Monday, 30 July 2012

University Projects/Overseas Placements

Over the summer of 2012, a number of students will be travelling overseas to undertake placements and carry out fieldwork as part of their university degree. GfGD is following three of these students, all from the University of Leicester. They will be carrying out work in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, and have kindly agreed to give us their stories, photographs and the lessons they learn from their work.

Details of these placements are outlined below:

Name: Greg Smith
Destination: Solomon Islands
Project: Hazard Assessment (Volcanic Eruptions/Tsunamis)

Name: David Cavell
Destination: Solomon Islands
Project: Hazard Assessment (Volcanic Eruptions/Tsunamis)

Name: Laura Westoby
Destination: Indonesia
Project: Hazard Assesment and Impacts (Volcanic Eruptions)

Through following these placements, GfGD will:
  • Help these students to disseminate and share the knowledge that they develop through the opportunities they have. 
  • Share with the wider geoscience community an understanding of how good geoscience knowledge can better contribute to international development.
  • Consider what other skills are required by geologists in order to undertake effective development
  • Promote the positive international outcomes of students/recent graduates undertaking such placements, and expanding their experience base. 

You can find out more about the projects these students will be undertaking on the placements page of our website. We will be posting regular updates and photos from the students on the special placements blog section of our website.

Please note... all of these placements have been organised and are supervised by staff at the University of Leicester, not Geology for Global Development. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday Photo (43) - Latrine

This newly constructed latrine at a school in Tanzania means that school children can  use a safe, clean sanitary facility - and waste can be prevented from entering drinking water.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Training Opportunity: Groundwater Monitoring and Drilling Supervision

Hydrogeologists Without Borders, in collaboration with REDR and Cranfield University, are running a course on groundwater monitoring and drilling supervision on the weekend of the 14th-16th September. This weekend aims to develop knowledge of groundwater, drilling supervision and groundwater monitoring, and is mainly intended for water engineers and managers. The cost for this three day course is £150 (including breakfast and lunch, accommodation not included).

By the end of the weekend, participants should have an understanding of:
  • Groundwater movement and storage within different rock environments 
  • How to carry out a groundwater monitoring programme
  • The process of borehole siting and choosing an appropriate drilling technology
  • How to supervise drilling contractors
  • Pumping test supervision and how to collect all the relevant information needed to analyse the test
  • How to access free professional advice when working with groundwater related projects

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Top Travel Resources

To complement our popular series of 'Top Travel Tips' here are a number of 'Top Travel Resources' - online sites with helpful information to better prepare and plan your fieldwork, placements or travel.

The FCO website provide detailed advice about every country, including details of the security situation, relevant natural hazards, local customs and laws (including issues such as alcohol, behaviour with the opposite/same sex), crime precautions and much more. It is also highly recommended that you register with their LOCATE service, ensuring that the local embassy know you are in the country and have your contact details in the event of an emergency evacuation being required. The FCO also have advice relating to various health issues.

Vaccination and malaria advice for each country, provided by the NHS Scotland. Advice on disease prevention and staying healthy whilst overseas.

FEMA (a US Govt Agency) have advice for what to do before, during and after a number of natural disasters. Often when travelling you will be exposed to hazards that you are not normally exposed to in your home country, and it's helpful to have an idea of what to do should these hazards materialise. Although these are designed for life in the USA, there are still helpful and relevant tips.

A lot of irritating pop-ups, but it gives simple phrases in a wide variety of languages! Once you know the local language, you can probably find a more specific and detailed site.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Landslide Blog

Landslides have been in the news a lot recently, including a number of reports about landsliding in the UK and many articles about landslides across the world. For example, the BBC News recently covered the fatal landslide in Dorset, UK, reported a rise in landslides in South Asia, a mudslide in Austria, and discussed flooding and landslides in Japan

As highlighted previously on this blog, Dave Petley's Landslide Blog, hosted by the AGU is a fantastic place to get up-to-date information, photographs and links to media reports about the latest landslide occurrences. It's well worth putting in your favourites tab and keeping an eye on!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday Photo (42) - Pump Repair

Geologists developing their engineering skills - the (attempted) repair of a shallow well pump in the Kagera Region of Tanzania
(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

University Project on Mt Merapi, Indonesia – Laura Westoby

Mount Merapi
Laura Westoby, aged 21, and currently studying for an MGeol degree at the University of Leicester will soon begin a four week placement in Indonesia. GfGD will be following and promoting her work over the next month! Laura writes...

"I will be travelling to Indonesia to undertake a placement with Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Java. As part of my MGeol degree at Leicester I have to complete a report in my 4th year. I have decided to focus this report on Mt Merapi and how it affects the local community. During my visit I hope to meet members of the community who have learnt to live with the danger of Mt Merapi and investigate processes that occur in the community before, during and after an eruption. I also hope to see how research is conducted at the University and how this information is relayed to the community. When I return to Leicester I will integrate my visit with a GIS project and a literature review to create my report.

This is a fantastic opportunity that will hopefully help me develop confidence when visiting new places, meeting new people and travelling alone. It will also introduce me to a side of geology that really interests me – the social aspect and one that hasn't cropped up very often throughout my degree. I will hopefully have the chance to learn some new skills whilst out there, such as how they monitor the volcano and field mapping, and also integrate myself with the local culture – I will be staying for a month!

Hopefully after my visit a connection with Gadjah Mada University will be established allowing more exchanges to take place in the future, both from the UK and also from Indonesia. With an exchange scheme established it will hopefully be easier for students to find funding in advance of a visit."

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Top Travel Tips (5) - Katy Hebditch

Katy Hebditch travelled to Liberia on a short contract job, carrying out socio-economic baseline surveys for a large mining project last September:

Travelling to a new country is exciting, and nerve-wracking, especially when you don't know what to expect. Here's my few top tips/things to think about...

1) Attire - Rainy season in the tropics = serious rain + hot + humid. Sometimes an umbrella is more useful than a hot sweaty jacket! Decent, comfy, waterproof walking boots and waterproof liners for bags were incredibly useful. 

2) Don't get lost - GPS & maps (& Google Earth) are VERY useful. Plan where you're going - I got quite lost in the jungle several times, and mobile phones don't have reception when it rains. Being able to map is also very useful, not originally in my job description, I ended up mapping all of our surveys and where people visited!

3) Do your research - It's good to have an idea about the history of the country you're visiting - recent wars, troubles, politics, customs etc, and this will help you to be sensitive and avoid offending people. Know someone who's been there? Get in touch with them for advice!

4) Be sensible - Look after your valuables - don't flash the cash etc. Avoid corruption & bribery. standard stuff. 

5) Medical stuff - It goes without saying, get the right vaccinations, take malaria prophylaxis, and take medicines you may need, ideally your own first aid kit for the field. You'll be surprised what things you may react to - missionary ants can cause severe allergic reactions, adjusting to a new diet and being exposed to different bugs can cause havoc. If you get the chance to do any first aid training, take it. My university funded me doing an intensive expedition first aid course - great peace of mind.  

Most of all, relax, have fun and enjoy experiencing the new culture!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

CAFOD/GfGD Placement - One Week Left To Apply!

There's just one week left to apply for this fantastic opportunity - all you need is a CV and a 250-word statement outlining why you would like this opportunity, and which weeks in September you are available!

GfGD are delighted to announce a fantastic opportunity to spend one week this September in the Humanitarian Department of the international NGO CAFOD, based in London (download a placement information sheet here). In the space of a week you won’t have time to undertake a specific project or be applying lots of the geology you have learnt – but you will get a highly valuable opportunity to see how disaster risk reduction and emergency response operate within a large NGO and get a preliminary insight into the development sector. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to ask questions, and the opportunity to meet and talk about your experiences with GfGD’s Director.

This opportunity is open to all geoscience students in the UK who are currently coming to the end or have just finished the third or fourth year of their undergraduate course. We are currently not able to offer any funding to cover travel, food or living expenses during the week, and so advise all those applying that they will have to be able to cover these themselves. If you have family or friends in London that you can stay with for a week, this would be helpful. Individuals may be able to apply to their universities for financial support.

If you are interested in this placement, please send Joel Gill, GfGD Director (joel[at]gfgd[dot]org) a copy of your CV and a short personal statement (max. 250 words) outlining why you would like this opportunity and which weeks in September you are available. These will be reviewed and the successful candidate informed. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS – MIDDAY, 23rd JULY 2012.

The successful candidate will be asked to (i) sign a Memorandum of Understanding, confirming that they will behave in a professional and appropriate manner, represent GfGD well and follow any guidelines set out by CAFOD and (ii) write a report for Geology for Global Development describing your work, what you learnt and how it benefited you.

If this placement is a success, we will hopefully have a second opportunity in Easter 2013 for those, who by that stage, will be in the third/fourth year of their undergraduate course.

CAFOD is the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, working with partners in more than 40 countries across the world to bring hope, compassion and solidarity to communities that are poor, standing side-by-side with them to end poverty and injustice. CAFOD work with people of all faiths and none. Find out more -

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday Photo (41) - Borehole in Ethiopia

Clean groundwater is being extracted from a deep borehole in Ethiopia - giving local communities a better chance of staying healthy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Groundwater Sustainability

Professor Paul Younger, Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, recently gave a lecture at the Geological Society of London (available here) in which he spoke on the sustainability of groundwater in a changing world. All of us, whether residents of the UK, Europe, or the rest of the world will be and have already been affected by the impacts of a changing world on our water supplies. Factors such as urbanisation, agriculture and forestry changes have resulted in many changes, at many scales.

However, as with many challenges, it is the world's poorest that will be affected most by changes in groundwater by both natural and anthropogenic causes. Professor Younger highlighted the case of small-scale farmers in India who were dependent on their small-scale, shallow handpumped wells for water. As a result of corporations drilling and machine-pumping water out of large, deep boreholes for irrigation purposes (and the Indian government stating that they will receive free electricity as it is for the noble purpose of irrigation!) the small-scale farmers have found that their wells simply don't penetrate the water table anymore.

Small Handpump (Tanzania)
This contrasts sharply with the definition of sustainability set out by Professor Younger - "Enough, for all, forever." This large-scale groundwater abstraction for irrigation has resulted in 'not enough, for the poorest, for the foreseeable future.' In the case highlighted above it is clear that either (i) geologists working on the project did not consider the effect on the small-scale handpumps; or (ii) geologists understood the impact it would have on them and ignored it or were told to ignore it by those contracting them. This combination of poor government policy, corporation greed and either an inadequate or irresponsible hydrogeological survey is desperately sad. 

Irrigation in many cases is necessary and can help subsistence farmers to survive and increase their income, and yet there are far more water-efficient and sustainable ways to irrigate crops. National Geographic, this week, highlighted the expansion of drip irrigation around the world. This method aims to direct water to each crop, thus reducing waste. 

It is essential that the geoscience community, whether working for a large multinational consultancy or undertaking a small-scale community project, takes the time to properly address the multiple users of water supplies within a given area - and considers the impact of any rapid or gradual anthropogenic changes to groundwater on these multiple stakeholders. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Top Travel Tips (4) - Joel Gill

Joel Gill is GfGD's Founder/Director, and today shares his 'Top Travel Tips' based on his experience of  fieldwork in Chile and Tanzania, as well as travelling in Uganda and Rwanda:

1) Sleep is very important - Go prepared with the things you may need to get a good night sleep, including ear-plugs and an eye-mask. I never wear ear-plugs at home, but when you're staying in a noisy hotel, with very thin walls and televisions being played loudly throughout the night they soon became essential.

2) Crisis Management - I always prepare at least three copies of a 'crisis management' pack, a small A5 wallet containing passport-size photographs, photocopies of my passport, visas, immunisation certificates, travel schedules, emergency contacts, medical details (UK doctor's phone number, allergies), numbers in case I lose my bank card, emergency first aid details. I carry one of these with me at all times, leave one hidden in the house/hotel I'm staying at, and leave one in the UK with family. It is MUCH easier to get a new passport if you lose one if you have a photocopy and passport photographs.

3) Language - Make the effort to learn a few words of the local language before you travel, including a formal greeting, an informal greeting, and words such as please and thank you. These can be very helpful for demonstrating to people that you recognise you are in their country.

4) Flexibility - When you travel, be prepared to change your methodology, your plans and your schedules at fairly short notice. Opportunities, challenges or problems may arise that mean things can not proceed as planned. Being willing to adapt can be very helpful.

5) First Aid - Go well prepared in terms of first-aid. When travelling to both Chile and East Africa I took packaged, sterile needles - to reduce the chance of infection should I need them. Paracetamol, itch and sting cream, imodium and rehydrating sachets are all essentials. Also plasters, bandages and safety pins. Scotch Tape is very useful, (for many things as well as first aid!). Get good professional advice before you go about what vaccinations you need, and appropriate anti-malarials.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Dan Sharpe: Under-Publicised Oil Spills

Dan Sharpe's latest column for the GfGD blog looks at the problems that come from poorly reported oil spills in the developing world, and how geoscientists can address this.

In September 2008, the lives of 69,000 people living in and around Bodo, Nigeria, began to change permanently. It was rumoured that oil was first spotted in the marshes around the region in August, but Shell contested that the leak officially occurred in September that year. I mentioned this oil spill in passing as part of my blog “Oil in Society- Exploring for Sustainability” and felt this story deserved its own report.

“We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air” explained John Vidal - environmental editor for The Observer - in his article on this subject. The leak occurred on a section of the 50 year-old trans-Niger pipeline that transports up to 120,000 barrels of oil every day. At the height of the crisis Shell admitted that as much as 2,000 barrels per day was leaking directly into the water system. Of course nobody questioned this at the time, after-all no news crews or NGOs were there investigating this incident. A later assessment by the independent oil spill consultancy company Accufacts suggested that as much as 311,000 barrels may have been leaked into the creaks near Bodo.

The spill continued right through to mid-November that year when the leak was fixed, however just a month later another leak was discovered along the pipeline this time above an area of marsh. The second leak did not start to be fixed or even evaluated until late February the next year, but this is just a part of the issue I am aiming to convey here.

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
(Source: NASA/GSFC)
I am guessing all who read this will be fully aware of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but how many have heard of the Bodo spill? Hidden away in Africa, news teams fleetingly visited the site of the crisis but this was not front page news; at least not for long. And how many know there has been another spill more recently? I certainly did not.

This latest incident has leaked as much as 2 million gallons of oil into the ocean just off the coast of Nigeria in an incident that has capped over 50 years of spoilage from the hydrocarbons industry. So why is it that nobody hears of the oil spills here? 13 out of the top 17 oil fields are in the Middle East and yet no news is told of the environmental consequences of the hydrocarbons industry here. Six of the top ten oil spills have occurred in the Middle East, however it is those in the North Sea and east coast of the States that we hear about.

This lack of news coverage is a problem, and geoscientists must determine what they can do to publicise and address these problems. The first stage should involve independent consultancy companies assessing these spills and monitoring companies working in more remote locations. This should go hand-in-hand with geoscientists encouraging science journalists to publicise and report their findings, in partnership with the more formal reports released by oil companies. These actions will help to raise public awareness and put pressure on the oil companies and local governments to tighten up on the frequency, size and recovery of leaks. Further work may involve geological engineering to produce new equipment, or the use of further independent consultancies to give guidance on how to better manage the equipment already being used. 

Who will pay for all this? Well it is no secret that the oil industry is lucrative business, and in times of increasing ‘green’ awareness the public opinion of large oil producing firms is becoming more and more important. It is surely the responsibility of the oil companies to curb the size and number of leaks that occur throughout the developing world, and geoscientists play a fundamental role in all stages of doing this. Together these efforts can improve the efficiency of the oil industry, and improve the quality of life of people living in and around producing oil fields.

Further Reading:

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday Photo (40) - Photo Archives (Volcanism)

Over the past year we've published a number of photos relating to volcanism, 
have a look here to see the full archive and related posts.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Resources: GDACS

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) is a joint project between the United Nations and the  European Commission, and disaster managers worldwide - working to improve alerts, information exchange and coordination in the first-phase after major sudden onset disasters.

GDACS offers a helpful service, where you can subscribe for notifications and details of major (and minor) disasters, such as earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods. This information is sent to a mobile/e-mail device as and when these disasters occur.

This is not only helpful for disaster management professionals, but also a useful way of keeping in touch with what's happening across the world - especially those things that don't make the UK national news (often in developing countries). For example, flooding in India over the past month has displaced more than one million people - and yet this has barely scratched the media in Europe.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Top Travel Tips (3) - Rosalie Tostevin

Rosalie on the edge
of the Namib Desert

Rosalie has spent several months doing fieldwork out in ‘the bush’ – the dry semi-desert that covers southern Africa. Her PhD field area is in Southern Namibia, and she did her undergraduate mapping project in the Karoo, South Africa. Here she shares her top travel tips for travelling in southern Africa:

1) Time of year: Visit in their winter (June-Sept). It will be warm and dry during the day, cool enough to sleep at night, and the insects and snakes will mostly be in hibernation.

2) Clothing: If you wear shorts, your legs will be covered in cuts from the spiny plants and you may develop a rash as some of the spines deliver poison. There are also ticks and biting spiders to worry about. It’s not worth it, even for tanned legs!

3) Money: The exchange rate between the rand (legal tender in both South Africa and Namibia) and the pound varies between 11 and 15. If you need to make a big payment, i.e. for accommodation, ask if you can pay your bill on a day when the rate is favourable. You could save a lot of money.

Leopard snake basking in
the sun on a path in Namibia
4) Snakes: Tap your hammer on the rocks every few minutes to scare the snakes away. Watch out for puff adders, as they like to bask in the sun in open spaces, otherwise known as paths!

Flat tyres are common when
driving on gravel roads
5) Driving: Distances are long and the roads are poor. Make sure you would feel confident changing a tyre, because flat tyres are common on gravel roads and there may be no phone signal and no passing cars. The leading cause of road-deaths in Namibia is a collision with a large animal such as kudu, normally whilst driving at night. Be prepared to sleep in the car if you break down or get caught out after sunset.

Monday, 2 July 2012

2012 Bududa Landslide, Eastern Uganda

It was very sad to read last week of another large landslide on the slopes of Mount Elgon, in eastern Uganda. Heavy rains resulted in a large landslide sweeping away three villages, and burying an estimated 70 people.This area of Uganda has been hit by other landslides in recent years. In March 2010 an estimated 350+ people were buried by a large landslide, and in August 2011 a landslide killed an estimated 24 people.

These articles proposed a series of measures that should be considered in order to reduce the risk of further disasters: 
1) RELOCATION: A thorough and detailed examination of the Mount Elgon area to determine the areas at greatest risk of landslides. Those at greatest risk should be relocated. The Governments plans to relocate over half a million people have proved to be slow and unrealistic, but some relocation must occur to avoid further serious tragedy. 
2) INCREASED SUSTAINABLE FARMING: Working with communities to encourage a more sustainable farming method in the region, reducing deforestation, undercutting of slopes and increasing natural drainage. There are significant concerns that over-farming on these slopes is increasing soil erosion, reducing natural anchorage and thus continually increasing the vulnerability of these slopes. 
3) ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS: Improving draining of the slopes and toe weights at the foot of particularly vulnerable slopes to increase stability. In addition some instrumental measurement of the slope condition could provide valuable information.
A holistic, multi-faceted approach is essential, as all three of the above have their challenges and limitations. Many people do not want to be relocated, as the slopes of Mount Elgon have good, fertile soil. Compulsory relocation has its challenges, and so there must also be investment in training for farmers - relating to reducing soil erosion and deforestation, and improving drainage. Possible engineering investments should also be considered. Without some form of action the images that we have seen in the past week are likely to be seen again and again.

As Dave Petley has written on The Landslide Blog, this has not been the only landslide recently. There have been significant landslides in Bangladesh and India as well, with a number of fatalities, injuries and missing people.