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Year of Mud 2015

2015 was the first of the Society’s themed years and was entitled the ‘Year of Mud’. The year featured a programme of events celebrating a resurgence of interest in that most common of materials.

Mud represents both an end and a beginning – the end of the cycle of erosion and transport, and the beginning of the generation (through burial and transformation) of new materials of great value to society.

Advances in the science of mudrocks benefit fields ranging from shale gas exploration to slope stability, the search for suitable radioactive waste disposal sites, advances in nanogeoscience and biogeology, understanding of soil quality and flood risk, and ground-breaking engineering projects such as Crossrail.

The themed years are designed to inspire activities around a central theme whether these be organised by the Society or by our extensive network of specialist groups, regional groups and Fellows.


Society Conferences

Lyell MeetingThe themed years are an opportunity to link together Society activities including the Society's flagship meetings. In March 2015, the Lyell Meeting, the Society's flagship meeting for UK Palaeontology, organised by the Joint Committeee for Palaeontology was on 'Mud, Glorious Mud, and Why it is important for the fossil record'.

This meeting examined mudrocks as an unrivalled medium for the preservation of fossils. This excellent preservation has in turn enabled significant scientific advances in the functional morphology and evolution of biota throughout life history.

Read more about the Lyell Meeting and the themes of the meeting on the conference page.


shale uk 2015


In June, the Society collaborated on a 2nd Shale UK conference with Global event Partners. This meeting was held at the Barbican Centre in London in March 2015. 

The meeting offered a unique perspective on the potential of shale oil and gas in the United Kingdom and examined both the geology relevant to shale development as well as the commercial rationale.



Sustainable Exploitation of the Subsurface

Later on in the year in May the society hosted a conference exploring 'Sustainable Exploitation of the Subsurface' which focused on the geology, engineering and environment of our underground asset and in particular on urban built environments where development of the subsurface is most crucial.

Mudrocks form an important part of many strategic infrastructure projects such as subsurface transport in London via Crossrail and as critical components for the storage and containment of resources such as energy and water and waste such as carbon dioxide and radioactive waste.

Read more about this meeting on the conference page.


Then in November, Burlington House was host to a two day meeting on Geomechanical and Petrophysical properties of Mudrocks in the context of potential shale gas development in the UK and Europe.

The scope of the meeting covered the behaviour and properties of mudrocks with speakers from both academia and industry.

Read more about the meeting on the conference page.


Education, Outreach and the Society Blog

The Year of Mud inspired a number of education and outreach activities that took place throughout the year, many of which were documented on the Society's blog. 

  • The themed year kicked off with an announcement on the blog from former Geological Society Council Member Lucy Slater including a ""podcast from then President, David Manning on the Glories of Mud! 

  • 2015 was also the second year of the annual Great Geobakeoff and had a distinctly muddy theme! Among the mud-related baking challenges we had Mud stone cake, mud cracks, lahar cake, Mississippi mud pie, the 'hidden william smith fossil preserved in mud cake' and the 'freestyle showbiz mud round'. Check the blog for how that went!

  • In May, the education team went to the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival where primary school students were were taught how to make their own fossil casts!

  • The activities related to Year of Mud continued into 2016. In early January last year, the policy team responded to the Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry on soil health. This was then written up on the blog.

  •  Then in April 2016, Laura Hobbs from Science from the Start created a messy play activity that you can carry out in your own garden. She wrote about the activity and the benefits of mud to toddlers.

There was also a number of mud-related activities going on outside of the society. These include:

  • An editorial in Nature about the importance of soils and mud and how they benefit society.

  • Former President David Manning on the BBC World Service's Science in Action programme where he discussed the Society's Year of Mud.

  • And it even gets a mention in The Independent newspaper online on a piece about Gardening...!

London Lecture Series

As part of our annual public lecture programme the 'London Lectures' we ran a mini-series of mud themed lectures in line with the 2015 theme.

This kicked off with an opening lecture from the President Dr David Manning on the 'Glories of Mud'.

This was followed in March by a lecture by Euan Clarkson from the University of Edinburgh on the Cambrian Alum Shales of Scandinavia and their Remarkable Trilobites.

Read more on the lecture page and watch the lecture below. 

Then in June we had a talk from Neville Hollingworth exploring 'Fossils and Mud a Jurassic Adventure' which explored the fossiliferous rocks of the Oxford Clay.

Read more about the talk on the lecture page and watch the video below.

In September, John MacLennan took us on a tour of the 'Hidden colours inside volcanoes' looking at volcanic rocks in thin section and what they can tell us about geological processes.

Read more about the talk on the lecture page and watch the video below.

And then to close the mud mini-series we heard from Angela Coe on 'How mud can be used for understanding Earth surface processes and time'.

Read more on the lecture page or watch the video below.

Events and Activities across the UK

In addition to the events held at Burlington House, there were also a number of events around the country that were organised and help by our specialist and regional groups. A list of these events are listed below:

  • The Quaternary Research Association (QRA) Annual Discussion Meeting in January was on the theme of 'The Quaternary Geology of the North Sea and Adjacent areas' which includes many important mudstone deposits. Understanding these sedimentary sequences is the key to unpicking the geological history and economic value of the North Sea.
    The QRA annual field trip in May also covered some of the important mud sequences and related glacial deposits in Cumbria.

  • The Forensic Geoscience Group held an event at the Northern Ireland Science Festival in February 2015. The aim was to introduce forensic geology and explore how it can help to solve high profile criminal cases around the world. For example, how can soil or mud found on a shoe help to solve a crime? Find out more

  • In June, the Solent Regional Group held an evening talk on 'The Geology and Engineering of a Mud Disaster in Java' on the LUSI (Lumpur Sidoarjo) mud volcano and the impact this has had on local people and the economy.

  • In July, the Somerset Coal Canal Society celebrated the reopening of a section of this canal as well as a celebration of William Smith who engineering the coal canal and who documented many of the muds and sediments in this area for the first time.

  • 2015 was also the quadrennial meeting of the European Clay Groups Association which met jointly with the Clay Minerals Society and in association with the International Natural Zeolite Association and the Geological Society. You can read more about the event on the Euroclay webpage.

  • In September Durham University ran a field trip to the North Yorkshire Coast to look at the shale and mud rich sequences to broaden understanding of these deposits in the context of shale gas development. For more information on geospatial research see the event page.

  • Then as part of Earth Science Week, Durham Cathedral (also a 100 Great Geosite!) ran a 'Mud Monster' workshop where children adventured through a Cathedral swampy woodland and along a timeline to learn about rock formation.