EGS Lecture Programme

Our varied programme of illustrated lectures runs from October to Easter, on Wednesday evenings. These meetings are open to the public, there is no charge, and visitors are most welcome.

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. At the annual Fellows’ Night, members give accounts of their own geological interests, specimens or travels.

Our lectures are broadcast live on Zoom, with the same link for each lecture. If you are not a member, please contact Angus Miller ( for details.

Information about the lectures, including more detailed abstracts where provided, are available below.

Lecture Programme 2023-24 The Geological Society of London are producing a new (5th) edition of The Geology of Scotland, which is due to be published this year. In the 20 years since the last edition, there have been many significant steps forward in understanding the geology of Scotland. To celebrate this significant milestone, this year’s lecture programme continues the thread from last session, with lectures delivered by key authors contributing to several chapters of the new book.

Graham Leslie, Lectures Secretary

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.

The Grant Institute is part of the School of Geosciences (it is labelled The Grant Institute on the door). It is one of the large buildings just back from, and facing West Mains Road.

Coming by bus:  Lothian service 9 travels along West Mains Road and enters Gate 2 to Kings Buildings to its final stop on David Brewster Road. Go back along this road (west),  cross over the crossroads continuing on David Brewster Road, with a large red brick building on the right (School of Chemistry) and a statue of David Brewster on the left.  At the next crossroads continue straight ahead onto James Hutton Road (white and black sign). Beside this is a large blue information board which includes directions to the Grant Institute. Continue along James Hutton Road to the next large building on your right, labelled School of Geosciences, Grant Institute.

Coming by car or bike:  From West Mains Road turn into Gate 1 of King’s Buildings (the entrance closest to Mayfield Road) onto James Dewar Road. At the first junction, turn left onto James Hutton Road There is a large blue sign which includes directions to the Grant Institute. Continue along James Hutton Road a few metres to the first large building on your right, labelled School of Geosciences, Grant Institute. Parking is available in front of the building.

Once inside the Grant Institute, turn left and follow the corridor round to the end where you will find the lecture theatre at the bottom of a short flights of steps (a stair lift is available).

What3Words link for the front door:

EGS Evening Lecture Programme 2023-24

Mary Anning and her Sea-Dragons, public lecture by Tom Sharpe

Full details –

This lecture will be preceded by an informal ‘pizza and pop’ session, from 6pm in the Grant Museum. All welcome – book here.

Clough Memorial Award lecture: Dr John Macdonald, University of Glasgow

New Perspectives on Modern Geology: Anthropogenic Geomaterials.

The by-products of many industries are solid in nature and made from minerals, such as slag from steelmaking. Since the industrial revolution, these anthropogenic geomaterials have been discarded in heaps in the landscape, and have therefore been subject to natural processes which have converted them into what we might consider rocks over decadal timescales. This talk will explore how anthropogenic rocks can form, using examples from Scotland and further afield, and how this modern geology could represent the rocks of the future.

A Scottish example of an anthropogenic rock, Glengarnock, North Ayrshire

Prof John Marshall, University of Southampton

The Old Red Sandstone – new work in an old field

Advances in our understanding of the Old Red Sandstone (ORS) documented in the 4th edition of The Geology of Scotland include: the relationship between tectonics and sedimentation, a continuing increase in time resolution, the application of heavy mineral studies to determine both provenance and palaeogeography and an integration of the onshore and offshore sections. Exciting discoveries of fossil fish continue to be made and the Rhynie Chert retains its international significance as the only preserved terrestrial ecosystem and crucially, one that occurs at a key transition for life on land.

Rhynie Chert reconstruction by Victor Leshyk

This lecture will be preceded by an informal ‘pizza and pop’ session, from 6pm in the Grant Museum. All welcome – book here.

Uisdean Nicholson, Heriot Watt University

Into the Nadir: a new candidate impact crater at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary

Abstract: geological evidence of marine-target impacts is rare with only ~20 confirmed impact craters on Earth that formed in the ocean (estimated at 0.2% of the total number of impacts during the last 1 Ga). This limits our understanding of the direct consequences and cascading hazards associated with such events. In recent years, we have discovered a new candidate impact crater using seismic reflection data from the Guinea Plateau, West Africa. Named after a nearby seamount, the Nadir Crater is a ≥8.5-km-wide structure buried below ~300 to 400 m of Paleogene sediment with characteristics consistent with a complex hypervelocity impact crater. The evidence includes an elevated rim above a terraced crater floor, a pronounced stratigraphic uplift below the crater floor, an extensive subsurface damage zone and a widespread ejecta layer.

Our computer simulations of suggest that this crater was caused by the impact of a ≥400-m asteroid in an ~800 m deep ocean, resulting in a train of large tsunami waves, ground shaking equivalent to a Mw 7 earthquake and an air blast 1000 times larger than the recent Tonga eruption. The impacted stratigraphy likely includes a thick (~400 m) of black shales with exceptionally high Total Organic Carbon, and the impact likely resulted in the release of substantial quantities of greenhouse gases.

Our stratigraphic framework suggests that the crater formed at or near the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (~66 million years ago), approximately the same age as the Chicxulub impact crater. We hypothesize that this formed as part of a closely timed impact cluster or by breakup of a common parent asteroid, or binary asteroid. We are now proposing to drill into the crater to test the impact hypothesis and its possible relationship to Chicxulub. This proposal is currently being evaluated by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), with the earliest possible drilling window in late 2025.

Bio: Uisdean Nicholson is Associate Professor of Geoscience at Heriot-Watt University. He leads the Seismic Stratigraphy and Sedimentology research group, which uses seismic reflection data and sediment cores to understand Earth hazards, tectonic-sedimentary interactions, palaeoceanography and other Earth surface processes. He is closely involved with the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), serving on the Science Evaluation Panel since 2020 and he is the lead proponent of an IODP proposal to drill the Nadir Crater. He teaches on several different MSc programmes and leads a number of different courses, including Basin Analysis, Geothermal Energy and a field course to the Southern Pyrenean Basin.

Image from the BBC article:

Prof Rory Mortimore, University of Brighton and Danny Long

Cretaceous Scotland: Inner Hebrides, offshore basins, Atlantic rifting and marine transgression

Cretaceous rocks of Scotland onshore Inner Hebrides and in offshore basins record major changes in global sea-level and tectonic events. Key to unlocking the Cretaceous geology of Scotland comes from recognising a ‘Mid’- Cretaceous Late Coniacian to early Campanian unconformity in field sections on Mull and Morvern linked to Antrim in Northern Ireland and to seismic sections in the Faroes – Shetland and North Sea basins. This unconformity records the culmination of inversion tectonics and the expression of the strongest phase of Subhercynian tectonism enhancing understanding of the timing and correlation of Cretaceous events across the British Isles and N Europe.

Cretaceous stratigraphical framework for the Faroe-Shetland Region (based on Stoker 2016 fig. 7). Stoker 2016 cites the following sources for the regional tectonics column Holford et al. 2010; Oakman & Partington, 1998; Dore et al. 1999; Ziegler, 1998; Ritchie et al. 1999; Passey & Hitchen, 2011; Lundin & Dore, 2005. Timescale from Ogg et al. 2016.

Stratigraphy of the Coire Rhiabach section, Beinn Iadain, Morvern showing the position of the 5 phosphatic fossil bearing horizons that compare with the Clogfin Sponge Beds (Late Santonian) of Northern Ireland. Modified from Mortimore et al. 2001.

This meeting, close to the anniversary of the foundation of the Society, is a chance to meet other members informally, with refreshments served from 6.30pm, followed by a series of short talks given by members:

  • Dr Mark Wilkinson – Letters to the President: EGS queries and questions 2023
  • Patrick Rutty, Enverus … a fun but data-driven talk about global exploration, oil supply, and whether years of relative exploration underinvestment is likely to result in a shortfall
  • Stuart Harker – Field Mapping Tales from the Yukon Territory of Canada in 1974
  • Beverly Bergman – What is a GeoNatter – and why does it matter?

The Society will also take the opportunity to grant:

  • an Honorary Fellowship to Tom Sharpe in recognition of his work promoting public interest in the history of geology and, in particular, in Mary Anning
  • a Distinguished Fellowship to Alison Tymon in recognition of her geoconservation work in Northern England and Southern Scotland
  • a Distinguished Fellowship to Anne Burgess in recognition of her services to the Society and, in particular, in organising the long excursion field trips over many years.

To help with numbers for catering, please book via the WebCollect system. Note that Fellows’ Night will be FREE this year!

Please note that Fellows’ Night is not broadcast on Zoom or recorded. You have to be there!

Prof Matthew Thirlwall, Royal Holloway

The Late Caledonian Igneous Province: can we distinguish origins via subduction or slab failure?

The origin of the abundant igneous activity in Scotland, that postdates the Grampian Orogeny and is broadly associated with Old Red Sandstone sediments, has been debated extensively since the 1980s. Recently published interpretations have focussed on slab failure as a mechanism for magma generation. This talk looks critically at some of the evidence used to support this origin, particularly geochronological and geochemical evidence. I show that the age, location and chemistry of magmas north of the Southern Uplands are consistent with an origin through active subduction, and that much of the evidence used to infer a slab failure origin is ambiguous.

Adrian Shaw, University of Glasgow

Shock and horror? The response of Church of Scotland ministers to James Hutton’s ‘Theory of the Earth’ (1785)

In 1785 James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth was presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In suggesting that the earth was of great, maybe infinite, age he blatantly contradicted the creation story in Genesis: how did the Church of Scotland and its ministers respond to this shocking development? In the volumes of the Old Statistical Account (over 900 parish accounts written between 1790-1797) we can explore in detail what Church of Scotland ministers were writing about the natural environment in the years following Hutton’s Theory and learn much about their attitudes to scientific enquiry. The accounts demonstrate their great interest in a range of environmental issues and throw light on their complex response to Hutton.

MIS/EGS Joint lecture: Tim Marples, Special Projects Lead, The Coal Authority

Managing coal mining legacy hazards – the role of The Coal Authority

The long history of coal mining across Great Britain has resulted in a significant legacy of hazards that pose a potential threat to the safety and security of persons and property. The Coal Authority was formed in 1994 as a non-departmental public body with ones of its core functions to manage the liabilities arising from historic coal mining. Tim Marples will describe some of the hazards that the Authority has to manage, including abandoned mine shafts, ground and building subsidence, mines gas and tips and illustrate how they are mitigated using case studies from across the country.

Tim is a mining engineer with over 35 years of experience in the UK coal industry covering operational and strategic management of both surface and deep coal mines. He joined The Coal Authority in 2014 and was Head of Public Safety and Subsidence from 2015 to 2020 and lead a joint taskforce looking at the coal tip failures from 2020 to 2022.

This lecture will be preceded by an informal ‘pizza and pop’ session, from 6pm in the Grant Museum. All welcome – book here.

Clough Medal lecture: Prof Tony Prave, University of St. Andrews

There is nothing left to learn about this scrap of NW Europe

The Scottish Highlands contain a rich record of Earth history spanning three billion years. Their study has been a veritable rite-of-passage for decades of structural, igneous and metamorphic geologists.  As such, their (meta)sedimentary rock record was often viewed as a palette useful for unravelling deformational fabrics. More recently, researchers have begun to peer through those fabrics to reveal an archive of insightful information about the pivotal episodes that shaped evolution of Earth’s surface environments. This evening’s lecture is a personal journey through that archive.

Prof Rick Law, Virginia Tech

The Northern Highlands terrane: An overview and integration of recent structure, metamorphism and isotopic dating studies

The Moine metasedimentary rocks of the NHT, which extends from the Moine thrust in the west to the Great Glen in the east, have undergone multiple phases of deformation and metamorphism in Neoproterozoic to Lower Palaeozoic times. This talk will provide an overview of structure, metamorphism and isotopic dating work on the NHT that has been completed over the last ten years and which will be summarized in the 5th edition of Geology of Scotland to be published in 2024. The talk will focus on the northern part of the NHT and particularly the interplay between deformation, metamorphism, changing tectonic transport directions and subsequent exhumation of the NHT during Scandian (Silurian – Lower Devonian) times.

This lecture will be preceded by an informal ‘pizza and pop’ session, from 6pm in the Grant Museum. All welcome – book here.

Stuart Harker

Eocambrian outcrops and hydrocarbons in Southern Oman

Southern Oman has one of the oldest working petroleum systems in the world with source rocks, reservoirs and productive traps in the Huqf Supergroup (520-600mya). There are superb world class outcrops of these sediments exposed along the Indian Ocean coast and in the inland salt diapir province. Reservoirs range in depositional environment from glacial clastics to peritidal stromatolitic carbonates. Petroleum traps range from conventional tilted fault blocks and anticlines, through salt induced anticlines to rafted carbonates and silicilyte. In spite of over 70 years of exploration, there remain many opportunities to discover additional reservoirs and traps.

Dr Helen Fallas, BGS & Dr Colin MacFadyen, NatureScot

Geology of Scotland, chapters 18 & 19: Environment, Geoheritage and Conservation

Chapter 18: Geology not only underpins Scotland’s natural environment and heritage, but it has also strongly influenced how places and communities have developed and the nation’s social heritage. This pervasive influence of geology was recognised as early as 1882 by Archibald Geikie in his work Geological Sketches where he states, “probably few readers realise to how large an extent the events of history have been influenced by the geological structure of the ground whereon they have been enacted”. Geikie makes the point that geology provides not only a physical framework of natural resources and landscape development, but it is also a key influence in determining how humans interact with places. This talk provides a series of examples as to how geology has influenced the development of places in Scotland in the recent history and continues to do so. In particular, the talk will examine the contribution of geology to the development and population growth of the Midland Valley through the industrial revolution, and the imprint this has had on the present-day environment; and the talk will go on to explore some of the emerging ways that geology could influence resilient places and infrastructure under climate change.

Chapter 19: The 5th Edition of The Geology of Scotland may be regarded as a celebration of Scotland’s remarkable geodiversity. Within an area of less than 80,000 km2 there is an extraordinary diversity of rocks, minerals, fossils, geological structures and landforms, recording thousands of millions of years of geological and geomorphological processes and environmental conditions. This resource has provided a range of essential geosystem goods and services amongst which are assets of scientific and cultural value that are recognised internationally.

This talk concerns the 19th and final Chapter and is the story of the remarkable achievements made in safeguarding the best and most representative scientifically important elements of geodiversity, our geoheritage, for use today and for future generations. It is also an account of a journey that has seen Scotland’s world-class geosites promoted as valuable educational and tourism assets. The talk highlights that the journey to promote our geoheritage and the geosystem services provided by Scotland’s geodiversity is set to continue given their value and use in facing the challenges ahead.

EGS Recorded Lectures 2023-24

Our YouTube Channel | Lectures Playlist

EGS Recorded Lectures 2022-23

Our YouTube Channel | Lectures Playlist

EGS Recorded Lectures 2021-22

Our YouTube Channel | Lectures Playlist

EGS Recorded Lectures 2020-21

Our YouTube Channel | Lectures Playlist