hoped but through working with the young people and adapting my original plans to fit with their ideas, I feel that I am starting to make better progress. I am discovering first hand the importance of providing participants with the opportunity to guide and manipulate the methods to best fit with their own situation, interest and knowledge. After a successful day on Thursday, I am excited to say that I may have found some budding cartographers of the future.

Look forward to updating you again soon.

I have included a picture I have taken of the road situation (still remaining from Hurricane Sandy 2012) in parts of St Andrews Parish, Jamaica where all of my research is taking place. Something which can be extremely dangerous and inconvenient for the residents who live close by.

Road damage from Hurricane

Hello from Jamaica

Hi all,

Just wanted to quickly introduce myself and my research on CECHR sphere – a site that I am very excited to be part of.

My name is Jade and I am based within the Geography Department at University of Dundee. I am a PhD candidate studying Jamaican street-connected young people’s experiences, resilience and relational networks particularly during natural disasters including flooding and hurricanes. My methods are mainly participatory including mapping, photography, interviews and ethnography. My work is based within St Andrews parish and the capital, Kingston. Fieldwork began 8 weeks and I intend on staying here until April 2014.

Over the coming months I hope to update you on my activities and experiences, during one of the most exciting times of my life.  It would additionally be great to hear any of your feedback or recommendations also as working with young people in an ever changing environment is already providing unforeseen challenges and opportunities.

Sending you best wishes and sunshine from the Caribbean,

Sunset in Bull Bay, St Andrews Parish