Monday 1 October 2012

A New Home For The GfGD Blog

Since February 2011 we have been posting on this blogspot site. We have collated over 243 posts on topics from disaster risk reduction, water and sanitation in the developing world, and sustainable mining. We regularly get over 4500 pageviews a month, and since we started have had more than 58,000 pageviews. Over the past 30 days we have had our highest ever number of pageviews!

Today the GfGD blog enters an exciting new phase. We have been invited to join a network of blogs hosted by the European Geosciences Union (EGU), and are delighted to accept and become part of this network.

The EGU is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the geosciences - for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. This is a vision that we at Geology for Global Development both applaud and strongly align ourselves with. From reducing the risk of natural disasters, improving the sustainable exploitation of natural resources and developing better environmental conservation - geoscience offers much to support a better and fairer world. 

This blogspot site will be staying live, and used as a resource archive. However, from today, all new posts will at our new home - - please visit the new site, add it to your favourites, RSS feed etc. 

Friday 28 September 2012

Friday Photo (50) - Britain's Geological Wonders - Arran

Drumadoon Sill, found on the Island of Arran in Scotland, is a spectacular example of this type of igneous feature, formed when molten rock forces its way in between two layers of rock below the ground.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Lessons from China (2) - Active Landslide Video

Below is a video of an active landslide in the Gansu Province of China, observed on the 13th September 2012. This slope face had reportedly been falling apart since the previous afternoon, and had resulted in the evacuation of a number of houses. At the base of the slope is a small river, and there was concern that the material could block the river and result in flooding.

You can see a number of features within the video, including large boulders bouncing and a constant (dry) flow of material.

Monday 24 September 2012

Lessons from China (1) - Introduction

As highlighted on the GfGD blog last week, I have recently returned from the First International Symposium on New Techniques for Geohazards Research and Management in the Gansu Province of China. This conference encompassed two days of presentation relating to landslides, debris flows and management strategies followed by four days in the field, travelling 1200km by road to visit sites of major landslide activity.

The beauty and magnitude of the landscapes there was enormous, ranging from magnificent loess terraces, to sharp limestone mountains and vast sediment-laden rivers. It was, however, the raw vulnerability of communities that impacted me most - The desperate need for improved science and engineering, but an even greater need for better communication, decision making, education and understanding of how to build resilience. 

Posts about various aspects of this trip, case studies and challenges, will come in the near future. In the meantime, here are a few photos taken from the trip. Look out on Wednesday for a video of the active landslide in the final picture below.

Landslide in loess terrain (Heifangtai, Gansu Province, China)
(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

Construction of a large debris flow channel to reduce the risk to the community at the bottom of the valley. A deadly flow killed over 1500 people in 2010.
(Zhouqu, Gansu Province, China)

(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

An active complex landslide - with failure occurring in both the loess material and bedrock
(Gansu Province, China)

(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

Friday 21 September 2012

Friday Photo (49) - Britain's Geological Wonders - Guernsey Granite

The predominantly granitic geology of Guernsey has allowed quarrying for building stone, and formed some beautiful coastlines that draw many tourists to the Channel Islands. 
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Establishing New University Groups

GfGD currently has University Groups established in Cambridge, Leicester, Leeds and at UCL. In the new academic term we expect to launch groups in Oxford, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Plymouth - and we are currently in conversations with a number of other places.

Over the summer we've put together some resources to help students establish new GfGD University Groups. This set of guidelines will help students to understand how to establish a University Group or affiliate their existing student geology society with GfGD.

We've also put together a list of possible activities for University Groups, and activities that we are doing on a national basis.

If you're a student, and interested in helping to set up a group then have a look at these and get in contact If you're an academic, why not suggest to students at your institution that they explore the possibility of setting up a group.

Monday 17 September 2012

China: New Techniques for Geohazards Research and Management

Last week I was in China at the First International Symposium on New Techniques for Geohazards Research and Management in Gansu Province, China. This conference combined a series of talks about geohazards (particularly focusing on slope instabilities and debris flows) and hazard management strategies with a series of field visits around the Gansu Province in China. One of these visits includes to Zhouqu, where a significant landslide in 2010 killed more than a thousand people. 

Whilst mainly presenting information about my PhD research, I also took the opportunity to share some of the principles and work of GfGD. Any management of geohazards must take a holistic approach, understanding the importance of both engineered solutions, and also reducing community vulnerability. GfGD is working to champion a greater understanding and practice of the latter within the geoscience community. Next week we will post a report of the conference, together with a number of photos and case studies. 

Friday 14 September 2012

Friday Photo (48) - Britain's Geological Wonders - Chevin Geology Trail

The Chevin Forest Park Geology Trail has a leaflet outlining several parts of the local geology, and you can even download audio files outlining the features you are looking at. A beautiful and interesting afternoon near the historic market town of Otley, West Yorkshire.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Cabinet Reshuffle: Change at DFID

As mentioned on GfGD's Facebook page - last week David Cameron reshuffled his Government, and made some changes to the Department for International Development (DFID).

Andrew Mitchell who has served as Secretary of State since 2010, and Shadow Secretary of State since 2005 moved to another brief within the Cabinet. He was replaced by Justine Greening. Lower down the ministerial ranks, Stephen O'Brien (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development) was also replaced by Lib-Dem MP Lynne Featherstone. Alan Duncan retains his position as Minister of State. 

Many people will have their own opinions about the successes and failures of the past two and a half years of Coalition Government, and in particular how DFID has progressed. You can read a variety of posts and opinions on the Guardian (see Jonathan Glennie, Liz Ford and Sol Oyuela for example). The general feeling from tweets, articles and blog comments however seems to be that Andrew Mitchell can leave DFID with his head held high. After five years as Shadow Secretary of State, he was described as being one of the 'best-prepared' secretary of states with genuine 'commitment to the sector.' 

Here a few of my own thoughts. In my opinion, and I would certainly welcome other's thoughts and comments Mitchell has been one of the higher profile Secretary of States in recent times, bringing some positive leadership and direction to this department, that showed that a genuine belief in the importance of development. In the difficult economic climate, there has been little (vocal) public support for ringfencing DFID's budget. Despite this, Mitchell has worked solidly to defend and promote the importance of supporting the world's poorest communities which must be commended. It is regretful and disappointing that he didn't oversee the promised legislating of 0.7% of GDP to international development. I also have concerns that the focus on value for money, which is not unwelcome, could bring about a reluctance to support projects bringing long-term results. Vaccines are much easier than hygiene education for example. It should also be noted that Stephen O'Brien was held in high regard by a number within the development community. 

Justine Greening and her ministerial team, therefore have a big responsibility to build on this work, and have a lot in their various in-trays. Greening must continue to fight to win the argument over the 0.7% of GDP, standing up to some fellow Conservative MPs who are sceptical to say the least. In the event of pressure from the Treasury to back down on this pledge, Greening must remember the promise of her predecessor not to balance the books on the backs of the world's poorest. Greening should also re-examine the 'value for money' approach taken by Mitchell - to ensure that DFID are not just taking a short term approach to development, in order to show rapid results. Real value for money comes from investing in long-term change, prevention rather than cure. Alongside these massive tasks, DFID will be taking a leading role in the development of post Millennium Development Goal targets, must continue to implement the HERR recommendations and many other tasks.

Overall, we should be proud of the fact that the UK has an overseas development department, and the work that we do to fight poverty and improve the lives of communities around the world. Both Andrew Mitchell and Justine Greening are privileged to have led and to lead such an important department.  

Monday 10 September 2012

Reminder: GfGD National Committee Positions


GfGD would like to establish our first GfGD National Committee - a group of students and recent graduates ready to volunteer some of their time to help manage a specific area of GfGDs work and contribute to the wider leadership and development of GfGD. (Please note, for logistical reasons, and to help us meet our initial objectives, these positions are currently only open to those residing in the UK)

Positions include: Secretary, Communications Officer, Deputy Communications Officer, University Group Officer, Fundraising Officer, Placements Officer, Resources and Publications Officer, Advocacy Development Officer, Education and Careers Officer

Details of all these positions can be found on our website at If you are a student or fairly recent graduate, and interested in applying for one of these positions, download the application guidelines and application form from this same page. 

A completed application form, together with your CV should be returned to (joel[at] by the end of
 21st September 2012.

If you are reliable, enjoy working as part of a team, and passionate about seeing good geoscience supporting and informing development then we would love to have your application to join us on this next, and exciting, stage of our journey. 

Friday 7 September 2012

Friday Photo (47) - Britain's Geological Wonders - Malham Cove

We are Geology for 'Global' Development - and so although the focus of our work is the developing world, we thought we'd use a few Friday Photos to profile some of the beautiful geology we have in the UK. Our first example is this limestone pavement and cliff at Malham, in the Yorkshire Dales. Careful conservation of such sites can be used to improve geoscience education and generate income for local economies.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Dan Sharpe: The Importance of Quaternary Mapping in Global Development

After a busy summer of various field projects, Dan Sharpe is back and starts this terms blog posts by looking at the importance of Quaternary mapping... 

Quaternary mapping is a technique not taught on many undergraduate geoscience courses, however it is one that is vital in the field of global development. Mapping Quaternary deposits can tell us whether an area of ground is unstable, problematic (in terms of future development) or a good aquifer and thus is crucial in construction and planning, along with natural hazard protection and water resource management.

Quaternary is the name given to the final epochs of the Cenozoic era; the Pleistocene, the Holocene and the slightly more controversial current Anthropocene (an informal term for the period of human interference on our planet). In other words, roughly the past 2.5-2.6 million years (a tiny fraction of the 4.54 billion years the Earth has existed). Mapping these deposits show the levels of interference of surface processes such as glaciation, desertification, floods and even surface geochemistry and can be a crucial component in understanding a hazard or resource.

Natural Hazards

The type of surface deposit can be a very important control on the intensity of a natural hazard. In particular, the porosity of a soil can seriously affect the flood risk in an area, and mapping this can highlight areas under threat. In developing nations, flooding proves a huge setback in physical development and loss of lives - particularly in southern Asia with the presence of the El Nino and frequent typhoons. Understanding and mapping areas at risk can not only reduce the loss of life during periods of flooding but also mitigate the damage to infrastructure, meaning that there is less need to repair but focus can instead be placed on development.

Marco Dormino/ UNDP
Indeed soils and more specifically soil porosity and consolidation play an important role in other hazards too. The Haiti earthquake of 2010 killed over 300,000 people. One of the major problems in the area was that many of the poorly constructed homes were built on unconsolidated land that liquified during shaking (for details see this information sheet). Liquefaction occurs in almost every earthquake on some scale but in this example an area large enough to cause serious harm was affected, and thus large scale failure of buildings and roads occurred. Understanding the ground beneath which construction is taking place is therefore crucial in aiding the development of nations susceptible to natural hazards.

Water Resources

Sub-surface characteristics can be crucial in the trapping or release of water, particularly precipitation. Mapping quaternary deposits will determine levels of vegetation and type of ground. Levels of surface run-off or infiltration can be mapped as a result. Potential traps may be identified and provide important information on where water will hold underground and where a resource can be exploited. This is an increasingly vital skill in developing nations, particularly Africa. The World Bank Institute (WBI) released a statement in 1999 saying:

“... over the past few decades, use of water has increased, and in many places water availability is falling to crisis levels. More than eighty countries, with forty percent of the world’s population, are already facing water shortages.”

This is a trend that has not stopped and thus it is crucial that geoscience courses include techniques to find water resources, and more generally gaining a greater understanding of near-surface deposits from recent geological history. 

Quaternary mapping is not yet fully integrated into many courses at universities, but is an increasingly important technique when using the earth sciences to aid in global development.

Monday 3 September 2012

Reminder: GfGD 'Placements' Blog

Disaster Planning in the Solomon Islands
(Photo Courtesy of David Cavell/Greg Smith)
Don't forget to check out the fantastic posts on our placements blog written by Laura Westoby and David Cavell/Greg Smith from the University of Leicester. 

This summer they've been in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands respectively, undertaking work that will contribute to their undergraduate research project. They've also been learning a lot about what it's like to undertake geoscience work in developing countries.

Friday 31 August 2012

Friday Photo (46) - Disaster Planning in the Solomon Islands

A list of evacuation sites along with maps detailing hazardous areas, on a notice board in Lemboni, Solomon Islands. We were told this is the only one of its type in the area.
Photo Courtesy of Greg Smith/David Cavell (University of Leicester), August 2012

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Blog Watch

What does a toilet, higher education and
migration have in common?
(Source: Wiki)
A few blog posts have caught my attention in recent days. Each of the three blogs listed below talks about something over than geoscience (sanitation and access to toilets, higher education in war-torn Afghanistan, and migration) however they are all linked to situations where geoscientists may be involved. The need for geoscientists to be able to communicate with multiple interested parties, from different backgrounds, is something we have championed on this blog and through the GfGD network. Geoscience can't improve the world in it's own bubble - but alongside health experts, education experts and law experts (amongst many others). Hopefully these few articles will give you a taste of the much broader context of geoscience:

The need for decent sanitation facilities across the world is staggering. An estimated 2.5billion people lack access to a basic toilet. In between addressing malaria, TB and other killer diseases, Bill Gates has been trying to re-invent the toilet - you can read more on the Tearfund 'Just Policy' blog.

This blog, on the Science magazine page, looks at the role and future of higher education in Afghanistan. 

An analysis of the legality of crossing international borders when faced with a natural catastrophe. This article was posted last week on the Guardian 'Poverty Matters' Blog.

Monday 27 August 2012

GfGD National Committee

At the end of our first academic year of existence, we've reached an exciting place... but we have much more we would like to achieve. 

We'd like to develop more University Groups, more placement opportunities, more geoscience resources to support NGOs overseas, and more training opportunities for young geoscientists. As our vision statement says, we would like to encourage and support more young geoscientists in the growth of appropriate skills and knowledge in order that they can make a positive, effective, and greater contribution to international development throughout their careers. We want to make sure geoscientists are playing their full role in fighting poverty, and improving the lives of some of the world's poorest people. 

In order to do this, we would like to establish our first GfGD National Committee - a group of students and recent graduates ready to volunteer some of their time to help manage a specific area of GfGDs work and contribute to the wider leadership and development of GfGD. (Please note, for logistical reasons, and to help us meet our initial objectives, these positions are currently only open to those residing in the UK).   

We are advertising a number of positions, details of which can be found on our website at If you are a student or fairly recent graduate, and interested in applying for one of these positions, download the application guidelines and application form from this same page. 

A completed application form, together with your CV should be returned to (joel[at] by the end of 21st September 2012.

If you are reliable, enjoy working as part of a team, and passionate about seeing good geoscience supporting and informing development then we would love to have your application to join us on this next, and exciting, stage of our journey. 

Friday 24 August 2012

Friday Photo (45) - Lahar Dam (Mt. Merapi)

A new type of dam installed on the flanks of Mt. Merapi
that will hopefully minimise the risk of damage further downstream.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Westoby - University of Leicester

Wednesday 22 August 2012

CAFOD/GfGD Placement - Successful Candidate

Congratulations to Ellie Murtagh, who has recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in Geology and Physical Geography. Ellie was the successful applicant for the placement we have organised with the international NGO CAFOD.

Over a week in September she will be working with their Humanitarian Department, writing a briefing note on catchment management, and helping to run a workshop on building community and organisational resilience. This will give her a fantastic chance to network with regional managers from around the world.

On hearing the news Ellie said "I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity! I would like to learn more about the important role geoscience plays in improving the lives of others around the world. I hope this will give me a good insight into international development and show me how to gain a career in this field."

Ellie will be writing about her experiences in the development sector for the GfGD Blog after completing her placement, so do look out for her report. We're hoping to advertise another placement with CAFOD over Easter 2013, and are currently looking for other organisations to partner with. For details of placements as and when they are advertised, please do like our facebook page or sign up for newsletters and information on our website.

Monday 20 August 2012

GfGD Summer Highlights

The Olympics are over and it's been a great summer for the UK and many other nations around the world. It's also been a great summer for GfGD.... here are our highlights! 

Earlier this month the Geological Society published an article we wrote about our work and future plans. This has led to a range of communications and expressions of interest which will hopefully lead to further University Groups being established, as well as other things. 

We have been following three students working in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands - doing fantastic work, and learning a lot of important skills. The impact that these placements will have on these three students will be long-lasting, and I'm sure will benefit their future work in many ways. We want to see these opportunities multiplied and expanded to students across the UK and beyond.

On the GfGD Blog we had over 5000 pageviews in July, our highest yet. We have also recently had an invitation to link our blog to the European Geosciences Union's Blog Network, a fantastic opportunity that will raise the profile of our work. Keep an eye out for further details.

We've finalised a placement opportunity for one successful candidate, in the Humanitarian Department of the NGO CAFOD. This experience will give them an important insight into the development sector, and will hopefully lead to placements for other students in the future. We'll be blogging about this more on Wednesday.

Finally, a year after our launch we're now ready to form a National Committee - offering students or recent graduates an opportunity to lead a specific area of our national programme. We will soon be advertising the following roles:
- Secretary
- Communications Officer
- Deputy Communications Officer
- University Group Officer
- Fundraising Officer
- Placements Officer
- Resources and Publications Officer
- Advocacy Development Officer
- Education and Careers Officer
Further details will be published very soon about each of these roles, and how to apply. These are fantastic opportunities to support the work of GfGD and gain important leadership experience. If you have a passion for development and seeing geoscience students equipped to play their full role in fighting poverty through good geoscience, and are a team-player, then we'd love to hear from you when applications open.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Summer Break

We'll be taking a short break from posting over the next week - but if you're keen to have your GfGD Blog fix - have a look at some of our most popular posts from the archive:
Last month we had a record 5000+ pageviews on the blog, our highest ever monthly total. Have a look at our archive, and see what all the fuss is! 

We'll be back with regular and new posts again on Monday 20th August 2012, including details of the successful candidate for the GfGD/CAFOD Placement.