European Geologist of the month: Anthony Cooper

“European Geologist of the month” is a section of EFG’s monthly newsletter GeoNews. Each month we ask one of the European Geologist title holders to tell us about his professional experiences and which role the title has played for his career. This month we talked to Anthony Cooper, member of the Geological Society of London (GSL).

Dr Anthony Cooper undertook both his degrees at Sheffield University with his PhD being based on field surveying, stratigraphy and palaeontology of lower Palaeozoic rocks in Portugal. On leaving university he joined the British Geological Survey and undertook mapping of Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic and Quaternary deposits in Yorkshire. At this time, he started observing sinkholes and studying gypsum. Anthony Cooper moved on to work in the Lake District mapping the Ordovician sequence of the Skiddaw Group culminating in the Skiddaw Group memoir, maps and numerous papers. Reorganization of the Survey saw him moving to Central England with surveying on the Triassic gypsum sequences and more involvement with salt subsidence, gypsum subsidence and geological hazards. He then moved to surveying in Yorkshire including parts of the Vale of York and the North York Moors; this period saw himself and his team trailing and implementing the use of digital field data capture and the use of GIS in the field plus 3D borehole modelling. His final position at the Geological Survey was as team leader for Shallow Geohazards and Risks with teams working on landslides, karst and shrink-swell hazards. Anthony Cooper “retired” some 3 years ago, but remains attached to the Survey as an honorary research associate, a position that has allowed him to help former colleagues and pass on knowledge if asked. He undertakes geological consulting if the topic interests him and if it is one that utilizes his experience.

Name: Anthony Cooper
EurGeol title number: 269
Country: United Kingdom
In which country do you currently work? – England
In which field of geology do you work? – Engineering geology/Natural hazards/Sedimentology/Stratigraphy

How would you explain to the average person what geology is and why it is important? – Nearly all the resources we use on the planet including fuels, metals, minerals and building materials rely on a geologist to find them. Utilization of natural resources such as hydro power and wind energy also need engineering geologists to help deliver them. We also need geologist to help avoid natural hazards. Without geologists we would have a very poor lifestyle.

What inspired you to become a geologist? – A fascination with the landscape and rocks.

Have you been a geologist all your life? If not, what other job(s) have you done? – Yes, from when I first went to university. After my PhD I started work as a geological surveyor with the British Geological Survey and continued that for 38 years becoming more interested in geological hazards as I progressed. After “retiring” I moved into independent consulting, but I remain attached to the Survey as an honorary research associate.

In which sector(s) did/do you work? – Geological Surveying, geological hazards, engineering geology of soluble rocks

What do you currently do in your job? Could you describe an average day? – There is no average day, they all throw up something different. I am currently advising on soluble rocks (especially gypsum) and potential subsidence problems to infrastructure and a new development. Recently I have been logging boreholes and training other geologists; using QGIS and terrain models to understand 3D geology, advising on the use of geophysics and borehole investigations to better understand the sites and get a handle on the implications of gypsum dissolution on ground stability. I have also been collaborating with French and German geologists looking at alabaster provenance including that of medieval carvings and recent forgeries of artworks.

What’s your favourite part of your job? – The variety and being out in the field, my job has taken me around the world and to many places in the UK that I would never have visited including 10 years surveying the mountains of the northern Lake District, a wonderful experience.

What is your proudest accomplishment as a geologist? – Identifying subsidence geohazards and getting them recognized by the planners with mitigation measures incorporated into planning to protect the public.

Could you explain when and why you applied for the European Geologist title? – I applied to become a European Geologist in 2002. I had been involved with the EU-funded ROSES project (Risk Of Subsidence due to Evaporite Solution) and saw the title of European Geologist as a useful flag showing of my commitment to European co-operation.

Did you already work abroad? If yes, could you tell us about your experiences abroad? – I collaborated on soluble rocks with colleagues in Spain, Germany, Lithuania, Ukraine, China and the USA, but most of my visits have been short. Notable moments on trips have includes squeezing through gypsum caves in Germany and the Ukraine.

What are your professional projects/aspirations in the future? – I want to continue consulting on the subjects I know well and I have numerous papers still to publish. With investigations of alabaster provenance, I have moved sideways into some archaeological aspects of geology and intend to continue this line of research as well.

There are fewer women working in geology than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in geology? – Where I worked until recently, at the British Geological Survey, there were almost as many female geologists as male geologists. My last boss was female and we first met when she was my work experience student. There are no barriers, but I appreciate that raising a family can add enforced breaks in a career that can slow progression.

Why should young people consider a career in geosciences? – Because it is a job that gets you out and about, where you can make your own mark and discover new things. Even when we think we understand the geology there is nearly always a new twist to the story.

What kind of personal qualities do you need as a geoscientist? – A geoscientist needs to be a detective who can visualize the world in 3D (or 4D) and see how the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together bearing in mind that most of the pieces are missing!

What does the European Federation of Geologists represent for you and what do you expect from our association? – I see the European Federation of Geologists setting the standards that the individual country organizations adhere to (CPD reporting etc). I also see it as a label that shows willingness to work in other parts of Europe with the qualifications to do so.

Why does it matter to have a European, cross-border community of geologists? – Geology is cross-border, but geologists from different countries quite often approach problems in slightly different ways based on their different experiences. I have learnt a lot from my European colleagues.

To know you a little better: What do you like to do in your spare time? – I am a keen photographer interested in macro photography and extreme macro photography. I photograph a wide range of things and enter competitions, but some of my favorites are insects, frost and snowflakes. I help to record nature in my local area.

More information on the EurGeol title: http://eurogeologists.eu/eurgeol-title

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