Thursday, 26 July 2012

Preparation for the British Science Festival

Sarah Reay from our Geomagnetism Team has been getting into the BSF spirit by Goggling some of the equipment marked for transport up to Aberdeen. Check out their website for more details.
The goggles are the official motif of this year's festival so you'll probably be seeing a lot of them over the next few weeks! I wonder what else will get the Goggle treatment....

I've also been busy making promotion posters for our two events. Here is the finished one for the Space Weather (geomagnetism) event on the Wednesday..... let me know if you see any mistakes.

Overview of the speakers who are talking at our event

Overview of the theme of our event

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Open Day announced

We're having an open day in Edinburgh! Hiphiphoorah!

It happens every year as part of Edinburgh's Doors Open Days but i'm so excited because this will be my first as a member of the Edinburgh staff! 

Today was our first meeting about the planned events, activities and talks. One of the most interesting meetings i may have been too... not often you get to discuss setting up swimming pools in your office but i'll come to that later! Overall i think it's going to shape up to be a pretty cool day, all the staff do this on their own time and it's always a success because we're a passionate bunch! So staff and visitors are in for a treat, after all who doesn't love an excuse to indulge in anamatronic dinosaurs, fossils, 3D goggles, gold panning, bearded geologists and rocks!!

I have to say i think the highlight may well be the Marine teams epic idea....  They're going to set up a swimming pool (in their corridor!) to demonstrate how they use Eric- our aquatic ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). The best bit is they're handing over the controls so visitors (and no doubt staff!) can all search for treasure hidden in the pool!!

I can't wait hahaha Ony 67 days to go ;)

More details on our website and facebook. Keep checking back for updates as the plans progress.

BGS Press Officer, Edinburgh

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mineralogist, Petrologist or Volcanologist?? Lorraine explains

I asked Lorraine Field what the difference between her job, a mineralogist and petrologist, and a volcanologist is. It's a question that we've been asked a lot on Facebook since she appeared on the VolcanoLIVE programme on BBC2 and the article on BBC News website was published.

Here's what she says about her job at the BGS & how it's different from the role of our volcanologists:

I’m a mineralogist and petrologist at the BGS. My role involves taking a rock sample and investigating the micro-scale – the mineralogist part is to do with looking at minerals, and the petrologist part is determining their history and formation. I now work on all types of rocks, although I am particularly passionate about igneous rocks. Rocks are made up of packages of material, so in an igneous rock, these are crystals and glass, but in a sedimentary rock these can include crystals, rock fragments, clays, fossils and organic materials. I will look at samples using various techniques e.g. optical microscopes and scanning electron microscopes, to look at the textures in the samples, as well as individual crystals and grains. From this we can glean information about the history of the rock, how it was formed and what had happened to it since. It’s a bit like forensics – taking the little jigsaw-puzzle clues and putting them together to work out what has happened - but on a rock! In my PhD I worked on two volcanoes in Africa, and from looking at the crystals in the sample was able to calculate the time the crystal had been in the magma since it formed; the depth magma had been stored at; how much water had been in the original magma; and we were also able to gain some dates using the argon content in some of the crystals.  Some crystals are like mini - C.Vs, you can determine an awful lot from just looking at the clues in that one crystal, but some are more tricky, and you need to look at them in relationship to the other crystals in the rock.

A volcanologist is involved in the study of volcanoes as a whole, particularly the physical aspects – for example, ash plumes, and they will also look at the hazards. In reality, different disciplines (for example, mineralogists, geophysicists, remote sensors and volcanologists), work together to gain an overall understanding of a volcano.

Hope that helps clear that up!! Any more questions i can put to Lorraine about the work she does or her experiences filming for the BBC?

BGS Press Officer, Edinburgh


Monday, 9 July 2012


It's the start of the BBC's #VolcanoLIVE programmes tonight and our very own Lorraine Field makes an appearance! On the programme you'll see her journey to become a  mineralogist and petrologist with the BGS, and also her (rather more exciting!) journey to see the largest lava lake in the world, Nyiragongo, in the Congo.

Watch a clip of Lorraine here
Read a blog Lorraine wrote for the programme here

Enjoy. And remember to follow the action with #volcanoLIVE on twitter

Friday, 6 July 2012

Preparing for drilling in Iceland, by Brighid

In a few weeks time I’ll be kicking off the next big phase of investigations at the Virkisjokull glacier observatory in Iceland. My job is to dive deeper into the liquid side of things by drilling and testing boreholes to help us look at how glacial meltwater interacts with groundwater, and installing equipment to monitor how this changes over time.

Where i'm heading - Icefall at Virkisjokull, taken by Jez and the field crew out there last year

To do that, I’m going to be working there at the glacier for about a month, along with my BGS colleague Paul Wilson, and an Icelandic drilling company. We’ll be living just round the corner from the glacier in a comfy self-catering house, so travelling to work each day will be easy, and the house has excellent wifi, so I’ll be able to keep in touch with friends and family back home. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the uncharacteristic dry spell of weather Iceland’s been having for the last few months carries on, because I’ve heard it usually rains a lot…
Last year the guys saw a spot of rain
Getting ready for this is taking a fair amount of organising – just like all the work at Virkisjokull does, as Jez Everest, the project manager, will testify to – working in a remote, sub-arctic environment is tricky! First I had to find a driller: not any old driller, but someone who’s got experience in making the kind of carefully constructed observation boreholes we need. That meant searching for and emailing every drilling company I could find in Iceland, and after quite a few interesting emails and phone calls I eventually found someone who seemed to fit the bill. Then a couple of weeks ago Jez and I made a flying visit to Iceland to meet our chosen driller – Árni Kópsson of Vatnsborun Drilling – and discuss the project with him, which went really well; for me to see the glacier site for the first time, and get a better idea of where the boreholes should go and what conditions we can expect when the drilling starts; and to talk to the local land owners – the National Park office and local farmers – to explain about the boreholes and make sure they’re happy with what we’re doing. 
Drilling rig in the driller's yard in Reykjavik - next time I see this it will hopefully be at the glacier!
 It was amazing seeing Europe’s largest ice cap and ‘our’ glacier (as Jez calls it) for the first time! It’s a stunning part of the world, and I’m really excited about going back, starting work, and getting to know the area a bit better. But I’m also a bit nervous – having been involved in lots of water borehole drilling over the last 15 years, I know all about the many little things that can go wrong, slow work down, and force you to change your plans, even close to home – let alone at an icy, remote Icelandic site! But dealing with the unexpected is part and parcel of science research, and so I’m just trying to prepare for every eventuality I can think of. This week I’ve been making lists, and putting together a pallet of bulky and/or heavy kit which will be shipped out to Iceland in time for us to use. Like pumps and water level dippers for testing the boreholes; steel capped boots and hard hats for working on a drill site; and water chemistry sampling equipment. And I’ve been buying enough plastic screen and casing to construct piezometers in our boreholes – they don’t make it in Iceland so that has to be sent out from the UK too. And trying to decide which are the most reliable and accurate water level loggers to install in the piezos – and how many we can afford!
Pallet i'm filling full of kit, destined for Iceland
Watch this space for more news when we get back out to Virkisjokull and start drilling in mid August! Now, I’m off to finish packing that shipping pallet, and get on with writing a talk for that conference in Dundee next week…
Senior Hydrogeologist

British Geological Survey
Murchison House
West Mains Road
Edinburgh EH9 3LA

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Like it says in the blurb over on the right: this blog will be written by the staff at the British Geological Survey about the science we work on every day. That’s not to say we’ll be able to post everyday but  we’ll do our very best to keep it frequent, interesting and entertaining. I make no apologies for the over use of geology jokes and puns.... just look at the comments i got from our facebook fans when i asked for Blog-name suggestions!! Haha

Leaving the hilarious puns for one second and taking a serious tone of voice..... behind all the science, the maps, the policies and the numbers are hard working, talented, passionate people. Everyone at the BGS has an important role to play and we know the work we do is important. We’re excited to have this space to talk about what we do, why we do it, how it affects everyone and what it means for the future.
Sometimes you’ll hear from people out in the field : Gemma Purser is off to Utah, USA tomorrow to continue work on a carbon capture and storage project with Cambridge Uni and Shell. Brighid O Dochartaigh is off to Iceland in August for a bit of groundwater drilling and monitoring. They're both armed with cameras and laptops so expect post from them soon.
Sometimes it’ll be from folk in their workshops, labs and offices : soon you’ll get an update from our G-BASE scientists who’ve just received another batch of samples from their colleagues doing fieldwork in Devon.
Sometimes you’ll hear from me and the others on the Communications team : over the course of the next few months i’m sure we’ll all introduce ourselves and explain how we juggle being scientists and Comms officers (aka geeky chatter-boxes). Our next big Comms task is the British Science Festival in September.  We’re hosting events about Ground Source Heat and Space Weather..... during the festival they’ll be daily ‘behind the scenes’ updates on here and a wealth of photos going on facebook too!!
So I hope you’ll come back here again and again to keep an eye on what we’re doing at the BGS. We’re passionate about our work and are proud to be a world-leading geoscience centre.