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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...


r6weuThis page has been created to facilitate rapid and timely interchange of opinion between Fellows. Each month (space permitting) a selection of Fellows’ letters will be published in Geoscientist, the colour magazine of the Society Fellowship (both in print and on Geoscientist online).

If you wish to express an opinion, please email [email protected].  Letters should be as short as possible, preferably less than 300 words.

Please note:
•    Geoscientist magazine is editorially independent of the Geological Society of London.
•    Publication of a letter does not imply endorsement from either Geoscientist magazine or the Geological Society of London.
•    As space is limited, letters will be edited for publication. This particularly applies to versions printed in the magazine.
•    All views expressed are the responsibility of their authors alone.
•    We ask that when engaging in debate, all Fellows abide by the Geological Society’s code-of-conduct (
•    We receive a large volume of letters and do not have the capacity to publish multiple letters repeating the same argument. We will therefore only publish letters that provide novel, timely and interesting contributions to a debate.
•    The Editors reserve the right not to publish letters, at their discretion.

Please also note that in December 2020, the Geological Society of London published a revised version of its statement on the geological record of climate change. Based on a review undertaken in partnership with the Paleoclimate Society and convened by a panel of experts, the resulting research paper is published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

Lear et al. (2020) Geological Society of London Scientific Statement: what the geological record tells us about our present and future climate. Journal of the Geological Society 178(1): jgs2020-239;

For those wishing to submit a letter on this topic, please first refer to this publication and note the guidance outlined above.

Dr Amy Whitchurch (Editor), Ms Sarah Day (Editor), Prof. Andy Fleet (Editor-in-Chief), Mr David Shilston (Deputy Editor-in Chief)

This page contains Fellows’ letters from the current year.  The archive of letters from previous years are accessible by selecting a year from the dropdown menu below.

Geological face coverings 01 February 2021

Received 11 NOVEMBER 2020
Published 01 FEBRUARY 2021
From David Nowell

Dear Editors, To my delight the Société Géologique de France sent me their geologically themed face coverings for €5 each or €15 for all four of these smart designs for non-medical use. Postage should be around €3 to the UK. They can be worn for 4 hours and are machine washable at 60° C, even though my local chemist says simple handwashing with soap and drying will kill viruses including Covid-19.  

They provide a much more distinctive alternative to regular masks, featuring:  the Carboniferous forests of the Saint-Étienne coalfield in the Loire imagined in 1877;  a theoretical vertical section showing the sediments of the Paris Basin produced in 1832;  a pair of cream on black illustrations of the ammonite laevigatus (James Sowerby) from southern England;  and a fine reproduction of the first geological map of France published in 1841 by Dufrénoy and Elie de Beaumont.    

David Nowell

Decreased engagement 14 January 2021

Received 16 NOVEMBER 2020
Published 14 JANUARY 2021
From Chris Jack
Dear Editors. I am saddened to hear the society is reducing the number of magazine issues per year.

From my perspective, all this will mean is that I engage less with the magazine and the Society, as I already receive a torrent of digital communications and offerings—getting the print magazine cuts through this and means I actually read it.

All that a move towards digital provision will result in from my perspective is less of my attention I'm afraid.

Chris Jack

What is a geologist anyway? 12 January 2021

Received 19 OCTOBER 2020
Published 12 JANUARY 2021
From John Heathcote

Dear Editors, With respect to your editorial piece in Geoscientist this month (Geoscientist Vol 30, issue 9, October 2020) what is a geologist anyway? You've met the requirements to be a Fellow of our Society, so I think you are. I did my first degree at Cambridge, in Natural Sciences, which is also modular. Earth science was 1/4 of the first year, 2/3 of the second year, and full time only in the last year (this adds up to a little less than 2 years). But my last year contained no palaeontology whatever (my choice) and I concluded correctly that I could avoid answering any exam questions about sandstone.

The chemistry, physics and maths that took up the rest of the teaching time have been very useful in a commercial career as a hydrogeologist, before broadening out into the contaminated land aspects of nuclear decommissioning, and even some of the finer points of reactor dismantling.

Being able to communicate is a rare skill too, something that my English master at school stressed.

So I'd recommend a broad first degree - you don't know at that stage where your career might take you.

John Heathcote

Reverse the decline - Reply 12 January 2021

Received 06 JANUARY 2021
Published 12 JANUARY 2021
From George Jameson
The Society is acutely aware of the decline in the popularity of geology over recent years. This is most noticeable in the drop in student numbers applying for and studying geology at undergraduate level, something we are genuinely concerned by.

Ideally, we want every person to be familiar with geology as an area of study and aware of the applications of geology to our everyday lives. However, this ideal is nuanced. There are old-fashioned perceptions of what geology is and what geologists do, as you rightly point out, especially around geology’s association with the extractive industries.

This complex problem is not one the Society can fix alone. We are therefore partnering with a number of other organisations and stakeholders to widen the appeal of geology. Two notable organisations are:
1.    University Geoscience UK, the subject association of geoscience departments based within British universities. We co-organised the June 2020 student enrolment summit, which led to the development of a strategy and a plan of action is currently being pursued to increase interest.
2.    Diversity in Geoscience UK, a recently established charity looking at ways to improve diversity and inclusion for all within the community. They are currently assessing potential projects and fundraising opportunities, and we can work together with them to improve access to field locations throughout the country.

Our goals may not be realised overnight, but they will go some way dusting off the perception of geology as just the study of old rocks. Given the gravity of the situation, it is essential for the community to address this task together and we welcome additional support.

To anyone who wishes to continue this conversation please get in touch by emailing [email protected]  

George Jameson (Diversity and Inclusion Project Lead, Geological Society of London)

Progressing the profession 12 January 2021

Received 09 NOVEMBER 2020
Published 12 JANUARY 2021
From Roger Maddrell
Dear Editors. I am most concerned by recent articles citing the decline in the teaching of geology and its adverse impact on the profession. Despite essentially leaving the subject after my graduation, I believe that a geological degree gives one a wonderful start to a career.

The profession must reach out beyond the known world of geology. I come from an island where, in my school days, the age of the unfossiliferous slate was wrongly categorised and, while there were a number of inaccessible old mines, the only fossils were those in the Carboniferous limestone. Perhaps not surprisingly, geology was not taught in schools. Yet, geology seemed an obvious choice for a degree, given it combined all the subjects I studied at A Level: physics, chemistry, botany and zoology. I enjoyed my degree and later obtained a PhD studying geological processes as they happened in the Thames Estuary. This allowed me to pursue a very satisfying and enjoyable career in civil engineering, though not in geotechnics, as one might expect, but as a maritime civil engineer.

I try to keep abreast of the developments in geology, time allowing, and have always been most impressed with the amount of scientific development there has been. Indeed, it has left me feeling very ignorant when attending recent meetings at Burlington House and on line.

These developments have taught me that my slates were deposited in the South Atlantic, not too far from South Georgia, and they have thus had a long and eventful life surviving moving plates and rising plumes. They are also younger than I had understood. The science behind these advances in our knowledge is not only fascinating and to be congratulated, but also shows how the subject has developed and is developing. Clearly, geoscience has much to contribute to the future development of the world—not just increasing our understanding of our planet and other space debris, or in locating our dwindling resources, but also in tackling major issues like global warming and geohazards, such as where the next earthquake, volcanic eruption or tsunami might originate.

The profession has always changed as it moved forward, not only for the few, but for the many. Indeed, the comment from the Editor’s desk in the October issue that “Geology has a way of capturing the imagination, whatever level of detailed understanding you reach” should also be exploited to its full potential.

I firmly believe therefore that as a profession we should be more proactive and perhaps the slogan for universities should be ‘Kick Start your Career with a Geology Degree’.

Dr Roger Maddrell

Building awareness and funds 12 January 2021

Received 07 NOVEMBER 2020
Published 12 JANUARY 2021
From Ian Reid
Dear Editors. I read Melvyn Giles’ article about The Scottish Geology Trust (Geoscientist 30(10), 28-29, 2020) with great sympathy for the cause he is promoting—that is, the fact that there is great public interest in Scotland’s dramatic scenery, but little investment in developing an understanding of the factors that have produced that landscape, reflected as it is in the difficulties of generating public funds to support the geoparks.

One clue to the conundrum has to lie in the complexity of the subject and a perception that the public is unwilling to engage with lengthy explanations. Watch almost all TV documentaries about the ‘natural world’ and the opening sequences that show either plate tectonics, mountain building, mass movements, floods, or ice caps etc. will rapidly give way to the urge to feed the universal public interest in animal behaviour. Almost invariably, film directors seem to believe the physical world is merely a setting for the organisms that inhabit it. They acknowledge the physical world to be important, but, because it requires a long, complicated explanation, it is dismissed fairly quickly. Besides this, much of it is static, and, therefore, difficult to make videogenic.

So, would education help increase public awareness and interest in geoscience, and, perhaps thereby, encourage greater funding of the geoparks? Melvyn rightly bemoans that “so little is generally known about the Earth sciences” and he points out that, in “the pre-university education system, mention of geology by name is rare”. But this may be an unintended consequence of curriculum development in secondary education. In science, geology is incorporated as a minor component, though perhaps too fleetingly to impress young minds. There is an opportunity that should have been, and still could be, exploited in the geography curriculum. But, here, the window might be closing: even geomorphology may be fighting a rear-guard action to preserve its long-standing space as relative newcomers such as climate change, environmental despoliation etc. crowd out the time available.

Whatever means are used to elicit public awareness and unlock financial support, I wish the Scottish Geology Trust every success in its aim to nurture the geoparks.

Emeritus Prof. Ian Reid