Talks for schools

Unless stated otherwise, the target audience for all talks is AS- (year 12) and A-level (year 13) science students, and the length is approximately 50 minutes.

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

To book talks, please contact us: geology@le.ac.uk.

Careers in geoscience

Lecturer: Professor Gawen Jenkin

This talk 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/AS-level students who are making choices about which subject to apply for at university and who may be considering a geology degree. It can also be appropriate for year 11 students in the process of making AS-level choices.


Earthquakes

Lecturer: Professor Richard England

How we record them; how they travel through the earth and the associated hazards - complete with sound effects.


Earthquakes and people

Lecturer: Professor Mike Lovell

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 and AS/A-level students.


Exceptionally preserved fossils: windows on the evolution of life

Lecturer: Professor David Siveter

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.


Oceans on Earth and other planets

Lecturer: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

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. We now know that other planets and moons also 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.


Finding gold

Lecturer: Professor Gawen Jenkin

Finding gold - from the Solomon Islands to Scotland. Gold is mostly useless in practical terms - ­around 90% of it is 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 "frontier" areas with little or no previously known mineralisation.

The Solomon Islands fall within the southwest 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 ¬≠- Scotland's 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 AS/A-level students with some knowledge of geology, or an amateur audience.


Future climates: clues from the geological past

Lecturer: Professor Mark Williams

This talk focuses on the record of climate change in the recent geological past and the implications of current climate change in that context.


A brief history of asbestos

Lecturer: Dr Dan Smith

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 GCSE and AS/A-level students.


How to build an ore deposit

Lecturer: Professor Gawen Jenkin

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 AS/A-level students with some knowledge of geology.


In search of the Earth's treasures

Lecturer: Dr Dave Holwell

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.


Inside the Earth

Lecturer: Dr Andrew Miles

Earth sciences are about understanding how the Earth works - something we need to know, because events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and changes in sea level or climate are starting to have an impact on our densely-populated world. At the same time, however, these phenomena (which to us are disasters) are a natural part of the way the Earth works. We can use them to 'see' deep inside the Earth, to understand how the planet is put together and how it changes with time.

In this lecture, we ask the question 'what is inside the Earth?' Finding the answer provides a good illustration of the detective work that is typical of investigations in earth sciences. 

Suitable for GCSE and AS/A-level students.


Prehistoric weather

Lecturer: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

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 climates.


Mythology and geology: Volcanic hazards, ore deposits and geothermal power in the Solomon Islands

Lecturer: Dr Dan Smith

The Solomon Islands is a geologically active country in the southwest Pacific. Written history of events, including tsunami and volcanic eruptions, only extends 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 AS/A-level students with an interest in geology.


Seismic tomography - what is it, and what can we see?

Lecturer: Dr Stewart Fishwick

This 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.


Shale gas: an unconventional (and controversial) source of natural gas

Lecturer: Professor Mike Lovell

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/A-level students.


The great dying: The end-Permian mass extinction and its links to the Siberian traps

Lecturer: Professor Andy Saunders

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.


The Guinness book of mineral deposits

Lecturer: Professor Gawen Jenkin

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 AS/A-level students with some knowledge of geology.


The micro-fossil world

Lecturer: Professor David Siveter

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.


The new world of the Anthropocene

Lecturer: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

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.


The story of a pebble

Lecturer: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

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.


Triggers for mass extinctions: meteorites, volcanoes or people?

Lecturer: Professor Andy Saunders

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.


Unravelling the sedimentary record

Lecturer: Professor Sarah Davies

This talk will demonstrate how geologists use the sedimentary record to reconstruct ancient depositional environments. Sedimentary rocks hold clues about 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.


What is geoscience?/How many ways can the Earth kill you?

Lecturer: Professor Gawen Jenkin

The first part of the talk is a general introduction to the geosciences, exploring the breadth and excitement of this subject, and offering 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 is approximately 50 minutes, but the second section can be done in a separate longer session with a break in between - giving 40 plus 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.


When volcanoes explode: what Mount St Helens taught us

Lecturer: Professor Mike Branney

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 1980s US eruption.


Rotten fish and the fossil record

Lecturer: Professor Mark Purnell

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 fossilised?

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.


Supervolcanoes

Lecturer: Dr Andrew Miles

The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland cost the airline industry over £1 billion, with nearly 50% of all European flights cancelled over an 8-day period. This eruption affected about 10 million people. However, this eruption was a mere puff of hot air compared to some of the volcanic eruptions that have occurred throughout Earth's history.

In this lecture, we look at how volcanic eruptions have influenced human history, our artwork and even our evolution, and we will delve deep under the Pacific Ocean to look for evidence of what was perhaps the largest of all Earth's volcanic outpourings.

Suitable for GCSE and AS/A-level students.


Mining methods and hazards

Lecturer: Toby White

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 and AS/A-level geology groups, particularly those studying for WJEC board exams.


UK mineral resources

Lecturer: Toby White

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 and copper, whose origins are also briefly explained.

This talk is suitable for GCSE and AS/A-level geology groups, particularly for OCR board A-level.


Oil and gas exploration and extraction

Lecturer: Toby White

This contains a basic introduction to the formation of an oil/gas resources (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 and AS/A-level geology groups.


The future of coal

Lecturer: Toby White

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.


St Aidan's open cast coal site: a case study of a major slope failure

Lecturer: Toby White

This detailed case study describes the method of extraction used in open cast 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 and AS/A-level geology groups, particularly those studying for WJEC board exams.


From rocks to rockets: the origin and uses of shape memory alloys

Lecturer: Toby White

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 Nitinol's 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.


The environmental impact of mining

Lecturer: Toby White

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 students.