School of Geography, Geology and the Environment

Events archive


61st Annual Bennett Lecture - The NASA Psyche mission: Journey to a Metallic World - 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

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.


Annual Geography Lecture - Hot-water drilling on Rutford Ice Sheet, West Antarctica - Professor Tavi Murray, University of Swansea

  • Wednesday 15 January 2020, 5.30pm, LT1, Bennett Building (Geography)

Fast flowing ice streams and outlet glaciers are the volume regulators for the polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Thus, the flow speed of ice streams is one of the key controls on the ice sheet’s contribution to sea-level rise. The fast flow of ice steams is controlled and facilitated at their base, making it important to understand processes and conditions beneath them. The Rutford Ice Stream is a fast-flowing glacier that drains ice from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the Ronne Ice Shelf. In austral summer 2004-5 with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey we attempted to drill over 2 km through the ice stream to the bed. Unfortunately, the drill hose broke and we were forced to concentrate on surface experiments. We used data from a network of GPS receivers to show the flow of ice streams varies: near the grounding line the flow is modulated accelerating and decelerating at various tidal frequencies. Seismic reflection data were acquired and comparison between surveys in different years shows an period of rapid subglacial erosion (6 m in 6 years). This erosion was followed the deposition of a new drumlin, at the ice stream bed. The drumlin is 10 m high and 100m wide and formed in a period of no more than 7 years. Then in January this year, 2019, we returned to Rutford Ice Stream with a new hot-water drill and for the first time we successfully drilled three holes to the bed. We used these boreholes to undertake experiments at the bed, and to install instrumentation, as well as retrieving the first samples of basal sediments. I will report on both drilling attempts and report on the first scientific results interpreting results from this year’s successful boreholes.


professor christopher jackson with nyiragongo (volcano) behind

60th Annual Bennett Lecture - Expedition Volcano! - Professor Christopher A-L Jackson, Professor of Basin Analysis at Imperial College London

  • Tuesday 12 February 2019, 6.00pm, LT1, Bennett Building

In June 2017, 15 scientists and BBC film crew travelled to Nyiragongo, one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and home to the largest permanent lava lake on Earth. Posing a permanent threat to the city of Goma, a settlement with >1,000,000 people, Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, and has been intermittently active ever since. In this talk we will explore the geological setting of this lethal yet mysterious volcano, which is situated within the East Africa Rift, the giant geological fracture responsible for the splitting apart of Africa. This lecture will show footage and photography taken from the volcano summit and deep within the crater, next to the 700 m wide, 600 m deep lava lake, showcasing the volcanoes structure, and the unusual chemistry and physical properties of its lava. Transmitted on BBC2 in October 2017, Expedition Volcano discussed much, much more about the geology and study of this fascinating yet devastating natural wonder, the threat it poses to the nearby populous, and the great wealth and conflict it has brought to this turbulent region.


Annual Geography Lecture - Beyond Coloniality: Geography and the Study of Africa - Professor Patricia Daley, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

  • Wednesday 5 December 2018

59th Annual Bennett Lecture - The role of earth science in disaster risk reduction and development - Dr Susan Loughlin, Head of Volcanology, British Geological Survey, Edinburgh

  • Monday 26 February 2018


58th Annual Bennet Lecture - Plate tectonics in action: Earthquakes, tsunamis and the geology of Japan - Professor Simon Wallis, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Nagoya University, Japan

  • Monday 13 March 2017


57th Annual Bennett Lecture - The Sixth Element - Andy Saunders, Emeritus Professor, Department of Geology, University of Leicester

  • Monday 7 March 2016


56th Annual Bennett Lecture - Methane through time: is this the gas that fine-tuned the planet? - Professor Euan G. Nisbet, Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London

  • Monday 16 March 2015


55th Annual Bennett Lecture - Life, death and resurrection in the late Palaeozoic - Professor Jenny Clack FRS Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

  • Monday 17 March 2014

Annual Geography Lecture - Geography 90th Anniversary - The Politics of Performing Diverse Economies - Professor Katherine Gibson, University of Western Sydney, Australia

  • Wednesday 12 March 2014


54th Annual Bennett Lecture - Variations in solar activity and 20th century climate - Vincent Courtillot Professor of Geophysics, University Denis Diderot, Director of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris

  • Monday 4 March 2013


53rd Annual Bennett Lecture - Revolutions that made the Earth - Professor Tim Lenton, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

  • Monday 5 March 2012


Geography Annual Lecture - Ecosystem Assessment: Evaluating Human-Environmental Relationships - Professor Richard Aspinall, The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute Building

  • Wednesday 18 May 2011

52nd Annual Bennett Lecture - Large-scale Hydrothermal Circulation Through Most of the Seafloor - Andrew T. Fisher, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz - College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

  • Monday 21st March 2011


Annual Geography Lecture - Emergence of the “C4 world” in Africa: Patterns of adoption and adaptation by African fauna and early hominins - Professor Julia Lee-Thorp, University of Bradford

  • Thursday 4 March 2010

51st Annual Bennett Lecture - Climate Change Lessons from a Warm World: A history of Pliocene climate research and the United States Geological Survey PRISM paleoclimate project - Dr Harry J. Dowsett, Leader of the PRISM paleoclimate project at the USGS

  • Monday 1 March 2010


Annual Geography Lecture - Spatial surveillance - Professor Stewart Fotheringham, National Centre for Geocomputation, National University of Ireland

  • Thursday 5 March 2009

50th Annual Bennett Lecture - Anatomy and growth of a mountain belt: A look at the Alps from the Earth’s surface down to the mantle - Dr Stefan Schmid, University of Basel

  •  Monday 23 March 2009


Annual Lecture in Geography: University 50th Anniversary - US foreign aid policy: neoliberal geopolitics and development - Professor Sue Roberts - Department of Geography, University of Kentucky

  • Thursday 6 March 2008

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