Last year I travelled out to Ethiopia for fieldwork twice, quite a feat considering it had taken two years of broken limbs and civil unrest causing setbacks. Avoiding the rains and unseasonably hot conditions of the summer (although I didn’t quite manage to avoid the heatstroke) I visited the Butajira volcanic field in April and Fantale volcano in November.
This year, in a rare turn of events, the AGU Fall Meeting took place far away from the West coast of the USA. The Golden Gate Bridge and steep streets of San Francisco were replaced with alligator-filled swamps and Creole cottages.
The Earth is a very blue planet, with almost three quarters of the surface covered in water. It seems perverse, then, that there should ever be water shortages. However, only 4% of Earth’s water is freshwater, and there are seven billion people dependent on this resource for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. Hence, the apparent oxymoron: the Blue Planet has serious water issues.
The field of hydrogeology is one not greatly studied within Cambridge Earth Sciences. However, it is a subject of increasing global importance in the 21st century. As rainfall patterns become less predictable and populations increase, we are increasingly reliant on our ‘backup supply’ of water: groundwater, stored in the pore spaces within rocks, and hidden beneath our feet.
Almost 200 years ago, the young Charles Darwin came up to Christ’s College to begin a comprehensive theological education. In what could be considered the most productive procrastination in history, he instead spent much of his time in Cambridge attending lectures in the natural sciences, under the mentorship of John Stevens Henslow and Adam Sedgwick. On the subsequent Beagle voyage, Darwin undertook botanic and zoological studies but, in light of his seminal contribution to evolutionary biology, history often forgets that he also produced a substantial body of geological research.
Today, Christ’s College celebrates the role that it played in Darwin’s early life by facilitating scientific research on the Galápagos Islands. I currently hold the Charles Darwin and Galápagos Islands Fund Junior Research Fellowship and it is testament to Darwin’s broad-ranging interests that I am a geologist.
A hundred years ago Thomas McKenny Hughes (1832-1917) died. He was Adam Sedgwick’s successor as eighth Woodwardian Professor and his biographer. Today, although few geologists, even in Cambridge, will have heard of McKenny Hughes, he made his mark on British geology. It was McKenny Hughes who managed the planning and building of the Sedgwick Museum and he fostered the training of successive generations of geologists who in turn helped develop geology as we know it today.
Poster boards stand tall in a crowded room. Friendly, familiar faces exchange advice over a generous keg. Curious minds eagerly watch and listen, before collecting free pens from a nearby table.
The Department of Earth Sciences’ careers event near the end of Michaelmas term invites alumni and industry representatives to speak to new generations of Natural Scientists about their life after graduation. Started in 2012 by the Sedgwick Club, this annual event has continued to grow, with more businesses, representatives, and undergraduates attending each year.
Skaergaard is a classic example of a layered intrusion. It is a wonderful natural laboratory for geologists and highly photogenic, with its striking igneous layering. There is near 100% surface exposure as not much grows there; an advantage of its location at 68°N. We have just returned from a six week expedition, studying this fascinating intrusion.
In July 2017, I found myself on my first non-compulsory fieldtrip as an undergraduate, in a group of 5 with two academic staff members and two PhD students heading to the Isle of Rum in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. The trip had been planned initially for my Masters project, but with Rum such a famous geological locality, everyone had work they wanted to do there.