School of Geography, Geology and the Environment

Annual lectures

Within the School we host annual lectures in Geography and Geology, given by distinguished speakers in their field of research. These lectures are open to all.

Bennett (Geology) Lecture

The Bennett Lecture is named after Dr F W Bennett, a local practitioner and man of standing and influence in the city of Leicester. Dr Bennett was also a keen amateur geologist, and his generosity to the University is recognised both in the naming of the Bennett Building and in this annual lecture. 

The Bennett Lecture is a prestigious annual public event, given by a distinguished earth scientist on a topic of their choice. It should be of broad interest and should particularly enthuse and inspire tomorrow's scientists in studying the natural world. 

The audience normally includes current staff and students, as well as members of the public. 

Former Bennett lecturers have included Ron (now Lord) Oxburgh, Professor Dan McKenzie, Stephen Jay Gould, Sir Crispin Tickell, Professor Michael Russell, Professor Dr Schmid, Dr Harry Dowsett, Professor Andrew T Fisher, Professor Jenny Clack, Professor Tim Lenton, Professor Simon Wallis, and Dr Sue Loughlin.

The NASA Psyche mission: Journey to a Metallic World

A new date for our annual Bennett Lecture has been announced.

Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton
Principal Investigator
School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Thursday 18 November 2021
6.00pm GMT
Online via Zoom
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite
(A link to access the lecture will be circulated by email closer to the event)

When our solar system was just an infant, thousands of planetesimals formed in fewer than one million years. Heat from the decay of the short-lived radioactive 26Al melted many planetesimals, allowing metal cores to differentiate from rocky mantles.

Over the next few tens of millions of years, many planetesimals crossed paths catastrophically. Colliding worlds merged into even larger planets, eventually forming a small number of planetary embryos. Models show that some destructive “hit and run” impacts strip the silicate mantle from differentiated bodies. This is the leading hypothesis for the formation of asteroid (16) Psyche’s formation: it is a bare planetesimal core.
In 15 months, the NASA Psyche mission will launch and begin humankinds’s first exploration of a metallic world. In this talk Professor Elkins-Tanton will introduce what is known and what is hypothesized about Psyche, how the team have planned a mission to an unknown object, where they are in the building of the spacecraft, and what we will measure and discover while our robotic spacecraft is orbiting the asteroid.


Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the lead of the NASA Psyche mission, ASU Vice President and Co-chair of the Interplanetary Initiative, and co-founder of Beagle Learning, a tech company training and measuring collaborative problem-solving and critical thinking. Her research concerns terrestrial planetary evolution, and she promotes and practices inquiry and exploration learning. Elkins-Tanton received her academic degrees from MIT. She worked at Brown University, MIT, and the Carnegie Institution for Science before moving to Arizona State University. In 2018 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton is named for her. 

Geography Lecture

‘Touch and Go’: Climate Futures and the Deep History of Childcare - POSTPONED

The next scheduled Geography Annual Lecture has been postponed. We hope to rearrange this for a future date.

Professor Nigel Clark
Chair of Social Sustainability, Lancaster University


Young activists are at the forefront of a climate politics that challenges us to think anew about the energy we use and what we use it for. In the bigger picture, this raises issues about how different generations relate to each other in the context of a planet that is going through rapid and profound changes. To approach this question, I set out from a project I’m involved in that looks at how people carry their small children. From there we turn to the long, deep, history of human childcare. I am interested in the argument made by evolutionary anthropologists that human infants have evolved to attract attention and seek care not just from their mothers or fathers but from multiple potential caregivers. From a geographical and geological perspective,

I’m equally curious about the way that early human co-operative childcare seems to have emerged in the context of ongoing climatic instability – amidst the rugged but fertile landscapes of the East African Rift Valley. Picture a human or ‘hominin’ infant, a million years ago, strapped to its caregiver’s back, learning to read signals in the faces and gestures of others. But also imagine this child being carried through a complex, changeable 3-D landscape, replete with plants, animals, rivers, cliffs, fires, and volcanoes. How does thinking about the evolution of human love, care and curiosity in such a world cast light on the current climate crisis, I ask, and how might it help us dream up ways of living on a damaged planet that go beyond simply surviving at all costs?

Back to top