Talks for Schools

Unless stated otherwise the target audience for all talks is A2 and AS level science students and the length is approximately 50 minutes.

For those talks that require a data projector, if necessary we can bring our own laptop and data projector.

To book talks, please contact the member of staff directly.

TitleDescriptionLecturer
Careers in Geoscience
Details the fantastic career opportunities for geoscience graduates in the 21st century and what Leicester offers students on our courses.
This is most suitable for year 12 students who are making choices about what subject to apply for at university and who may be considering a geology degree. Also appropriate for year 11 students making AS-level choices.
Dr Gawen Jenkin
Earthquakes How we record them;  how they travel through the earth and the associated hazards –complete with sound effects.  Professor Richard England
Earthquakes & People This presentation examines the science of earthquakes, what they are, why and when they occur, and considers their effects on people worldwide. Building on scientific understanding, we take into account the role of earthquake prediction and of damage limitation, including the mitigating steps that can be taken with the help of geological knowledge to minimise the damaging consequences of major earthquakes.
Suitable for GCSE, AS, or A2 levels
Professor Mike Lovell
Exceptionally preserved fossils: windows on the evolution of life Palaeontologists study the evolution and biology of life using the fossil record. This record is biased, with the hard parts of animals, such as bones and teeth, forming the major part. Fortunately, there exist fossil deposits where the soft parts of animals are preserved, such as eyes and muscles. These deposits yield some of the world's most spectacular and informative fossils. This presentation will examine some of these deposits in detail.  Professor David Siveter
Oceans on Earth and other planets  Oceans of liquid water have allowed life to evolve on Earth. This talk explores the origin of our oceans, the changes taking place to them today, and their fate in the distant geological future. Other planets and moons, we now know, had oceans in the past or have them still - and this talk explores these too, to get some idea of quite how unique the Earth and its oceans might be in the Universe.  Dr Jan Zalasiewicz 
Finding Gold  Finding gold - from the Solomon Islands to Scotland Gold is mostly useless in practical terms ­ 90% or so being used for jewellery or bullion. In addition it is a very rare metal, but despite (or because of) this it is sought after and highly valued by the human race and now forms a key component in the world economy, generating vast amounts of wealth. Here I show how we are carrying out research to help locate new gold deposits in ³frontier² areas with little or no previously known mineralisation.
The Solomon Islands fall within the SW Pacific arcs famed for a number of giant gold deposits, but the highly vegetated terrain is challenging for exploration. The active geothermal system on Savo volcano allows us to examine the topmost part of a potentially mineralising system, and shows that travertine deposits formed at hot springs could present a new marker for gold mineralising systems in the region.
Cononish mine at Tyndrum is now under development ­ Scotland¹s first gold mine in 500 years. This is set to have a huge positive impact on the economic prosperity of the area, and here we are working with Scotgold to see if we can help locate the next gold mine and so sustain the economic benefits beyond the lifetime of Cononish. We are working to understand the hydrothermal system that formed Cononish and other gold occurrences. This in turn will help develop an exploration model that can be applied to help discriminate the more promising prospects and make exploration more efficient. Whilst the gold veins almost certainly relate to an intrusion at depth driving fluid flow, we are increasingly finding that the source of the sulphur is from the Dalradian metasediments. This begs the question as to where the gold is coming from and therefore what part of the hydrothermal system it might be concentrated in.
Suitable for yr 12 and 13 students with some knowledge of geology, or an amateur audience.
Dr Gawen Jenkin 
Future climates: clues from the geological past  This talk focuses on the record of climate change in the recent geological past and the implications of current climate change in that context. Professor Mark Williams
 
A Brief Histroy of Asbestos  Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, that has long been used for its heat and chemical-resistant properties, but the realisation that it causes serious lung damage led to a significant reduction in its use in the 20th century. Now, questions are being asked of its potential hazard as a rock in the wild… This talk will cover the geology and mineralogy of asbestos, its changing use through history, and its impact on the environment and humans to the present day and beyond. This talk is suitable for year 11-13 students. Dr Dan Smith
How to build an ore deposit
 
Metals are vital to our modern society. This talk examines the processes that form economic concentrations of metals. There is time in this session to examine some samples of mineralised rock from ore deposits around the world. 
This talk is suitable for year 12 and 13 students with some knowledge of Geology.
Dr Gawen Jenkin
In search of the Earth's treasures This lecture explains how geologists go about exploring for, locating and extracting the Earth's most precious resources. From platinum in the African savannah, through diamonds in the forests of deepest Russia, to gold in the mountains of Greenland, this world tour gives you a feel for the life of an exploration geologist. Helicopters, off-roading, bush-whacking and close encounters with bears, snakes and leopards are all in a day's work.  Dr Dave Holwell
Prehistoric Weather
Was it sunny in the Jurassic? Or chilly in the Carboniferous? The rocks hold many clues to past weather systems and help us to predict future climate. Dr Jan Zalasiewicz
Mythology and Geology: Volcanic hazards, ore deposits and geothermal power in the Solomon Islands The Solomon Islands is a geologically active country in the southwest Pacific. Written history of events, including tsunami and volcanic eruptions, only extend back to the late 1800s, so our knowledge of how and when volcanoes erupted is confined to myths and stories passed down through families, and data we can derive from careful geoscience. This talk will focus on Savo volcano, its myths and legends, and how they can be related to the geology. We will discuss the future of the volcano, and how our improving knowledge can be used to limit the impact of any future eruptions, and develop Savo as a resource for understanding mineral deposits, and even generating electricity for the Solomon Islanders. This talk is suitable for year 12-13 students with an interest in geology.  Dr Dan Smith
Seismic tomography - what is it, and what can we see?
 
The talk covers the basics of seismic tomography, what is the data, how do we make a velocity model, and how do we interpret the results.  The talk focuses on the imaging of mantle plumes, and whether we can really tell where they form, their shape, and some implications for mantle convection. 

Dr Stewart Fishwick

Shale gas: an unconventional, and controversial source of natural gas
 
We are told conventional resources of natural gas cannot satisfy current demand and consequently there is a huge effort globally to explore for alternative sources of natural gas. Shale gas is one of these resources, and this topic – where the gas is contained in fine grained mudstones - generates considerable public interest and discussion. This talk discusses our scientific knowledge, our efforts to better understand the nature of shale gas, and the public perception of what is involved in shale gas evaluation and exploitation.
Suitable for AS, or A2 levels
Professor Mike Lovell
The Great Dying: The End-Permian Mass Extinction and its links to the Siberian Traps Whilst many geoscientists now agree that the K/T boundary mass extinction was the result of a meteorite impact, the cause of the more extensive Permo-Trias extinction is still controversial - Andy Saunders examines the evidence. Professor Andy Saunders
The Guinness Book of Mineral Deposits
 
The human race must sustainably exploit Earth's natural resources to survive. This talk aims to describe some of the biggest and most valuable mineral deposits in the world and how they are formed, including porphyry copper deposits and diamonds. Some hand specimens of mineralised rock can be brought along for examination - but unfortunately no diamonds...!
This talk is suitable for year 12 and 13 students with some knowledge of Geology.
Dr Gawen Jenkin
 
The Micro-fossil World This lecture will explore the types and uses of tiny fossils, on average a millimetre in size. Not only are they spectacular lifeforms, they also provide earth scientists with crucial information about the age of rocks and palaeoenvironmental conditions.  Professor David Siveter
The new world of the Anthropocene The Earth is changing fast, we know, as human activity shapes our planet.  How long will these changes persist into the Earth's far geological future?   We will explore how humans are literally creating a new type of geology.  Dr Jan Zalasiewicz
The story of a pebble How many stories does one simple pebble have to tell?  There are very many - from the birth of the universe to the death of this planet, taking in mountain-building, ancient oceans and mineral deposits on the way - all teased out form this single object by the forensic techniques of geology.  Dr Jan Zalasiewicz
Triggers for mass extinctions: meteorites, volcanoes, or people?  Meteorite impacts are often cited as the cause of mass extinctions, especially the killing off of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Such impacts are suitably apocalyptic.  However, evidence for meteorites at times of other mass extinctions is absent, suggesting that a more-Earth bound process may be the cause.  In this talk I argue that large-scale volcanism has caused more mass extinctions than meteorites and indeed may even have been the main trigger for the end-Cretaceous event.  Present-day emissions of carbon dioxide far exceed those of the largest volcanic events, suggesting that people could be driving us into the latest mass extinction event.  Professor Andy Saunders
Unravelling the sedimentary record This talk will demonstrate how geologists use the sedimentary record to reconstruct ancient depositional environments. Sedimentary rocks hold
clues past climates, host important resources, including oil, coal and gas, and preserve key fossils, therefore understanding sedimentary processes and how environments have evolved through time are
fundamental aspects of geology.
Professor Sarah Davies 
What is Geoscience; and how many ways can the Earth kill you?
The first part of the talk is a general introduction to the Geosciences, exploring the breadth and excitement of this subject and a brief introduction to what Leicester offers students on our courses. The second part is an interactive discussion on geological hazards from tsunami to heavy metal poisoning.
Length approximately 50 minutes, but the second section can be done in a separate longer session with a break in between giving 40 + 30 minutes in all, including some time for a question and answer session on geoscience courses at Leicester.
This talk is especially suitable for year 11 and high-achieving year 10 students who may be contemplating a Geoscience degree at University.
Dr Gawen Jenkin
 
When volcanoes explode: what Mount St Helens taught us Given by a volcanologist with first-hand experience of explosive volcanoes, this talk introduces aspects of volcano geology, explained in the context of the build-up and aftermath of the famous 1980's US eruption.   Dr Mike Branney 
Rotten Fish and the Fossil Reord
Questions about the deep evolution of vertebrates are fundamental to understanding our own place in the tree of life. What were our earliest vertebrate ancestors like? How, when and why did they acquire characteristic features such as eyes, stiff vertebral columns, and muscular bodies? The fossil record has a crucial role to play in answering these questions, but it can be difficult to decode the cryptic remains of life from hundreds of millions of years ago, especially when the animals involved lacked bones, teeth and shells – how did the soft parts of these animals become fossilized? This lecture will explain how our research is providing new answers to these questions. By rotting primitive fishes and their near-relatives we can avoid some of the biases that distort our view of early vertebrates and get a clearer picture of our deep evolutionary roots. Decayed remains reveal how the characteristic features that palaeontologists use to recognise and identify the most ancient fossil vertebrates are transformed and then lost during decay. The process of loss, it turns out, is not random, and might be having a significant impact on the fossil record of our most ancient ancestry. Professor Mark Purnell
Mining Methods and Hazards An explanation of why mining is so important to our way of life, and a summary of surface and underground mining methods used to extract the resources. Hazards associated with mining are described, including subsidence, acid mine drainage, methane, slope failures and tailings dam failures. A number of case studies are included. This talk is suitable for GCSE & AS/A-level Geology groups, particularly for WJEC board. Toby White
UK Mineral Resources
An explanation of why mining is so important to our way of life, and a summary of surface and underground mining methods used to extract the resources. The UK has a wide variety of resources, and the uses and methods of extraction are described. These focus on coal and aggregates, but also refer to tungsten, lead, zinc, fluorspar, barytes, tin & copper, whose origins are also briefly explained. This talk is suitable for GCSE & AS/A-level Geology groups, particularly for OCR board A-level. Toby White
Oil and Gas Exploration and Extraction This contains a basic introduction to the formation of an oil/gas resource (generation, reservoirs, seals and traps), together with the range of methods used for exploration. Production is also considered, giving examples from different settings. This talk is suitable for GCSE & AS/A-level Geology groups. Toby White
The Future of Coal
Although the burning of coal is known to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the rate of consumption of coal continues to rise rapidly. This talk examines the origins, extraction and uses of coal, and describes the different methods of carbon capture and storage which are currently being developed. This talk is suitable for AS/A-level Geology and Science groups. Toby White
St Aidans Open Cast Coal Site: A Case Study of a Major Slope Failure This detailed case study describes the method of extraction used in opencast coal operations, and the importance of understanding rock mass behaviour when designing a mine. The mechanism and consequences of this failure are described in detail. This talk is suitable for GCSE & AS/A-level Geology groups, particularly for WJEC board. Toby White
From Rocks to Rockets: The origin and uses of shape memory alloys This talk gives an introduction to smart materials, and then focuses on the smart alloy known as Nitinol; an alloy of nickel and titanium. The origins, extraction and processing of these metals is then described, before looking at its use as part of the Rosetta Space Mission to land a space vehicle on a comet. This talk is suitable for GCSE and AS/A-level Geology and Science groups. Toby White
The Environmental Impact of Mining This considers the various impacts that mineral extraction can have on the environment. This includes underground and surface mining, and considers impacts on the human and natural environment. The planning system is briefly described, together with monitoring and mitigation which may be required. This talk is suitable for AS/A-level Environmental Science or Studies. Toby White

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