EGS Public Lecture: Climate change in Edinburgh – Past, Present, Future

Wednesday 6 October 2021, 6.30 pm at Dynamic Earth

Our climate change lecture explored the geological aspects of climate change in the past, present and future. The panel of guest speakers considered what the sedimentary rocks of this area tell us about the climate in the geological past and evidence from Scotland’s coasts of changes over the last millennia and decades. And we looked to the future, and how geology and geological processes are at the heart of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The live, in-person audience had an opportunity to engage the speakers in questions and discussion.

This was in-person event at Dynamic Earth, with a small audience but we felt it was important to gather again. Good to be back!

Contributors:
Dr Katie Strang
, Scottish Geology Trust
Dr Larissa Naylor & Freya Muir, University of Glasgow
Dr Katriona Edlmann, University of Edinburgh

Chair:
Dr Hermione Cockburn
, Dynamic Earth

 

New book ‘Earth Lines’ launches 1 October 2021

The Edinburgh Geological Society and partners are delighted to launch a new book Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics edited by Patrick Corbett, Norman Bissell, Philip Ringrose, Sarah Tremlett, Brian Whalley. Earth Lines grew out of a Geopoetry event hosted by the Geological Society of London on 1 October 2020, and is a compilation of poetry and essays on the broadest theme of geoscience.

More details of the publication, including a selection of audio and video recordings of some of the poems and poets featured in Earth Lines, including some additional poems and a geopoetry map, are available on the dedicated Earth Lines page of this website.

The online launch, part of the Scottish Geology Festival, took place on Friday 1 October 2021 – view the event recording here.

Earth Lines is now available to buy from our publications section – click here.

Geologists’ Association conference comes to Edinburgh, 15-17 October 2021

The Geologists’ Association Annual Conference will be held in Edinburgh, supported by the Edinburgh Geological Society.

The programme includes a tour of the National Museum of Scotland followed by a reception in the Playfair Library of the University of Edinburgh, with an opportunity to hear about and view some of Charles Lyell’s notebooks and correspondence.

On Saturday there is a full day of presentations in the Surgeon’s Hall, covering many different aspects of the geology of Scotland and further afield.

The conference concludes with a range of field trips on Sunday morning.

Details at https://geologistsassociation.org.uk/conferences/

Beasts Before Us – The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Beasts Before Us – The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution by palaeontologist Elsa Panciroli charts the emergence of the mammal lineage, Synapsida, beginning at their murky split from the reptiles in the Carboniferous period, over three-hundred million years ago. They made the world theirs long before the rise of dinosaurs. Travelling forward into the Permian and then Triassic periods, we learn how our ancient mammal ancestors evolved from large hairy beasts with accelerating metabolisms to exploit miniaturisation, which was key to unlocking the traits that define mammals as we now know them.

Elsa criss-crosses the globe to explore the sites where discoveries are being made and meet the people who make them. In Scotland, she traverses the desert dunes of prehistoric Moray, where quarry workers unearthed the footprints of Permian creatures from before the time of dinosaurs. In South Africa, she introduces us to animals, once called ‘mammal-like reptiles’, that gave scientists the first hints that our furry kin evolved from a lineage of egg-laying burrowers. In China, new, complete fossilised skeletons reveal mammals that were gliders, shovel-pawed Jurassic moles, and flat-tailed swimmers.

This book radically reframes the narrative of our mammalian ancestors and provides a counterpoint to the stereotypes of mighty dinosaur overlords and cowering little mammals. It turns out the earliest mammals weren’t just precursors, they were pioneers.

Beasts Before Us is available to EGS members at 20% off (rrp) – use the code BEASTS20 at  www.bloomsbury.com/beastsbeforeus

New books and old, postage free to EGS members

Two recently published titles are now available to purchase by EGS members from the Publications page. David Webster’s new book, A Guide to the Geology of Islay, Jura and Colonsay can be purchased at £12/copy (RRP £14.99) and its recently updated companion volume A Guide to the Geology of Islay is available at similar terms.

The new publication from Lochaber Geopark The deep history of Scotland’s West Highlands is available at £4, and we still have a few copies remaining at £16 of Con Gillen’s The Western Highlands of Scotland (RRP £19.99). All of these and our many other geological excursion guides, mostly at 20% reduction from RRP, will remain postage-free to EGS members resident in the UK until sales can resume at our Grant Institute lectures once more.

Excursion Programme online

Our Excursion Programme for 2021 is now online, it includes 7 excursions on Saturdays and 6 shorter Wednesday evening excursions, led by geologists with expert knowledge of the locality. Visit the Excursions page for full details, and please read and take note of the Code of Conduct & Safety Guidelines. You must book in advance for all excursions, as numbers are limited for safety reasons. There is a charge of £5 per person for Saturday excursions, which is payable when booking, and no charge for Wednesday evening excursions.

Please remember that although this represents a step towards normality, there are some significant differences to normal years. For example, due to Covid-19 restrictions we are not running a coach for Saturday excursions, at least for now. Independent travel to meeting points will be required, which brings with it issues around parking and so we have reduced numbers on most excursions). We would urge that consideration is given to letting as many members as possible attend trips, so please don’t book every trip.

Looking to 2050 – how will climate change affect Edinburgh?

In the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow in November, EGS is keen to engage the general public in considering how we mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Edinburgh area. By 2050, there are likely to be obvious effects of increased sea level and coastal erosion, more rainfall and flooding, and rising groundwater. Meeting the Scottish Government target to reduce Scotland’s emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 (at the latest) will also change Edinburgh. How will we generate electricity, heat our houses and travel around the city? In what ways might the city and the surrounding landscape adapt to reduce carbon emissions?

Tuesday 6 & Wednesday 7 July, 10.30am & 2.30pm: Edinburgh 2050 – how will climate change affect our city? Outdoor events for Edinburgh Science Festival – book at www.sciencefestival.co.uk.

Online Workshop 26-27 May 2021 – Cryogenian glaciation: the extraordinary Port Askaig record

 

This workshop is to present results of an eight-year field programme on a world-class example of the deposits of an ancient ice age. The exposures are the best permanent exposures of glacigenic deposits of any age in the British Isles and have attracted much international interest. There is an informal proposal that the base of the Cryogenian geological system should be located here.

The programme is listed at https://www.cryogenian.org/science-conferences.html and abstracts will be added nearer the time. Registration is free at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cryogenian-glaciation-the-extraordinary-port-askaig-record-registration-147150973523

James Croll – from Janitor to Genius

An online whole-day meeting co-sponsored by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Quaternary Research Association, celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of James Croll (1821-1890), a self-taught, stonemason’s son from Perthshire who became internationally celebrated as a proponent and developer of the astronomical theory of climate change with its implications for glaciation, oceanography and much else. Using a mixture of talks and videos, the meeting will explore Croll as a person and as a scientist, with specialists drawn from the worlds of science, history and popularisation.

The Zoom-based meeting may be accessed, free of charge, via the following link: rsgs.org/Event/james-croll-from-janitor-to-genius 

Programme

Session 1:

10.00-10.15 Kevin J. Edwards (Aberdeen/Cambridge): Introduction.

10.15-10.45 Mike Robinson (RSGS): James Croll, a video introduction.

10.45-11.00 Kevin J. Edwards (Aberdeen/Cambridge): James Croll and 1876 – an exceptional year for a ‘singularly modest man’.

11.0-11.15 Laura Brassington (Cambridge): Croll’s navigation of scientific societies.

11.15-11.30 Break

11.30-11.45 Diarmid A. Finnegan (Belfast): Science, metaphysics and Calvinism: the God of James Croll.

11.45-12.00 Malcolm Longair (Cambridge): James Croll, celestial mechanics and climate change.

12.00-12.15 “James Croll” (Edinburgh): On the thickness of the Antarctic ice, and its relations to that of the glacial epoch.

12.15-12.45 Question & Answer

12.45-14.00 Lunch break

Session 2:

14.00-14.15 James R. Fleming (Maine): Cosmic connections: James Croll’s influence on his contemporaries and his successors.

14.15-14.30 Chronis Tzedakis (London): James Croll and geological archives: testing astronomical theories of ice ages.

14.30-14.45 Alastair Dawson (Dundee): The oceanographic contribution of James Croll.

14.45-15.00 James Rose (London): Lyell, the Geikies, and Croll’s observations on terrestrial
glacial sediments and landforms.

15.00-15.15 Break

15.15-15.30 Roy Thompson (Edinburgh): Croll, feedback mechanisms and the future.

15.30-15.45 Jo Woolf (RSGS): Popularising Croll: an opportunity for expression and creativity.

15.45-16.30 Question & Answer

16.30-16.40 Mike Robinson (RSGS): Video – Croll, place and landscapes.

Clough Medal Lecture 2020-21 – Dr Tony Spencer

Tony Spencer on The Garvellachs

On 17th February 2021 our annual Clough Medal lecture took place for the first time as totally virtual event. The medallist for 2020-21 was Dr Anthony M Spencer who gave a lecture entitled the “The Port Askaig Formation in Argyll: uncovering the evidence for repeated climatic change in a Crogenian glacial sequence”. He was presented with his medal (again virtually) by our Vice-President, Prof Emrys Phillips on behalf of the Edinburgh Geological Society.

A brief outline of Tony’s career was described by David Stephenson. Tony had first come across the Garvellach Islands during his Doctoral research at Liverpool University in 1963. He had been presented with the topic his supervisor, Prof Wally Pitcher, who with Prof Robert Shackelton had visited the islands in 1961. Tony completed his PhD in three years and then moved onto a Post-Doctoral research position. Their findings were noticed by the Geological Society of London and led to approval for a Special Publication “Late Pre-Cambrian Glaciation in Scotland” which was published in 1971.

Tony’s career turned in a different direction after this, to more off-shore geology with stints with both BP and Statoil, and in various parts of the globe. He retired in 2012, after which he turned his attentions back to the Garvellach Islands. He then explained how through collaboration with experts in a range of specialisms, they had been able to uncover together so much more, to build on what hade been done before.

The Garvellach Islands lie in the Forth of Lorne, off the west coast of Argyll. There are four main islands and many skerries around them. The islands expose around 550m of the Port Askaig Tillite Formation, around half of its total thickness. Contained with these exposed rocks are 47 diamictites (poorly sorted or non-sorted terrigenous non-calcareous sedimentary rocks). The sequence shows many examples of where grounded ice has scraped at the sediments when these were exposed on land, some marine drop-stones indicate the presence of intruding seas at other times and also periglacial features such a frost polygons and frost shattering of exposed surfaces. In total, they have identified 28 glacial periods, 25 inter-glacial periods and 23 periglacial periods, a total of 76 significant climatic episodes in this one sequence.

Clough Medal

The Clough Medal

We learnt from Tony about how many days had been spent by numerous geoscientists on the islands over the past eight years to gather this data. He also mentioned all the boat trips made to and from the islands by virtue of three generations of the MacLachlan family of Luing.
Finally, Tony touched on the Garvellach’s history of human occupation from AD 542 (1st Century) by monks from Ireland (?) through to just before the 2nd World War when the last residents on island left. Now only migratory geoscientists visit there, many of whom are longing to return for the delayed field season of 2020 (their 9th year!).

The audience for Tony’s talk was spread widely around the globe from the USA to Australia, via Stavanger in Norway where he was presented his lecture for this evening. The vote of thanks was given by Prof Tony Prave (University of St Andrews) who thanked him for a truly unique Clough Medal lecture delivered by virtual means. He also thanked Tony for the time he takes to support a wide range of students and his openness in sharing of ideas, and for explaining his material in such a compelling way.

Anyone who wasn’t able to attend, or would just like to listen again to Tony’s lecture, can find the recording on our YouTube channel, which can be accessed from the Lectures page.