Geology for Global Development

GfGD Placement Report: Ellie Murtagh’s work with CAFOD

In September 2012 Eleanor Murtagh completed a short Geology for Global Development (GfGD) placement with the international humanitarian and relief organisation CAFOD. At CAFOD, Ellie worked with Dr Kate Crowley (Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor) for a week. Here she reports on the activities she was involved in and the lessons she learnt from this experience. 

The importance of vocational professionals such as engineers and doctors in international development is widely acknowledged by the public, with the likes of Engineers without Borders and Medicins Sans Frontiers. However, unfortunately the role of geologists in development is not as well recognised. Hence, why I was overjoyed when I came across the concept of GfGD and when I saw the advertisement for the first GfGD sponsored placement with CAFOD. I quickly applied and much to my surprise, I was chosen for the placement with CAFOD and spent a week there in September 2012.

CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) is the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales. They work to reduce poverty with over 500 partners all over the world. My GfGD placement took place at CAFOD’s head offices in South London. There I was introduced to Dr Kate Crowley, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Advisor at CAFOD, and allowed to shadow her in all her meetings during the week.

If you are a geologist with an interest in pursuing a career in international development, Dr Kate Crowley is your ideal role model. She completed her BSc in Geological Hazards at the University of Portsmouth, MSc in Geophysical Hazards at University College London and completed a PhD on the impacts of geohazards on society and science communication at the University of Plymouth (under the supervision of THE Iain Stewart). Dr Kate Crowley is a phenomenal ambassador for the geosciences and international development; she is full of enthusiasm, charisma, and has an incredible capability of communicating geoscience ideas to those non- geology folk. The week I spent following her was truly fascinating!

The first day I arrived at their offices, I was introduced to Kate’s colleagues. I was then invited to a lunchtime talk by a CAFOD partner, St. John’s Sports Society, represented by Father John Webootsa who spoke about sporting opportunities improving the lives of residents of low-income informal settlements around Korogocho, Kenya.

That afternoon, I was asked to create a factsheet about gender and development as well as compile data on natural disasters in Bangladesh. This was used as part of an article for the International Day for Disaster Reduction (October 13th) which for 2012 focused on “Women and Girls: the [in]Visible Force of Resilience”. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about how communities are reducing their risk to disasters and the importance of DRR programs. The article was published in an internal CAFOD publication, and was used as part of article in the METRO Newspaper!

On the Tuesday, we went along to the BOND chairs meeting. Bond is the UK membership body for non- governmental organisations working in international development. The meeting was really interesting, seeing how various NGOs work together on a range of development issues.

On the Wednesday, I sat in on a Livelihoods Learning Group meeting at CAFOD, discussing their livelihood projects. Following this, I was incredibly lucky to be allowed shadow Dr Kate Crowley to a meeting at the Cabinet Office regarding the National Focal Point in the UK for the Hyogo Framework for Action. The Hyogo Framework for action aims to detail the work that is required from all different sectors to reduce disaster losses. I was really interested to witness how the UN gathers information on country’s action and preparedness measures. Kate contributed significantly by discussing UK flooding strategies, as her former Post-Doctoral position at the University of Oxford focused on bridging the gap between flood science research and UK decision makers.

The last two days I spent shadowing Kate as she organised and lead a two day CAFOD workshop on resilience. Resilience is a term often used in development, but with a multitude of definitions associated with it. This conference helped CAFOD agree upon a functional definition of resilience and allowed plans to be made to ensure their resilience projects met these objectives.

The five days I spent with Dr Kate Crowley were incredible. I learnt so much about disaster risk reduction, the links between geology and development and how NGOs work. This experience has inspired me to pursue a career in the geosciences in development field. I am incredibly grateful to Joel Gill, founder of GfGD, for organising this as well being very thankful to Dr Kate Crowley for not only letting me follow her for a week, but for her advice and hospitality. I would whole heartedly recommend anyone interested in geosciences and development to apply for future GfGD placements.


Phew – Ellie managed to fit a lot into her week long placement at CAFOD!

If this sounds good, then we have another GfGD placement available with Kate Crowley at CAFOD this easter. 

You can also hear more about Kate Crowley’s career in our guest blog on Monday 25th February…

Rosalie was the Himalayas Programme Officer for Geology for Global Development and writer for the GfGD blog. She is a geochemist and a postdoc at the University of Oxford.