What do you need to make a mountain?
Come to that, what exactly is a mountain? How do we define some lumps in the landscape as hills, and others as mountains?
How long do they last? Answers to the questions above, some of them potentially correct, will be peppered through this
richly illustrated talk. Starting from a very general, possibly even philosophical perspective of mountains, we will wend
our way through the foothills of understanding how and why different mountains form, looking at some critical clues in
the rocks. Trekking on into high Himalayan valleys, we’ll look at the role of rivers and glaciers in crafting mountain
landscapes, before ascending into the rarefied air and turbulent weather of the high peaks. Having reached that vantage
point, we can gaze down with a different perspective on how mountains might be broken down. Along the way, I’ll be
enlisting the help of (among others) Douglas Adams, Hugh Grant, and Sir Francis Younghusband to help enlighten
(or just lighten) the discussion.
Dr Tom Argles is a lecturer at the Open University, who has worked on various mountain belts in the last two decades:
southern Spain, California, South Australia, the European Alps and the Himalaya. Currently enjoying a break in research funding,
he is trying to make sense of all the data he collected during field seasons in Pakistan, India, Bhutan and Tibet.
Evolutionary generalities lie in the ecological detail The Red Queen and Court Jester?
Dr. Thomas Ezard, Imperial College, London
The foundation of ecology is how organisms interact with their environment. Two main models have been proposed to
explain the evolutionary consequences of these ecological interactions: the “Red Queen” model emphasises competition among species, while the “Court Jester” emphasises the impact of abrupt, seemingly-unpredictable environmental perturbations. Using 65 million years of the astonishing microfossil record of planktonic foraminifera, Dr. Ezard will show how the impact of the Jester depends upon who is present in the Queen’s court: the ecology of species can give clearer insights into speciation, extinction and diversification than is possible by treating all species as one and the same.
Professor Danielle Schreve, Royal Holloway, University of London,
Reader in Physical Geography, Director of Centre for Quaternary Science
The area of the Mendip Hills in Somerset contains some of the most important Pleistocene cave sites in western Europe in terms of their vertebrate assemblages, Palaeolithic archaeological finds and early human remains. These sites span the period from c. 500 000 years ago until the end of the Pleistocene, c.10 000 years ago and provide a unique insight into changing climates and patterns of animal and human movement and behaviour. This lecture reviews some of the classic localities, such as Westbury-sub-Mendip and Gough’s Cave, focussing on the inferred age and palaeoenvironmental signatures of the fossil faunas, the taphonomic origins of the deposits and the significance of the archaeological assemblages. In addition, new research from a previously unexplored cave containing a rich terminal Pleistocene fauna will also be presented.
OpenGeoscience - why you may never need to buy another geological map
Dr. David Bailey, Head of Outreach, British Geological Survey
The British Geological Survey is opening up all sorts of geological materials free-of-charge for non-commercial private study, research and educational activities and encouraging users to combine BGS information with their own data to create new and innovative products for the benefit of others. Find out why BGS is doing this, what information is available, how to access it and how it is being used.
Lager, lager, lagerstätten! A tour of exceptionally preserved German fossil deposits
Dr. Ian Harding, University of Southampton
The factors giving rise to exceptionally preserved fossil deposits (or lagerstätten) will be followed by a review of the wealth of sites yielding such deposits in Germany. This will include highlights of the better known deposits such as the Devonian Hunsrückerschiefer, the Jurassic Posidonienschiefer and Solnhofen Plattenkalk and the Eocene Lake Messel deposit, all of which provide palaeontologists with a ‘window in time’ which have allowed the reconstruction of individual organisms and whole ecosystems in unpecedented detail. Less well known is the Oligocene Sieblos deposit, from where an exceptionally preserved asemblage of unicellular planktonic dinoflagellate fossils are being described.
The Earth after us. What legacy will humans leave in the rocks?
Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz, University of Leicester
Geologist Jan Zalasiewicz will take you on a fascinating trip one hundred million years into the future -- long after the
human race becomes extinct -- to explore what will remain of our brief but dramatic sojourn on Earth. He will describe how
geologists in the far future might piece together the history of the planet, and slowly decipher the history of humanity
from the traces we will leave impressed in the rock strata. What story will the rocks tell of us? What kind of fossils will
humans leave behind? What will happen to cities, cars, and plastic cups? The trail leads finally to the bones of the
inhabitants of petrified cities that have slept deep underground for many millions of years. As thought-provoking as it is
engaging, this lecture will simultaneously explain the geological mechanisms that shape our planet, from fossilization to plate
tectonics, illuminate the various ingenious ways in which geologists and paleontologist work, and offer a final perspective
on humanity and its actions that may prove to be more objective than any other.
New Research on the Pleistocene Geology and Palaeolithic Archaeology of SW England
Professor Tony Brown and Dr Laura Basell
Palaeoenvironmental Laboratory University of Southampton (PLUS)
The SW of England is sometimes seen as at the ‘edge of the edge of’ the Palaeolithic world. However, work over the last ten years has increasingly shown this not to be the case. Apart from the well known sites such as Kent’s Cavern and the Mendip caves, open air sites along the river valleys of SW England have, and continue, to produce evidence of a long human record of occupation despite a much lower level of sand and gravel extraction than in SE England, the Midlands or East Anglia. This talk will describe this record with an emphasis on current work in the River Axe in Dorset, along with new techniques which are improving both our recording and dating of these geoarchaeological sites.
Feeding Stonehenge: what isotopes can reveal about the origin of people and their food
Professor Jane Evans, Head of Science-based Archaeology, NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory
The strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of tooth enamel provides information on the origin of
individuals and their livestock. This talk will describe the application of isotopes to burials in
the Stonehenge area and look at the way in which we can assess sources of food for eating/feasting
Jane Evans is an isotope geologist by training and specialized in rocks that had been altered
during low-temperature burial events. In the late 1990’s archaeologists started showing an interest
in isotopes as a tool for looking at archaeological problems. This provided Jane with the opportunity
to work on even lower temperature problems with a burial depth of about 6 feet. Her current role is to
provide the collaborative support for archaeology at the NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory in Keyworth,
Nottingham. She works with a large number of archaeologists studying such problems as the origin of
Bronze Age glass, the source of metal for Roman coins, where the ancient Egyptians sourced their eye
makeup (kohl) and, in particular, how to study human and animal movement from the isotopes preserved
in their tooth enamel.
Professor Jim Rose, Editor-in-Chief Proceedings of Geologists' Association,
Emeritus Professor of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Eastern and midland England provide the earliest evidence for humans
(hominins) in northern Europe. A recent body of evidence suggests that
humans may have lived in Britain as early as around 1 million years ago, but
certainly there is good evidence for humans in the British land area around
750,000 years ago. The lecture will outline the history of the research,
the evidence for human occupance, the nature of the environment and climate
in which they lived, and the reasons why Britain (so far north) has provided
Dr Chris Wood, School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University
This presentation examines the extent to which volcanoes and volcanic features are represented on the World Heritage List. It was commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and investigated the records of the 878 sites on the current World Heritage List, as well as 1468 sites proposed for nomination in the Tentative Lists of State Parties. It was found that while there are 57 sites that have some volcanic geology, 28 of these contain active volcanoes (i.e., volcanoes listed in the database of the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program as having been active during the Holocene period, or the last 10,000 years). Furthermore, because many of the sites with active volcanism contain more than one volcano, it is estimated that the World Heritage List may contain over 100 active volcanoes, which is over 6% of all the world’s Holocene volcanoes. Examination of the Tentative Lists revealed a further 40 volcanic sites, 28 with one or more active volcanoes, these latter sites containing over 70 Holocene volcanoes.
The World Heritage List therefore represents a most important mechanism for protecting the global volcanic estate. As will be illustrated in the presentation, the volcanic sites on the List display a wide variety of volcanic forms and features, including single active, dormant or extinct volcanic edifices; complex, large scale, active volcanic landscapes representative of particular plate tectonic settings; individual volcanic landforms or features, or combinations of these; eroded remnants of former volcanoes; and significant hydrothermal systems. The study found that the volcanic sites on the World Heritage List exhibit virtually all types of major and subsidiary constructional and erosional (destructional) volcanic landforms.
While the World Heritage List appears to possess good overall representation of volcanic features, deeper analysis in the context of plate tectonic setting, landform and geopolitical boundaries has revealed some gaps that might be filled by future nominations. There are also some iconic volcanoes, such as Mt Vesuvius or Mt Fuji, that have so far missed nomination. One important aspect of management not usually so dominant in other natural World Heritage Sites is the hazardous behaviour of many volcanoes, necessitating the scientific monitoring of volcanic activity, as well as the drawing up of Hazard Assessments and Risk Contingency Plans.