Lectures

Lecture Programme 2014-2015

Our varied programme of illustrated lectures runs from October to Easter.  Speakers and topics are carefully chosen to provide interest for both the amateur and professional geologist.

These meetings also provide an informal opportunity to chat to other members, and to gain advice from local experts on visiting geological localities.  Each year, a celebrity lecture is given by a geologist of international repute, who is invited jointly by the Society and the Geological Society of Glasgow.  At the annual Fellows' Night, members can give accounts of their own geological interests, specimens or travels.  

Lectures are usually on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 pm. These meetings are open to the public, there is no charge, and visitors are most welcome. Tea and biscuits, also at no charge, are served following the lecture in the Cockburn Museum of the Grant Institute.The lectures usually take place in the Hutton Lecture Theatre in the Grant Institute of Geology, on the University of Edinburgh's King's Buildings campus.
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15 October Prof John Parnell University of Aberdeen
Evidence for a deep biosphere in the geological record

29 October Dr Maarten Krabbendam BGS Edinburgh
Quaternary evolution of glaciated gneiss terrains: pre-glacial weathering vs. glacial erosion (or: How to make a cnoc-and-lochan landscape)

12 November Dr Simon Cuthbert University of the West of Scotland
Eclogites and the fate of subducted continental margins

26 November Prof Colin Ballantyne University of St. Andrews
Catastrophic landslides in Scotland and Ireland: timing, causes and implications

10 December, 7:30 pm Fellows’ Night & Social Evening
BGS, Murchison House, Edinburgh
This meeting is a chance to meet other members of the Society informally, with a series of short talks given by members, followed by a wine and cheese reception, expertly selected by John Mendum. (Soft drinks will be available.) Booking for the event is not required and tickets will not be sold in advance, but those wishing to stay for the Reception are asked to pay £6 on the night.

14 January Peter Worsley University of Reading
The BGS glaciological expedition to Arctic Norway 150 years ago. Joint lecture with the Geological Society of Glasgow.

28 January Stuart Clarke Keele University
Title tbc

11 February John Smellie Leicester University
Antarctic volcanism

25 February Diarmad Campbell BGS
Making better use of the ground beneath our cities; the Glasgow experience is that it helps to ASK...
Joint lecture with the Mining Institute of Scotland (to be held at the BGS, Murchison House)

11 March Rob Strachan University of Portsmouth
New light on the Caledonides of the Shetland Islands. Clough Medallist Lecture.

25 March Stuart Monro University of Edinburgh
A geological future in Scotland?

15 October Prof John Parnell University of Aberdeen
Evidence for a deep biosphere in the geological record

Following degrees at Cambridge (BA Natural Sciences) and Imperial College, London (PhD Geology) and a Lectureship-Readership at The Queen’s University of Belfast, John Parnell is currently Professor of Geology in the School of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen with a Chair in Geology and Petroleum Geology. In a rich and varied research career to date, he has published some 300 papers, with a particular emphasis on the geology and geochemistry of a wide diversity of organic materials, from hydrocarbon source rocks to methane in meteorites. John researches the implications for oil and gas deposits, the possibility of life on other planets, the subsurface biosphere and the hydrochemistry of deep Earth environments. A role in the exploration of subglacial Lake Ellsworth, to measure organic compounds in the water, has helped to understand the potential size of the subsurface biosphere on Earth, and on other planetary bodies, in particular John’s research into Martian environments.

A significant part of Earth’s biomass lives in subsurface habitats down to several kilometres depth, below both oceans and continents. This deep biosphere is readily evidenced today in microbial isolates from drill cores, but proving that it has persisted from deep geological time as an intrinsic aspect of life on Earth is more challenging. The talk will explore the available evidence in the geological record. Demonstration of a long-term geological record of the Earth’s deep biosphere emphasizes that life on other planets is also likely to include a deep biosphere, which may be the dominant habitat. As a subsurface habitat does not depend upon surface liquid water, this substantially extends the number of planets that could support life.

29 October Dr Maarten Krabbendam BGS Edinburgh
Quaternary evolution of glaciated gneiss terrains: pre-glacial weathering vs. glacial erosion (or: How to make a cnoc-and-lochan landscape)

In addition to degrees at the University of Utrecht (BA and MSc Earth Sciences) and Oxford (PhD Geology) Maarten has completed periods as a Research Fellow in Aberdeen University and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Monash University in Australia. He currently works for the British Geological Survey, based in Edinburgh. His research interests range widely across the geology of the Caledonian Orogen and include a particular focus on its Neoproterozoic sedimentary basins and reconstructing basin architecture in polydeformed terranes, on Proterozoic terrane boundaries, and on thrust tectonics. A keen Alpine climber, Maarten also researches glacial geomorphology, especially glacial landforms and their link to bedrock structure. Over 50 publications span those research topics.

 

 

Vast areas previously occupied by Pleistocene ice sheets have a rough landscape of knolls and lake-filled rock basins, the ‘cnoc-an-lochan’ landscape or ‘landscape of areal scour’. These landscapes are invariably underlain by gneiss or granitoids. These landscapes are interpreted to be formed either by strong glacial erosion, or by stripping of regolith from an older deeply weathered landscape.

We analyse the ‘cnoc-an-lochan’ landscape of the NW Highlands of Scotland, its relation with bedrock structure and remnants of regolith. We compare the landscape with: i) an adjacent sandstone terrain , which shows widespread till cover; ii) a gneiss terrain in a non-glacial, arid setting (Namaqualand, South Africa), which is very similar to the ‘cnoc-and-lochan’ landscape, including abundant rock basins.

The rough gneiss landscape in Scotland and Namaqualand is close to the old bedrock—regolith contact. The roughness is caused by deep joints providing a highly irregular surface area for weathering to proceed. The contact represents a significant jump in bedrock physical properties. Glacial erosion (and aeolian erosion in Namaqualand) is simply an efficient way of stripping regolith, but not very efficient in eroding hard, unweathered bedrock.

Glacial gneiss terrains are the result of a multistage process: 1) Long term weathering, forming a deep, irregular weathering front; 2) Stripping of regolith by glacial erosion during the first glaciation(s), resulting in a rough landscape, broadly conforming to the old weathering front; 3) Further modification of exposed bedrock by glacial erosion, especially in areas of fast ice flow.

Except in areas of high palaeo-ice flow, glacial erosion during the last glaciation(s) was low, so that little sediment was produced and deposited. Little sediment was produced, explaining the lack of subglacial deposition in gneiss terrains. The presence or absence of glacial till is thus strongly predicated by underlying bedrock lithology. Much of the gneiss-dominated bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet probably comprises a similar landscape with similar roughness.

12 November Dr Simon Cuthbert University of the West of Scotland
Eclogites and the fate of subducted continental margins

Following degrees at Sheffield University (BSc Geology and PhD Geology) and periods as an Exploration Geologist with Britoil in Glasgow and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Simon joined the University of the West of Scotland as Lecturer. His research, teaching, and numerous publications centre upon analysis and interpretation of the mineralogy and fabric of geological materials and related inorganic wastes, and applications of GIS to Earth and Environmental Science. Areas of interest include arsenic, antimony and chromium-bearing wastes, and the role of adsorption onto solid phase particles in mediating pollutant fluxes; the behaviour of continental lithosphere during collisional orogeny and subduction; ultra-high pressure metamorphic rocks and mantle-derived orogenic peridotites, diamond genesis and destruction, and high pressure metamorphism in the British Isles; durability and degradation of natural stone construction materials, evolution of traditional lime mortars during manufacture and maturation, microbial bio-weathering of stone masonry and resource evaluation for natural stone construction materials used in heritage buildings.

Eclogites are spectacular red and green garnet + clinopyroxene rocks formed by metamorphism of basaltic rocks at pressures normally experienced in the mantle. First described by Hauy in the 18th century they are now known from subduction and collision zones and mantle-derived xenoliths in  kimberlites. Eclogites and related high-pressure metamorphic rocks preserve abundant information about processes at destructive plate margins. Mafic oceanic crust to undergoes wholesale conversion to eclogite during subduction but, paradoxically, eclogites are often found within continental gneiss terrains whose low density might be expected to prevent subduction. These will be the main focus of the presentation. Some of these rocks contain metamorphic diamond and other unusually dense minerals such as coesite, indicating burial to depths in excess of 150km. Frequently found outcropping beside eclogites are garnet-bearing peridotites – bodies of sub-continental mantle that have been introduced tectonically into the eclogite-bearing crust. Such "ultra-high pressure" eclogite-bearing terrains tell us that continental crust can be subducted quite deep into the mantle when continental margins follow oceanic lithosphere into a subduction zone. Their return to the surface also presents us with some interesting tectonic challenges. We will explore these fascinating rocks with examples from around the world, and with some recently published computer models of collision tectonics. For the skeptic of all this grandiose story-telling, just come and look, because eclogites are, quite simply, very beautiful rocks found in beautiful places!

26 November Prof Colin Ballantyne University of St. Andrews
Catastrophic landslides in Scotland and Ireland: timing, causes and implications

After graduating in Geography (University of Glasgow), Colin worked as a hydrologist and geomorphologist in Arctic Canada for his MSc (at McMaster University, Ontario) then returned to complete a PhD at Edinburgh University on the periglacial geomorphology of mountains in NW Scotland. He then the University of St Andrews as a lecturer, appointed Professor of Physical Geography in 1994. My research has merited numerous awards, the Warwick Award and Wiley Awards (of the British Society for Geomorphology, the President's Medal and Newbigin Prize of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, the Saltire Society Scottish Science Award and the Clough Medal of the Edinburgh Geological Society. He is fascinated by the operation of periglacial processes in arctic and alpine environments, and also has longstanding interests in the dimensions and palaeoclimatic implications of former glaciation and in postglacial and paraglacial landscape evolution, especially in mountain environments. Some 160 scientific papers have resulted, as well as several books and monographs. He lists himself as passionately addicted to hillwalking, skiing, classical music, naval history, New Zealand and good red wine!

Scottish and Irish mountains contain over 700 major postglacial rock-slope failures (RSFs). Dating of 31 RSFs shows that they occurred over the period 18.2 ± 1.2 to 1.7 ± 0.2 ka, but were 4.6 times more frequent during the Lateglacial period than during the Holocene, with peak RSF activity 1600-1700 years after ice-sheet deglaciation. This time lag is inferred to represent deglacial stress release leading to progressive failure plane development, and ultimately to spontaneous kinematic release or failure triggered by some extrinsic mechanism. The timing of most RSFs coincides with maximum rates of glacio-isostatic recovery, suggesting that earthquakes were important triggers of rockslide release. The prevalence of ‘pre-last glaciation’ RSF scars lacking runout debris demonstrates that rockslides made a major contribution to the sediment budget of former ice sheets and glaciers, and suggests that the erosive role of Pleistocene ice sheets has been over-emphasised: perhaps glaciers mainly ‘clean up the mess’ left by landslides.

14 January Peter Worsley University of Reading
The BGS glaciological expedition to Arctic Norway 150 years ago. Joint lecture with the Geological Society of Glasgow.

Professor Peter Worsley is Emeritus Professor of Quaternary geology, in the School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading, joining Reading in 1965. Furthermore he is President of the Reading Geological Society. After graduating in Geology and Geography at Keele University in 1962, Professor Worsley completed his Ph. D. in Quaternary Geology at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1965.

Following the excitement created by the visit to Britain by Louis Agassiz in 1840, opinion during the next two decades ‘met the glacial theory of the drift in general and that of extinct glaciers in particular, with incredulity and sometimes with derision’ (A.C. Ramsay 1860). To address a growing conviction that glaciation by land ice had indeed occurred, Geological Survey employees Archie and James Geikie accompanied by the sassenach William Whitaker, decided to investigate modern glacial geological processes first-hand. In 1865 they went on an expedition to the Norwegian Arctic, focussing on Holandsfjorden, immediately to the north west of the Svartisen ice cap. Their observations, including the first glacial geological map of an active area of glaciation, combined with a re-examination of the ground they examined, will be discussed and assessed.

28 January Stuart Clarke Keele University
Title tbc

Stuart (Stu) studied Geology at Keele University, graduating in 1995. After a couple of years in the oil industry he returned to Keele in 1999 to complete a PhD in faulting, fault zones and hydrocarbon flow through three dimensional sedimentary basins. That research fuelled his long standing interest in modelling sedimentary basins and particularly the structural geological aspects of interest to the hydrocarbons industry. After graduation in 2001, Stu joined the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh spending 6 years as a field geologist mapping the Carboniferous sediments of the Northumberland Trough and Aston Block in Northern England. I Appointed Lecturer in Geology at Keele in 2008 , Stu teaches basin analysis and sedimentology at all levels, geological surveying and map-making - his research has led to the development of commercial fault seal analysis and hydrocarbon flow modelling software that I now use to assess and risk the hydrocarbon potential of plays on behalf of the British Geological Survey and commercial oil companies.

 

11 February John Smellie Leicester University
Antarctic volcanism

As a volcanologist John Smellie studies glaciovolcanism (eruptions beneath ice sheets) and its application to palaeo-ice sheet reconstruction. Prior to moving to Leicester University in 2010 he spent 35 years working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), principally as Senior Volcanologist. He has worked on volcanic and associated glacial sedimentary rocks right across Antarctica, from the sub-Antarctic active volcanic South Sandwich Islands, through the Antarctic Peninsula, and very remote Marie Byrd Land to East Antarctica (northern Victoria Land). In addition he has worked extensively on glaciovolcanic rocks in Iceland. He can count 23 field seasons in Antarctica and 10 in Iceland. John was awarded a Polar Medal for his scientific research by Her Majesty the Queen and has Service Medals from the American and Italian Antarctic Programmes. Three places in Antarctica are named after him (by the UK and Spain). In addition to his Leicester professorship, he has a personal chair at Lancaster University and is also Departmental Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University. He has > 180 publications including an invited comprehensive review of the geology of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region, the first major account for 25 years.

 

25 February Diarmad Campbell BGS
Making better use of the ground beneath our cities; the Glasgow experience is that it helps to ASK...
Joint lecture with the Mining Institute of Scotland (to be held at the BGS, Murchison House)

Diarmad Campbell is BGS Chief Geologist for Scotland. Diarmad graduated in Geology from Edinburgh University in 1978, completing his Ph.D. at Cambridge in 1983 on ‘The Caradoc Ashgill geology of an area between Bala and Betws y coed, N Wales’. After joining the British Geological Survey in 1982, Diarmad continued for a time in Wales based at the Aberystwth office, before spells of secondment in Zimbabwe and in Hong Kong. In 2000, Diarmad was appointed Head of the Hong Kong Geological Survey, a role he filled for 5 years before returning to BGS in Edinburgh in 2007. Diarmad’s research interests in geology range from the interpretation of ancient silicic volcanic rocks, through gold mineralisation and forensic landslide interpretation to Urban Geology. He has led the hugely innovative Clyde-Urban Super-project (CUSP) for BGS and is currently Chair of the Management Committee, European Cooperation in Science and Technology: 'SUB-URBAN' COST.

 

11 March Rob Strachan University of Portsmouth
New light on the Caledonides of the Shetland Islands. Clough Medallist Lecture.

Rob Strachan is Head of School and Professor of Geology at Portsmouth University. Rob graduated BSc Hons in Geology in 1978 from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, the completed his Ph.D. at the University of Keele, in 1982 studying the “Geology of the Moine rocks of the Loch Eil area, West Inverness-shire”. That marks a long a distinguished research career on the Caledonian Orogen, principally in Scotland but in Ireland and Greenland as well. The Edinburgh Geological Society is recognising that research with the award of the Clough Medal in 2015.des of Scotland. Rob was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Geology, Oxford Polytechnic in 1982, leaving as Reader in 2003 to join the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences in the University of Portsmouth, becoming Head of School in 2007 and Professor of Geology in 2013. He was awarded the Geological Society’s Coke Medal in 2012. Rob’s principal research interests are into the nature of orogenic processes within the middle to lower continental crust, the mechanisms of granite emplacement in different structural settings, the application of geochronological techniques to date deformational and metamorphic events during orogeny and the evolution, the reactivation history of major continental fault zones and the syn- to post-orogenic erosional history of mountain belts. All things Caledonian in fact! He can count over 40 publications in the last 10 years.

 

25 March Stuart Monro University of Edinburgh
A geological future in Scotland?

Stuart completed a degree in Geology from Aberdeen University and then received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh. He began his career with the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, contributing to the understanding of the geology and environmental issues of central Scotland. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts in 1998, and served as President from 2002 until 2005. He has also served as President of the Westmorland and of the Edinburgh Geological Societies. In 2003 he was appointed to the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC), which provides strategic advice to the Scottish Government on scientific issues and served as its first independent co-chair with the Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland till October 2009. Stuart served as a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland from 2005 to 2013 and a part-time tutor in Earth Sciences at the Open University from 1982 till 2009 and has served on the OU's Senate and Council. He is an Honorary Professor in the University of Edinburgh (School of Geosciences) and a non-executive Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. He was awarded an OBE for services to science in the New Year's Honours list 2007, and the Geological Society of London's Distinguished Service Award in 2009. Joining the Our Dynamic Earth team in 1999, his first role was to write the scientific story of Dynamic Earth and to work with the designers to set up the entire building – galleries and all.

 

 

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