One woman's quest for geological understanding!

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…

 “Adventures of a Field Geologist on Mars: The Curiosity Rover”

Talk Abstract

“The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has now been on the surface of Mars for over two years. Since its landing in Gale001 crater, this car-sized rover has been crossing the plains between the crater rim and Mount Sharp conducting an investigation of ancient rock formations and their potential to record ancient habitable environments. This talk will describe the rover’s explorations and adventures, and discuss the latest findings.

The 155-km diameter Gale Crater was chosen as Curiosity’s field-site based on several attributes including an interior mound of ancient flat-lying strata extending almost 5 km above the elevation of the landing site. The lower few hundred meters of the mound show a progression with relative age from clay-bearing to sulfate-bearing strata, separated by an unconformity from overlying likely anhydrous strata.

In its 9 km journey from the Bradbury landing site to its current location at Pahrump Hills, the rover has encountered an exciting array of sedimentary rocks that enable us to reconstruct a range of potential habitable environments. In this talk I will describe how scientists and engineers working on the Curiosity mission conduct robotic field geology on the Red Planet.”

Prof Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial)

“Prof. Sanjeev Gupta is a geologist in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College. He is interested in the evolution of surface environments and processes on Earth and Mars. He has spent much of his career studying ancient sedimentary rock formations in places like the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, and New Mexico. He analyses sedimentary rocks to reconstruct ancient landscapes and past environmental conditions. He is a Participating Scientist on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory – the Curiosity rover – where his role is to analyse ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and determine if the Red Planet could ever have been habitable for life.”

“A Global View of Volcanoes”

Talk Abstract

“Natural hazards are a feature of our planet; we cannot prevent the events and processes that cause them, so we must learn to live with them. They occur in countries spanning a range of development levels: in some cases, the hazards, management plans and risks are well defined, but in others, often developing countries, identifying the hazards themselves still remains a challenge and in some areas, the lack of physical and financial infrastructure means the consequences of even a small volcanic eruption can be catastrophic. When it comes to volcanoes, there is no simple relationship between eruption magnitude and impact.

Volcano Deformation Database Copyright Volcano Deformation Database

For some of the better-known volcanoes, such as Montserrat, great strides have been made in monitoring. As a consequence of such advances, it is estimated that at least 50,000 lives may have been saved globally in the past century. But for many volcanoes, satellite imagery is often the only source of monitoring information. Of the three major volcano monitoring datastreams – seismicity, deformation and gas emissions – only seismicity cannot be observed via satellite. Furthermore, satellite imagery watches volcanoes throughout their eruptive cycles and can provide some of the earliest warnings of unusual behaviour. Now, satellite technology is rapidly evolving and routine monitoring of all volcanoes is anticipated. Despite this wealth of data, a major challenge remains to determine whether an episode of volcanic unrest will culminate in eruption.

In this talk, I will show how satellites have contributed to some of the recent major advances in understanding magmatic and volcanic processes, how the global perspective they provide can be used to study patterns in volcanic behaviour on a tectonic scale, and highlight the questions that are at the forefront of today’s research.”

Dr Juliet Biggs (Bristol)

“Juliet Biggs uses Earth Observation data to study active tectonic processes such as earthquakes and volcanoes. She received BA and MSci degrees in Natural Sciences in 2003 from the University of Cambridge with specialisation in geology and geophysics. In 2007, she received a PhD from the University of Oxford for her work on the earthquake cycle in Alaska, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the US and with the European Space Agency before taking a permanent post at the University of Bristol. Her current research uses satellite observations to study the volcanoes of the East African Rift and Latin America and on placing satellite observations into a global framework.”

“A Fossil Fuel Future? Assessing the Role of Unconventional Hydrocarbons”

Copyright Durham University Copyright Durham University

Talk Abstract

“As the world strives to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, it will nevertheless remain highly dependent on fossil fuel energy for several decades. Based on what we know from the US, and what we might know from other areas of the world, including the UK, what role might unconventional hydrocarbons such as shale gas and oil play in this uncertain future?”

Prof Andy Aplin (Durham)

“Andrew Aplin is Professor of Unconventional Hydrocarbons at Durham University. After degrees in Environmental Science from UEA and Marine Geochemistry from Imperial College, he was a postdoc in Nancy, worked for BP for seven years and then many more than seven at Newcastle University. His research interests have centred on shale for many years, not only in the context of shale gas but also in terms of safe storage of CO2. Outside the fabulous world of shale, he occasionally staggers around triathlon courses in the SuperVet (very old) category.”

Fossil plants: Secret historians of Earth’s past’

Talk Abstract:

“Global climate and atmospheric composition are currently changing at an unprecedented rate. This talk aims to put current climatic change into a longer-term geological perspective using fossil plants. Plants are intimately linked to their environment and when fossilized can be used as indicators or ‘proxies’ of past climatic and atmospheric composition change. The ways in which fossil plants can act as “historians” or recorders of past climate changes, and the impact that these changes can have on biodiversity, will be explored using examples from the plant fossil record and from modern day  ‘mini world’ plant experiments.”

Considering that this was a last minute replacement for Prof Jennifer McElwain (who was going to speak on “The Oldest Strangest Weather…”), this presentation was AMAZING!

Dr Karen Bacon (Leeds)

Gingko2“Karen’s research spans palaeobotany to present day plant ecology and incorporates elements of plant biology, geology and geochemistry. She is interested in how plants respond to changes in atmospheric composition and how these responses can be tracked in the fossil record. She also works on developing plant-based proxies for interpreting changes in atmospheric composition and on tracking plant responses to changing environmental conditions. She investigates plant responses to mass extinction events and is particularly interested in plant responses to natural pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide. Currently she is investigating the effects of atmospheric composition, temperature and light quality on leaf physiognomy, functioning and development in a range of species.

Karen obtained a BSc in Botany in 2005 from University College Dublin. In 2010 – 2011 she was Lecturer in Physical Geography, King’s College London; in 2012 she obtained her PhD in Palaeobotany & Palaeoecology, from UCD. From 2011 – 2013 she was a guest Lecturer in Palaeobotany at the National University of Ireland, Galway; in 2012-2013 she was Science Foundation Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow, University College Dublin; and from 2013 to present, Lecturer in Ecology and Global Change at the University of Leeds.”

“Turbidity Currents: Ancient and Modern”

Talk Abstract

MontereyBathy_MainMap Monterey Canyon, Copyright MBARI

“Turbidity currents are giant flows in the ocean that transport sediment from land to the deep sea. Turbidity currents are important because in modern oceans they pose a hazard to seafloor infrastructure and provide nutrients to seafloor ecosystems, whilst the deposits of ancient flows contain some of our largest remaining hydrocarbon reserves. Unfortunately, we have very few observations of full-scale turbidity currents and as a result fundamental questions remain regarding their character and how this is recorded in ancient deposits. In recent years we have been able to begin investigating the dynamics of modern turbidity currents directly using new technologies. This includes: using unmanned submarines to map the seafloor and underwater vehicles to retrieve precisely located sediment samples; deploying moorings in submarine canyons to measure flow velocities and capture samples of sediment; as well as rare visual observations from an underwater vehicle that was unexpectedly swept away by a turbidity current. Finally, I’ll talk about plans to deploy an array of instruments in Monterey Canyon next autumn in order to collect the most comprehensive source-to-sink measurements of a turbidity current ever attempted.”

Dr Esther Sumner (Southampton)

“Esther Sumner is interested in the dynamics and deposits of submarine gravity currents and other geophysical flows. Her research combines: direct monitoring of submarine gravity currents in the oceans, studying deposits in ancient outcrops and on the modern seafloor as well as testing new hypotheses about flow dynamics in the laboratory. She is a Lecturer in Sedimentology at the University of Southampton, having held research fellowships at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, USA, the University of Leeds and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. She gained her PhD from the University of Bristol in 2009.”

 “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Communicating Geology to Society”

Talk Abstract

“Geoscientific knowledge and understanding lies at the heart of many of the most critical societal issues that face us in the 21st century. The pressing human challenges of natural disaster reduction, energy supply and security, and mineral and water resource management, rest on geological foundations. And yet, outside of the academic and industrial geoscience community there is a limited appreciation of Earth Science, especially among policy makers. Geology , it seems, lies out of sight and out of mind. For that reason, geologists are increasingly being encouraged to communicate more broadly what they do and what they know. Yet how can we do that when, for most people, geology is about ‘stones’ and stones are ‘boring’! It is a problem compounded by the fact that many of our most acute geo-issues are rooted in the unfamiliar realm of the deep subsurface. This talk will use the experience of popularising geoscience for mainstream television to explore ways in which geologists can make our subject connect better with the dissonant public, and in doing so forge more effective strategies for meaningful public engagement.”

Prof Iain Stewart (Plymouth)

“Iain Stewart, professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University, is an Earth scientist who specialises in recent geological change.  After studying Geography and Geology at Strathclyde University (1986), and completing a PhD in earthquake geology at Bristol University (1990), he taught Earth Science at Brunel University until 2002. He then left to develop public geoscience projects, and over the last decade or so has presented major television series for the BBC on the nature, history and state of the planet. Among these are ‘Earth: The Power of the Planet’, ‘Earth: The Climate Wars’, ‘How Earth Made Us’, ‘How To Grow A Planet’, ‘Volcano Live’, and ‘Rise of the Continents’. He regularly fronts BBC Horizon specials on geoscientific topics (Japanese earthquake, the Russian meteor strike, Shale gas/ Fracking, Florida sinkholes). His latest BBC series – a 3-parter on the history of petroleum – will air in 2015 as ‘Planet Oil’.”


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