Why Study Earth Science?

Why Study Earth Science?

Samantha, Sara & Carly, Level 2, 2006-2007

Employment Opportunities:

For us employment prospects were important in our choice of degree. Earth Science has a high employment rate after graduation as well as a great number of travelling opportunities with regards to fieldwork. A selection of careers where Earth Scientists are in high demand include:

  • Petroleum Industry (oil, gas)
  • Mining Industry
  • Environmental Consulting companies
  • Geo-technical companies
  • Mapping/geological surveys
  • Engineering

Broad scientific background:

From major global processes such as plate tectonics down to the microscopic scale crystal structures, Earth Science covers a vast range of subjects making it appealing to someone who has a wide interest in science and who may be initially unsure of what aspect to study. Level 1 and 2 build up a broad scientific background of theory, providing a solid core of knowledge for specialising in areas in third and fourth year.

Modern subject:

Earth Science is an up to date science constantly developing and thus progressing. Today, Earth Science is at the forefront of solving issues such as climate change, the decline in fossil fuels and also the use of renewable energy.

Practical Applications:

Have you ever thought, “When will I ever need to know this?”  Well in Level 2 particularly, you find the answer. For example you may wonder why you learn about micro-organisms such as foraminifera in such great detail. However recognising the differences in shell composition informs us of past climates and the depth of colour in such organisms can be used in petroleum exploration. It is this depth of useful detail which is sought after in the workplace.


Many of the skills acquired in Level 1 and 2 are a fundamental necessity of an Earth Scientist all of which are unique within the Earth Science degree. Hence, the ability to not only see but also think in three dimensions, a skill gained in the Mapping laboratories, is one which is highly sought after by potential employers. Also, the key communication skills developed through teamwork in both labs and field trips are also invaluable to a potential employer. Fieldtrips not only develop ‘team-bonding’ but develop crucial skills which will prove useful throughout your earth science career. Namely; observation, field measurements, the ability to take neat, accurate notes and sketches, not to mention the all important safety aspects. Scientific report writing, independent research, and presentation skills are also developed on these trips – skills that will remain with you throughout your university career and beyond.

Practical Science Subject:

Labs are an essential aspect to all Science subjects, with Earth Science being no exception. These labs combine all the knowledge gained from lectures to provide the student with a deeper, fuller understanding of the subject. Although background reading is strongly advised, it is not as extensive as in other subjects. However, reading is still necessary to broaden ones knowledge and develop essential skills.

Level 1 Earth Science

Level 1 Earth Science

Samantha, Sara & Carly, Level 1, 2005-2006

Reflection on Level 1 Earth Science:

During my school days (and I am pretty certain I am not alone), most subjects appear as a chore; a burden. However, on starting university, for me, Earth Science was different to anything I had ever come across. Instead of solely relying on textbooks and word of mouth to understand a given subject area, Earth Science provides the student with a hands on approach – producing real life examples (whether it be out in the field or in the lab) whenever possible.

To be honest, choosing Earth Science was not particularly high on my agenda when starting university. I mistakenly believed it was the sole study of rocks and thus doubted my commitment. However, after attending the annual open day my view was very different. Despite rocks playing a major role through-out the course, many more surprises await to be uncovered, namely the study of life in outer space, the origin of life, seismology and coastal features such as coral reefs and sand dunes. Thus, providing a vast range of subject areas to ensure the highest levels of interest are maintained.

Throughout my first year and even into second (like many things in life) new topics were difficult to grasp at first: Just where exactly does basalt come from and what on earth is cyanobacteria? – were just a few questions which helped raise an eyebrow. However, the dedicated, enthusiastic staff linked to the regular attendance at weekly labs and completion of weekly online quizzes ensured all queries were ironed out – resulting in nothing but the deepest of understandings – well as close as a muddled headed student could hope for!

Thus, by the end of first year, the decision to carry Earth Science on to a higher level was an easy one to make. I have never come across a department so eager and willing to help – making the ‘joys’ of studying rocks a great deal more fun!

Start of a Journey

Start of a Journey

(Article reprinted from Earth Science Ireland, 2, 2007, by permission of Dr Tony Bazely).

My name is Stephen Fullerton and I started to study Earth Science at the University of Glasgow in September 2006.  This is the story of my first year or, I should add, the serious bits!

In my very first lecture we were told the layout of the course and given our timetable for the year.  Each week we had three on-hour long lectures and one three-hour laboratory session.  The course was split into two modules, 1X and 1Y.

University of Glasgow - main building

Major Earth Processes (Earth Science 1X)

In module 1X we learned about the major earth processes such as the mechanisms of plate tectonics, earthquakes and how they happen, and volcanic eruptions and their causes.  Another big part was looking at different minerals and how they form in rocks.  It was fun to start with but after spending 4 months looking at thin sections of rocks I was nearly ready to throw myself out of the laboratory window.

Like most young people I like the spectacular, such as things that go flash bang.  So learning about plate tectonics and how it causes volcanoes and earthquakes - which was the primary reason I selected the subject - was an absolute joy!  I couldn't get enough of this side of the course. 

We also had lectures on structural geology and on rock formation in this module.  The structural geology was sometimes quite hard to get your head around but once I got to grips with the basics the rest seemed to fall into line.  I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed the part of the course where we learned about the formation of the different types of rock.

A small part of Earth Science 1X, at the end, was on economic and applied geology.  The latter was mainly about coal, oil and gas.  I found the economic geology interesting for a while, but grew tired of it.  At this stage I would rather learn about basic geology and leave its economics until later.  On the whole I found the module very enjoyable and in my opinion the best of the two modules in this first year.

Life on Earth (Earth Science 1Y)

Earth Science 1Y started with after the January exams and continued until April.  It kept us just as busy as the first module. There were lectures on life on Earth now, in the future and in the past.  It was linked with continental rifting, evidence from fossils, Ice Ages through geological time, deltaic and coastal processes and deposits, terrane accretion and event stratigraphy.  As you can see the course was fairly packed!

My favourite lectures? Those on terrane accretion and Ice Ages but the best talk of all was on continental rifting.  I also enjoyed a very interesting lecture on graptolite fossils during which the lecturer placed a pointed cone on his head and attached yoghurt cartons to his arms to represent the nema and theca. Although this may sound a bit silly it was very effective and an image that has stuck with me.  It certainly helped me during exams and essays. 

The laboratory sessions in Earth Science 1Y consisted of learning how to interpret and draw geological maps as well as studying fossils and the processes of fossilisation.  Although the module was demanding, I also found it enjoyable.

Field trips

There were just two field trips during the year. The first was to Aurthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags sill, probably the most well known ancient volcanic relict in Scotland.  At the sat time we visited the exhibition centre called 'Our Dynamic Earth'. The dsecond trip was to the shore along the Firth of Forth.  The rocks along the shore, into which the volcanic rocks have been injected, are sedimentary and show what the area was like when they formed.  Swamps, and sluggish rivers, as well as other environments typical of tropical lowlands close to sea-level were demonstrated.  Seeing rocks in the field and expecially the exhibition brought to like some of the things we had learned this year.


The examination side of the Earth Science course consisted of two written exams, two practical exams, and two essays.  Not to forget the quiz based on each weeks lectures.  The weekly quiz was fun as well as a great help to learning and is done on Moodle (the university's online learning resource - a virtual learning environment).  The exams were stressful and quite difficult - but I guess they needed to be.  After the year was finished I was happy to find out that I had been given a B grade in both modules.  I have really enjoyed my first year and it has made we want to go on to study Earth Science to degree level.

I now cannot wait to get back for my second year - for the fun as much as the work!

Stephen Fullerton

Level 2 Earth Science

Level 2 Earth Science

Current undergraduates provide some thoughts on Level 2 Earth Science:-


Unlike many other subjects, Earth Science combines a vast range of science subjects.  Geology, Geography, Meteorology, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, all which merge together in an attempt to study the earth, its creation, history and evolution. Analysing current physical processes such as plate tectonics, shed light on past processes allowing predictions to be made regarding Earth’s future.

Course Outline

Level 2 consists of two modules per semester amounting to 60 credits out of the 120 you need to take in second year. (This normally means you take one other subject or if you’re in the Arts faculty, you take two). There is a lecture every day (normally at 9am, so unfortunately no lie-ins), as well as three two-hour labs per week. The labs are a great way to interact with everyone in your class not to mention reinforcing the theory learnt in lectures. It is really helpful to see a “real” specimen especially if you don’t quite understand the theory.  In addition, labs also provide the opportunity to communicate with lecturers and lab demonstrators (normally Postgraduate PhD students) whom are always on hand to answer any questions or solve problems.

The four modules are:

  • Solid Earth
  • Palaeobiology
  • Structure, maps and exploration
  • Sedimentology/ Stratigraphy


The years work is assessed by a written theory exam, at the end of each module, combined with course work completed throughout the year. In level two, the course work includes practical lab examinations towards the end of each semester along side a 1500 word fieldtrip report.   

This module reinforces the core knowledge of key fossil and fauna groups, and provides the evidence for the evolution and fossilisation pathway. It is split into two sections, Palaeozoic World and Modern World.

Palaeozoic World
This topic examines the evolution of life from the Cambrian (550Ma) through to the end of the Permian (225Ma). The origins of the animal phyla are discussed, as you learn about the ecology of populations. The module covers the basics of taphonomy - the study of the conditions and processes by which organisms become fossilized. As well as paleoecology - the study of communities, and paleoautoecology - the study of individual organisms or species. The department has fossilised examples of most of the organisms and plants, covered in lectures, which you get to examine during the labs.

Modern World
The Modern World explores the start of the Triassic (225Ma ) to the present date, and introduces you to a whole range of evolutionary faunas of differing scales, from microfossils to dinosaurs! You learn the importance of microfossils and plankton in predicting past climate change and mass extinctions, as well as getting the chance to examine fossils such as Ammonites and Coccoliths in the labs.

The labs for this module are excellent as they give you an opportunity to examine fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old. It is very interesting finding subtle differences in fossils that can enable you to make predictions about the climate of the world at that time and how we can relate this to today’s climate change.

The Latin terminology in this module is quite difficult, many of the terms and names are more than ten letters long and trying to pronounce them never mind spell then can be quite challenging!  

Within this module, the three main aspects covered, include sedimentary rocks, stratigraphy and environmental change.  Thus, through a combination of these subjects it is possible to uncover Earth’s history revealing past environments and hence, climates.
Sedimentary Rocks
Sediment is eroded, transported and deposited by a variety of processes at the earth’s surface. This topic develops an understanding of the variations in mineralogy and texture of the rocks, as well as exploring the past processes that shaped their formation. By looking at sedimentary structures we can deduce past depositional environments. Cycles are shown to exist within the rock record, at varying scales, from daily tidal cycles to 100,000 year climatic cycles. Visual examples in the labs, in addition to computer-aided graphics reinforce the lecture work.
The study of stratigraphy involves the understanding of rock successions in terms of the history of the Earth. It explores the three main aspects of stratigraphy: litho-, chrono- and bio- stratigraphy. An understanding of these concepts provides great importance in terms of understanding the processes which drive marine sedimentation. Case studies are used to good effect to reinforce theories.

Environmental Change
This section creates a profound knowledge of the response of surface processes as a result of environmental change. The drivers of environmental change (namely climate and plate tectonics) are explored examining the effects of both surface and rock uplift. Both glacial and fluvial landscapes are dealt with here, including their influence on both sediment fluxes and run-off.

Pro’s and Cons

The vast amount of diagrams, animations and real-life examples involved within this module maintains your interest. The extensive collection of sedimentary rocks displayed in labs not only provides an engrained image of the structures in question but also allows the student to see different examples of the one structure – providing a deeper understanding.

Each subject has many different branches, which allows for a varied and fast-paced course. However, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy intertwine, so some divisions are repeated.


This module continues to build upon your understanding of geological processes. From microscopic scale geochemistry and isotopes, to global scale plate tectonics, the module covers methods of rock analysis and how this can be tied into the bigger picture.

There are four topics covered in the solid earth module:

  • Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Isotopes
  • Global Tectonics
  • Igneous Petrology
  • Metamorphic Petrology.

Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Isotopes
Throughout this topic structures of minerals are examined on a microscopic scale providing key knowledge of how a mineral is developed. The indicative rock forming minerals in all three main rock types i.e. Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic are studied extensively in both lectures and labs. Isotopes are covered in depth, revealing their importance in dating rocks as well as providing key data in prediciting past climates.

Global Tectonics
No matter what your field of study in both physical geography and earth sciences, the theory of plate tectonics is one which will be repeatedly covered. The topic builds on first year but this time introduces the concept of using seismology and gravity to understand heat flow and other process within the earth.  

Igneous Petrology
This topic covers the physical properties of magmas, their classification, and the differentiation between them i.e. Basic, Intermediate and Silisic. It is a unifying topic, combining the mineralogy of the magmas with the volcanism associated with Global Tectonics. The labs for this part of the module offer a chance to get to grips with igneous rocks in both hand specimens and thin sections.

Metamorphic Petrology
Similar to igneous petrology, this topic builds on first year work covering the fundamental processes that lead to different types of metamorphism. Key index minerals are also introduced in this topic. Like the igneous labs the metamorphic labs also give you the chance to examine hand specimens and thin sections of metamorphic rock reinforcing work covered in the lectures.  

The labs for this section were particularly enjoyable. It is extremely helpful to see the specimens up close. The labs are organised in a way which allows you to work at your own pace. Lab rooms are also accessible out-with specified lab times, allowing you to study the specimens in your own time. Videos and other multimedia are also used to help illustrate how the specimens relate to the bigger picture of global processes.

The science in the geochemistry part of the module is quite complex if you do not have a background in chemistry and so could be off putting to some.  


This module provides an understanding of the relationship between structures found in rocks, the appearance of lithologies and structures in geological maps, as well as the way in which geological exploration takes place.

The topics covered in this module are:

  • Structural Geology
  • Geomorphology
  • Geophysics
  • Remote Sensing
  • Economic Geology
  • Geological Maps.

Structural Geology
Within this topic, basic knowledge from first year is developed covering topics such as how rock deformation can be measured and how deformation differs between rock types. You also look at the geometry of several geological structures and how these are evidence of the process the rock was subjected to in the past.

The main theme within this topic is how the landscape relates to the geological structures below the surface and how varying lithologies react differently to varying surface processes. The topic also explains how geomorphology reacts to plate tectonics, i.e. how a drop in sea level can change a river system.

This topic covers the four main geophysical surveying techniques; seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical, used to explore the shallow subsurface. The basic concept of the key techniques are covered along side their practical uses such as, within the geotechnical industry, oil and mineral exploration and general environmental applications. There are three labs for this part of the course, which are all computer based, simulating real life situations such as finding the best location to build a dam.    

Remote Sensing
Remote Sensing is introduced in level two where basic techniques, such as how to collect data, quantify and interpret data as well as the application of remote sensing are all covered. There are three computer based labs which are integral to understanding the practical applications of remote sensing. Through attending these labs you learn how to use remote sensing in different ways to solve problems such as finding a copper ore under the ground surface.     .  

Economic Geology
The economic geology topic deals with location and exploration of industrial materials of great economic value. Topics such as the quarrying of aggregate, coal formation and open cast mining are all prominent issues within this subject. A great use of diagrams alongside tables and graphs provide the student with great visual aids deepening ones understanding.

Geological Maps

The maps topic is unlike the others in that it is solely taught in a practical sense. There are no lectures for this part of the course but attendance to all labs is essential if one is to understand this topic. These labs develop skills such as map reading, thinking and seeing in 3D as well as identifying features such as coal seams through the use of a map. Throughout the labs you build on the skills gained in first year such as recognising geological structures in real geological maps as well as learning how to draw detailed cross sections. Techniques such as structural contours (which allow you to calculate the depths of rock beds) are developed using small problem maps, which simplify everything, making it easier to understand and appreciate.

Pros and cons
The wide range of topics covered and large segments of practical work make this a favourite module with the students. What you learn in lectures, for this module, is directly related to many possible careers as an Earth Scientist. Students also like how some of the labs are computer based which means you can work through them at your own pace. Many of the topics like structure and mapping help develop skills such as thinking in 3D which is a highly sought after skill for many employers.

The terminology and definitions in the structural part of the course are difficult for many to grasp as a result the one structure lab must be used to its full potential. There is a lot of physics and chemistry involved in this module, particularly in the remote sensing topic that could be quite challenging if you don’t have background knowledge in these subjects. The remote sensing labs use a computer program that’s only on the computers in the department which means attention in the labs is vital, to avoid hasty, panicked revision.  

Sara, Carly, & Samantha, Level 2, 2006-2007

Why Study Geography, Earth or Environmental Science

Why Study Geography, Earth or Environmental Science

Ross Clark (a student in the Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences) was awarded runners up spot in the national competition by GEES for student's to answer the question:-

"Why study Geography, Earth or Environmental Science"

My course of choice – earth science – was never a particularly visible subject when I was at school, perhaps with the exception of a “Careers In Geography!” poster quietly decomposing on a wall. I had to actively seek out my course, email lecturers, and research the subject in depth before making a definite choice. Initiative and learning was required before I ever got near a lecture theatre, as was a strong interest in the natural world, and the processes and systems contained therein. This is perhaps the prime characteristic of our future earth scientists, geographers or environmental scientists: a genuine fascination with the world around them, and the desire to learn more about this fascinating planet on which we live. To me, this interest is a primal one, as it applies to our cradle, the Earth: what could be more relevant, or fundamental than studying her workings?

I always knew that I wanted to study a subject that was more than just theory and lab work, and earth science was the perfect solution to my interests: it allowed me and my classmates to wrap our observations around the backbone of theory, to create a mixture than is both challenging and interesting. That is the great strength of earth science, geography and environmental science: they are instantly applicable to any environment we set foot in. It is one thing to read about a geological formation, and another thing entirely to actually go and see it in place. Nothing in nature resembles the clean, clinical diagrams that you might encounter in a textbook: real life is far more subtle, and far more complex, and I'm well placed to understand this subtlety and complexity. From the bedding planes within the sandstones of a tenement, to the terraces created by solifluction on a mountain side, to the granite flagstone beneath their feet, a student of this unique field of knowledge will be able to apply his or her knowledge at every scale.

Earth science (which I accompanied with courses in geography and environmental science in my first, and into my second year) informs its students on the most controversial topics in contemporary science and society. Climate change, the debate over fossil fuels, renewable energy and so on: the wily budding earth scientist realises that he or she can speak with authority on these subjects, and therefore better inform those around them. And earth science has not just provided me with knowledge, but a method for articulating it, and a unique way of understanding the world around me. Earth science has given me the ability to look at events in the context of 'deep time', i.e. in terms of the Earth's 4.5 billion year history, and also to see that events do not occur in isolation, but are rather fundamentally interconnected with other parts of the Earth system. This context is humbling, and instills a sense of scale, especially when considering humanity's short time on Earth compared to the vast history of life.
Geography too provides a unique perspective, bridging the supposed gaps between society and the environment, and between social science, science and the humanities. My experiences in undergraduate-level geography have shown me the essential role that space and place play in human development and interactions, and how to analyse society, culture and politics from this perspective. Geography is impossible to classify, as it draws on such a wide variety of realms of knowledge, from the hardest of physical sciences to the most profound of philosophies. This admixture gives its student the impressive ability to understand concepts from a wide range of topics, and to integrate them in a manner not seen in other academic fields.

Of course, there is life after university, and earth science and its kin make for highly employable, well-informed graduates. The fields of earth science, geography and environmental science all provide the perfect stepping stones into careers in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, urban planning, cartography, environmental chemistry, geotechnical engineering, renewable energy, mineral extraction, research, teaching, environmental monitoring... The list goes on, and these are just careers specific to these subjects. The generic skills acquired alongside the more specific skills set up the student for any number of other careers, particularly those where versatility and ingenuity are needed. Personally, I would like to pursue a career in resource exploration or research, but earth science provides me with a wealth of other choices, if my inclinations change in the future. This is something the potential student should take note of, as it prevents them from being hemmed into a pre-determined career path. In a harsher economic climate, the diverse skills of earth scientists will set them apart from the crowd, along with the depth and breadth of knowledge they typically display. As an added bonus, the prospect of travelling to wild and wonderful locations at home and abroad is a definite perk of this line of studies, and the careers it can lead to. Travel becomes a new experience with a wider knowledge of the world and its functioning, which lends graduates an environmental awareness that few other subjects could claim to do.

Finally, some parting words of advice for potential students: when getting a feel for the right university, open days are a valuable tool. Such events highlight the individual nature of every department of earth science, geography or environmental science. They also allow you to meet staff and, potentially, your future classmates.

To the prospective student of these subjects, I would say this now: do not study them if you are not willing to challenge yourself, or to go out into the field and get your hands dirty. Do not study them if you are looking for an 'easy pass' or for subjects with minimal class time. And if you are not looking to have fun, then steer well clear!

An Australian exchange student describes her experiences at the University of Glasgow

An Australian exchange student describes her experiences at the University of Glasgow

Going on exchange was on of the best decisions of my life. I chose Glasgow University because of it’s reputation as a University, it’s location for travelling throughout Europe, the Scot’s friendly character, the beautiful highlands and the fact that that they spoke English (although this could be debated as a result of the many times I had to ask people to repeat themselves!).

The University itself offers great support for International students. The staff within my faculty were extremely helpful when it came to sorting out courses as some that were originally offered in semester 1 had been changed to run in semester 2. It is quite easy to change courses once you arrive but be aware that very popular courses may already be full and making up the right amount of credits without going too far under or over can be more difficult than you imagine! I was lucky enough as an exchange student to be given the opportunity to work on a research project whilst I was studying which I enjoyed immensely.

There is also an International Society which organises social events and trips away to various places throughout the highlands, to castles and even across to Belfast.  The two unions at the University were great and held various events as well as offering a wide selection of bars for a wee dram if you felt the need.  Gym membership was amazing value and I believe so cheap due to the prosperous amount of chippies and the Scot’s love for deep fried food…which includes pizza.

I forged friendships with many other people from around the world which contributed greatly to the amazing experience I had in bonnie Scotland.   Glasgow is also not far from the highlands which makes for a nice escape from the city atmosphere for the weekend when not doing weekend trips to the many other easily accessible destinations in Europe.

The semester was quite short consisting of only a few months.  After feeling settled it was time to leave which was very hard, especially since quite a few of my friends were staying on for another semester. The friendships and memories although I hope will stay with me for a long time to come. All in all I had an amazing experience on exchange in Glasgow and would highly recommend it for anyone considering going there.

Junior Year Abroad (JYA), Vancouver - Gail

Junior Year Abroad (JYA), Vancouver - Gail

Sitting on the runway at Glasgow airport, I could barely contain my excitement. I’d heard from countless numbers of people that this year was going to be the best year of my life, one where I would discover a new culture, meet people from all over the world and visit place I never thought imaginable! Vancouver did not disappoint.

My year at University of British Columbia was indeed the best year of my life. First of all, the university environment was completely different to anything I’d experienced before. To begin with I found the atmosphere in lectures quite daunting and the teaching technique bizarre, as students themselves participated in lectures and challenged their professors and in-fact were encouraged to do so. I found this to be quite disruptive but then quickly realised the thinking behind it. By participating in lectures, you were being encouraged to become a much more critical thinker which in turn made for better writing when it came to essay time. Because of this, I definitely feel that I became a much better writer while at UBC. I also found that the department as a whole was top class. A lot of the professors were world-renowned geographers who have been incredibly influential in the discipline and I felt incredibly privileged to take their classes.

But my exchange experience was not all about studying. My year away would not have been the same if it weren’t for all the people I got the chance to share the experience with. I met people from literally all four corners of the world, who I can’t wait to visit when I begin my global gallivanting. My friends I made while away are now my friends for life and we share a special bond that I’m sure will never fade.

A huge part of my JYA experience and initial motivation for going was the prospect of travelling and while in Vancouver I did more than my fare share of exploring. There were many a road-trips discovering British Columbia’s stunning surroundings including Vancouver Island, the Rockies, Whistler and Lake Louise. But the travelling didn’t stop there! I also got the chance to go to New York and California and experience those famous cities we’ve grown so used to seeing in the movies. But wait there’s more…. I was very lucky to get the chance to take part in a field trip with some of the Canadian honours geography students. When first told about the destination of the field trip I thought they were kidding, but was so excited to find out that yes I would be spending two weeks in Japan!! This was an insane experience and one that I’m sure I will never forget. It’s hard to some up in words what Japan is like, but all I will say is that I am definitely going to visit again and I think you should too!!

Now that I am back in Glasgow I find myself daydreaming about my JYA experience on a daily basis. Although you will hear these words coming from nearly every traveller’s mouth, I really did have the best time of my life. At times I missed home and experienced some of the worst lows I’d ever felt but that was nothing in comparison to the amazing highs! On my last day in Vancouver I spent my last few hours sat on the beach looking across to the downtown island of skyscrapers and over to the snow-covered mountains surrounding the city. Where else do you get beach, city and mountain landscapes in one setting. All I could think of was when will I be coming back…..? If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to fill that application form and get yourself on a plane!

Learning to Ski on Mt WhistlerLearning to Ski on Mt Whistler.

Me and my friend Nikita jumping on a beach in San Francisco on the California field courseMe and my friend Nikita jumping on a beach in San Francisco on the California field course.

Singing karaoke in Kyoto, Japan

Jennifer - NZ

Jennifer - NZ

Name Jennifer


Graduated June 2007                          Degree                         Earth Science


Exchange year in New Zealand (during my third year at University).


Present Location:   Scotland, UK


During my third year of my undergraduate degree I was on exchange at the University of Otago in the south island of New Zealand. This was an opportunity that I discovered in my first year but decided to wait till my third year to go. I was away for a full year, studying geology, but I also got a chance to go travelling around Australia during their summer break.

I was lucky in the sense that the courses I was doing matched almost perfectly with what I would have done in third year if I had stayed at Glasgow. It also meant I got to do my summer mapping in New Zealand. The courses (called papers) work slightly differently over there in that second and third years can do the same courses. All the option papers run every second year so care has to be taken to make sure you go on a year where the papers that correspond to the course over here are running.

I found the workload quite tough at first since there was a lot of coursework to hand in (at least one piece every month, normally more), but it became easier to handle as I got more into the swing of things.

The best bit about studying at Otago was all the practical work I got to do. Within a week of being in New Zealand I was away on my first fieldtrip to Stewart Island with my sedimentary class. In the end I probably spent over 40 days in the field, including 10 days of independent mapping, a big fortnight long fieldtrip in the middle of nowhere practicing mapping, the west coast fieldtrip (amazing) and loads of other weekend and daytrips. I also spent a lot of time doing practical work, including core logging, GIS, thin section making and utilising analytical techniques (like XRF for my mapping project).

The hardest bit of the course was Advanced Structure which, because their year runs the other way round from us, I had to do before I did the basic structure course. I also struggled with mapping at first since I hadn’t really had any proper field experience but the fieldtrip to Swinburn in February sorted out any problems I was having and made me confident for carrying out my independent mapping.

Apart from getting to experience a whole new variety of rocks there were other advantages to living in New Zealand. When I arrived in June it was the middle of their winter, right in time for the ski season. Dunedin, where Otago University is situated is only a three hour drive to some of the best ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand is also the adventure sport capital of the world so there is plenty of opportunities to throw yourself off of bridges attached to big elastic bands if that’s what you’re into.

Having a long break between November and February I took the opportunity to go and see some of Australia. It’s only a three hour flight from New Zealand and I think I paid less than $300 for my tickets, which is under £100.

The major expense for the year was flights there and back, since accommodation was really cheap and your tuition fees still get paid to Glasgow (If you’re Scottish SAAS pay them).

Going to New Zealand on exchange gave me a chance to see a part of the world that I had always been interested in and gave me an excuse to stay for an entire year. I met some really great people who I will now be friends with for life and the whole experience just made me even more passionate about geology.

Going on exchange is a really worth while thing to do because not only do you get to experience a part of the world that you may never have been to, and it also looks fantastic on your CV.


The next big challenge for me is completing my PhD which I start in September. I’ll keep you posted.

Climbing steep scree slopes - nothing new there then

Who wouldn't want to study here? Arthur's Pass - Basins fieldtrip

Even sediments can be interesting

You get to visit a lot of tourist spots on fieldtrips

Plenty of oppurtunity for adventure sports in your free time

The University Clock Tower

A three hour flight and you're in Sydney. It can't get much better than that.

Go further North and you can explore the Great Barrier Reef


GU International Office: www.gla.ac.uk/international/internationaloffice

University of Otago : www.otago.ac.nz/international/index.php





JYA- 3rd Year Geography spent at an American University

JYA- 3rd Year Geography spent at an American University

I studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Here they offered a wide range of courses that both aided the study previously done in Glasgow and other completely new courses. I had a fantastic time studying and living in the world’s most powerful country. It gave me an insight into America’s viewpoint as well as having a true experience of the culture.

While studying at UCSB I did a variety of courses; they do a quarter system which means each course last 10weeks and that is it. In the first term I took oceanography, as this is a special course at UCSB having one of the best oceanography departments in the USA. I also took a GIS (geographical informational systems- e.g. Satellite navigation and the creation of it) course and a remote sensing course-which looks at images of the world from above, from aircraft and satellite images- the sort of things that Google earth is based on. I took the GIS course for 2 quarters and completed the 3 quarters series of the remote sensing. Also while I was there I took courses in population geography and one on environmental decision making. The courses are done differently from Glasgow. There are a lot more small pieces of work, more little tests and less pressure on a one off exam. I preferred this way as it meant there was a greater emphasis on learning as you go and so there is no need to do as much revision at the end of the term.

Being an international student I only had to do three courses a quarter- which meant a lot of free time. During the year signed up with the rugby team at UCSB. This gave me a fantastic social network; a number of other international students joined frats (fraternities). Fraternities are houses that groups of guys join as a brotherhood and a social network that extends around the States. A lot of the guys who joined them really enjoyed it. Frats are the houses that are always shown in US films about universities as the party houses. UCSB is a unique university; not only is the campus on the beach, but it is also the ‘smartest party school’ in the States. It is known for its house parties, but also has the high standard of academics that is expected from all the UCs (University of California campuses). Due to this reputation, the students of UCSB want to live up to this, and there are many parties every weekend. With all the parties there is a tremendous social network, and a fantastic opportunity to make friends from all over the States and even the world.

This year was wonderful, every morning waking up and knowing that the day will be sunny; you can go down to the beach, learn to surf, go walking in the mountains or take a visit to the wine regions that California is famous for. These were always options in the spare time I had in Santa Barbara. The quarter system allows lots of time to travel, which I found really amazing, as the USA offers a huge variety of different places to visit. During the year I got the opportunity to travel to LA, walk down Hollywood boulevard, seeing Venice beach and searching for the stars of Baywatch. I went down to San Diego, jumped the border into Mexico for a night. I also visited Las Vegas to try my luck, saw the breathtaking Grand Canyon. Visited Alcatraz, saw the golden gate bridge and drove down the 101. Also internal flights are quite reasonable so I also went to Canada with the rugby team. All these provided great memories from a great year that was spent out of rain and normally in fantastic sunshine.

Studying in California seems different from studying in Glasgow. This opportunity that Glasgow offers is a fantastic one- it is a unique opportunity that allows you to explore another country, experiences and make friends from around the world. Any Geographer should take the opportunity to study abroad, get the experience, the travel and a year of university to really remember.

Richard at Grand Canyon

An African Summer!

An African Summer!

University of Glasgow student Mhairi Cameron spent the summer of 2010 working for a mining company in Sierra Leone, west Africa. During a continuous three month stay at the rutile mine she worked on all aspects of the industry from drilling through to sediment sampling, and from computer analysis through to the processing of the mineral sands. Mhairi also restructured their geology database, and wrote standard operating procedure for the all the company’s geological activities. Rutile (= titanium oxide) is important commercially for products from paint through to sunscreens, and the Sierra Rutile mine is one of the largest producers in the world.
What was so impressive about this placement was not just the wide range of skills and expertise that Mhairi acquired and the very diverse and clearly highly valued work that she carried out for the mine, but also the fact that she integrated so well with the local community, to the extent of learning the local language.

Mhairi said of her experiences:-

"Going to Sierra Leone was certainly one of the best decisions I have made. I was made to feel very welcome and everyone really made it very easy for me to acclimatise to my new home. I embraced the African culture and tried where possible to go out of my comfort zone: eating the local food (cassava, okra soup and fried fish for example); learning the local tribal language; going to some churches and mosques for events taking place there; wearing African dress and visiting areas of the country which boasted the best (and worst) sights of Sierra Leone.

I worked and lived in a very challenging environment: snakes and extreme heat made field work very difficult; power shortages would put work on hold for hours at a time, which would then have to be caught up on and there often wasn’t enough money to replace parts or upgrade equipment and so the engineers really had their work cut out trying to keep everything going. However, I had a room that was dry and mainly kept the snakes out and was given 3 meals a day, so from that point of view I was extremely well looked after! Being one of 3 women in the camp (and the only white woman) was extremely challenging. I found it intimidating and felt quite lonely for the first couple of weeks. However, as my confidence grew in the work I was doing and my industrial relations improved, I began to gain respect as a female in a predominately male industry (that and being able to drink beer), and made a lot of friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed the work that I completed and feel that my main achievement was working on the ore deposit ‘Kopa’. This was my project from sample preparation to ore body delineation using resource modelling software. I was able to provide the company with a universal grade, giving them the means to look into the economic viability of the deposit. My proudest moment was giving a presentation to company board executives and being able to answer their questions confidently. My university degree has really helped prepare me for this kind of placement. I was confident in my knowledge of the subject and also had useful field skills which could be employed both out in the field and also in the laboratory. Seminars helped me give a presentation successfully to the managers of Sierra Rutile, confidently preparing and delivering the seminar as well as answering questions.

I feel I integrated well into the society and found that by making friends with the locals first, I was not so reliant of the expatriates (which would have been the easy option). After a while the locals began to get used to having me around and I was finally called Mhairi (or an African alternative, namely Mariyama or Maria) instead of ‘Po moi’ (white man). I was really sad to leave Africa, but know that I will return. The placement has definitely focused my future career choices, and I am currently looking at starting a career as a mining geologist in Africa.

I would definitely recommend this type of placement. Work experience is extremely valuable, but in a foreign environment, with little resources, you can really show what you are made of. IAESTE have their own website, and can be found at various careers events. I have really been well prepared and encouraged by the University of Glasgow, they have given me the best possible chance of establishing myself as a new graduate in Earth Science."

Real-world work experience is invaluable for our students and much encouraged by the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. Mhairi's placement was part of the IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) programme (http://www.iaeste.org.uk).  She has now returned to Glasgow, and is in her final year of her Earth Science Degree. 


Mhairi at work in Sierra Leone.

A bit different that fieldwork in Scotland!

Analysing sediment.

Field work in Sierra Leone.

Drilling in the mangrove swamps.

A drilling rig and crew.

Mhairi's transport around the mine.

Heavy mineral separation shed.

Making friends.

Supporting the mine's football team.

The coast of Sierra Leone.

One of ten Earth Science students describes his work as part of Project Ligohna in Mozambique during the summer of 2010

One of ten Earth Science students describes his work as part of Project Ligohna in Mozambique during the summer of 2010

(see images below text)

Ten third and fourth year Earth Science students (3 female, 7 male) from the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences travelled to Mozambique in summer 2010 to work as part of Highland African Mining Companies ‘Project Ligohna’ (http://www.noventa.net). This company specialises in mining the rare earth mental Tantalum which is used for capacitors in mobile phones.  The work was carried out by the ten Glasgow students as well as eight students from Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique. The aim of the project was carry out geological mapping and in some cases sampling of nine mining licences the company hold in the Alto Ligonha Pegmatite Provence of northern Mozambique. (http://www.mindat.org/loc-6456.html).  Fieldwork and geological mapping forms a large part of our Earth Science degree, and all of us had previously carried out independent geological mapping projects.

Pegmatites are very coarse-grained, intrusive igneous rocks which essentially have the composition of very coarse grained granites. Pegmatites are important as sources of large crystals of rare minerals,  with individual crystals up to 10m across being recorded. Having little experience of pegmatites before travelling to Mozambique, I was amazed at the size of the crystals we saw, with mica crystals up to 20cm in size being relatively common.

After a long flight to Johannesburg airport followed by flights to Maputo and Nampula, we then had an eight hour bus journey on dirt roads and mostly in the dark. When we woke the next morning in our camp, called ‘Morrua’ (http://www.noventa.net/operations_morrua.html) we could see we were next to a former mine which we later learned had been bombed during the Mozambique civil war. We were literally in the middle of the bush and it was hard to imagine a fully operational mine with a hospital, school etc., from the rubble and ruins that exists today.

The geological mapping exercise, which took up most of the eight week period we were working on the Project, was carried out by traverse line mapping. This involved setting a base line and conducting perpendicular traverse lines, normally at 100m spacing from the baseline. This allowed for good coverage of the area involved.

The main challenges of the work were the vegetation and our lack of Portuguese, which is the national language of Mozambique. The Mozambican students generally had good English so this made life easier – and you soon pick up words such as “Feldspatos”, “Silicatos” and “Quartzo!” To tackle the often dense bush each team (one Glasgow and one Mozambican student) employed a “machete man” who would cut paths through the bush for us and warn us when he saw “crazy beans”, which literally made you go crazy as they were so itchy when touched (and we thought geology mapping in Scotland was bad!).

As well as the mapping work, one of our groups was based at Marropino (http://www.noventa.net/operations_marropino.html) which is the company’s main operational mine. This group supervised the panning of pit samples to produce a concentrate, normally consisting of Tantalite, Iron and Garnet. This was interesting as we had no previous experience of panning and the results that expert ‘panners’ can produce were amazing, with recovery normally around 80%.

All in all, Project Ligohna was a fantastic experience. The opportunity of working in a completely new environment (and new geology), meeting fantastic new people and being part of a ‘real life’ mining operation, will all be of great benefit to us all.

Peter Rourke (Earth Science, 2006-2010)

Everyone involved with Project Ligohna. Photo taken at Morrua.

Everyone involved with Project Ligohna. Photo taken at Morrua.

Quartz core of pegmatite body within the Marropino pit.

Quartz core of pegmatite body within the Marropino pit.

Large kaolinised feldspar crystals in a pit dug by local artisan miners.

Large kaolinised feldspar crystals in a pit dug by local artisan miners.

- Large Magnetite and Biotite crystals within a pegmatite body.

Large Magnetite and Biotite crystals within a pegmatite body.

Local artisan miners known as "garimpeiros" working on a pit in the Mutala area; collapses are common.

Local artisan miners known as "garimpeiros" working on a pit in the Mutala area; collapses are common.

Pit digging and sample taking in the Mutala area.

Pit digging and sample taking in the Mutala area.

Panning pit samples at the Marropino mine.

Panning pit samples at the Marropino mine.

Summer Work Placement, Summer 2007, in between Level 3 and Level 4

Summer Work Placement, Summer 2007, in between Level 3 and Level 4

I have been working for the summer for a geotechnical company as an ASSISTANT GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER, and have been heavily involved in SITE INVESTIGATIONS which require excavation and drilling of land intended for development or construction.  My main duties so far include basic mud and rock core logging (but coming at it from more of an engineering perspective) which is a vital part in understanding the lithologies and fractured/weathered state of the rocks and sediments.  This can be done briefly in the field during drilling and more thoroughly in the office.  I am not involved in the drilling process itself, but one of my main tasks is to instruct the drillers where to drill and where to locate trial pits.

Another of my tasks is monitoring the gas levels in boreholes to be aware of any high levels of methane or carbon dioxide in particular. Many clients request that the groundwater is examined and this requires samples to be taken from various boreholes,  which can be a long job as lots of standing water needs to pumped out before any samples can be taken.  This can often be combined with testing groundwater levels and flow rates, which is important during building processes where groundwater may flood the building area during excavation. 

As I'm a new employee, these tasks are all part of contracts which more senior employees control and manage but, in time, I will be in charge of entire contracts and so be involved in writing the report - including desk studies when neccessary.  Included in the work package is a company vehicle and a company mobile phone.

I value this experience not just because it provides a salary, but also because it will help me decide if I want to work in this field once I have graduated.

Some pictures from a drilling site:-


A 2008 Earth Science graduate, taking a Petroleum Geoscience MSc - has extensive work placement experience

A 2008 Earth Science graduate, taking a Petroleum Geoscience MSc - has extensive work placement experience

During my summer vacation before beginning my junior honours I was lucky enough to be selected to attend the British Geological Survey student summer placement, in the south of England. This long running field programme served as an excellent introduction to a geological world outside of a university and an all round great way to spend the summer. Again the following summer I was lucky enough to return to this position and build my technical knowledge base, with my furthered understanding of Earth Science I had developed during my 3rd year at Glasgow.

After the completion of my Bsc I was again offered a fantastic opportunity to spend a summer internship working this time with a major international oil company. Here I received a broad exposure to the industry in general including both technical and commercial issues, and this summer culminated with a trip offshore to visit an exploration rig drilling in the North Sea. Following on from this I began a postgraduate degree at Imperial College London to study for an MSc in Petroleum Geoscience, and was lucky enough to be awarded a full UK government scholarship to cover all cost of the course and a living allowance for this. The course has prepared me excellently for a career in the energy industry and offered many new opportunities and challenges, like next week we are off to Utah for a few week to interrogate to local landscape. I can safely say that a degree In the Earth Sciences from Glasgow will act as a very effective spring board for any bright young persons, rewarding them with a wealth of opportunity and anything other than a dull time at University!”

David in Australia 2011

David in Australia 2011

Over the summer i was employed as a field technician for Xstrata Copper Exploration in Mount Isa North Queensland. This was brillaint experience for me as I was out in the field seeing geology first hand and not just reading about it. Its one thing sitting in a lab with a hand sample, its something completely different to take a geo pick to a rock - chip off a clean face and see the mineralisation for yourself. When i finish university I want to be a geologist, and being a field technician while i'm at uni is a great way to start my career, get contacts and really to get my foot in the door.

During my 3 month employment I helped in mapping new prospects, taking soil samples, rock chip samples, recording outcrops and helping out a geophysical survey team. As i was working for an exploration company i spent my whole time out in the bush. Wide open spaces, high 30's temperature the whole time.......it really was amazing.


I wont lie, it was a lot of hard work - dont just go because you want a sun tan. Its 10 hour shifts on a 19 day roster (19 straight days of work with a 9 day break) nothing but manual labour. Certain jobs push you to the edge. In one roster i was part of a team laying cable through the bush. Each cable was 500 metres long and an inch thick. Even with 5 of us spaced 100m apart this was exhausting work, hauling it through scrub and up and down hills - i consider myself quite fit but i was wheezing and had blurry eyes by the end of it.

I'd recommend this to everybody, dont think i'm a special case - i just applied off my own back, this wasnt a placement, and i'm only going into 2nd year now......dont waste your summer, think ahead, university is a stepping stone to the rest of your life. You'll need something to give you a leg up - something to make you stand out from the crowd.

The worlds a big place - good luck!



Ardnamurchan is a week-long excursion during the Easter vacation for Level 3 Earth Science students.

Ardnamurchan is a week-long excursion during the Easter vacation for Level 3 Earth Science students.

The following tweets were sent by students directly from the field to Twitter to give you an idea of what doing fieldwork involves.  Some images have been added, along with a little bit of explanation to explain the geological context.

DAY 1-1 first day in the field... its raining but waterproofed to the max - KC

DAY 1-2 just back from our first day in the field! Saw lots of contact relationships between rocks. my mapping and interpretation skills much better! - KC

Ardnamurchan - the area mapped by the students (photographed on this field excursion).

DAY 2-1 2nd day in the field... mapping a mountain! very close contours :S - KC

DAY 2-2 Just found out about this so you can follow the adventure there! - TQ

DAY 2-3 just fell down a mountain nearly into the river, apparently it was funny! - KC

Day 2-4 in afternoon left in little groups, good to use own interpretation skills - KC

Day 2-5 Tiring day. Hugh says hi to everyone. Weather was grand. On and off hail - TQ

Day 2-6 turns out everything we decided by ourselves was right....GO US woop woop - KC

View of the field area on Ardnamurchan taken by students during this excursion.  Rock exposures, of the type being studies by students in small groups, are visible dotted around the landscape.

DAY 3 - 1 is not looking good. Wet and wild! Rocks look better in the rain though. Having our own 10-hour cheesy (TQ)

[Learning how to work in variable weather conditions is an important part of fieldwork training, and this experience will equip our graduates with the skills to allow them to work productively in all but the most severe weather conditions. Tomʼs comment that rocks look better in the wet suggests that he has the right attitude and is coping well with the conditions! As mentioned on day 1, having the right clothes and equipment is critical.]

Images taken on this field excursion - rain then sunshine, then a bit of hail for variety!

DAY 3 - 2  handy field hint number 1 bring a flask for hot beverages (KC)

DAY 3 - 3  just found rock exposure, decided its psammite not pelite as its quartz rich rather than mica rich. (KC)

[psammite is a useful field term to describe metamorphosed sandstone (or arenite) which is usually quartz-rich; pelite is the equivalent term applied to metamorphosed shales which are often rich in micas]

DAY 3 - 4 boggy ground and a change in vegetation also lava flows 50m lower than should be, possible fault? will investigate  (KC)

[Katie is mapping the rocks on the side of the mountain, and has found that some outcrops of lava are 50m lower than expected, suggesting that there might be a fault - we know that vegetation and drainage do change to reflect the underlying rock, and here she has noticed boggy ground and a change in vegetation which may help her to map out rocks which are only seen at the surface if a very few places]

DAY 3 - 5 used springs to locate boundary between sandstone sequence and lava flows and could see faults by a change in spring height (KC)

[Further investigation reveals that there is indeed a number of faults displacing the lava.  Although they cannot be seen at the surface, their presence can be inferred from the location of a number of springs along the side of the mountain.  The sandstone rocks are porous and contain lots of percolating water, but the lavas are not porous so there will be a line of springs marking the location of the impermeable lavas.  So although the rocks cannot be seen at the surface, the location of springs indicates the top of the lava, and show that this horizon has been displaced by a number of faults].

DAY 4 - 1 (9.16am) Sun is shining, weather is sweet in Ardnamurchan (TQ)

DAY 4 - 2 Oh my legs! Running back yesterday was a bad plan. So much mapping, so little time! (TQ)

DAY 4 - 3 sunny weather, going back over yesterdays area with Brian to check what we did and find out about the possible uncomformity between psammites (KC)

[Katie is checking back over mapped ground with a member of staff, and is looking for evidence that there may be an unconformity between two different psammites - this might have been suggested by differences in the strike and dip of psammites mapped in different parts of the mountain, something that would only be revealed when the results of the day’s mapping were analysed during the evening work session back at the hotel.]

DAY 4 - 4 two psammites next to each other with different dips and vein quartz between (fluid flow along boundary)- mini fault. (KC)

[Katie has most likely found a fault separating two adjacent outcrops of psammite each with a different dip. The suggestion that this is a fault is supported by the presence of  veins of quartz along the line of disconformity - vein quartz is often deposited by hydrothermal fluids that preferentially moved along fault planes.]

DAY 4 - 5 (3.15pm) What is with the crazy weather in Ardnamurchan? Snow then sun? (TQ)

[The legendary variable Scottish weather!  It may well be down to tee-shirts before the fieldwork on Ardnamurchan is completed (as happened in 2008 in the photographs shown below).  All excellent experience for coping with fieldwork anywhere in the world.]

Images from the Ardnamurchan Level 3 field excursion, March 2008 (from Izabela Jarzebska).

Images from the Ardnamurchan Level 3 field excursion, March 2008 (from Izabela Jarzebska).

It is on slopes like these that our students investigate the intriguing geology of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula by examining the rock outcrops visible at the surface.

Mallorca 2009 - water survey

Mallorca 2009 - water survey


Describing a project conducted with full permission from the local authorities to investigate water in a rare wetland area of Mallorca. Sent by Sarah Dawson.


Another day of rain ☹ We crave for sunny weather

Walking down a muddy path (in the park) in the sodden rain. So much for Mallorca having sun, I think we will only believe it exists when we see it!

We’ve had to resort to sitting in a bird hide to eat lunch but a park warden has just caught us – oops! Well, it’s either that, or sit outside during a torrential downpour and eat a soggy lunch.

A bed of nails would be more comfortable to sit on than endure another day of these bikes!

Just leaving the park looking like drowned rats.

DAY 3 (SATURDAY 04/04/09)

We don’t know whether we are coming or going here, not having read a newspaper or seen the news makes it difficult to tell which day it is. I think its Saturday but it feels more like the middle of the week. Mind you, late nights don’t help….

  Sun at last, this is more like it!

12.30pm – are being given a guided tour of the park. Have just seen a couple of turtles sunbathing and quite possibly a snake’s head….

3.30pm – have completed all the work we can do today and are in need of some lunch, so have decided to go to the beach until we are picked up.

I obviously don’t speak very good Spanish; asked for a couple of stamps and the shop keeper didn’t understand me. I ask in English and she opens the till! I give up.

 Basking in the sun on a beach in Alcudia Bay


 It seems like I have pulled the short straw as the three of us are away to carry out more sampling on the water in the park. It’s a bit too early on a Sunday morning though for our liking but hey, it’s 26 degrees!

We seem to be getting quite good at being caught out by park wardens. Have just managed to take the conductivity measurements and pH of the water. I think it’s time we got out of here…

[NB the students had permission to work in the Albufera Park, it's just that the wardens are particularly protective of this special area!]

Leaving the park for the last time but certainly won’t be sad to leave those bikes!

Level 4 Excursion to Spain, March 2009

Level 4 Excursion to Spain, March 2009

A description, from participants, of the 2-week long final year field excursion to Spain in March 2009.  A mixture of geology, sun, snow, and fun!

The class, and the authors:-

Day 1

We flew to Malaga airport at 6am. From the airport we had an hour and a half drive in the hired minibuses to Salobréna, our first base, for three nights.  After unpacking we all picked up some lunch in a local supermarket and headed straight for the beach where we relaxed and caught up on sleep, for the rest of the day!  That night we chose a pizzeria for dinner and the majority of the class got an early night ready for out first full day in the field.

Day 2

Today we swapped our shorts for thermals as we headed up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. At an altitude of 2600m, whilst looking down on people skiing beneath us we examined a metamorphic “core” complex and learned about the structural history of the Betic Orogen. As we moved back down the mountain we stopped at various localities, digging away the snow, to examine different metamorphic grades.   At night we warmed up with some sangria and sea food  in a restaurant on the beach and some of the class tested out the Salobréna night life.

Spain 2009 - in snow  - A short video of the students at work on rock outcrops amongst the snow.


Day 3

 Another 9am start and about an hours drive, took us to one of the most seismically active areas in Southern Spain to examine a fault surface bordering the Granada Basin.  After several minutes of stroking the rock in order to work out fault movement we headed for a well earned coffee stop, where Martin Lee got his daily caffeine fix. Lunch was spent overlooking a picturesque dam. In the afternoon we examined various sedimentary rocks in an attempt to work out erosion rates and uplift of the orogen. Tim Dempster admitted (through gritted teeth) the importance of merging geomorphological studies with geology!  At night the class split into two with half going for the more traditional Spanish tapas whilst the other half opted for Chinese.

Day 4

First stop was at a road cutting where we logged and field sketched faulted sedimentary rocks. Our groups were selected by the novel method of racing to a finish line with field guides on our heads! Next up was another short stop to examine some tuffa deposits and a discussion about their use as a climate proxy. Several closed roads meant our map reading skills were put to the test as we headed for the Guadix Basin where we completed the warmest field sketch of an unconformity we have ever done! That evening we drove to our second base, the slightly smaller and distinctly more Spanish village of Sorbas where we had a choice of two restaurants, of which one was closed. So we all dinned as a class in yet another pizzeria. The night life in Sorbas was slightly less exciting than Salobréna, however, we did find a bar with both a pool and foozeball table, in which the Polish contingent of the class totally annihilated the Scottish students. 

Short movie clip of the race - Spain-race

Day 5

The forecast rain forced us to swap the day’s itinerary. Morning was spent mapping the Carboneras Fault in the searing heat, a difficult task for even professional geologists. This time the groups were chosen by the length of our socks. We all had trouble keeping down our lunches with an “interesting” off road experience as the mini buses careered up a windy, rutted path to the top of a caldera. However the views (and geology) at the top were worth it! Everyone sketched dacite domes and then the size of our sunglasses determined the groups for attempting to explain an unusual brecciated intrusion. Here there was an animated debate between lectures and some students.  We then left the lecturers to find our way to San Jose, where they met us with the mini buses and we ate together as a class. This of course meant a late night drive back to Sorbas.

Day 6

The distance born from Glasgow was the method of group selection for the morning’s task of logging a tsunami deposit and from there we then went on to look at reef deposits. In the afternoon we headed for an atoll affectionately termed the oven, by previous students however the clouds and wind made it a more bearable fan assisted oven. A reasonably long walk into the center of the atoll, passing stromatolites, was worth the effort when we discovered river beds full of garnets and type locality cordierite. There was then a choice either; down and out the river bed or back up and over the atoll. That night it was back to the only open restaurant in Sorbas for the annual pizza eating contest. However Martin Lee was feeling a little under the weather and so could not retain his pizza eating title. A few of the boys managed to devour the pizzas but the title had to go to Jenna who despite being one of the smallest in the class managed to eat all but one slice of a large.


Day 7

Half way through the trip and time to relax! The morning was spent lying in and eventually around midday hitting the beach in Nerja. The sea was pretty cold and extremely powerful which meant standing up, never mind swimming was difficult! In the afternoon some of the group did a bit of shopping, buying presents and postcards for family and friends back home. That night the class went to an Italian restaurant before sampling the Nerja nightlife.
On the beach, and showing off the class teeshirts listing all our field classes.


Day 8

Our first overcast day and an hour and a half drive North West of Malaga brought Tim’s bus successfully to El Chorro. However Martins bus and Cristenas car unintentionally decided to take the scenic route and arrived with some very car sick passengers about an hour later (or perhaps it was intentional in order to give martin more time to play his buses favourite past time of “Spot the granny”?!?)   Once everyone had recovered we examined a sedimentary basin formed during the Messinian salinity crises and sketched dewatering structures in sandstones. A spelling test of the local rock names after lunch divided the class into the groups to log and analyse different sections of the basin with the best group winning an ice cream. That night despite Nerja having a wide range of restaurants most people chose Italian again!

Day 9

First stop today was along the coast from Nerja where we described impressive folds within andalusite schist.  From there it was inland through the Torrox region, stopping at several localities to look at granite intrusions and normal faults. By the end of the day it was easy to guess how old the rocks were, as everything we saw was dated at 21Ma, reinforcing the point that there was a lot going on in the Betic Region at that time! Our last stop was a fossil hunt in marine sedimentary rocks. The lectures set the challenge stating only one had been found in the previous 15 years, however within minutes one of the students had found a bivalve and moments later we found another one! That night the class again split, with some students opting to save money by staying in the hotel with take-aways and pot noodles while the others hit the town.

Day 10

Our first task of the day was to describe an unusual rock in just two words. The answer; that very few people arrived at, was difficult.  Next we drove up to Archidona to some stunning karst scenery. An estimate on how high we were from sea level was today’s group selection process. Our task, while being circled by vultures above, was to interpret the environment of deposition at given localities. Here a range of fossils were found including ammonoids, belemnites (that float!), corals and bivalves. At our next locality we split into groups due to our matriculation numbers and wrote an essay plan in the sun. A tie breaker situation for the earlier group work was resolved by a game of geological pictionary. While one group showed off their sketching abilities the other got stuck drawing a “karst landscape” that looked a bit more like a sunflower! That night a small group of the class decided to eat out at a Greek restaurant. After being seated, one student remembered the lecturers advice of “don’t eat Greek” which lead to a speedy and embarrassing exist to another restaurant only to discover later that the advice was not “don’t eat Greek”, but rather “…not the Greek place, eat in the restaurant next door!”     

Day 11

Our last day in the field was marked by an 8.30 start as we had a 3 hour drive to Ronda. The drive, however, was worth it as not only did we get spectacular views across the Gibraltar Straight to Africa but also got to see the largest exposed piece of mantle in the world!  First stop was at the MOHO, a compositional boundary between crust and mantle. The boundary between the crustal rocks and the mantle rocks was extremely distinctive with the crustal rocks being bright white and barren of vegetation whereas ironically pine trees prefer to grow on the deep red mantle rocks!  We then stopped to examine several types of mantle peridotite, including spinel and  garnet lharzalite. Today we also got a glimpse of the local wildlife, seeing spiders, strange yellow giant millipedes, a line of caterpillars, giant ants but oddly not a single cow despite the fact there were literally hundreds of “cow crossing” road signs.

The last Outcrop!

The last night

That night as a class we went to the most surreal Mexican restaurant we had ever seen! As we were given out comedy hats from a man with a fake moustache, Martin continued to impress everyone with his large appetite as he tucked into a 2 foot long kebab. Once everyone had finished eating the lectures held a mini prize giving. Stewart Dalzel was the winner of the logging prize and was presented with a sunflower for his pictionary drawing skills. Louise McCann won a sombrero for her outstanding ability to sleep, talk, ask questions, and summarise the geological history; and Sara Gorrett took home a toy cow to make up for the lack of real cows, (despite the road signs!) after coming top in the rock descriptions. Samantha Clark won the sketching prize and was given both a brand new field guide (after she almost destroyed her old one by leaving it behind several times both in and on top of the bus!) and was also presented a large inflatable shrimp to remind her that the fossil Belemnites did in fact float! Finally Kasia Klajmon took home a bull shaped cup for coming top in the class overall. This meant that Tim’s bus won the battle of the buses 4-1! The final few hours were spent making shapes on the dance floor with a German DJ called Scooter in a club called Lollipop, which did indeed give out lollipops!

Day 12

Everyone got an extra hour in bed before we packed up and left the hotel for the final time. The morning was spent in the caves at Nerja where we saw the worlds biggest stalactite. Luckily we are geologists so knew a little about their formation as we joined a tour in Spanish and couldn’t understand what the guide was saying! In the afternoon we dropped of the buses and headed for the airport for our flight back home.    



Report on student fieldwork in Tanzania 2008

Report on student fieldwork in Tanzania 2008

In July 2008, a group of 16 Geography undergraduates from the University of Glasgow spent a month in Tanzania working on a wide range of projects in collaboration with students from the University of Dar Es Salaam.

The students have compiled a detailed (83 page) report on their activities, entitled "Environment and Development in
Rural and Urban Tanzania"

Download the full report here Tanzania 2008 (11.6MB) or a reduced size version Tanzania 2008 (small) (6.9Mb).

The topics studied by the students are wide ranging (and a few of their results are summarised graphically below), and cover:-

  • Agriculture and Environmental Management 
  • Urban Living
  • Development Issues
  • Cultural Identity

But this was much more than just academic research - in the students own words:-

"For many of the Glasgow students, Tanzania was their first experience of a culture so vastly different.  Many of our friends and family doubted we could  do it, leave behind our home comforts and survive! But we proved them wrong, not only did we do it, we enjoyed it!"

"Most importantly, however, the trip taught us what was important in life.  Whilst we all witnessed abject poverty at times, we were also struck by the richness of spirit and vitality in the people who we met.  We encountered those whose life was undeniably difficult, yet they stopped for us, welcoming us onto their land, offering us a seat and giving us their time and making our research not only possible, but pleasurable.  We also owe so much to our Tanzanian counterparts, they held our hands metaphorically (and often literally) as we got to know Dar es Salaam. Together we proved that friendship can be cross-cultural.  We spent many an enjoyable hour together; celebrating birthdays, relaxing with a few drinks after a day in the field, or messing about on the play park next to where we had dinner - to them we must say a massive asante!"

The report also includes details of the planning that went into the organisation of the expedition - the students had to raise a lot of the funding themselves and did so throughout the year with a range of fund-raising events and grant applications. 

So if you think that you might be interested in taking part in such an expedition while at University, download the report (at the top of this page) and make sure that you are as well prepared as these students for the challenges and rewards of working overseas in a very different culture.