One woman's quest for geological understanding!

Herdman SymposiumCategory Archives

Herdman Symposium 2017 – The Tweets

I will write up some more of these later on in the week, but here are today’s Tweets from the Symposium! (Courtesy of

Images of breakouts at lava margin. Tuffen, H et al. 2013. Images of breakouts at lava margin. Tuffen, H et al. 2013.

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Herdman Symposium 2017 – 25th February 2017

For some years now, I have attended the Herdman Symposium. This years event is taking place  09:0017:00 on the 25th February 2017.

This year the speakers will be:

  • Dr Guillem Anglada (QMU) – ‘Proxima and detection of small planets around nearby stars’
  • Dr Hugh Tuffen (Lancaster) -‘Rhyolitic Magma on the Move’
  • Dr Kate Hendry (Bristol) – ‘The beauty and usefulness of sponges in reconstructing ocean chemistry.
  • Prof Sarah Davies (Leicester) – ‘The rise of a new terrestrial ecosystem in the early Carboniferous’
  • Prof Stuart Haszeldine (Edinburgh)– ‘Importance and impact of fossil fuels, and the use of Carbon Capture and Storage in the UK and specifically the Liverpool area’
  • Dr Marion Holness (Cambridge) – Igneous microtextures and the movement of melts.

I will be live tweeting the event as usual – me on  Twitter (#herdmansymposium)

Herdman Booking on the 2017 event:


£15.00 (Students £10.00) and includes talks, abstracts, refreshments, buffet lunch and wine reception (5pm).


Central Teaching Hub, Faculty of Science & Engineering, University of Liverpool, Off Brownlow Hill, Liverpool, L69 3BX

Building number 221 (F6) on the University’s Campus Map


Herdman Symposium – Geoscience Frontiers 2016

“Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Communicating Geology to Society” – Prof. Iain Stewart, Herdman Symposium 2015

Geological issues are increasingly relevant to the everyday lives of people globally, whether it is the risk of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, or the potential ramifications of geological engineering. And yet, as Prof. Iain Stewart highlighted, ‘Geology… lies out of sight and out of mind’.

This blog post represents a detailed account of Iain’s presentation at the Herdman Symposium 2015, very occasionally peppered with examples resulting from the papers/articles he referred to during his presentation. (Slightly more detailed than I expected, but I made copious notes and ended up delving into the wealth of references made in his presentation and getting sidetracked by related papers…  Note to self: become more focussed!)

There is a strange “no man’s land” between geologists and the public:  The ‘simple’ act of talking to the public is very challenging for academics and researchers, who are used to being careful and precise with language and also structurally there has been very little incentive to communicate with the public. This has now changed dramatically. But this is not without risk…

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“Adventures of a field geologist on Mars” – Herdman Symposium 2015

Curiosity Self-Portrait at ‘Mojave’ on Mount Sharp

I saw it announced and thought nothing more than “that sounds interesting”: We have all heard about the Curiosity Rover, which landed on Mars in 2012 and, since then,  has uncovered geologic evidence of an environment that may have supported microbial life early in the planet’s history.

I had NOT sat down to consider the time difference between Earth & Mars (A sidereal day on Mars lasts 24 hours 37 minutes and 22 seconds – ie that is the length of time for the planet to rotate once on its axis, compared to the 24 hours on Earth).  Nor had I considered that this time difference (obviously, in hindsight) meant that the lucky scientists working with the robot were on crazy shifts and that any decisions and work undertaken put them under considerable time pressure on a day-to-day basis.  Every move of the robot needs to be planned out in detail, and then run by the engineers (in terms of wear and tear of the robot, capabilities, etc.).

A chorus of oohs and aahs filled the auditorium as the first photos were presented.  Cross-Stratification / Cross-Bedding has NEVER been so exciting!  Evidence of water on Mars!  Simply mind-blowing!

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HERDMAN SYMPOSIUM: Geoscience Frontiers 2015 (21/2/15)

Today was another fantastic Herdman Symposium – one of the best yet, I feel!  Every single presentation was amazing, and, once again, I took something from each and every one!

Below are the abstracts and speaker information (as provided in the Herdman Syposium program): I will be writing about each one individually over the next few weeks – FAR too much information to pack into one post!  Apologies for the photo quality; my Canon 600D is firmly rooted on my microscope at the moment, so I resorted to using my mobile phone :s Hence some photos have been acquired elsewhere…

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Herdman Symposium coming soon!

It is that time of the year again – ROCK ON!

The Herdman Symposium: Geoscience Frontiers 2015 will take place on Saturday 21st February!

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Herdman Symposium 2014 – Geoscience Frontiers 5 – Saturday 22nd February 2014

Herdman Symposium

I had yet another fantastic day at the Herdman Symposium 2014 yesterday, and left with my head buzzing and longing for more!

A quick overview is below, with some links and recommended reading, is below, and I will delve further into one or two of the subjects at a later date…


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Herdman Symposium 2013 – Geoscience Frontiers

Sooooo looking forward to the Valentines weekend this year!

The Herdman Symposium 2013 – Geoscience Frontiers – will be taking place on 16/2/13 in Liverpool.

There are a great list of speakers planned, and I’m especially psyched to see Dr Ed Llewellin and Prof Paul Wignall’s presentations!

List of Guest Speakers & Titles

  • Dr Roger Benson (Oxford) “Dinosaur evolution and Mesozoic faunas as a guide to biodiversity”
  • Dr Gareth Collins (Imperial) “Impact: Earth! The hazard and mitigation of asteroid impacts”
  • Prof Fergus Gibb (Sheffield) “Nuclear waste: geology has a better answer”
  • Prof Cor Langereis (Utrecht) “The past and future of the Mediterranean”
  • Dr Ed Llewellin (Durham) “Bubble, bang, burp! Big experiments in volcano physics”
  • Prof Paul Wignall (Leeds) “The end-Permian mass extinction and its aftermath: out of the frying pan and into the fire”

The full program can be found here

Herdman Symposium 2011 – Liverpool University (19/2/2011)

As you may, or may not, remember from my previous posts, I attended the Herdman Symposium at Liverpool University Saturday.  Only just had chance to write it all up!

The program was great, and certainly flowed in terms of subject matter

Why does life start, what does it do, where will it be?
Michael J. Russell (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, USA)

In terms of the subject matter, this was incredibly interesting, however the Geochemistry was over my head at some points!(The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Russell’s presentation

Diagram from presentation by Michael J. Russell at the Herdman Symposium 2011

The complexity of life never ceases to amaze me! For further information:

Why does life start?

The emergence of life

Patterns in the history of life
Richard A. Fortey FRS, FRSL

This was a bit of a highlight for me: the author of some of my favourite geological books, speaking of patterns in the history of life – a very visual presentation.  Highlights, of course, were the trilobites!  😀

Whatever history threw at life….[mass extinctions, etc]…… we never unlearnt the last steps!
(Source: Richard Fortey, during the presentation)

We also voted on what should be the title of his latest book: “Survivors” vs. “Old Timers” – the 300+ audience was split down the middle…..

Richard Fortey

The geological history of young continents, old continents and the oceans: why are they so different?
James Jackson FRS (Bullard Laboratories, University of Cambridge)

A very interesting lecture covering a topic which I have only touched upon in the past. The understanding of the lithosphere has increased over the past few years, and this presentation looked at the numerous discoveries and hypothesis which have been made in the recent past (LOL) regarding the differences in the structure, composition and rheology of the lithosphere between the oceans, young orogenic belts and how the ancient Precambrian shields are responsible for the variations in tectonic history seen at the Earth’s surface over geological time.

Age of the continental Crust

Deep in the mantle something stirred: why there is recent volcanism within Central Europe?
Marjorie Wilson (University of Leeds)

An account of Marjorie Wilson’s studies into the geological processes which caused recent volcanism within central Europe (Rheine graben & Central Massif, etc), which are generally not considered to be directly associated with the subduction of tectonic plates, but more recently with magma generation involving large-scale mantle plumes, localised hotspots (mantle “hot-fingers”) and continental rifting.  after studying seimic data, it became apparant that there were some inconsistencies localised hot spot theories: “How can a hot thermal instability (hot-finger) be rooted in a cold boundary layer (the Transition Zone)?  One possible interpretation is that the “hot-fingers” are not hot at all but instead represent the pathways of water-rich fluids streaming from the top of the Transition ZoneMarjorie suggests that the generation of magma could, therefore, be explained by the effect of water in lowering the mantle melting temperature.

During the presentation Marjorie highlighted a number of hypothesis, methodologies associated with the investigations and what evidence was found to support them.  An interesting presentation, especially as I know the Central Massif area quite well, but have not been sinceIi started studying geology with the OU!!

Where was Odysseus’ homeland?  The Geological, geomorphological and geophysical evidence for relocating Homer’s Ithaca
John Underhill (Grant Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Edinburgh)

A really fascinating presentation highlighting how the study of seismic topography has been implemented to investigate whether Odysseus homeland, ancient Ithaca could have been located on the western Kefalonian peninsula called Paliki.

If John Underhill is correct in his thinking, “geoscience will have contributed to the resolution of a problem that has perplexed classical Greek scholars and archaeologists for centuries, namely: why doesn’t the modern island of the same name fit with Homer’s original geographical description in the Odyssey that it is low-lying, is surrounded by other islands (to the east) and lies facing dusk (furthest to the west)?”   (source

Apart from the obvious geological interest, I will also be contacting John over the next couple of weeks to discuss the possibility of him writing  / contributing an article for CD-Traveller ( on the Touristic Implications.  Luckily I managed to catch him before he dashed off!

The April – May 2010 summit eruption at Eyjafjallajökull volcano (Iceland): From source to the atmosphere
Thor Thordarson (Grant Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Edinburgh)

A first-hand account and description of the eruption of the unpronouncable volcano in Iceland last year – some amazing visuals shared!

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

“It was the last wish of the Icelandic Economy that it’s ashes be spread over Europe!” (Source – Thor Thordarson‘s presentation)

(Apologies for the quality of the conference photos: my iPhone is not all it is cracked up to be!  LOL)