Geology for Global Development


How deep-seated is bias against scientists in the Global South? Can we attribute individual disasters to climate change? Find out in Jesse Zondervan’s Dec 20  – Jan 24 2018 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news which cover the geology for global development interest. Here’s a round-up of Jesse’s selections for the last four weeks:

If we want to solve the world’s problems, we need all the world’s scientists. Social Entrepreneur Nina Dudnik speaks out against prejudice towards scientists in the developing world. In her article, The Science Community’s “S**thole Countries” Problem, she will challenge many scientists’ own deep-seated bias.

Encouragingly, South African climate researcher Francois Engelbrecht got in the news recently. He developed a climate model, improving projections and supporting the vulnerable community in decision making.

One thing that I believed impossible, is attributing specific extreme weather events to climate change. Well, now it’s possible due to a breakthrough by climate scientist Myles Allen. Harevy reports on the rapidly expanding area of climate science.

Further in the news this month, is activity at the Mayon volcano in the Philippines, a 20-acre mega-landslide about to go in Washington State and the destruction caused by thawing permafrost in Alaska.

There’s a lot to read this month, so go ahead!

The Global South

The Science Community’s “S**thole Countries” Problem by Nina Dudnik at Scientific American

Homegrown African climate model predicts future rains – and risks by Munyaradzi Makoni at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Credit: Rhoda Baer (Public Domain)


Climate Change Adaptation

Scientists Can Now Blame Individual Natural Disasters on Climate Change by Chelsea Harvey at ClimateWire

Researchers explore psychological effects of climate change at ScienceDaily

Australia’s coastal living is at risk from sea level rise, but it’s happened before at The Conversation

Why Thawing Permafrost Matters by Renee Cho at State of the Planet


Activity at the Mayon Volcano & Other Volcanic Topics

Authorities waging war vs. fake volcanologists in social media by Aaron Recuenco at Manila Bulletin

Scientists monitor volcanic gases with digital cameras to forecast eruptions by Kimber Price at AGU’s GeoSpace blog

We’re volcano scientists – here are six volcanoes we’ll be watching out for in 2018 at The Comversation

Sustainable Cities

‘The bayou’s alive’: ignoring it could kill Houston by Tom Dart at The Guardian

‘Does Hull have a future?’ City built on a flood plain faces sea rise reckoning by Stephen Walsh at The Guardian


From Natural Disasters to Other Threats, This Initiative Is Teaching Delhi Kids All About Safety by Rinchen Wangchuk at The Better India

Disaster Risk

Why the Swiss are experts at predicting avalanches by Simon Bradley at swissinfo

Tracing how disaster impacts escalate will improve emergency responses at UCL

Watching a Ridge Slide in Slow Motion, a Town Braces for Disaster by Kirk Johnson at The New York Times

The risk of landslides in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh by Dave Petley at AGU’s The Landslide Blog

Deadly California mudslides show the need for maps and zoning that better reflect landslide risk by David Montgomery at The Conversation

Will Tehran be able to withstand ‘long overdue’ quake? By Zahra Alipour at Al-Monitor

Scientists to map quake-prone Asian region in hope of mitigating disaster by Michael Taylor at Thomson Reuters Foundation

How forests could limit earthquake damage to buildings by Edwin Cartlidge at IOP Physics World

Avalanches and floods, drawing by Johann Jakob Wick, 1586


External Opportunities

Get involved in knowledge in action

IRDR Young Scientists Programme: Call for application (3rd Batch)

Apply to join the Pressure Cooker event on Risk Communication at the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum

Vacancies: Two Research Positions on Climate & Development, The German Development Institute (DIE) Bonn

Call for applications for the Research School within the Mistra Geopolitics program

Australian Disaster Resilience Conference 2018

Check back next month for more picks!

Follow Jesse Zondervan @JesseZondervan. Follow us @Geo_Dev & Facebook.

How do you monitor an internationally disruptive volcanic eruption? How can you communicate SDGs in an Earth Science class? Jesse Zondervan’s Nov 13 – Dec 13 2017 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news, relevant to the work and interests of  Geology for Global Development . Here’s a round-up of Jesse’s selections for the past four weeks:

Bali’s Mount Angung started erupting ash this month, and a post on the Pacific Disaster Center’s website gives you an insight into the workings of Indonesia’s early warning and decision support system. How do you monitor an internationally disruptive volcanic eruption?

In Japan, eruptions in 2016 were preceded by large earthquakes (MW 7.0). A team of researchers used Japan’s high resolution seismic network to investigate the underground effects of earthquakes and volcanoes. How does an earthquake affect a volcano’s activity?

Next to plenty of disaster risk stories – including the simple question: why can’t we predict earthquakes? -, this month brings you a computer simulation tool to predict flood hazards on coral-reef-lined coasts and some thoughts on how to communicate SDGs in an earth science classroom.

Have a look!


The UN Sustainable Development Goals – what they are, why they exist by Laura Guertin at AGU’s GeoEd Trek blog

GeoTalk: How an EGU Public Engagement Grant contributed to video lessons on earthquake education by Laura Roberts-Artla at the EGU’s GeoTalk blog

Credit: Michael W. Ishak, used under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Disaster Risk

Disaster Geology: 2017’s Most Deadly Earthquake by Dana Hunter at Scientific American

Can the rubble of history help shape today’s resilient cities? By David Sislen at Sustainable Cities

The underground effects of earthquakes and volcanoes at

Why Can’t We Predict Earthquakes? By David Bressan at Forbes

Detecting landslide precursors from space by Dave Petley at the AGU Landslide Blog

Ocean Sediments Off Pacific Coast May Feed Tsunami Danger by Kevin Krajick at State of the Planet

Life-saving technology provides alert as Bali’s Mount Agung spews ash, raises alarm at Pacific Disaster Center

Climate Change Adaptation

Scientists counter threat of flooding on coral reef coasts by Olivia Trani at AGU’s GeoSpace blog

Check back next month for more picks!

Follow Jesse Zondervan @JesseZondervan. Follow us @Geo_Dev & Facebook.

#EGU16 – Sessions of Interest

EGU2016-700x161The EGU General Assembly 2016 takes place in Vienna between the 17-22 April 2016. Abstract submission is now open for their fantastic range of sessions, with support applications open until 1st December 2015. These offer financial support to early-career scientists and established scientists from low, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries.

We’ve noted some sessions of immediate relevance to our work below:

SDGsEOS15: Geoscience and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (No Abstract Processing Charges)

In September 2015 the Global Goals for Sustainable Development’ (Global Goals) were formally adopted by member states of the United Nations. Building on the Millennium Development Goals, the Global Goals aim to eradicate global poverty, end unsustainable consumption patterns and facilitate sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection over 15 years (2015-2030). Achieving the Global Goals by 2030 will require many communities to engage, including the geosciences. Many of the themes within the Global Goals are at the heart of geoscience education, research and practice (e.g., sustainable agriculture, water and sanitation, disaster risk reduction and resilient cities, climate change). The geoscience community should be ready and equipped to take a leading role in promoting and facilitating responsible Earth stewardship, for the public good and global development. In this session we welcome abstracts from across all divisions that demonstrate examples of, or ideas for, effective engagement with the Global Goals. Recognising that these goals are at an early stage of implementation, we particularly encourage abstracts that offer (i) creative ideas to improve the involvement of geoscientists in the fight against global poverty, (ii) lessons learnt from engagement in the Millennium Development Goals, (iii) insights into the transitions required within geoscience education, research and practice to support sustainable development, (iv) case studies of meaningful stakeholder participation and technical capacity strengthening, and (v) case studies of public sector/private sector/civil society partnerships to promote sustainable development. Through this session we aim to collate and develop strategies for sustained, effective geoscience engagement in the implementation of the Global Goals. The best format for the session will be determined based on the abstracts submitted, however we believe that a PICO session may be the best option to promote dialogue and interaction.

Last year this session included a dynamic discussion session, posters and short-course on 'natural hazards demonstrations'

Last year this session included a dynamic discussion session, posters and short-course on ‘natural hazards demonstrations’

NH9.3:  Natural Hazards Education, Communications & Science-Policy-Practice Interface

This session addresses knowledge exchange between researchers, the public, policy makers, and practitioners about natural hazards. Although we welcome all contributions in this topic, we are particularly interested in: (i) The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials; (ii) Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge; (iii) The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding. We also are specifically interested in distance education courses on themes related to hazard and risk assessment, and disaster risk management, and in programmes for training in developing countries. We therefore solicit abstracts, particularly dynamic posters, on all aspects of how we communicate and educate the better understanding of natural hazards. The ability to have graphic screens at poster sessions is available (if pre-ordered through EGU), as is a location to put hands-on demonstrations or other material. We welcome both oral and poster presentations, and hope to ensure ample time for discussion.

Read an article reflecting on this session at EGU15

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

NH9.5: Urban Hazards and Risk in Developing Countries | PICO Session

This PICO session will address natural hazards and risk in urban areas of developing countries, including the role of humans in magnifying or decreasing those hazards. In urban areas of developing countries, hazard and risk analysis presents challenges such as (i) data collection, (ii) rapid informal and unplanned development creating large demands on services and infrastructure, (iii) complex natural-human systems, (iv) limited resources and capacity, (v) interaction of natural and anthropogenic hazards including cascading and concurrent hazards and (vi) communication between science, policy and the public. Here, we define “developing countries” as countries/regions with a low to medium human development index, according to the United Nations. We welcome submissions from a range of stakeholders to share their innovative theoretical and practical ideas and success stories of how urban risk can be understood and addressed in cities and towns across developing countries. Presentations will cover a variety of topics including: database and archive construction; modelling, instrumentation and tools; conceptual understanding of multi-hazards and complex natural-technological systems; and communication and policy. We anticipate a lively discussion and the sharing of best practice and novel ideas to reduce the impact of hazard events in urban areas across developing countries. This session is particularly topical given that the internationally-agreed ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ have included (Goal 11) the need to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Other sessions:

EGU15 Feature: Equipping to Educate, Educating for Empowerment

Education empowers communities and enables effective accountability between individuals, scientists, government, business and the charity sector. Geo-education is no exception, and while natural hazards education is only one area of this, it demonstrates well the importance of knowledge exchange. In this first blog, from the EGU Press Office, I explore this theme further, reflecting on the role of organisations such as EGU in equipping geoscientists to educate and reporting back on a session yesterday on natural hazards education and communication.

What are the warning signs that a slope may be about to fail? Why should a community water project be at a certain distance from a latrine, and what distance? When is the best time to conduct a survey for a new water project? What are the possible environmental dangers and economic opportunities of a new nickel mining project?

As geologists it’s easy to take for granted the understanding we develop over our training and careers. Most of us could give reasonable, accurate and comprehensive answers to the above questions without much thought. For others, however, a lack of opportunities for education, for discussion, for mutual knowledge exchange means they can’t.

Imagine… The consequences of an emergency settlement being built in a valley highly susceptible to debris flows. A water source offering ‘clean-water’ to a community for the first time being build next to a latrine, meaning the water is as dangerous as it was before. A survey for a water project being done at the end of rainy season, and the project failing when dry season arrives. Exploration in a region known to have nickel, and communities only having rumours to base their opinion, monitoring and ability to hold the company to account.

All of the above examples are things I’ve witnessed and discussed with people over the past few years. They resulted in decisions being made that had to be rectified, at high expense. They generated emotions of fear and frustration. Sickness, lost income, and lost education were all characteristics of failed water projects. Tragically, there is a high chance that death was also triggered by this lack of understanding. Similar decisions and consequences can be seen in the geoscience community also, where the lack of understanding is with regards social science, communication skills or engagement of stakeholder groups.

Scientia potentia est

The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ has been around for hundreds of years. When people expand their understanding, they are empowered to make balanced, well informed decisions that can transform their own lives that their communities. They can hold governments, industry, NGOs to account. When industries, NGOs and Governments expand their understanding, they can make better decisions, better serve in-country communities. When we as geologists expand our understanding – we can do our jobs better, integrating relevant socio-economic or cultural information to better manage work or research we undertake overseas.

There is a long and wide literature on different aspects of education, the importance of all stakeholders coming as equals, having information to contribute and co-generating new knowledge through research, discussions and other tools. Put simply, however, each individual has much to learn and much to share. Whether we choose to share the information we have with those who want to and need to understand it, depends on factors ranging from time, altruism, opportunities to engage, and confidence to share. When people are at risk of losing their livelihood, access to education, health or even lives, due to lack of geoscience understanding – we must carefully assess what we can do to maximise sharing, dissemination and discussion of our geoscience knowledge and research.

Equipping to Educate Effectively

If we are to see an increase in ‘global geoscience literacy’ – the ability of the general public to understand and use geoscience information – we need geoscientists who are equipped to educate effectively. The power of social media, the ability to engage people around the world at relatively low cost, the importance of developing sustainable education programmes and the high value of investing in educating women and children must be recognised. Culture changes are required in the training of young geoscientists at college, graduate and doctoral level. Universities must recognise that education and public outreach is not a sign of a failing research career, but a strong commitment to their subject and its impact on society. Professional and scientific organisations, such as the EGU, must take these topics as seriously as advances in scientific research. The wide array of communications, outreach and open-access sessions at the EGU General Assembly this year demonstrates an admirable commitment to this cause. These sessions are often well attended, with lively and informative debate. They are starting to ‘mainstream’ these conversations, moving them from a specialist niche to the attention of the wider community.

Natural hazards education, communications and the science-policy-practice interface

Yesterday afternoon, there was a well-attended session focused on natural hazards education, communications and the science-policy-practice interface, with some innovative abstracts sharing lessons learnt and a discussion on best practice. Perspectives offered in this session came from a range of international experiences – with board games to strengthen resilience in Africa, teacher training across Central Asia to encourage teaching on earthquakes, exciting ways to assess perceptions of hazards in the Caribbean and a number of examples from Europe. Perspectives were also offered by a range of generations, with the youngest participants being two high-school students from Italy. These students were working alongside the CNR-IRPI (Italy) on the development of software to help students understand hydrological hazards. Finally, it was a session that brought together physical and social scientists to share their perspectives.


Discussion participants turn to evaluating communications, and how responsive natural hazards scientists are to feedback that may suggest they need to change their approach

Many of the tools presented had two aims – knowledge transfer knowledge and discussion generation, simple interactive methods to promote a two-way dialogue about their experiences and understanding of natural hazards. The work of Mossoux et al (presented by Matthieu Kervyn), on the KAZAN board game for teaching natural hazards discussed this approach, as did Solmaz Mohadjer, talking about the work Parsquake undertakes on earthquake education in Central Asia. Solmaz spoke of the need to ‘fill the gap between fatalism and action by talking’. Dialogue builds knowledge which in turn empowers people to take positive actions.


Discussion participants think about things that hinder good communication, grouping them into core themes.

This was a message reinforced in a later discussion session, where participants shared their thoughts on positives and negatives when thinking about best practice in communicating natural hazards. The importance of (i) knowing your audience, not just in a superficial way, and (ii) recognising that it can take time to establish and build strong communication relationships, came across clearly.


Events such as the EGU General Assembly play an important role in enabling discussions on topics such as education and communication. While ultimately individuals must understand the relationship between education and empowerment, and proactively choose to engage in such work – it’s a sign of a positive change in the culture of geoscience research and training that so much time is devoted at the EGU General Assembly to kick-starting important conversations and inspiring individuals with a passion for effective education.