Keith Palmer Lecture featuring Dr Steve Etches MBE

Wednesday 15 May 2019 (18:00-20:00)

Anna Chrystal, Learning and Community Outreach Officer



Keith Palmer Lecture 2019 featuring Dr Steve Etches MBE

We are pleased to announce the annual Keith Palmer Lecture 2019 taking place on Wednesday 15 May at 6pm.

We are delighted to welcome Dr Steve Etches MBE to talk about his Plumbing the Depths of the Kimmeridge Clay. Dr Etches is a plumber, fossil collector and preparator in Kimmeridge, on the Isle of Purbeck. The scientific importance of his stunning collection of fossils from the Late Jurassic period can't be overstated, with many world firsts among them. Join us as we learn about the stories of the finds, their painstaking extraction and preparation, to reveal the secrets of these amazing fossils; how they lived, bred and died in the seas of Kimmeridge, 157 million years ago.

Although the Kimmeridge Clay is one of the most highly studied of the World’s hydrocarbon source rocks, over the past 100 years its macrofossils have been somewhat neglected. In fact, the Kimmeridge Clay Formation was once described as the ‘least interesting suite of rocks’ to collect from for palaeontologists studying the Jurassic Period. Dorset, home to the complete Jurassic succession, is a mecca for fossil collectors and many of the major national natural history museums contain material collected from this area.  But 35 years ago, when Steve Etches first began collecting from the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay, he soon realised that these strata had been underexplored, underrepresented and specimens had been poorly documented and recorded. His great journey began.

Kimmeridge Bay, East and West, has the finest suite of Kimmeridge Clay rocks anywhere in the world and the Upper Kimmeridge Clay succession has been assigned the International Type Section for these strata.  The bay lies along one of the most remote areas of the Dorset Coast.  Access may only be made at beach level within Kimmeridge Bay itself, and for 2.5 miles to the east, sections of the beach are cut off at high tide by sheer cliffs and steep headlands.  West of Kimmeridge Bay, the coastline falls within the MOD ranges and access is restricted much of the time by live fire practise. There is no vehicular access and the logistics of collecting along this section are difficult and dangerous. For all these reasons, it was apparent to Steve, that collecting from this locality had not previously been carried out in a scientific, ordered, bed by bed manner.  He made the decision to collect from these strata exclusively, to fill this palaeontological void.

Steve’s talk focuses on the diversity of his collection: the stunning specimens, with many world firsts and specimens still undescribed, and their scientific importance. And, more importantly, the stories around the finds, their painstaking extraction and preparation, to reveal the secrets of these amazing fossils, how they lived, bred and died in the seas of Kimmeridge, 157 million years ago.

The evening will be hosted by Professor Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science.

The Keith Palmer Lecture Series was established to promote the “public understanding of natural science” by a distinguished invited speaker for a not only-University audience. The events featured in the series are widely publicised both within and outside the University community, and are on a relevant topic of public interest with an audience drawn from a wide range of groups across the Midlands. 

Registration for this event is essential.

Venue: Wodensborough Ormiston Academy, Hydes Road, Wednesbury, West Midlands WS10 0DR

This event is run in partnership with the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain

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