Monday 31 October 2011

Discounted Subscription - Nature Geoscience

You can currently (until the 15th November) get a personal annual subscribtion to Nature Geosciences for £12 (inc VAT). Covering topics from seismlogy to volcanology, remote sensing to geochemistry - an article published in this journal is highly sought after by many academics. The cost also includes online access to all previous journal articles. At £70 normal cost, the discount is significant. The current issue has an editorial focusing on 'Beyond Mining,' an exchange of letters on aquifer arsenic sources, and an article on how mantle convection is driving topographical change in Africa. Get your discounted subscription here...

Friday 28 October 2011

Friday Photo (6) - Geotourism (Uganda)

In many countries, geological and geographical features such as waterfalls, canyons, mountains and volcanoes attract tourists and photographers - generating income for the local community. It is important that sustainability and conservation are considered.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2011

Wednesday 26 October 2011

M7.2 Earthquake Eastern Turkey (2)

The Earthquake Report have produced a helpful analysis and discussion of various aspects of the earthquake in eastern Turkey. The report written by the Centre for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) estimates the final death toll to be between 700-1000 people, and economic losses of US$ 500-1000million. Read the full article here... 

Monday 24 October 2011

Postgraduate Courses: Engineering Geology

Over the coming months we will be trying to review a range of postgraduate 'MSc' courses that offer interesting options for geologists interested in applying their skills to development situations. The first looks at 'Engineering Geology' with a particular focus on the course offered at the University of Leeds (due to the author's experience). Similar courses can be found at Portsmouth University, Imperial College and Newcastle University. 

After studying a lot about the thermodynamics of metamorphism, whether the mantle convects in one or two layers and how water is recycled at subduction zones - I decided I wanted to pursue a more practical focused geoscience Masters course. After doing some research I decided to study for the MSc Engineering Geology course at the University of Leeds in their School of the Earth and Environment.

The Course
The course was very wide ranging (one of its great appeals), covering many aspects of geoscience, with modules in soil mechanics, rock mechanics, engineering geology and site investigation, hydrogeology and contaminated land, and advanced engineering geology (inc. analysis of geohazards). I therefore got a wide range of subject matter – from groundwater to design of foundations, tunnelling to landslides, earthquake engineering to ground investigation. The course has since developed, with the advanced engineering geology module now called ‘hazards, resilience and sustainable engineering’. This offers an exciting opportunity for students to grapple with some of the issues facing geologists tasked with building resilience and promoting sustainablity. 

The course was well taught and structured – with contributions from those with an engineering background, as well as a geoscience background. Site visits, laboratory exercises, fieldwork and seminars from those in industry contributed to a wide range of teaching environments. Each student is expected to complete a dissertation project, which accounts for around a third of their overall mark. The project gives you an opportunity to focus in on a particular area of interest, or potentially work with a company/consultant that interests you. The department has some excellent industrial links, and has had a number of very creative dissertation projects in the past. From roads in Ethiopia, to seismic hazard at a dam site in Albania to artificial ground in Glasgow (the latter being the less glamorous project I had to endure).
Prospects for those interested in a career within development

Although there wasn’t a lot of mention of its applications to international development, and the majority of people on this course will go on to work in UK-based roles, a lot of the skills developed can be applied and used in development situations. A number of large consultancies use engineering geologists for major projects they are doing in developing countries. The basics of hydrogeology taught within the course are possibly sufficient to transition into a career within ‘water and sanitation’ – although further reading into a number of aspects of community development and appropriate technologies would need to be undertaken. A career in geohazard assessment is also an option (having covered many aspects of slope stability, mass movements and earthquake engineering). The academic rigour of the course established you well for further postgraduate study – with the potential to undertake a PhD in a range of subjects.

Strengths: Broad and relevant subject knowledge; highly regarded course; good opportunities; opportunity to focus within your dissertation; opportunity to engage with issues of risk, resilience and sustainable engineering; well resourced department, library and university.
Weaknesses: Currently no overseas fieldwork unless you’re lucky enough to get your dissertation overseas (this may be changing soon); little funding support (NERC have recently withdrawn their sponsorship; not enough opportunities to get experience with relevant IT software (only limited use of ArcGIS)

Overall: An interesting and informative course that gives you a great skill set. For those interested in a career working within developing countries (for some or all of the year) this course can lead to a number of opportunities.
Please do get in contact with any questions you have about how I found studying this course – for more information and more formal questions you can visit the Leeds University Departmental webpages.

M7.2 Earthquake Eastern Turkey

Yesterday a Magniude 7.2 earhquake struck eastern Turkey, close to the Iranian border. Latest reports suggest about 200 dead, with that figure expected to rise ove the coming days. Many more people are injured and homeless, with the BBC reporting tens of thousands sleeping oudoors in freezing conditions. The Guardian reports that one hospital was significantly damaged, which will no doubt add to what is already a difficult rescue and recovery operation. They also report the difficulties in reaching more rural communities where damage is also expected to be high.

It is difficult to assess at this stage what secondary impacts of the earthquake there will be, in terms of landslides, fires and other triggered phenomena. The vulnerability of the communities in the region is significantly greater than it was prior to the earthquake, and aftershocks and other hazards (cold weather being a notable one) could lead to what is already a vey bad situation becoming much worse.

A comprehensive summary of the technical aspects of the earthquake, including details of the magnitude, location and earthquake history of Turkey can be found on the USGS website. Turkey is particularly vulnerable to large earthquakes, with many large cities close to major geological fault lines. Further information, updates and analysis will be posted on this blog as and when more news is available.

Friday 21 October 2011

Friday Photo (5) - Spring Protection Schemes

A series of spring protection schemes, highlighting some of the good and bad aspects of construction:
TOP: Main spring is covered however there is poor drainage of surface water.
MIDDLE: Failure to cover the water means this is not really a spring 'protection' scheme. Poor drainage also.
BOTTOM: Main spring is covered and there is good drainage. This is a high quality construction.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2011

Wednesday 19 October 2011

GUEST BLOG: Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty

Louisa Fearn is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Leeds where she is studying Environmental Geology. Below she reports on a recent conference she attended, sharing her insights as a geologist with a keen interest in international development.

"Last month I attended a conference on international development held at York University from 18th- 22nd September: ‘Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty: New Values, Voices and Alliances for increased Resilience’ was jointly held by the DSA (Development Studies Association) and EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes).

The event, attended by 750 development academics and practitioners, was the largest gathering of its kind in 30 years. I worked in a team of 30 student volunteers that organised the running of the event, and in return could attend sessions fitting with my responsibilities.
Themes of the conference included climate change, migration, conflict, gender, research methods and governance. In addition there was a more discrete theme of lectures and working groups that all indirectly demonstrated the importance of geology as a discipline in international development. As a natural scientist, I was very much in the minority and one of the highlights was appreciating the differences between natural and social scientists and the challenges this creates when aiming for interdisciplinary work.

A few of the presentations focussed on the role of the extractive industry in development:
Constraints, Opportunities and Hope: Artisanal Gold Mining and Trade in South Kivu (DRC).Sara Geenen of University of Antwerp, Belgium. This was an excellent presentation, emphasising themes Joel brought up in an earlier post on the impacts of unregulated artisanal mining.

The Rhetoric and Reality of Transparency in Energy Governance: The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and Publish What You Pay Campaign.James van Alstine, University of Leeds. I could not attend this lecture but have met James who researches and works in corporate responsibility, seeking to establish informal and formal (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative) rules to govern the impacts of societal and environmental impacts of oil, gas and mining companies.

Another lecture considering the extractive industry was from
France Bourgouin, Danish Institute for International Studies:  Mining for Sustainable Development? What Role for Multinational Mining Corporations in Resource-Rich Developing Countries.’ Using a case study of gold mining in Tanzania, France discussed the role of Barrick Gold in the development of the nation.

Perhaps the lecture I found most interesting was from
Graham Davies of Colorado School of Mines in ‘Replicating Sachs and Warner’. A former metallurgical engineer now researching resource extraction and development, he discussed the possible reasons for poverty, ranging from the resource curse to geography, demographics and the potential for focussing on health and sanitation as a mechanism out of poverty.
I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and it gave plenty of scope for considering the role of a development specialist in geology, and indeed, the role of a geologist in global development."

Monday 17 October 2011

Friday 14 October 2011

Friday Photo (4) - Coastal Erosion

Soft and poorly consolidated sedimentary rocks, such as those found in Antofagasta (Chile) are very vulnerable to coastal erosion. In this locality there are few coastal defences constructed to slow or prevent erosion.

(c) Geology for Global Development 2011

Thursday 13 October 2011

International Day for Disaster Reduction 2011

Today is the International Day for Disaster Reduction. Read more about the United Nations plans to mark this day on their website.

One of the key things this blog posts about is 'Disaster Risk Reduction' - reducing vulnerabiity and building resilence to natural hazards in order to reduce the risk of a major disaster. Reducing vulnerability comes through a range of things - including education, decreasing poverty, building good governance, effective town planning and many other things. One key area geologists work to reduce vulnerability is through increasing our knowledge and understanding of geohazards - how they work and when they occur, and when they have occurred historically what was the intensity of the event. GfGD has written many posts about different aspects of disaster risk reduction - have a look through our archives to read more.

Monday 10 October 2011

Risky Gold Mining in Senegal

Calcite Deposits with some evidence
of minor gold veins (Chile)
The BBC recently produced a video report of 'risky gold mining' in Senegal, West Africa. The video highlight how individuals are coming from Senegal, and across the border from Mali to hunt for and mine gold. The report highlights the lack of all supervision, regulation and safety procedures - with miners at risk of serious injury or even death. It also highlights how mercury, used in the gold mining process, is also regularly added to the local stream - which is also their drinking water supply. This poses a further risk of serious illness to the miners, and other users of this water. As the community of miners expands there is also the risk of disease from poor sanitation practice. 

Small scale artisanal mining is widespread in many developing countries - providing an important source of income for many communities. However in many cases it is done in very poor conditions, and can be illegal. The risk of serious injury or diseases (such as highlighted above) can be significant. There are programmes working with some artisanal miners, to help protect them and improve their working conditions. For example,  DFID and the World Bank are involved in a "Collaborative group on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (CASM)" that work to reduce poverty through improving the environmental, social and economic performance of artisinal and small scale mining in developing countries.   

Friday 7 October 2011

Friday Photo (3) - Open-Pit Copper Mines

By digged volume, the biggest open-pit copper mines in the world, and an empty town after residents were relocated further from the mine to protect their health
(c) Geology for Global Development 2011

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Guest Blog: Some thoughts on Agrogeology...

GfGD is delighted to repost the following comment made by Dr D Vasudevan, with his permission,on our original 'Key Theme' post covering agrogeology. His comment gave some helpful insights and thoughts about the history and importance of this subject. Dr Vasudevan has extensive experience as a geologist in India, formerly working as the Deputy Director General of the Indian Geological Survey.
"The blog on agrogeology highlights the importance of geological application in enhancing the quality of soils used in agro-farming and forestry.
Agrogeology formed part of the curriculum in geological studies in Britain and even in U.S.A in the first half of the last century and in fact there were a couple of treatises written on agrogeology, the most notables being the text book on agricultural geology by Prof. Rastall in UK and the other by Prof. Tarr in USA. In fact, in the late 1890s and the begining of 20th century the Geological Survey of India included soil studies as part of geological investigations in its annual field programmes. For reasons unknown, in later years soil study got detached and eliminated from the domain of geology and became deeply entrenched in agricultural science. The British and US Geological Surveys and universities removed soil studies from their research programmes; whereas in Eastern European countries agrogeology was fostered as a research field in major geological institutes.
Fortunately, a series of famines in African countries brought back agrogeological studies into focus and even the USGS has begun to reestablish the importance of geological studies of soil for improving agricultural, sericultural, forestry and fishing potential of the country. As soils, because of repeated and uninterupted usage over centuries, are fast getting depleted of their micronutrients they need to be revitalised in a natural way rather than by usage of artificially produced fertilisers. The best way would be to remineralise the soils using suitable mineral/rock powder which, interacting with the soil microbes, are absorbed by the plants.
I hope Indian authorities too realise the importance of soil studies as an integral part of geological studies and thereby introduce agrogeology in university courses, and include it in the country's premiere geological institutes as a research wing .For in the coming millinea there may be shortage of cultivable land leading to acute food shortage and we must be on our guard to sustain effective agro-farming and water management."

Monday 3 October 2011

Resources: Relief Web

Relief Web is a valuable data and information source, freely available on the internet. Relief Web hosts reports written by a number of humanitarian agencies following disasters, including those with a geohazard context. You can search by country and disaster - and the site hosts reports, maps and at times links to available aerial photographs. there are also jobs posted.

The site has proved to be helpful for gathering information on major humanitrian situations - but also smaller situations, which are not in the media so much.