Synopses of Talks through the 2019 - 20 Winter Season

Wednesday 2nd October

Wind turbines and woolly mammoths: the past, present, and future, of Dogger Bank

Kieran Blacker (University of Leicester)

In the vast Venn diagram of applied geoscience, there is the sub-discipline of offshore site-investigation and foundation design. Whether the task at hand is siting a drilling rig or platform, or placing large permanent structures such as the foundations for wind turbines, the first step is an adequate site investigation. In the first half of this talk, we will find out how to pick the right location to site a wind turbine, using data from the Dogger Bank located in the Central North Sea. What are the geological conditions at the seabed and in the sediments below? Are there any shallow hazards, such as gas pockets or a risk of slope failure? There may even be an archaeological discovery, unexploded ordinance, or woolly mammoth remains!
The second half of the talk will demonstrate how geoscientists can use this dataset to uncover the vast buried landscape of Doggerland. We will learn how the physical properties of the seabed and subsurface tell a fascinating story of a dynamic, constantly evolving landscape carved and shaped by multiple large-scale glaciations. Some of your ancestors may have even lived, hunted and died on Doggerland, a place which has been referred to as the Mesolithic’s “prime European real-estate” (National Geographic, 2012). From 100,000 years ago to the present, we’ll journey from frozen tundra to the drowning of this prehistoric landscape.

Wednesday 16th October

Fissures along faults: formation, fill, and importance

Dr Nigel Woodcock (University of Cambridge)

A persistent popular fear in seismically-active areas is that fissures will open up along earthquake faults and will swallow people. This fear is not irrational, because surface fissures certainly form along the right sorts of faults. But how wide and deep are these fissures and do they also develop at depth along faults? If so, can they be recognised, either on active faults, or in the geological record?
This talk will examine some UK evidence for ancient open fault fissures. These examples are all hosted in Carboniferous limestone, but from three different areas: the Gower and Pembroke peninsulas in South Wales, and along the Dent Fault in Cumbria. We will look at how open fissures – essentially fault-controlled caves – form and fill up through time with breccia, finer sediment, or vein growth. We will also find that fault fissures are more than just a local curiosity but are potentially important in controlling fluid flow through the upper crust

Wednesday 30th October

Skinning the pterosaur

Dr Dave Unwin (University of Leicester)

Pterosaurs were the most diverse, widespread and ecologically important group of vertebrate fliers throughout the Mesozoic. Despite more than two centuries of research many key aspects of their biology remain uncertain. We can, however, be confident that the pterosaur integument played critical roles in flight, physiology (e.g. control of temperature, water loss) and protection from the external environment (physical injury, diseases). It is also likely that it was involved in display and cryptic colouration. Consequently, a detailed understanding the structure and function of the skin could provide fresh insights into pterosaur biology. This talk will present, for the first time, a new model for the pterosaur integument, founded on a suite of fossils from South America, Europe, Middle Asia and China in which remains of the skin are exceptionally well preserved. Pterosaurs did not have hair (or feathers) as currently supposed and took advantage of a unique and highly versatile structural system based on collagen fibre bundles that supported a range of integumentary structures including wing membranes, cranial crests, tail flaps and foot webs.

Wednesday 13th November

Low permeability rocks, and their use as barriers to flow in the subsurface

Dr Katherine Daniels (British Geological Survey, Keyworth)

Wednesday 27th November

Carrara marble - the world's finest decorative stone

Dr Mark Barron (British Geological Survey, Keyworth)

Marble is an exceptional material, and I talk about its formation, distribution, abundance and varieties including British marble, its extraordinary properties and its diverse usage. Carrara marble is pre-eminent, and its story has enduring fascination - commencing in a now-vanished ocean occluded by continental collision and orogenesis, moving on to over 2000 years of history including extraordinary human endeavour, fascinating engineering, megalomaniac popes, heaps of money, and culminating in nudity, albeit as some of the world's greatest art made from its finest natural material.