EGS Evening Lectures

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

Our varied programme of illustrated evening lectures runs from October to Easter, usually on Wednesday evenings.

Please note the new trial start time of 7.00 pm for the 2019-2020 session.

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 Evening Lecture Programme 2019-2020

The lectures will be on every second Wednesday, starting on 16th October, restarting after the Christmas break on Wednesday 8th January 2020.

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

Graham Leslie, Lectures Secretary

Please note: we face unprecedented times with coronavirus affecting all matter of events. The University of Edinburgh has stopped all face-to-face contact with students and will not permit the use of the Grant Institute for outside organisations. We have therefore have no option but to postpone this week’s AGM and Evening Lecture on the Wednesday 18th March 2020. Our out-going President, Bob Gatliff will circulate his report via e-mail and on the website later this week.

Wednesday 16 October 2019, 7.00pm David McClay, University of Edinburgh

Sir Charles Lyell: Making the archives of a public man of science public

From popularising previous geological theories, advancing as well as adapting to new ideas, Charles Lyell was for forty five years one of the great public figures of Victorian science. Through his many books, writings and lectures he reached and influenced a broad and diverse audience. Following a survey of Lyell’s success in public engagement, David McClay of the University of Edinburgh will explore and discuss how Lyell’s extensive archives and collections are, inspired by Lyell himself, going to become fully publically accessible and used in the future.

Wednesday 23 October, 7.00pm Public Lecture at Dynamic Earth

The Secret Life of Carbon

The role of carbon in the atmosphere is well known, but what else does carbon get up to as it cycles through Earth systems? Find out from experts about the role of carbon in soils, rivers and the oceans.


Susan Waldron, Professor of Biogeochemistry, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow.

Tom Wagner, Professor of Earth System Science, The Lyell Centre, Heriot Watt University.

Dick Kroon, Regius Professor of Geology, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.

Further information

Wednesday 30 October, 7.00pm Stephen Brusatte, University of Edinburgh / PalAlba

The Jurassic Hebrides: New Dinosaur Discoveries from the PalAlba Group

Over the past six years, palaeontologists from Scotland have worked together as the PalAlba group, to discover, study, conserve, and publicise fossil vertebrates. Our focus has been on Middle Jurassic faunas of the Inner Hebrides, particularly the Isle of Skye. In this talk I will review our most interesting discoveries, including several new dinosaur tracksites, and introduce our newest finds, including a new pterosaur (flying reptile) from Skye and tracks and bones from the Eigg and Muck. Together, these discoveries reveal an ecosystem of dinosaurs and many other species, living on a subtropical island ca. 170 million years ago.

Wednesday 13 November, 7:00pm Callum Strong, University of Edinburgh

Dating the source of the Nile

Cenozoic rifting in East Africa profoundly altered the regional topography. The surface-warping of an ancient Gondwanan landscape formed vast lakes and redirected the former headwaters of the Congo River into the Nile. These landscape events influenced the evolution of hominins and show us that river networks can respond in surprising and dynamic ways to continental rifting. This talk will discuss how modern cosmogenic isotope dating methods are answering old questions about the chronology of catchment capture and river reversal at the source of the Nile.

Wednesday 27 November, 7.00pm Gilbert Camoin, ECORD

Coral reef records of sea-level and climatic changes during the last glacial cycle

Coral reefs are sensitive recorders of past sea-level, climatic and environmental changes. They form archives that may be used to understand the long-term behavior of the tropical ocean/atmosphere system in response to anthropogenic and natural forcing. Coral reef records of the last deglaciation (i.e. the last 23,000 years) and of the Last Interglacial (i.e. about 125 kyrs ago) are of special interest as these periods are generally seen as potential analogues of climatic and environmental changes that our Planet may face in the future in the context of global warming.

Dr Gilbert Camoin is Senior Research Scientist at the CNRS-CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France. His major scientific interests concern the reconstruction of sea-level and environmental/climatic changes based on reef and carbonate platform records, as well as the analysis of the impact of such changes on carbonate systems. Since 2012 he is managing ECORD (European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling), the European participation to the International Ocean Discovery Program.

Coral reef, photo courtesy of Gilbert Camion

Wednesday 11 December, 6.30pm Fellows’ Night

Fellows’ Night

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. The event will be held in the upper level of the Lyell Centre, Heriot Watt campus (Research Ave S, Edinburgh EH14 4AP) and booking is not required. We are very grateful to BGS Scotland for hosting this event. If you would like to give a short talk on a subject of interest to members, please email Chris Lofthouse on

Wednesday 8 January 2020, 7.00pm Bruce Levell, University of Oxford

The Argyll Group: Two Beauts

The Neoproterozoic Argyll Group (Dalradian Supergroup), is a well-exposed, 10km thick, sequence recording a transition from glacial through shallow marine to slope and deep-water sediments and pillow lavas. It probably represents the rift-to-drift sequence of the Laurentide margin of Iapetus. Two units are presented: the Port Askaig Formation, probably the Sturtian phase of “Snowball Earth”, and the Jura “Quartzite”, a 5km thick cross-bedded, sandstone. These allow general points to be made about “Snowball Earth” and preservation bias in the sedimentary record respectively.

Wednesday 22 January, 7.00pm Roddy Muir

Ben Nevis – remnant of a lost volcanic landscape

For three summers between 2014 and 2016, field geologists worked alongside professional climbers and botanists to undertake a new survey of the geology and Alpine flora found on the North Face of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. The survey was co-ordinated by the Nevis Landscape Partnership, a charitable trust established in 2003 to help guide and manage opportunities for visitor enjoyment and appreciation of the wider Nevis area. Data on the geology and botany was gathered on iPhones using a digital compass clinometer FieldMove Clino, and the data was then transferred to the software application Move for further analysis and model building.

In 2015, geological field mapping was extended to include the whole of the late Caledonian Ben Nevis Igneous Complex (~430 Ma) and the late Precambrian Dalradian metasedimentary country rocks. The results of the new field mapping and 3D model building have provided important insights into the geometry, emplacement and preservation of the plutonic and volcanic rocks in this classic area of world renowned geology.

Structural data indicate that the plutonic rocks forming the Ben Nevis Igneous Complex have a laccolithic (blister like) form with a gently domed roof and was fed by magma rising up steep-sided NE-SW trending fissures in the core of the Appin Syncline. The summit region of Ben Nevis consists of late Silurian to Early Devonian age volcanic rocks originally interpreted as a thick sequence (>600m) of andesite lavas and agglomerates that were down-faulted during caldera subsidence. New field mapping has revealed that the volcanic rocks consist largely of volcaniclastic debris flows, and extensive block and ash flow deposits with minor air-fall tuff units. There is no evidence of any andesite lava flows or a volcanic vent. The volcanic detritus was derived from a volcanic centre situated to the NW of Ben Nevis, perhaps several tens of kilometres away. The rocks forming the summit region of the mountain have been re-interpreted as a large roof pendant or keel of the former late Silurian to Early Devonian volcanic land surface that once covered much of the SW Highlands of Scotland. Without the granites of the Ben Nevis Igneous Complex surrounding and protecting the volcanic rocks from recent glacial erosion, there would have been no evidence for the remnant landscape now preserved at the summit of the highest mountain in Britain.

North Face of Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg. Photo: Roddy Muir

Wednesday 5 February, 7.00pm Joint Lecture with the the Mining Institute of Scotland: Dr Claire Cousins, University of St Andrews

Mineral exploration beyond Earth

Mineral exploration beyond Earth will go through a ‘tour’ of extra-terrestrial mineralogy, most of which we know about through reflectance spectroscopy – a technique that is used quite widely in the mining industry. The talk will mostly focus on Mars, but also icy bodies in the outer solar system. There are also quite a few parallels between mineral exploration on Earth (for mining) and mineral exploration in space (for discovery-driven science), e.g. challenging terrains, the need for miniaturised technology, technology that can operate in temperature extremes/dusty environments etc.

Download a pdf flier for this lecture

Wednesday 19 February, 7.00pm Clough Medal Lecture Kathy Whaler, University of Edinburgh

Adventures with Maxwell’s equations

James Clerk Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism underpin my research. Using them, we can model magnetic fields, arising from the crust (e.g. oceanic magnetic stripes) and core (making your compass needle point approximately North), and probe the electrical properties of rocks. I’ll present results on the magnetic fields of Earth and Mars and discuss their  implications, and show how electrical properties have been useful in inter-disciplinary studies, especially in the East African rift.

Wednesday 4 March, 7.00pm David Jarmin, Mountain Landform Research

Rock slope failure in the Scottish mountains

Over 900 montane Rock Slope Failures (RSFs) have now been identified in the mainland Highlands, and 37 in the Southern Uplands. They embrace dramatic rock avalanches, great rockslides with bulging ramparts, and subtle antiscarped slope deformations attaining kilometric extent. Nearly all are ‘fossil’, dating from around deglaciation, thus ‘paraglacial’, and rarely hazardous today. Their pronounced clustering around glacial breaches of main divides, and in ‘late-developing’ trough-heads, suggests association with concentrated erosion of bedrock, inducing local petro-isostatic rebound stresses augmenting endemic glacio-isostatic ones (Jarman and Harrison, Geomorphology, 2019). They often shape mountain scenery, and contribute to biodiversity and early human settlement.

 Top of the Battery Rock Slope Failure, Glen Ey, Braemar. The crest is split for a kilometre. Photo: David Jarman.

Thursday 12 March 7.30pm Joint Lecture with Geological Society of Glasgow: Andrew Scott, Royal Holloway, University of London

Burning planet: the story of fire through time

This joint lecture will take place in the Lecture Theatre, Gregory Building at the University of Glasgow. EGS members are warmly invited to attend.
Further information at

Wednesday 18 March AGM 7.00pm, Lecture 7.30pm Dave McCarthy, BGS Marine **POSTPONED**


** Please note revised timing: AGM starts at 7pm **

The geological controversies of the Falklands Plateau

Despite the Falklands Plateau’s significance as a crustal structure, our knowledge of the plateau is severely limited. Many of the findings from geological and geophysical studies are widely debated. This discussion will provide an overview of the main controversies including: the role of the plateau in the break-up of Gondwana; its crustal composition; and whether it is home to one of the largest impact craters on the planet.