Lochaber Geopark Crowd funder

Lochaber Geopark – help required

The EGS has been contacted by the Lochaber Geopark about a crowd-funding initiative – as a not-for-profit charitable organisation, run mostly by volunteers, Lochaber Geopark needs your support to help continue our work and be self-sustaining. Many of us will have enjoyed the wonderful geology of this area and may like to support the worth efforts of the Lochaber Geopark to keep promoting it to a wider audience.  If you would like to support them, then please follow the link provided below.


You might even want to book a geo-tour with this summer – there are various options from half-day to multi-day tours. Check it out here – lochabergeopark.org.uk/product-category/geotours/

Delving into Deep Earth

Science Festival 2019: Delving into Deep Earth, Exploring our Final Frontier

As a part of the Edinburgh Science Festival 2019 the UK Geoenergy Observatories project in cooperation with Dynamic Earth allowed visitors insights into the geological underworld.

As usual, exhibitors and Dynamic Earth managed to create an event that seemed like being aimed at children, but fascinated the adults just as much, encouraging everyone to touch, feel, laugh – and create their own earthquake catastrophe, should they so wish….

A big winner - the pet dinosaur

A big winner – the pet dinosaur


Visitors, especially of the childlike persuasion, enjoyed the warm welcome by a friendly pet dinosaur, carefully carried by a volunteer animal keeper.





The BGS rock exhibition - looksies AND feelsies

The BGS rock exhibition – looksies AND feelsies


It is one thing to hear and read about rocks, but touching them, seeing, feeling – and, if possible, smelling the difference is so much better!
The BGS rock samples found many fans.





landscape formations and their impact on waterflows

landscape formations and their effects


Another extensively used item was the simulation of landscapes and their influence on water flow and water levels. Children (and adventurous adults) could shape a landscape in the sand; depending on the height of ‘hills’ and ‘valleys’ light simulated the water flow after a rainfall, or its changes after a landslide.




The QuiverVision app: print - colour - play

The QuiverVision app: print – colour – play


An interesting use of modern technology was demonstrated by the QuiverVision app: visitors could choose a template, colour it in, and the app ‘animated’ it – watching one’s self-created volcano erupt is oddly satisfying, not just for children (we can assure from personal experience…).

The website offers a wide variety of templates for downloading.



Who wouldn't want to cuddle with the pet dinosaur

Who wouldn’t want to cuddle with the pet dinosaur


Of course, some had their own ideas of what they wanted to get their hands on. And truth be told, who wouldn’t want to cuddle the pet dinosaur?

Downloadable templates for dinosaur hand puppets can be found on the BGS website.




Earthquake simulation on one of Scotland's most important buildings

Earthquake simulation on one of Scotland’s most important buildings



To the surprise of absolutely no one, the earthquake-simulation-table was equipped not only with imposing, but also with some of the most important buildings of Scotland.







Additional to the fun of watching your self-created earthquake, experts from the BGS explained not only the works of a seismometer, but also presented real-life-earthquake data and gave an overview of earthquakes in Britain (more than one would anticipate, but mercifully weak).

Very good information material about earthquakes, but also on volcanoes and plate tectonics, can be found on the BGS website.


Geothermal Energy

As a sister project to the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project was presented by Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth.

Professor Iain Stewart and the next generation

Professor Iain Stewart and the next generation



Professor Stewart discussing with what we hope will be one of our future geologists.





Dealing with questions and (mis-)conceptions about the effects of boreholes and geothermal projects underground, he asked the visitors what ideas they had about ‘earthquakes’, and invited them also to draw what in their opinion was to be found in the earth beneath Glasgow….

Treasures, bones, and lava under glasgow

Treasures, bones, and lava…



Stones, diamonds, and dinosaurs under Glasgow

…stones, diamonds, and dinosaurs








Once more it was demonstrated that science doesn’t have to be ‘watered down’ to be fascinating for people of all ages, just presented in appropriate (and entertaining) ways, by people whose love for science is rivalled only by their creativity.

A thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable experience.


Accidents *did* happen

Accidents *did* happen






…at the end of the day, some had a bit of bad luck…













Our thanks go to all exhibitors, volunteers, and enthusiastic young scientists.


Recycling the Past to Research for the Future: the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site (GGERFS)

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

On the 6th of February, a joint lecture of the Mining Institute of Scotland (MIS) and the Edinburgh Geological Society (EGS) was held at the Grant Institute of Geology , University of Edinburgh.
Dr Hugh Barron of the British Geological Survey (BGS, Scotland) gave us an overview of the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site GGERFS, a research facility run by BGS Scotland and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), who also carry part of the funding.

Why geothermal energy?

Currently, only about 20% of Scotland’s total energy consumption is covered by renewable energies. It doesn’t sound impressive – and certainly we hope to do better in the future – still, compared with the rest of the UK, Scotland is remarkably successful in its implementation of renewable energies. And while our heat energy consumption is on average 3% higher than in the other parts of Britain (information accompanied by sympathetic laughter from the audience), compared with 2006 it has been reduced by impressive 30%.

New technologies may extend our exploitation of fossil fuels but they remain a finite resource. And considering the current rate of Global Warming it is even more important to find ways of generating energy which are low in CO2 and / or CH4 emissions. Geothermal energy clearly offers an interesting alternative.

Geothermal energy – for most people this conjures images of Iceland, where active volcanism provides subterranean heat, and hot springs are used in ingenious and spectacular ways. How could Scotland compare? For while our geology speaks of a rich volcanic past, by now our volcanoes are all extinct; eroded remnants of former explosive power.

However, geothermal energy is not just a question of how hot, but also of how much – relatively small differences in temperature over a large body of water still contain huge amounts of energy.
The tricky part is to extract this energy – and to make it widely available. As of now, it’s neither commercially nor technologically feasible to install a geothermal system for a single household property. For the most part, facilities are installed in large edifices or building complexes.

Projects of this kind do exist: the town of Heerlen (Netherlands) has been running a minewater scheme since 2008. In Scotland, facilities were installed in Shettleston (Glasgow), and in Lumphinans (Fife). These two projects had to be stopped in the meantime, due to problems with clogging (Shettleston) and a lack of qualified personnel for maintenance (Lumphinans).
This shows why it is so important to run a research program to find solutions for those technical problems, and to create the base for reliable and easy to run systems.

An image from the public exhibition in Dalmarnock, Glasgow (September 2015), which presented the plans for the geothermal energy research field site. Staff from the BGS explained the research and answered the visitors’ questions:


‘Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©UKRI. All rights Reserved’

 The Past

Between the Highland Boundary Fault in the North and the Southern Uplands Fault in the South, we find five large coal mining areas:

  • The Fife Coalfield
  • The Central Coalfield
  • The Lothians Coalfield (which crosses the Southern Uplands Fault in an eastwards direction)
  • The Douglas Coalfield
  • The Ayrshire Coalfield


Thousands of miners worked for centuries to extract the coal. What better way to honour their hard and dangerous work, than by re-using their constructions to improve our lives, protect our environment, and increase our knowledge?


To use old coal mines offers a couple of advantages. The mines reach down to a depth of ~ 900 m, the shafts allow easy access to warm water with a maximum temperature of ca. 37° C. Records of these mines are still held by the BGS, and can offer information about promising future sites.

An interesting 3D view of the faulted and folded coal seams under the East End of Glasgow is provided by the Scottish Government:


‘Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©UKRI. All rights Reserved’

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland: study volume 2


The research is realised via the UK Geoenergy Observatories Project.
The project was commissioned by NERC, while BGS will carry out the research infrastructure and operate the facilities.
Two research sites have been created, with the aim to

  • Independently monitor underground energy technologies
  • Gather scientific evidence on new and established energy and storage technology to increase efficiency and sustainability
  • Gain a world-class understanding that could support management and regulation
  • Develop new, exportable technologies

The project’s timeline is set for 15 years, the duration of its last stage as a research facility will depend on the interest shown by the academic community.

There are many benefits to be gained from a dedicated research site.
First, as fracking has shown, we need to learn in advance what impact energy extraction might have on geology and environment. All the more, since effects cannot be directly observed, and intervention deep in the bedrock would be difficult or even impossible.
The people living close to these sites have a right to know what effects any project could have on their lives. As long as this information cannot be provided, the new technology isn’t likely to be accepted.

Secondly, this is an opportunity for gathering academics working in different fields. As astronomical missions are shared by many research teams, this could become a site where scientists can co-work in a professional environment, and share information across the borders of research interest or nationality.

Finally, besides technology, these days it’s mainly expertise that becomes a commodity. And more than money can be gained: to share knowledge is also an important way to connect people all over the world. Also, it’s in our own interest to help other countries to reduce their CO2 emissions, as the effects of Global Warming caused in one country won’t stop at the borders of the next.

The site itself is situated in the Cuningar Woodland Park, a community park which successfully managed to encourage usage by the local community. Its quite charming welcome sign at the entrance, a quote from Dr Seuss

“Welcome…’If you never did you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.'”

could apply to geology, as well as to all other sciences.

Soil and bedrock at the site are a mixture of both natural and man-made formations.


‘Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©UKRI. All rights Reserved’

Not all planned boreholes could be installed. The ‘surviving’ two include a weather station, gas probes, sensors for CO2 and CH4, and an active satellite based inSAR ground motion sensor. Seismometers are included as well ( in fact, they had been installed just the day before the talk). They are part of the UK seismic monitoring network.
The data acquisition in total includes environmental monitoring, soil chemistry, hydro-geochemistry, noise, and ecology.

The Future

The project is not meant to produce enough heat to cover all its costs, rather it is planned to finance itself through its use as a research site.
This research might include measuring the impact of the geothermal technology on the local environment, new technology, and even defining a base for legal and regulatory framework (as of now, there is no regulatory regime for geothermal technology in Scotland or the UK). In order to turn geothermal energy and heat into a profitable as well as beneficial industry, the extent of all related costs has to be established.

Research topics envisaged so far:

  • Faulting and subsurface flow partitioning
  • Chemical and heat tracer tests
  • Flow rates and sustainability of heat yields
  • Thermal breakthrough
  • Subsurface to surface impacts
  • Strategies to minimise clogging
  • Geo-microbiology
  • New technologies

An online data portal to make the results available for scientists and engineers world wide is planned.


‘Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©UKRI. All rights Reserved’

The lecture offered an interesting view on a so far little-explored way of creating energy in Scotland. This project combines modern technology with the past – the constructions as well as the documentation held by the BGS – to add another piece to the mosaic of modern, decentralised energy production. The knowledge gained here can help to  facilitate the use of geothermal energy even on a modest scale. The smaller and simpler the technology, the wider the possible application world wide.

Thanks & Acknowledgement

Gratitude is owed to Dr Barron for holding this lecture. He gave a clear overview of the project, its background, goals, challenges and future. He also kindly answered many follow-up questions at the traditional after-talk-tea at the Cockburn Geological Museum.



Contact Dr. Barron

British Geological Survey


Grant Institute of Geology

University of Edinburgh

Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site GGERFS

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland: study volume 2

Open Government Licence for public sector information

Horizontal Gene Transfer

Deep Time Walk – Edinburgh Science Festival 2019

Holyrood Park image - Deep Time Walk

Deep Time Walk at the Science Festival April 2019

Once more the Edinburgh Geological Society contributed to the annual Science Festival with an unique event in association with the team behind the award-winning Deep Time Walk mobile app.

Over the course of five Deep Time Walks, 76 participants from all over the world, professionals and non-professionals alike, travelled across Earth’s 4.6 billion year timeline at a rate of 500,000 years per step. They were led through time and space (i.e. Holyrood Park) by tour guides Angus & Rob.

The walk covered significant events in geological and biological history.
Starting with the stellar explosion creating the cloud of material Earth and we are made from; the ‘Big Splash’ impact that led to the formation of the Moon; the Hadean and Archaean eons; LUCA, the ‘Last Universal Common Ancestor’; the beginning of plate tectonics; and the first single-celled organisms.




The evolution of photosynthesis and its spreading via horizontal gene transfer was perfectly re-enacted by Rob and Angus, a promising comedy-double-act.




“Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.”



The next big step was the creation of the first eukaryotic cells through symbiogenesis, the “catch and implementation” of other prokaryotes which now make the organelles of the cell. (The above quote is from scientist Lynn Margulis who had a great part in developing the theory.)

For about a billion years not much more happened, which is why this period was also dubbed the “Boring Billion”. And then another form of symbiosis took place…





…Lichen, the cooperation between algae and fungus. Presented with the help of Alan AtKisson’s wonderful “The Strangely Popular Lichen Song”.

And so it went on: the first use of calcium for teeth and shells, the development of eyes, the 5-digit limb, dinosaurs, end of dinosaurs, the opening of the Atlantic, and the 1-2 million human beings – not even half of Scotland’s current population – living on Earth just 10,000 years ago; until the walk reached Dynamic Earth again.



It was a fascinating and enlightening experience. To ‘walk the walk’ not only makes the enormous length of time since the creation of the Earth at least a little bit more understandable, it also gave the participants time (!) to appreciate those events which contributed to us and all other life being here today.

It’s possible to create this experience for yourself with the help of the Deep Time Walk app, which you can download for £ 2.99 at deeptimewalk.org.

For all visits to Holyrood Park, please be aware that the Radical Road is still closed due to safety concerns after a rockfall.

Deep Time Cards



Buy the Deep Time Cards direct from EGS – a set of 58 beautifully illustrated cards, giving 4.6 billion years of Earth history in a tactile, easy to use format. Each card provides a 100-million-year summary of the key transitions that have occurred across Earth’s deep history, with associated reference data and inspiring quotes.