EGS Geology Lectures

Public Lectures are held on alternate Wednesday evenings during the winter. These are aimed at anyone with an interest in Earth science. Afterwards, you can enjoy a cup of tea and a chat with the speaker and fellow members of the Society.

Our varied programme of illustrated geology lectures runs from October to Easter, usually on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 pm. 

They are open to the public free of charge, and visitors are welcome. The lectures usually take place in the Hutton Lecture Theatre in the Grant Institute of Geology, The King’s Buildings, James Hutton Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FE. Tea and biscuits, also at no charge, are served following the lecture in the Cockburn Museum of the Grant Institute.

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 find out more about geological sites from local experts. 

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 give accounts of their own geological interests, specimens or travels.

EGS Lecture Programme 2016-2017

Click on the tabs below to open up the full details for each lecture.

12 October 2016, 7:30 pm: Prof Patrick Corbett: Fluvial Channel Reservoirs

Patrick Corbett is Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot Watt University and Head of the Carbonates Reservoirs Group.

His long-term research interests involve integration of reservoir geoscience, petrophysics, geophysics and reservoir engineering.

Fluvial Channel Reservoirs – 20 years diagnosing their reservoir engineering attributes

In 1994 we undertook the first study which collected permeability data from opencast or surface mines in the Ayrshire Coalfields with the specific objective of generating synthetic well test responses. A well test is what an engineer will undertake on making a discovery in a fluvial reservoir to try to understand lateral extent and size of the reservoir. Then the tools for doing the simulation were rather simple, the models we produced were rather simple and the results looked rather like the expected results in the engineering textbooks at the time.
Since then, as the data and understanding has improved, as Google Earth has given us images of fluvial systems across the world, as the simulators became more powerful, the grid blocks smaller and the models much larger, and we look at more well tests, we begin to see that the 3-D pressure responses are much more complex. This goes, in some way, to explain why fluvial reservoirs have lower recovery (and therefore higher remaining potential) than many other types of oil reservoir.

Twenty-two years later, we are still studying opencast mines in Ayrshire (the Spireslack Mine), building models and trying to understand fluid flow in complex reservoirs. I suspect there’s another 20 years of work before we really understand these systems!

26 October 2016, 7:30 pm: Dr Tim Kearsey, BGS Scotland: Palaeosols

Tim Kearsey is a survey geologist and sedimentologist with BGS in Edinburgh. He has research interests in Palaeozoic stratigraphy and sedimentology; palaeosols and palaeo-environmental reconstruction; and geostatistics.

Palaeosols as evidence of terrestrial climate change at major Palaeozoic vertebrate evolutionary events

Climate change is a major driver of evolution. Palaeosols (fossil soils) are one of the few direct indicators of terrestrial climate and provide a record of climate changes and landscape architecture, and are critical in understanding the terrestrialization of vertebrates in the Carboniferous and the Earth’s largest mass extinction at the end of the Permian.

9 November 2016, 7:30 pm: Dr Charlotte Vye-Brown, BGS Scotland: Volcanic Hazards

Charlotte Vye-Brown is a senior volcanologist with BGS in Edinburgh, working on projects on rift volcanism, particularly in East Africa; the volcanic history of the Ascension Islands; and emplacement and eruption styles of flood basalts.

Volcanic Hazards

Of all the natural hazards, volcanic hazards are unique in the sense that there are many hazards associated with and produced by any single volcano that can have impacts hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. Globally, an estimated 800 million people live within 100 km of a volcano that has the potential to erupt. There remain significant challenges to understand volcanic risk and assist with disaster mitigation. These challenges are pronounced in Africa due to significant knowledge gaps, lack of real-time monitoring, uncertainty, limited early warning capacity and pressure on resources. This talk will focus on recent research in Ethiopia on understanding the periodicity and character of past eruptions, identifying potential impacts, and evaluating future threat.

23 November 2016, 7:30 pm: Prof Brian Upton: Volcanoes and the Making of Scotland

Brian Upton, an EGS Distinguished Fellow, is well known to EGS members for his enthusiastic participation in the Society’s affairs over many decades. He is Emeritus Professor of Petrology and Senior Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Geosciences of the University of Edinburgh.

Volcanoes and the Making of Scotland

Volcanoes have played a major role in the creation of Scotland’s geology. The most recent examples on the west coast are a mere 60 million years old, but rocks composing many of the famous Scottish landforms such as Glencoe are the direct result of earlier episodes of volcanism.

7th December 2016, 7:00 pm: Fellows’ Night

Fellows’ Night, which celebrates the 182nd anniversary of the foundation of the Society, will take the form of a social evening to be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday 7 December at the Lyell Centre, the new home of BGS Scotland on the Heriot-Watt University (HWU) campus at Riccarton. All EGS Fellows and their personal guests are cordially invited. Please note that this event is not open to the public, but new members are very welcome.A £5 admission charge will be made to cover the cost of refreshments – tickets will be sold on the door, and will not be available in advance. There is no need to book a place. There will be no lectures by members this year, but BGS and HWU staff will give an introduction to the new facilities. There will also be poster and video displays. The Lyell Centre, on Research Avenue South, is easily accessed by car (parking is available) or by Lothian bus. Bus numbers 25, 34 and 45 all go directly onto the HWU campus. See for further transport details and links to campus maps.

11 January 2017, 7:30 pm: Dr Phil Richards: Is there a future for the UK oil and gas industry?

Phil Richards worked as BGS Regional Hydrocarbons Manager, and has over 30 years of world-wide experience of oil exploration experience, specialising in creating the technical conditions necessary for inward investment in hydrocarbon exploration in developing basins. He has published over 50 papers on geology relating to oil and gas exploration.

Is there a future for the UK oil and gas industry?

Approximately 27 billion barrels of oil has been extracted from the UK North Sea. Some claim there are 14 billion barrels remaining to be exploited, but of those, nearly 6 billion barrels are classified as “Yet to Find”. Recently, we’ve been finding them in 10 to 15 million barrel increments, suggesting it might take some 38 years to find them all, by which time the North Sea’s infrastructure will be well and truly rusted away. How might we speed up the rate of new discoveries through the application of new technologies, and perhaps more importantly, by going back to basics and doing better geology?

25 January 2017, 7:00 pm (AGM First): Dr Brian Baptie, BGS Scotland: Is earthquake activity increasing?

Brian Baptie is head of the Earthquake Seismology team at BGS in Edinburgh, and is often to be heard in the media in response to major earthquakes world-wide. Areas of research interest include seismotectonics and stress regimes controlling UK seismicity and using passive seismicity to image crustal and upper mantle structure under the UK.

Is earthquake activity increasing?

Destructive earthquakes often lead to speculation that earthquake activity is increasing. But is there really any hard evidence to support this. I will draw on earthquake statistics and geophysics to discuss this question along with some notable examples of how earthquake activity rates can change.

8 February 2017, 7:30 pm: MIS/EGS Joint Lecture: Dr Martin Smith: The professional role of a geoscientist

Martin Smith was appointed in 2013 to lead the newly formed BGS Global Geoscience. As a survey geologist he has led research and training projects in basement and volcanic terrains in the Scottish Highlands and in Kenya, Egypt and Morocco. Current research interests include faulting and reactivation in basement terrains and urban geology. He is currently working on fault reactivation in the Ganges River Basin and has recently been engaged in expert technical advice on major infrastructure projects.

“Tell me Dr Smith what exactly do you mean…”: the professional role of a geoscientist

Throughout the professional career of a BGS geologist one is often challenged to provide advice and expert opinion involving multiple complex geological processes. I will use recent experiences of two contrasting expert legal geological situations to illustrate the role of a geologist and the importance of language.

22 February 2017, 7:30 pm: Mike Robinson, Royal Scottish Geographical Society: James Croll - Joiner, Janitor, Genius

Mike Robinson is Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. In the last 20 years he has worked on many large capital projects, including the John Hope Gateway at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the renovation and redesign of the Fair Maid’s House in Perth.

James Croll: Joiner, Janitor, Genius

James Croll (1821-1890) was a Scottish scientist who began to develop an astronomical theory of climate change during his employment as a janitor at the Andersonian College and Museum in Glasgow in the 1860s. He then joined the British Geological Survey and published an important volume ‘Climate and Time’ in 1875.

8 March 2017, 7:30 pm: Paul Everett, BGS Scotland. Building stone in Scotland: Glorious past … uncertain future

Paul Everett is a Building Stone Scientist at BGS Scotland. His main activities include; researching the provenance of historic masonry structures, conducting building stone surveys, quarry assessments and providing stone-matching advice to professionals in the building conservation sector. He is also a key contributor to the Building Stone Database for Scotland project.

Building stone in Scotland: Glorious past … uncertain future

Natural stone has been a favoured building material since the early days of human habitation in Scotland, and is still in fashion for modern architecture. The Scottish building stone industry has bequeathed a rich and diverse legacy of stone-built structures that embody the historic fabric of our cities, dwellings, monuments, places of worship and infrastructure. Paul Everett will present a synopsis of Scotland’s history of building in stone, evidence of the current fragile state of our indigenous stone industry, and the threat this poses to our historical and natural environments. He will also demonstrate how geological knowledge and understanding can help to maintain and conserve our country’s priceless built heritage assets through examples of activities undertaken at BGS Scotland.

22 March 2017, 7:30 pm Clough Medal Lecture: Dr Phil Stone: Scottish perspectives on greywacke, graptolites and Gondwana

Phil Stone’s work has focussed on southern Scotland and northern England whilst ranging as far afield as the Falkland Islands. He has a particular interest in the interaction between sedimentary basins and the tectonics of their growth and accretion onto neighbouring continents.

Scottish perspectives (old and new) on greywacke, graptolites and Gondwana

The Southern Uplands are geologically synonymous with greywacke and graptolites, but problems arose when that traditional Scottish perspective was exported to distant regions. There are now remarkable new ways to examine such terranes, and the graptolites lead out to Gondwana. But there they once lost out to a different Scottish perspective now supported by palaeontology far removed from its origins by a major glaciation.