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2020 is the Year of Life!


Themed years are at the heart of the Society’s science strategy. They aim to bring together scientists from a variety of disciplines to talk about the challenges they face and create new solutions and concepts. Throughout 2020 we will explore the topic of life in a geoscience context. In this blog, Amy Ball – Education Officer, gives us a glimpse of what the Year of Life has to offer. 

Earth is, perhaps, unique in its capacity to host life. The origin of life is among the most fundamental of scientific questions and the source of endless fascination for the public and scientists alike. The evolution and diversity of life on our planet through geological time is inextricably linked with Earth processes such as climate, plate tectonics and the development of a habitable surface environment. Planetary catastrophes such as bolide impacts and flood basalts have caused mass extinctions several times in our geological past.


A depiction of geological time – United States Geological Survey: Joesph Graham, William Newman, and John Stacy, 2008

The linkages between the biosphere and geosphere, both through geological time and in the present day, are clear. Hydrogen produced by serpentinisation on the seafloor, for example, provides ‘fuel’ for bacteria, sustaining a vast and diverse ecosystem of microbial life. The temperature limits to such life, deep in the crust and in seafloor sediments, are only now beginning to be understood.

The Year of Life is an opportunity to showcase both academic and applied research focusing on palaeontology, geobiology, biogeochemical cycling and astrobiology, among others. Events throughout the year will involve academe, industry, economists and government bodies, as well as partner geoscience societies and organisations.


Our free programme of public lectures is now live for 2020 and you can register for tickets via Eventbrite.

Following on from our previous themed years, we will be hosting a number of public lectures throughout the year centred around the theme of life. As well as being delivered at the Geological Society in London, our Year of Life lectures will also be given as regional lectures across the UK. Our first Year of Life lecture co-hosted by the Palaeontological Association, will be given by Dr Stephan Lautenschlager on 26 February, on the topic of functional morphology and biomechanics in extinct vertebrates. We will also be running a joint public lecture with the Linnean Society on 23 June which will be given by Professor Daniela Schmidt on the subject of marine ecosystem responses to climate change and ocean acidification. All public lectures are free to attend and will be listed on our website.


As part of our conference programme we will be hosting a ‘Plastics in the Environment’ meeting on 14 May and a ‘Sulphur in the Earth System’ meeting later in the year.

Our Publishing House have put together a collection of Year of Life papers chosen by a group of early career researchers, which is accessible through the Lyell Collection: We are also developing a number of education resources throughout the year, including a Year of Life themed fossil set available for teachers and education groups to borrow, a set of infographics based on the geological timeline as well as other educational activities focussing on fossils, evolution and the history of life.

Finally, we are excited to announce that our Lower Library will be home to an exhibition by artist Melanie Ewer from 26 February for eight weeks. Melanie’s artwork, inspired by her own Jurassic fossil finds, conveys geological time and ancient lifeforms through quilted work, mixed media canvases and wall hanging installations.

If you have ideas for research conferences, lectures, outreach, or other activities that you would like to run in collaboration with the Society contact us at to discuss your ideas or find out more about opportunities to get involved. We look forward to hearing from you!

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