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News archive 2017-2018

Copyright Hull Geological Society.

(updated 20th March 2019)

Thursday 6th December 2018 -  Paul Hildreth on "Women in Geology"

P Hildreth lecture

Abstract -  “This talk was inspired by a meeting of the Yorkshire Geological Society, “Leading Yorkshire Figures in the History of Geology” in 2017 which featured many individuals but none of them women.  A little research into women geologists generally revealed that there had been outstanding contributions and that their achievements, more often than not, had been against the odds.  In more recent years several women stood out despite them working in a male-dominated branch of the sciences. 

 “The early female scientists had a number of common characteristics. They were often born into influential families, which allowed some women to work voluntarily, for no pay and usually no status, because they had a private income or were supported by a man.  It was common for male scientists to have female assistants, and the well-known male geologists of the time encouraged women to do some of the time-consuming work of writing and illustrating. These women often went unacknowledged and become lost to history. There were 24 women geologists in the 100 years of the 19th Century but none with formal training prior to 1890.

 “As a matter of delicacy I had not considered extant female geologists, though there would be several candidates for inclusion, until one was a guest on Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs” in September 2017.  This immediately, at least in my mind, promoted her to the “inner circle” that I shall present.”

November 2018 (postponed) -  Dr Eddie Dempsey of Hull University on "The Great Glen Fault Zone - Back and forth for longer than we thought"


E Dempsey lecture

Abstract - " Deformation in the upper crust during orogenesis is often characterised by the reactivation of pre-existing structures. Unravelling the early deformation history of such structures such as the Great Glen Fault Zone (GGFZ) is generally problematic due to overprinting by subsequent events. While the Devonian to Oligocene movements of the GGFZ are well documented, the earliest deformations associated with this fault remain contentious with both sinistral and dextral early movements proposed. The GGFZ consists of a poorly exposed ̴ 300m wide intensely deformed fault core and a series of parallel synthetic high angle strike-slip faults. One such parallel structure is the Rubha na h-Earba Fault sits approx. 300m from the inferred GGFZ core and is exposed on the North shore of Loch Linnhe at Kilmalieu. Due to its proximity to the GGFZ it is reasonable to assume a common deformation history. Field analysis reveals, four distinct high angle fracture sets; Group 1 (ENE/WSW); Group 2 (N/S) and; Group 3 (NW/SE) and; Group 4 (NE/SW).Group 1 are associated with green cataclasites, slickenlines and R-shears. They predate the deposition of the overlying lower Devonian Rubha Na h-Earba Sandstone Formation. These are the earliest recognised GGFZ related structure and display dextral shears sense and are consistent with dextral motion of the Rubhba na h-Earba Fault within the GGFZ. Group 2 structures are associated with widespread brecciation and oxidation of the fault rock and are regularly seen to cross cut the Group 1 structures. Shear sense indicators (R-shears, oversteps, jogs, and offsets) are typically sinistral and are consistent with sinistral motion of the Rubha na h-Earba Fault. Group 3 are associated with minor calcite mineralization and camponite-monchiquite dykes emplaced during Permo-carboniferous dextral motion of the GGFZ. These structures regularly overprint groups 1 and 2 (locally reactivate group 2) and are predominantly tensile or dextral. Finally, Group 4 strike parallel to the Rubha na h-Earba Fault are heavily brecciated with cataclasites present. Shear sense indicators associated with these structures are mostly sinistral but dextral motions are common suggesting a complex reactivation history. Stress inversion, slip and dilation tendency modelling indicate that the Group 1 structures may have resulted from a regional stress regime consistent with E/W Scandian compression. This raises the intriguing possibility that the GGFZ formed as a Scandian transform fault at the southern end of the Moine Thrust Zone." We hope to reschedule this talk in 2019

At the Annual General Meeting in 2018 the following policies were adopted -

Thursday 15th March 2018 - Dr Katie Strang on "Urban geology: buildings rock!"

Abstract - Stone is one of our most important natural resources here in the UK and the local stone has provided a source of high quality, versatile and durable building material. Scotland has one of the richest legacies of traditional (pre-1919) buildings and other stone structures of any country in the world and the most common types of building stones are directly influenced by the areas underlying local geology. In Glasgow, many of the stone buildings were built in the second part of the 19th century and are now some of the stonework is showing signs of decay and calls for repair. Years of accumulation of air pollution from industry and domestic coal burning through much of the 20th century has accelerated stone decay in many parts of the city. Furthermore, inappropriate repairs have resulted in worsening of the problem. This talk will outline the most common building stones in Scotland and the North of England and the important physical properties of these building stones, and the importance in choosing a suitable replacement in building conservation.

Thursday 25th January 2018 - Dr Liam Herringshaw of Hull University "Burrowing Through Time".

Abstract - "My plan in this talk is to try and explain why burrowing worms are amongst the most important creatures on Earth (something that Darwin first realised), why they were crucial to the Cambrian Explosion of life on Earth, and also how fossilized burrows can affect the properties of economically important rocks, from oil and gas reservoirs to aquifers (not to mention shales that might be fracked). Last but not least, I will introduce the strange science of ichnology, and its even stranger practitioners, including the Oxford professor who made tortoises walk on pie dough."

Prof. John Catt died on 7th December 2017. John had been a member of the Society since 2006. He had been associated with Hull and Holderness for a long time; studying for his PhD with Lewis Penny at the University and writing extensively about the Quaternary ice ages in the region.

Thursday 14th December 2017 - Ian Heppenstall on "Grassington, Lea Green to Conniston Dib"

Abstract - The area to the north of Grassington including Grass and Bastow Woods, Lea Green, Kimpergill, White Nook Dib, the Old Pasture and concluding with Conistone Dib contain a wealth of glacio-karst features, numerous Bronze and Iron Age remains and, from a more recent period are crossed by a maze of lead workings. Large parts of these areas were cleared of trees at an early period and unlike many other places the monks of Fountains, or any other abbey were only allowed limited access. The dip of the limestone gives rise to a secondary valley formation high above and 'parallel' to the main valley of Wharfedale but still part of it with Conistone Old Pasture forming a high ridge between them. Other high features can be seen in the raised valley before the ground rises again towards the alternating layers of gritstones and limestones of Grassington Moor to the east of both Conistone and Grassington where, once again, many lead workings are to be found. All in all this is a most fascinating part of Higher Wharfedale. 

Thursday 9th November 2017 - Dr Rob Newton of Leeds University on  "The early Toarcian (Jurassic) oceanic anoxic event: untangling global and regional signals."

Abstract - The fascinating early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event in the early Jurassic is spectacularly represented at multiple locations on the north Yorkshire coast by the Jet Rock. This is an organic rich laminated shale that is thought to represent the local expression of a widespread depletion of oxygen in the worlds’ oceans. The sediments deposited in Yorkshire were laid down in shallow sea that covered a large portion of Europe and much of the work on this event has been conducted on rocks from this broad region. Such extensive shallow seas are a common feature of the ancient Earth but are much less extensive today.  Here I will outline some of the key evidence for changes in the Earth’s climate, weathering regime and ocean chemistry at this time, and show how we might be able to distinguish which parts of this evidence truly relate to global changes and which are more likely to relate to the poorly understood workings of these extensive shallow seas. 

Malcolm Fry died on 19th June 2017 - Paul Hildreth has written an obituary

19th October 2017  - Professor Patrick Boylan: Geological Sites on the World Heritage List.

Abstract -

In 1972 the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted the World Heritage Convention, which aims to promote and support the conservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.  This can be considered one of the world’s most successful international treaties in any field, as it has now been adopted by 193 States (and through them perhaps at least 30 subsidiary self-governing territories in addition). Though the original primary aim was that States adopting the Convention would adopt and implement national policies that would protect all aspects and levels of their national  heritage, it must be admitted that its runaway success has been the secondary aim of establishing a World Heritage List identifying site and monuments etc. considered to of the highest universal value and significance to the whole of humanity.  

Nominations for Inscription on the World Heritage List can only be made by States Parties, and these are then evaluated and voted on by an elected World Heritage Committee. However, in practice many States tend to prioritise their major national heritage resources with the aim of gaining additional international recognition and - increasingly - tourism numbers. 

Disappointingly, though geological interest and importance is one of the major criteria for inscription on the World Heritage List, in practice reatively few sites have been Inscribed wholly or partly because of their geological or geomorphological importance, (just 86 out of the 1052 World Heritage sites ). Further, the present list of geological inscriptions is very uneven and unrepresentative of geological periods and Earth processes, and localities of key significance in the history of geology are almost absent.

Biography -

Patrick Boylan, a Past President and Honorary Member of the Hull Geological Society and Professor Emeritus of Heritage Policy and Management at City University of London, was for many years an adviser   on museums, heritage and conservation to UNESCO, including the World Heritage Committee, and over the past forty years he has visited personally a significant proportion of the natural and cultural sites and monuments now on the World Heritage List.   In this illustrated lecture he will outline not just the operation of the Convention, but also the geological interest and significance of many of the geological sites on the List. 


Thursday 16th February 2017 -  Dr Mike Widowson of Hull University "Divining the Deccan: Tectonics, stratigraphy, timing and effects of a major Large Igneous Province (LIP)"

Mike Widdowson


Since publication of the milestone paper by Alvarez et al.1, the Cretaceous – Tertiary boundary (KTB) mass extinction has generally been considered the result of the Chicxulub impact and its attending environmental effects; a view reinforced by the recent contribution by Schulte et al.2. The main alternative hypothesis, Deccan volcanism, has often been regarded with more scepticism. However, in the decades since Alvarez et al., considerable research effort has been directed toward understanding the nature of the environmental change deriving from both scenarios, and determining the wider global context immediately prior to, at, and after the KTB. Accordingly, the body of scientific evidence, analytical techniques, and the understanding of key KTB sections in and around the in the world are now sufficiently mature to allow renewed debate concerning the causes and origin of environmental change at the KTB. In the case of the Deccan, this effort has relied on palaeomagnetism3, geochronology, volcanology4, stratigraphy5 and palaeontology.

 Numerous studies have found significant correlation of timing of mass extinction events with that of continental flood basalt (CFB) eruptions, thus suggesting a possible cause-and-effect. The two commonly cited CFB – extinction scenarios are the Siberian Traps - Late Permian extinction, and the Deccan – KTB extinction.  However, to explore the robustness of such relationships requires both detailed understanding of CFB volcanology and lava stratigraphies, and the application of high precision dating. The aim of this research talk is to explore these approaches, and establish what it is we currently know about the Deccan.

 Previous dating studies of the Deccan Traps, India, have concentrated upon classic sections exposed along the Western Ghats escarpment. These have provided insight regarding the timing and duration of the CFB, and indicate a geologically rapid eruption near to, and across the KTB. However, whilst these sections provide access to key parts of the Deccan succession, they do not provide a complete chronological record of the eruptions. Rather, it is the well-established stratigraphical architecture of the Deccan CFB that has offered the framework for a comprehensive sampling programme. 40Ar/39Ar dating of the basal lavas reveal late Maastrictian ages (66.7 0.5 Ma), and indicate that the volcanism began in the north-western region c. 1 – 2 Ma before the KTB. The Deccan eruptions reached their acme during Chron 29R, with successively younger lava fields building on the southern flank of an evolving Deccan volcanic edifice. The final Deccan eruptions are thus preserved in the south-western Deccan (63.7 0.3 Ma), and form the upper part of the widespread and volumetrically significant Wai Subgroup which was erupted across the KTB5,6. These age data demonstrate a duration of at least 2 – 3 Ma for the Deccan CFBP and, when combined with the associated physical volcanology, are significant because they place constraints upon the timing and efficacy of Deccan eruptions as a cause of Cretaceous global environmental deterioration.

 1.     Alvarez, L.W., Alvarez, W., Asaro, F., and Michel, A.V. (1980) Science, 208 (no.4448), 1095-1108.

2.     Schulte et al. (2010) Science 327 (no. 5970), 1214-1218.

3.     Chenet, A.L., et al. (2008), Journal of Geophysical Research., 113, B04101, doi:10.1029/2006JB004635.

4.     Self, S., Widdowson, M., Thordarson, T. and Jay, A.E. (2006) Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 248, 517 - 531.

5.     Jay, A.E. and Widdowson, M. (2008)  Journal of the Geological Society of London, 165, 177-188.

6.     Hooper, P.R., Widdowson, M. and Kelley, S.P. (2010) Geology 38(9), 839-842.


Thursday 19th January 2017 - Ian Heppenstall on "the Geology along the north and middle Craven Faults between Malham and Threshfield".

I Heppenstall

Abstract - Near Malham the North and Middle Craven Faults begin to converge, being at their closest in Threshfield . Parts of their courses are indistinct but across Threshfield Malham Moor and Threshfield Moor they show up very plainly, whilst there are other geological, archaeological and historic features around and adjacent to them. By means of maps and photographs I will show and explain these features.

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