Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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BGRG Annual Conference

Sun, 02 Jul 2006

I've just returned from an exhausting three days at the British Geomorphological Research Groups Annnual Conference in Loughborough. The BGRG is the national professional society for geomorphologists in the UK and this conference (incorporating the AGM) was important because it oversaw the transition from being a "research group" under the Royal Geographical Society to becoming and separate charitable entity and expanding its scope. As a result it has now been renamed the British Society of Geomorphologists (BSG); not to be confused with the BGS!). So its a new era.

The conference itself was expertly organised by Steve Rice (Loughborough) and Mark Macklin (Aberystwyth) and was almost a "Who's who" of geomorphology (well in the UK at least!). There was also excellent overseas attendance which added hugely to the scope of the conference. There was a large poster area and one series of talks (i.e. no parallel sessions) organised thematically with a "lead" presentation. The theme for the conference was geomorphology and Earth Systems Science; Keith Richards kicked-off with a philisophical presentation about the "state" of the subject and suggested that ESS is really LESS which is actually more. You had to be there!

Bill Detrich received a "services to geomorphology" award and gave two excellent and thought provoking presentations ("a geomorphological signature of life" following work presented in Nature). The other eye-opener for me was a presentation by Steve Tooth (Aberystwyth) talking about a river system in Botswana (Okavango Delta). Two notable points: the first was the change from a straight channel to excessive meandering as a result of a change in substrate (i.e. granite to sandstone). The second was the effect of hippos on both channel erosion and discharge in a wetlands environment. Quite astounding!! To be honest, whilst Heather Viles (Oxford) noted the lack of "interest" in biogeomorphology early on in the conference, it was actually probably the main underlying theme, particularly highlighted by Bill Dietrich. Biota are fundamental to all geomorphic processes and it is clearly an area that is receiving much attention.

My only complaint was that there was probably too much; you can always take it or leave it though. All in all an excellent three days and I can thoroughly recommend next years conference (Birmingham) to those interested in geomorphology, physical geography, earth systems science and allied areas.

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