News

The latest news and information from EGS, including updates on our excursion and lecture programmes, and any other news we think you might find interesting or useful. Please let us know of anything important that we could share with others, by email or using our Contact Form.

Explore Beach Pebbles at the Edinburgh Science Festival 20-23 April

Every beach pebble has got a story to tell, about how the original rock was formed and what’s happened to it since then, to turn it into the pebble you can pick up on a beach today. Join geologists from the Edinburgh Geological Society on a local beach for some hands-on activities to explore the stories hidden in every pebble.

Free, drop-in events in the Edinburgh Science Festival, all welcome!

Further information and booking: www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/science-festival-2022/

Clough Medal

Clough Medal Lecture 2021/22

On 2 March 2022 at 7pm, the annual Clough Medal lecture took place for the first time as combined physical and virtual event. The medallist for 2021/22 was Dr Tim Smithson who gave a lecture entitled the “A new beginning: recent discoveries in the early Carboniferous of northern Britain reveal rapid faunal replacement following the end-Devonian extinction”. He was presented with his medal by Dr Tom Challands, the President of the Edinburgh Geological Society.

Tim being presented with Clough Medal 2021

A brief outline of Tim’s career was described by Tom: Following his undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (UNUT), 1972- 1975) Tim started his PhD under Alec Panchen at UNUT in 1976 but, being somewhat regarded as a genius in his field, he was offered a post-doctorate position in Montreal to work with Robert Carroll at McGill University before completing his PhD. By the time he had completed his PhD in 1983 Tim had already published four academic papers. Again, before completing his PhD, he was awarded a Sir Jamed Knott Fellowship at UNUT until 1984. Tim’s academic record is all the more impressive given that the major part of his career was spent in teaching and managerial roles in further education and not as a university academic.

During his time in further education (1985-2012), Tim was still actively engaged in fieldwork and research and published 18 research papers including perhaps his most notable work is his discovery and description in 1989 of Westlothiana lizziae (aka ‘Lizzie’) at first considered to be the earliest reptile but now considered to lie on the amniote stem. Besides ‘Lizzie’ Tim has described no less than ten new tetrapods and fourteen new fish taxa from Scotland.

Between 2012-17, he became involved in the highly successful TW:eed (Tetrapod World: early evolution and diversification) project, which was led by the late Prof. Jenny Clack at Cambridge University. He currently holds a position with Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge and continues to publish on all manner of things fossilferous.

Tim’s provided a well-crafted talk telling us about the history of the people involved and also the nature of discoveries. From Prof Alfred Romer (1894-1973), through Prof Stanley Westoll FRS (1912-1995), a previous holder of the Clough Medal in 1976-77, and on until the late Stan Wood (1939-2012); Tim explained how each had played their part in filling the fossil record of the late Devonian/ early Carboniferous period between 359 and 330 Ma.

In his summary, Tim explained that:
• Vertebrates recovered quickly following the end-Devonian extinction;
• There is no evidence for either a fall in atmospheric oxygen or a post-extinction trough;
• Vertebrate diversity is much greater in the Early Carboniferous than previously recognised;
• For tetrapods this diversification probably began in the late Devonian; and
• Romer’s Gap is not a natural phenomenon but is an artefact of previous unsuccessful collecting.

The vote of thanks was given by Dr Dave Millward (ex-BGS) and who thanked Tim for an excellent talk which everyone had enjoyed. He was also thanked for a couple of things; i) being a Zoologist who was also interested in the rocks and ii) for Tim’s (and also the late Prof Jenny Clack’s) word-smithery around the naming of their fossils finds.

If Fellows weren’t able to attend physically or virtually, a recording can be found on our website.

Take a walk to explore Edinburgh’s geology

Leaflet - Pentland RocksThe city of Edinburgh is well known for its spectacular scenery. As spring approaches we invite you to get outdoors and explore some local geology, to discover how it underpins the scenery and the ways that people have lived here and used geological resources over thousands of years. The Lothian and Borders GeoConservation group have published over 30 leaflets that explain the geology of local sites of interest across Edinburgh and the Lothians. You can take a walk along the coast at Cramond or Dunbar, for instance, or  head inland to the wonderful varied geology of the Pentland Hills.

View the full collection of Lothian and Borders GeoConservation leaflets and download them here

New Walker’s guide to Coigach & Assynt

New from the Northwest Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, a Walker’s Guide to Coigach & Assynt. The book explores 26 walks selected by the local community with over 110 stunning colour photographs, maps for each route, and information about the local history and geology. The walks range from short strolls to mountain adventures – so there’s something for everyone. It also includes a foreword by mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington.

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for fans of the Geopark and the North West Highlands, or perhaps just looking for inspiration for your next adventure in 2022, take a look at the Walker’s Guide in the Geopark’s online shop. For UK orders we recommend ordering by December 15th for delivery in time for Christmas.

https://www.nwhgeopark.com/shop/

Winter Reading

The Edinburgh Geological Society publishes a wide range of reading material, suitable for spending some winter hours catching up on recent research, expanding your horizons and planning your next excursion! Much of our printed material is available for free on this website.

The Edinburgh Geologist

Our twice yearly magazine for everyone with a broad interest in geology. Recent editions have covered the geology of Rockall, geological perspectives on the climate crisis, exploring the South Sandwich Trench, reports on excursions and book reviews. The entire archive of The Edinburgh Geologist is available online, from the first edition in 1977 to the most recent editions.

Geoconservation leaflets

The local geoconservation groups associated with EGS have published almost 40 leaflets on local sites of geodiversity interest, most of which are available online for free. From Wolf’s Hole Quarry in Bridge of Allan to Siccar Point, there is an amazing amount of information available here about the geology of central Scotland. Browse our recently-rearranged comprehensive listing here.

Books and Excursion Guides

We publish handy, pocket sized excursion guides and books covering some of the most popular areas of Scottish geology. These Geological Excursion Guides and Books are suitable for both amateur and professional geologists. These are available to order online, with a 20% reduction from RRP for EGS members and will remain postage-free to EGS members resident in the UK until sales can resume at our Grant Institute lectures once more.

New boards explore Fife’s volcanoes

The Edinburgh Geological Society is delighted to have supported a project by Dr Tom Gernon, now an Associate Professor in Earth Science at the University of Southampton, to install two new interpretation boards on the Fife Coastal Path at Elie and St Monans in Fife. Tom’s research on the Eruptive history of an alkali basaltic diatreme from Elie Ness, Fife has been brought to a much wider audience through the preparation of these two fantastic boards, which tell the story of the volcanic history of the area and include information on the historical context including the work of Archibald Geikie and curiosities such as Elie Rubies.

You can visit the new boards on the Fife Coastal Path next to the St Monan’s auld kirk and near the Elie Ness lighthouse. The project was supported by the Geologists’ Association Curry Fund, EGS, Fife Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, geoHeritage Fife and the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.

Content of Interpretation Board at Elie Ness

Content of Interpretation Board at St Monans Fife

 

New book Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics

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.

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

 

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