The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival – make your own fossil cast!

A couple of weeks ago, we headed to Lyme Regis for the annual geological extravaganza that is the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, armed with fossils, badges, geological colouring in and a brand new activity.

This year, for the first time, we took part in the schools programme, talking to over 140 primary school children about all things geological.

One of the many school groups to visit our stand

One of the many school groups to visit our stand

As we’re celebrating the Year of Mud and the William Smith Map Bicentenary, we wanted to take a long an activity which would relate to both. Many thanks to the palaeontologists from Leeds University and the Palaeontological Association for inspiring our solution!

Make Your Own Fossil Casts

IMG_1345*This activity is great for children up to the age of 9/10 – though some adults have found it equally fun…

You will need:

Coffee (cold!)
Used coffee grounds
Fossils/other objects for creating imprints
Optional: small plastic tub to keep your fossil print in

If you’re taking the activity to a festival or other event, we recommend pre preparing the dough – but if you don’t mind making a mess, you can make it part of the activity!

Mix the flour and salt together, and add enough coffee to create a fairly stiff dough – not too sticky. Add in some used coffee grounds for an authentically sandy texture.

Once the dough is kneaded together, you can roll it out on some grease proof paper, or press it into a small container.


Piles of pots ready for the festival!


IMG_6049Then, all you need are some fossils suitable for making a good impression. Press them into the dough, and they will leave behind a cast. You can also use toy plastic animals to create footprint trace fossils.

If left with the lid off for a few days, the dough should harden, creating a rock like trace fossil for you to keep!

You can use this activity to link to lots of ideas about fossils. Fossil casts are the print left behind by a plant or animal on the surrounding material. What kinds of materials would be best for capturing and preserving imprints? Why do only some parts of the fossils survive? Where is the fossil itself, and what might have happened to it?

Identifying and understanding fossils was a crucial part of William Smith’s work to create his first geological map of England and Wales. By using fossils, Smith was able to establish a relative chronology which allowed him to identify strata of the same age and show where they occur at the surface.

Other activities

IMG_1341We also took along our ever popular colouring maps of William Smith’s map, and the geology of the local area.

And, of course, the GSL badge collection – with a couple of new additions for 2015…

A badge collector models the full set

A badge collector models the full set



If you have any suggestions for other mud-based educational activities, we’d love to hear them!

And remember, Earth Science Week 2015 is only 5 months away – 10-18 October. Some great activities have already been planned, and we look forward to receiving many more.

For the first time this year, we have a number of small grants available to help with running Earth Science Week events – visit our website for more information.

Many thanks to the GSL Fossil Festival team – Judi, Flo & Hazel!



Posted in Education, Events, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 2015 Joint Photographic Competition

NugentM Etna beneath our Feet

c. Malcolm Nugent ‘Etna Beneath our Feet.’

The annual photography competition, organised by a number of our Regional Groups, is now open to all geologists, amateur or professional, living within the postal districts of the Southern Wales, West Midlands and North Western Regional Groups.

Last year, nearly one hundred entries were received, representing famous geological locations from Namibia to Iceland and Bude to Torquay. The winning entry was Malcolm Nugent’s ‘Etna Beneath our Feet.’

The 2015 Competition

William Smith's map of England and Wales

William Smith’s 1815 geological map, c. The Geological Society of London

2015 is the bicentenary of William Smith’s famous geological map, ‘A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales’ (1815). The Society is also marking 2015 as the Year of Mud. It would be remiss of us to let these pass unnoticed.

So, the West Midlands Regional Group, in joint partnership with the Southern Wales and North West Regional Groups of the Society and Black Country Geological Society present a Joint Geological Photographic Competition, sponsored by Geotechnical Engineering Limited, on the theme of ‘Geologica Britannica: Exhibiting the Geology of the British Isles and Applied Geology in the British Isles’.

1st Prize

£200 Sponsored by Geotechnical Engineering Limited

plus £150 special publication gift voucher donated by Geological Society Publishing House

plus William Smith Map Reproduction and Memoir

2nd Prize

£150 Sponsored by Geotechnical Engineering Limited

plus Geological Map of Great Britain, Bicentennial edition

3rd Prize

£100 Sponsored by Geotechnical Engineering Limited

plus Geological Map of Great Britain, Bicentennial edition

4th and 5th Prize

Geological Map of Great Britain, Bicentennial edition

6th to 10th Prize

Geological Hammer USB Drive

donated by Geological Society London

Geotechnical logoYou have until midnight Tuesday 1 December to submit your images to

For detailed rules, terms and conditions please visit

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Nepal Earthquake

Nepal 2015_Nepal_earthquake_ShakeMap_version_6

Nepal Earthquake ShakeMap (USGS)

In the early hours of 25 April, 2015 a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in Nepal. The largest the country has experienced in over 80 years, the earthquake occurred due to thrust faulting resulting from the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the North.

The earthquake occurred approximately 80km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, in an area where the India plate is converging with the Eurasia plate at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift between the India and Eurasia plates. The earthquake was followed by several aftershocks including a magnitude 6.7 earthquake on Sunday which triggered more avalanches on Everest.

Kathmandu Durbar Square before the earthquake

Kathmandu Durbar Square before the earthquake

The earthquake has devastated many areas of the Himalayan country. Its effects, including avalanches and landslides, have cut off many towns and villages. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) at the time of writing (29 April) the earthquake has claimed more than 5,000 lives, left more than 8,000 people injured and over 8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Fellows and members of the public may find the following resources useful to understand the geological context in which the earthquake occurred, the history of tectonics in this region and earthquakes more generally.

Nepal Earthquake and Seismic Hazards in the Himalaya

USGS have put together some information on their website detailing when and where the earthquake occurred and the tectonic setting with some useful maps and diagrams.

As part of GSL’s 2014 conference on Sustainable Resource Development in the Himalaya, Tim Wright of the University of Leeds gave a lecture on ‘Active Deformation and Seismic Hazard in the India-Asia collision zone’ which includes some background on the tectonics of this region. You can find his presentation on the GSL website.

Earthquakes – General Resources

Journal Papers

The Geological Society Publishing House has made a number of papers relating to Himalaya tectonics freely available on our Lyell Collection.

Geological Society web resources

Geological Society Lectures and Podcasts

Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Modern World  – James Jackson, University of Cambridge


Donate to the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal at

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lyme’s Literary and Fossil Treasures

Unearthing literary ghosts and extinct creatures in Lyme Regis, Dorset

Anthea Lacchia (@AntheaLacchia)

lyme regisIn anticipation of the upcoming Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, which takes place from May 1-3 this year, let’s set off on a literary and geological tour through the charming streets and beaches of Lyme Regis, which is also known as the “pearl of Dorset”. We will be travelling through time, so hold on to your geological hats and period bonnets! Continue reading

Posted in Education, Events, Out in the field | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

General Election 2015 – Science & the party manifestos


It’s just under two weeks until the country goes to the ballot box for the General Election 2015 and the science policy community have been busy reading manifestos, collating pledges and grilling politicians. We’ve collected together some useful articles and sources on science and the general election work in today’s blog post. You can also read more about the general election and find useful resources on the Geological Society website. Continue reading

Posted in General Election | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Society and The Map

William Smith's map of England and WalesWilliam Smith’s geological map of England and Wales turns 200 this year. Continue reading

Posted in History, Library | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Earth’s Climate Evolution – a Geological Perspective on Climate Change

A guest post from Colin Summerhayes, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge

Summerhayes-cover-designBefore we can understand how humans may be changing the climate, we need to establish a baseline. We have one in the geological record of past climate change. Continue reading

Posted in Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Geology and the General Election – Voice of the Future


House of Parliament – Source Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons

Following the dissolution of Parliament on 30 March the wheels of the various election campaigns are now fully in motion and election promises and party lines abound. Here at the Geological Society we have put together some resources which Fellows and members of the public may find useful when considering the economic and societal importance of geology (and science more widely) in the context of the upcoming election. You can find these on our website: there will also be a short series of blog posts on election-relevant topics, starting with the recent Voice of the Future event! Continue reading

Posted in General Election, Policy | Leave a comment

Never a Dahl moment


Dahl at the height of the 1975 craze for pet rocks.

So farewell then, Gary Dahl (1936-2015)

Gary Ross Dahl, who died on March 23, was an advertising copywriter and advertising agency owner who became a millionaire on the strength of a six-month fad dating from 1975.  Those of us who remember that year, especially if we happen to be geologists, will recall the craze which he invented after hearing his friends complaining about their pets – the ‘Pet Rock’. Continue reading

Posted in History, Miscellaneous, News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Was this the first Royal geology field trip?

Selley 1

Dick Selley gives the Earl of Wessex a safety briefing before entering the caves. © Royston Williamson.

Dick Selley (of this parish) has taken HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, on a geology field trip to study the Folkestone Beds of the Cretaceous Lower Greensand.  When a trip to Dorking was being arranged for HRH, the EoW said that he wanted to ‘do something ‘quirky’’.   Thus, an expedition to study the Lower Greensand in Dorking’s famous South Street caves was suggested and enacted. Continue reading

Posted in History, Miscellaneous, Out in the field, Science communication | Leave a comment