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Enviro-network launch

David Vaughan

Help to place geoscience centre-stage in the environmental debate by joining in with the Society’s new Environment Network, say Éva Valsami-Jones and David Vaughan.

The greatest challenges we face in coming decades are concerned with Earth resources or the environment, and geological expertise is central to both of them. However, whereas geologists often find themselves the forefront of developments in the energy and minerals industries, they do so far less often in matters environmental. Here, biologists, climatologists, economists and social scientists are often the dominant voices.

The challenges themselves range from the safe containment of hazardous (including nuclear) wastes to climate change, and from clean-up of contaminated land to the potential health hazards of engineered nanoparticles. Geology is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing as it does upon physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and engineering. So who better than geologists to offer leadership in environmental science and technology?

The Society is already making important contributions to many aspects of environmental science through its meetings and publications and through interaction with the public and with policy makers – a notable example being the recent statement on climate change ( However, we think geologists are still not punching their weight, and believe that doing so relies on coordinating our efforts more effectively.

Dr Eva Valsami-Jones


The Geological Society is launching a new vehicle to promote and develop all aspects of environmental geoscience, with the aim of putting environmental issues centre-stage and to allow geoscientists to claim their rightful place as environmental spokespeople within the scientific community. The President and Council have asked us to lead this initiative.

The Society operates largely through its specialist and regional groups. Attempts to establish an Environmental Geoscience Group have, however, met with scant success. Environmental themes also cross many boundaries between specialisms, and Fellows who are, say, hydrogeologists or volcanologists, may not want to ‘abandon’ that affiliation and join some new ‘environment’ grouping. So instead, we have developed the idea of a ‘network’ – a “horizontal” structure to link the “vertical” structures that are our existing groups, like walkways between tower blocks.


The idea has received Council’s blessing, and this article, along with new material on the Society’s website ( its first announcement. The Network will contribute to the conference on Water Futures (organised by the Hydrogeology Group) and will launch a bid to organise the second of a new series of annual ‘Frontiers’ meetings - a new type of conference aimed at young researchers (planned for November 2012). Discussions are also underway to organise meetings in collaboration with other learned societies.

If you share our desire to see geosciences centre-stage in the 21st Century, please let us have your ideas for future meetings, events, publications, e-media activities. We also plan to set up a blog to encourage active online debate.

Remember, as geologists our understanding of Earth history and processes affords us perspectives on the environment very different from those of our fellow scientists, so they need your help too!

Visit the Environment Network page.
  1., Merit Researcher, Natural History Museum and former Member of Council.
  2., Professor of Mineralogy, Manchester University.