About Professor Simon Haslett

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Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Professor of Physical Geography and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Atlantic Geoscience Colloquium - Day 1

Jet lag got the better of me and I was up at 5am, but at least had 7 hours sleep. Blue skies when the sun rose over Halifax, Nova Scotia, and temperature was again around -14 degrees C.

Rob had to pick up some stuff from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and he gave me a tour, which was interesting, charting its development since 1962. Some of the research vessels were docked at the wharf, and he showed me the auditorium where they held a public Darwin anniversary outreach event in 2009, and possibly has the largest map of Canada on the wall!

We drove to Wolfville and he pointed out the Meguma turbidites along the way, and a small outcrop of granite. Passing over the Avon River we got to Acadia University in time for the Atlantic Geology editorial board around 11.30am. It was a good meeting, and the journal had success last year, already has a couple of papers for this year, and is financially sound. Main goal for the year is to get listed in the ISI database. This is important for the UK with the growing need for impact factors and citation measures demanded by the upcoming Research Excellence Framework.

After the Board we drove up the hill a little to the Clark Commons Building for our afternoon workshop on the Teaching of Evolution. Rob and his colleague Graham Williams did a rerun of a 2 hour outreach education workshop they do linking geological time, plate tectonics and evolution together.They use some nice teaching tools, such as fossils and rope! Good stuff, and appreciated by the mixed audience of students, high schoolteachers, and University lecturers.

This was followed by a panel debate on the topic. I was an invited panel member alongside 2 high school teachers and 2 other university lecturers. The discussion ranged from creationism to Darwin's integrity. Tracy Webb from Horton High School has developed an online open access resource which is worth looking at.

This finished around 5pm and we then went to the Old Orchard Inn, which is the main Colloquium venue.

The first session started at 7pm and I went to the Geohazards session. Don Forbes (BIO) opened up with a study of climate change impacts and adaptations in the Halifax region, and showed some good examples of coastal erosion and flooding risks. Tim Webster followed and demonstrated the use of LiDAR in coastal flood risk modeling in the Maritimes under future climate change scenarios.There were then a series of talks on the hazards related to abandoned gold mine shafts, arsenic in the mine tailings, radon gas in soils, and uranium. A good start to the Colloquium.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Journey to Canada

Arrived in Canada for the 36th Annual Colloquium of the Atlantic Geoscience Society (AGS).

The 11.05am Air Canada flight from Heathrow was a little delayed, but otherwise was fine. Most of the Atlantic was blanketed with cloud, and flying above it at around 10,000 m in the noonday sun gave a good insight in cloud albedo - incredibly bright.

The cloud started to break up south of Greenland as we approached Newfoundland. I had a window seat and had great views of fragmented sea ice, with some interesting flow structures.

We flew down the middle of Newfoundland and had great views of the coast and inland landscape. The glacial heritage is clearly visible, and some evidence for isostatic rebound going on took the form of series of isolation basins perched above the coast to the west of Deer Lake. Also, saw some beautiful fjords near Corner Brook.

Landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, around 2pm where the ground temperature was only -4 degrees C. We decended through cloud at around 1700 m, but there were some breaks that opened up to blue skies and quite warming winter sun.

I was met by Dr Rob Fensome of Natural Resources Canada. He and I are co-editors for the AGS journal Atlantic Geology, and he kindly offered to put me up tonight before we both go to the Colloquium tomorrow. Rob had visited me at the University of Wales, Newport, in June 2009 to speak at the Newport NEXUS Conference, so it was good for me to be making a return visit.

Rob and his wife took me for dinner at a pub called Jamiesons in Dartmouth, which served excellent fish and chips (haddock not cod), washed down with a couple of pints of IPA (Indian Pale Ale).

Rob is currently editing a book - Geology of Canada - as a Canadian contribution to the UN's Year for Planet Earth (2009). It sounds a great project and the book should be published this year. He's had previous success when he helped put together a popular geology book called the Last Billion Years.

As both Rob and I have palaeontological backgrounds, we have been invited to sit as panel members of a Colloquium session tomorrow on the Teaching of Evolution, so I'm looking forward to that.