Thursday 29 December 2011

GfGD Archive: In The News 2011

As 2011 comes to an end, here is a link to some of the geology related articles that have been in the news over the past year. There are articles about landsliding, mining and other geohazards. Notably in the news this year was the tragic earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan in March, a serious earthquake in Turkey and the famine in East Africa. The famine is still ongoing, and there is huge need in the region. As we remember the many that have died over the past year, we also acknowledge the dedication, hard work and courage of humanitarian and development workers in many difficult areas that have been using their skills to improve the lives of many communities across the world.  

Tuesday 27 December 2011

GfGD Archive: Photos from Tanzania

This time last year I'd just got back from Tanzania, where I was working on a small-scale water programme. Over the past year we've published a number of photos relating to the geology and water resources in the Kagera Region of Tanzania, where I was based.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Merry Christmas from GfGD's Director

A Ugandan Christmas (2009)
As this year draws to an end, we are very grateful to all our readers and supporters for their encouragement, contributions and ideas. This blog started back in February, and to date we have published over 120 blogs on subjects including hydrogeology, geohazards, climate change, higher education, mining and much much more. We have had some excellent quality guest blogs from students and professionals - and hope to have many more of these in 2012.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be taking a Christmas break and I will be posting links to some of my favourite posts from the past year. This is a great opportunity to catch up on posts you've not managed to read yet, or older posts from our archives that were written before you found the GfGD blog.

Thanks again for your contributions and taking the time to read this blog, we look forward to inspiring, informing and learning from all of you in the New Year. 

Have a very happy Christmas,
Joel Gill
(Director, Geology for Global Development)  

Friday 16 December 2011

Friday Photo (13) - Strengthening Geoscience at Kabul University (3)

The photo below, courtesy of the University of Leicester, was taken at the Strengthening Higher Education in Kabul Conference in December 2011. The photo shows the delegates, including representatives from Afghanistan (Kabul University), National Centre for Excellence in Geology (Peshawar University), Kurdistan Iraq, British Council, USA, Czech Republic, University of Leicester and of course, Geology for Global Development.

(c) University of Leicester, used with permission.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Job Opportunities

Many of you may be interested in a number of jobs the British Geological Survey (BGS) are advertising on their website. These jobs include jobs in engineering geology (landslides and subsidence), volcanology and many other fields. The BGS have an excellent reputation for their work in overseas development.

Another good place to look for job and PhD opportunities is through the earthworks website, which often has vacancies in a range of fields, across the world. 

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Strengthening Geoscience at Kabul University (2)

As I mentioned in a post last week, I was recently taking part in a workshop at the University of Leicester which focused on institutional strengthening of Kabul University (Afghanistan) and other universities in the surrounding region, with a particular focus on geosciences. Through many conversations, discussions and presentations I learnt a tremendous amount over the few days about the geography and geology of this region, the rich history and culture of the nation and the situation with regards to higher education.

Despite higher education in Afghanistan facing huge challenges (as outlined below) it has a huge role to play in nation building, with the potential for it driving significant social and economic development. Universities generate knowledge through research, which can bring enormous benefits to various aspects of society. A university can also act as a peace builder – bringing together different ethnicities and backgrounds and fostering dialogue, collaboration and peace. Graduates from the university go on to positions within government departments and politics itself, and thus universities can also develop and encourage good leadership.

Higher Education in Afghanistan

Chancellor of Kabul University, Professor Amin speaking at
an event earlier this year.
In Afghanistan, there are currently around 100,000 university places spread across public (26 universities, 80,000 students) and private (54 universities, 20,000 students) universities. Kabul University is one of the largest universities, with around 1 in 5 of all students attending there. They have 75 departments ranging from Geology and Environmental Protection and Disaster Management, to languages, journalism and law. Their budget and the percentage of national GDP they get is extremely low, and public institutions (according to the constitution) are not allowed to charge students for education up to and including Bachelors Level Degrees. For each student, universities are given $1 per day, which equates to roughly £200 a year. Educating a student in the UK with a university education can cost in excess of £10,000, over 50 times as much. Demand is growing for the 100,000 places, with projections expecting around 1,000,000 people to be applying for places in the next few years – meaning without expansion and development of capacity, universities will only accept 1 in 10 of those wanting a university education. This is likely to be a huge social problem in the future, as is the potential lack of jobs for university graduates, should the sector be expanded. Other challenges Kabul University (and others) face include lack of equipment, infrastructure, resources and well-qualified teaching staff.

The Faculty of Geoscience

One faculty which is likely to see an increase in demand, and also an abundance of jobs for the graduates is the Faculty of Geoscience, incorporating departments of Geology, Geography, Hydro-Meteorology and Environmental Protection and Disaster Management. All of these departments provide much needed graduates for government agencies, industry and NGOs.


Afghanistan is rich in natural resources, ranging from precious stones (lapis lazuli) to precious metals (gold) to industrial metals (iron, copper). These resources offer Afghanistan a huge opportunity for economic development, and offer geoscience graduates an income and career. The development of good practice, good management and employing well qualified environmental protection specialists also means Afghanistan can develop a good reputation for their sustainable mining. Geoscientists are also fundamental to locating and protecting water resources, building resilience to natural hazards (the region is affected by earthquakes, landslides, floods, droughts and intense winds), and engineering geology – developing new and long lasting infrastructure.

It was great to have the opportunity over the couple of days I was involved in this conference to hear about the Faculty of Geoscience, and opportunities for developing geological knowledge and skills in this remarkable part of the world. I shared about Geology for Global Development, and there was interest in perhaps turning this into an international initiative, with national groups in other countries – although this will be at some point in the future. When in the future, however, depends on how we grow and develop over these coming years. Listening to the challenges and needs of communities in this country blighted by conflict for so many years, and the positive role geoscience can play in rebuilding and strengthening the country, has made me more determined than ever to see GfGD successfully expand and develop, and play our role in fighting poverty and improving the lives of many.

Friday 9 December 2011

Friday Photo (12) - Seismogram of M6.6 Earthquake, Western Xizang, China (25th August 2008)

A screenshot of a seismogram from the M6.6 earthquake in Western Xizang, China (August 2008). The sesimometer from which the above image was captured is part of the British Geological Survey's School Seismometer program, and was installed by the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge, UK.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Strengthening Geoscience at Kabul University (1)

Tomorrow I join with a number of others in Leicester for a workshop, "Strengthening Geoscience at Kabul University - Shared Experiences from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kurdistan, Iraq, UK Germany and the Czech Republic".

I am grateful to Prof. Mike Petterson, one of GfGD's advisors and Head of Economic and Environmental Geosciences at the University of Leicester for the opportunity to join their talks and give a short presentation on Friday about Geology for Global Development, our vision, aims and work.

Look out next week for more on this event, with discussions on the importance of building technical capacity and supporting universities in developing countries.

Monday 5 December 2011

Guest Blog - The Importance of Groundwater Monitoring

The latest in our series of guest blogs is an article on the importance of groundwater monitoring, written by Richard Boak, an independent hydrogeologist. Richard has over 30 years of hydrogeological experience, and has done much of his work internationaly with a strong focus on Africa.  

"I attended the launch in London recently of a joint publication from the Institution of Civil Engineers, Oxfam GB and WaterAid entitled “Managing Water Locally”, which encourages water resource management to take place at local or community level. I was very pleased to see that the report also emphasises the importance of long-term monitoring of key parameters such as rainfall, groundwater levels and water abstraction. This is a subject close to my heart – I’ve lost count of the number of times in my career that I’ve wished that basic monitoring data were available. When called in to advise on why groundwater levels are falling, why a well has dried up, or how deep should a new borehole be drilled, then several obvious questions raise themselves. What is the normal seasonal behaviour of the groundwater levels in this area? How often does the well dry up? What are the highest and lowest groundwater levels that have been observed? What is the typical difference between the rest water level and the pumping water level, for different pumping rates? Has the pattern of groundwater abstraction changed recently (increased consumption, for example, or new abstractions elsewhere exploiting the same aquifer)? All of these questions can be answered fairly easily with some good monitoring data, and the longer the data record, the better. Without this information, we are working in the dark, and the risk of a groundwater source failing to live up to expectations rises enormously.

So please, if you are involved in planning a new water supply scheme, or rehabilitating an existing groundwater source, start collecting data now (to paraphrase the proverb: the best time to start monitoring groundwater is twenty years ago; the second-best time is now). Make sure you include access for monitoring equipment in the design of headworks for boreholes and wells (this is not complicated, and is usually as simple as a well-placed hole with removable cover). Involve the local community in collection of data, and ensure that people are trained and equipped to continue monitoring after you drive away. Run some simple quality-control checks on the data before archiving. Use the data, so that you and your successors gain an understanding of how the groundwater system is behaving. Of course, groundwater monitoring is not without its pitfalls, and bad data can be worse than no data. If you’re unsure, get advice from an experienced hydrogeologist on where, what, how and when (how often) to monitor."

Richard has also recently authored a fascinating account of Richard Thornton, a geologist who accompanied David Livingstone on his explorations of Africa, which many of you may be interested in reading.

Friday 2 December 2011

Friday Photo (11) - World Walks for Water March 2011

Former International Development Secretary and Current Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, takes part in the Westminster Walks for Water event in London. MPs and Ministers from across the political divide came together to hear about the importance of clean water and safe sanitation. 
(c) Geology for Global Development 2011