Science

Learning about Geology

How lucky are we at Potters Bar U3A Geology Group to be able to attend a regular meeting to learn about rocks, hotspots, tectonic plates, fracking, fossils, volcanoes, earthquakes and much more, presented to us by a Professor of Geology – Dr. Tony Hurford, Emeritus (retired) Professor of Geology at UCL, who makes our friendly, monthly sessions a treat to look forward to.

We are, at present, a group of about 16 members and we meet at a local church hall, most months, to challenge, or sharpen our brains with these captivating topics.

The Geology Group has been running for some time, but after an excellent talk at a monthly U3A meeting in January 2018 – Volcanoes: A Symptom of our Dynamic Planet, presented by Dr. Tony Hurford, some of us discovered that he was sharing his knowledge with our Potters Bar U3A Geology Group. This was an incentive for several of us to join together and learn more about topics that have been of interest that we may not have had the time or opportunity to study.

Other members have had a much longer interest in the Geology Group. Their comments during the sessions, have shown a much deeper knowledge of the subject, either from their earlier careers or from an avid interest. However, I believe that information is presented to us in a way that all members can assimilate, whilst stretching even the most well-informed of our group.

Each month we study a different aspect of geology in which key facts and illustrations are professionally presented to help us understand the concepts we are being taught. Course notes are also provided to refresh our memories later.

During the last few months we have covered many topics including learning about different types of rocks and how these rocks can be represented in geological mapping. In fact, we were even challenged with a Christmas Quiz, and in groups we had to sequence geological episodes presented to us on an imaginary map, using the knowledge we had gained plus a little logic – a very jolly session!

On a few occasions when something geological has hit the news, such as an earthquake, or fracking, the study plan has been postponed so that we may be given information on the topical subject.
It was very illuminating when we were looking at the issue of fracking, to be given, without bias, the facts about fracking in this country. We were shown video clips that helped us to understand how it is done and what precautions the companies are putting in place to prevent contamination of water aquifers. We also looked at the number and intensity of the earthquakes in the areas being fracked. At the end of the session we were given the opportunity to discuss our views and the pros and cons of this method of extracting gas from our rocks.

Although it can be difficult at times to retain all the vocabulary and definitions within the subject and to grasp the extraordinary time spans being analysed, it has been rewarding to be helped by Tony to appreciate how the subject of geology can provide us with an insight into how our planet has developed across the vast eons of time and how it continues to change.

Many thanks to Tony for all the hard work he puts in to make Geology accessible and fascinating, and to David Ramsay for organising our group.