The UK's Nationwide Geology Club for Children

James Barnet

PhD student in Geology
I first heard about Rockwatch when I saw a leaflet about the club at a meeting of the Southampton Mineral and Fossil Society at the age of 11. I was a member of that society and was already really interested in minerals and fossils. Joining Rockwatch looked like fun and I realised it would give me a chance to develop my knowledge of minerals and fossils and maybe become a geologist one day. So, I joined, and then a few years later entered their national competition (known then as the Rockhound Competition) and in later years, entered the Rockwatch Rock Writer competition. These competitions presented a fantastic opportunity to develop my geological skills and learn more about the subject. I was a competition winner on two consecutive occasions and received some fantastic fossil specimens for my prizes, which still hold pride of place in my collection. The prize-giving ceremony in London was held at the prestigious London HQ of Anglo American who sponsor the annual competition. The Rockwatch Magazine is an excellent source of interesting articles and some, along with the fact cards, even helped with revision for my A-level Geology and Geography courses! And, I’m delighted to say that James has had some articles published in the magazine highlighting some of the field work he did as a student (Rockwatch Chair’s comment). My membership of Rockwatch and the Southampton Society along with the geology and geography I studied at school all led to my decision to study a Master's degree in Geology at the University of Southampton. I graduated with a First Class Degree in 2008 and found a job immediately as a geologist for an oil and gas consultancy in Oxfordshire from September 2008 - September 2014. I mentioned my membership and association with Rockwatch during my job interview and the management had heard of the club. This evidence of extra-curricular interest in the subject may also have helped with the job offer I received! Working as a geologist during those 6 years enabled me to travel to many different and exciting countries to do fieldwork, including Norway, Russia, France, Turkey, Oman, Canada and the USA. I have also presented posters and papers at a number of international geoscience conferences. After 2 years of hard work, I finally published my first book* in August 2014, a geologically-themed walking guide to the mountains around Fort William in Scotland (Rockwatch even get a mention in the "About Me" section!). The book is available through a diverse array of internet retailers, bookshops and tourist information centres across Scotland, as well as from a website designed by my family and I: It received very favourable reviews in the Rockwatch and the Geologists’ Association’s magazines! In September 2014 I returned to academia to study for a PhD in Geology at the University of Exeter, based at its Cornwall Campus near Falmouth. My research is focussed on reconstructing past "greenhouse" climates during the Palaeocene epoch (~66-55 million years ago), using tiny marine microfossils called foraminifera from deep-sea sediment cores drilled in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. Foraminifera shells are no bigger than the fine grains of sand you find at the beach and can only be identified with the aid of a powerful microscope. I will use the stable carbon and oxygen isotope signatures, locked into the calcite shells of the foraminifera when they were alive millions of years ago, to determine past changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and climate respectively. This work can aid predictions of our future climate over the next few hundred years with ongoing human-induced anthropogenic climate change. I am due to finish my PhD in 2018. I have come a long away and achieved a lot since I first joined Rockwatch, but I think it's important to recognise that Rockwatch gave me the opportunities for this success, including the opportunity to practise and refine my creative writing skills through entries to the Rock Writer competition, along with the geological knowledge I acquired through the club's magazine, fact cards and field trips.

Author: Helen Connolly

Share This Post On