Sunday, 28 April 2013

Wells Cathedral School wins GS Schools' Challenge

You will all be very pleased to hear that Wells Cathedral School's A level geology group represented the South West at the Geological Society National Schools' Challenge.
They won with a poster and presentation on the 'Evolution of the eye in the fossil record' and their performance in the quiz!
Details of their achievement will be recorded in the next Journal of the Bath Geological Society.
 The winning team in front of THE William Smith 1815 map

Mechanism for cooling the planet

A newly discovered mechanism for cooling the planet - potentially, according to its discoverers, more significant even than the well-known chilling effects of volcanic eruptions - has now been further investigated. The mechanism in question is the action of difficult-to-study atmospheric molecules known as "Criegee intermediates", whose existence was first theorised in the 1950s by German chemist Rudolf Criegee but not confirmed until recent years by scientists using methods which have only lately become available.
Criegee intermediates act to produce extra sulphuric acid - a well-known and powerful atmospheric aerosol which causes additional clouds to form, which in turn cools the climate. This mechanism is seen in action after major volcanic eruptions, which hurl huge amounts of sulphates into the sky causing acid to form and resulting in easily detectable global cool spells - for instance the one following the eruption of Mount St Helens.
Criegee intermediates released naturally into the atmosphere by living ecosystems have a constant cooling effect which could be at least as big as that produced by volcanic eruptions.
Read more.

Mercury in the environment

Why is mercury hazardous? In the US, the neurotoxin has caused billions of dollars of expenditure on healthcare, causing up to an estimated 6000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually. It’s particularly acute in communities and cultures where there is a large consumption of fish – mercury bioaccumulates in fish and their predators as they move through the food chain. So close to source areas like Japan, eastern India and Uruguay are particularly at risk.
How does it get into the environment?
According to UNEP, in 2010 alone nearly 3000 tonnes of mercury were released into the atmosphere and water systems. Mercury enters the environment by all sorts of pathways – from chemical effluent, as in the case of Chisso, to its inclusion in household items like thermometers, cosmetics, antiseptics, skin lightening creams....
But two of the biggest sources are coal fired power plants and artisanal mining, together emitting around 1100 tonnes per year. Coal itself contains mercury, which is released when the coal is burned. Artisanal gold mining involves using mercury to separate the gold from its ore. This forms a gold-mercury amalgam which is burned off with a torch. It’s simple, requires no training, and is relatively cheap. Mercury is tasteless and odourless, so when it does get into the environment it’s not easy to spot.
Read more.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

May 2nd and May 4th - Ocean floor & Geology of the Coal Measures

May 2nd - Bath Geological Society
7.30 p.m. BRLSI, 16 Queen Square, Bath
'Seeing beneath the waves - mapping the ocean floor'
Dr. Philippe Blondel, Deputy Director, Centre for Space, Atmospheric & Oceanic Science Department of Physics, University of Bath
Oceans make up most of the Earth and can only be mapped using sound. The last decades have seen tremendous improvements in both our knowledge of the “Blue Planet” and in our capabilities to explore it. Based on the speaker’s own research, this talk will present the latest sensors and their main discoveries around the world, in particular at mid-ocean ridges, tsunami-generating areas offshore Spain and Portugal and fragile marine habitats such as deep-sea coral reefs and Arctic fjords.
Everyone is welcome - visitors £4 - free refreshments.

May 4th - West Country Geology field trips
Geology of the Coal Measures and associated extractive industries of Coal, Pennant Sandstone and Iron-ore in the Coalpit Heath Basin
Trevor Thompson
We shall be looking at the relics of coal mining in the area and then proceed to Huckford Quarry (disused) where Pennant Sandstone is exposed
Meet at 2.00p.m. "The Garden Shop"(ST669802) where the A432 Bristol to Chipping Sodbury Road goes under the Railway at Coalpit Heath (south side). We will meet in a marquee in the site where Trevor Thompson will give a short presentation on the industrial archaeology and geology of the area. Coffee will be provided but there will be a fee of £3 per head for this and the use of the facilities. We expect to finish at about 4.30p.m. Hard hats are not necessary - members own choice.
Contact Bristol NATs - Geology section or 07743125206 on the day

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

'Living fossil' Coelacanth genome sequenced

16th May - Museum collection, Earth Science Dept. Bristol

As part of Bristol Museum's 'at Night' event the museum Collection of the Earth Science Dept in Bristol is opening its doors: 
Alight - The unexpected in the dark
16 May 2013

Explore what comes to light in the collection stores and lay your hands on some extraordinary crystals and fossils as part of Museum's 'at Night'. You can also join us underground for a tour of the basement collection where Cabot Institute artist-in-residence Neville Gabie is 'Archiving Oil'.
This is also a unique opportunity to enjoy a view across the city of Bristol by night as part of the Wills Memorial Tower Tours. Tours start at 6.30pm and 8.30pm and will take about 1 hour. Advance booking required.
Details posted on Dept's facebook page

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Iain Stewart to open Box Rock Circus

Iain Stewart, professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth but better known as a television presenter will open Box Rock Circus on Tuesday 14th May at 11.45 a.m.
Please come!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Schoolboy finds 300 million year-old fossil

An Oxford schoolboy has discovered what appears to be an extremely rare fossil of footprints from more than 300 million years ago. Ten-year-old Bruno Debattista, who attends Windmill Primary School in Oxford, brought a piece of shale rock containing what he thought might be a fossilised imprint to the after-school club at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History. Experts were astonished to find that it appeared to contain the trackways left by a horseshoe crab crawling up the muddy slopes of an ancient shore around 320 million years ago. Footprints of this age are incredibly rare and extremely hard to spot. Still more impressive is the fact that Bruno had a hunch they might be some kind of footprints, even though the specimen had some world expert geologists arguing about it over their microscopes.
Bruno’s fossil has been confirmed by the Museum as likely showing footprints of a pair of mating horseshoe crabs laid down during the Carboniferous period, some 308-327 million years ago. At this time, the sea was slowly being sealed off as the Earth’s landmasses crunched together to form Pangaea. Bruno and his family have decided to donate the fossil specimen to the Museum’s collection.

 The Natural History After-School Club is run by the Museum’s education department and encourages Year 6 children to develop their interest in the natural world, in the hope that some might become the next generation of geologists and zoologists.

Fracking 'not significant' cause of large earthquakes

Magical Cave

Is this the most magical cave in the world? The chambers carved through Kamchatka's glaciers by volcano-fed hot springs.
Read more

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Quote of the day

Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.
John McPhee

Sent in by a reader of this blog: please send more.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Quote of the day

“With their four dimensional minds, and in their interdisciplinary ultra-verbal way, geologists can wiggle out of almost anything.”
John McPhee

Down to Earth Extra

Subscribe now to receive this free publication. It's excellent!

Avian Bipedalism

A member of Bristol NATS - geology has had a request to look over a paper on the development of avian bipedalism.  Being a birdwatcher and a biology graduate, he has some knowledge, but wonders if there is someone better able to help from a geological perspective?
If you can help, please email.

Monday, 1 April 2013

29th June - On and around Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham

Geology and Landforms on and from Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham
Saturday 29th June. 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Dr. Nick Chidlaw
The imposing plateau country that rises E of Cheltenham to the highest point of the Cotswolds, affords spectacular views and contrasting landscapes all around. A circular 4-mile walk, slowly-paced and mostly on the level (some steep-slopes), will take you around Cleeve Hill with frequent stops to examine features such as the geology of limestone quarries (see photograph), and landslides formed at the end of the last glaciation. Distant landforms, including the Malvern Hills, and their underlying geology, will be explained. No previous knowledge of geology, of the locations to be studied, will be assumed.
A handout outlining the day’s programme, including location sketch maps, optional reading list, geological history, and written logs detailing the Middle Jurassic strata on Cleeve Hill, will be forwarded in advance of the course to those enrolled.
Please note that you will need to:
 - Arrange your own transport
 - Bring your own packed lunch, and any refreshments (e.g. flask of coffee, fruit juice, mineral water etc.)
 - Wear strong footwear with good tread and ankle support, and have waterproof clothing with you in case weather is poor.
 - Hard hat (we will be at times adjacent to overhead quarry faces) – if you do not possess one of these, let me know in advance and I will provide you with one for the day.
You would be insured against accident for the duration of the course.
Cost £25
Contact: Nick Chidlaw.
Deadline is May 11th

Tours to the Atlas Mountains

 Atlas Geo-Tours offers individual trips with 12 participants in two vans.
Tours on offer -
Atlas, and fossils in the desert of Erg Chebbi
Marrakech – rocks around the Atlas.