One Day in Europe: Croatia

One Day in Europe is a feature of EFG’s monthly newsletter GeoNews. Each month we travel to one of EFG’s national membership associations and discover their main activities and challenges. In October, we visited Croatia.

The Croatian Geological Society (CGS) was established in 1951, as a voluntary professional association of geologists and persons interested in geology and natural heritage, including the institutions from the field of Earth sciences. The society works towards achieving many goals: promoting geology in different aspects of industry, academia and society; facilitating networking among Croatian geoscientists but also promoting cooperation with other, similar societies and geoexperts around Europe and particularly within Central & South European Countries; introducing geological programs in the education system by pursuing workshops in elementary and high schools and participation in events to do with natural sciences promotion in broader senses; taking active part in processes of creating relevant legislation aiming to manage and regulate geological research activities; taking care of geological heritage by means of paying due respect to reputable founders of the Society and our most famous predecessors but also taking care of preserving natural heritage such as geo-parks, national parks etc.; publishing and promoting the results of scientific work via Geologia Croatica scientific journal and issuing around  two Geological Society Bulletins (Vijesti) annually More recently, the Society has also been dedicated to promoting and disseminating information on EU supported programs where Croatian Geological Society is taking part as the third party.

EFG delegate Lilit Cota answered our questions.

Lilit Cota, Croatian Geological Society President

Lilit Cota is the President of the Croatian Geological Society. She graduated in geology from the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering. She then started her career in the education sector by teaching and taking part in creating geological curriculum at Zagreb High School for Natural Sciences. Afterwards, she developed a career in the oil sector by joining the Croatian national oil company INA. There, she spent more than 25 years working at different expert and managerial positions in the exploration segment of INA, which is today a stock company. Currently, she hols the position of INA d.d. Exploration Manager. Her professional interests were originally focused on petroleum geology and organic geochemistry, and then on managing exploration projects in Croatia, Mediterranean, Middle East and North  and West Africa countries. Beyond developing skills in oil Exploration, she pursued interests in energy sectors in general, where she has presented her views and strategic analysis at a number of international energy events and conferences. The results of her work has also been published in distinguished international journals such as Organic Geochemistry or Earth Science Reviews. In the course of her dynamic petroleum geologist career, she completed many oil industry top technical and management programs in Europe and the USA as well as aMBA program. She currently is taking part in several professional associations: Croatian Association of Petroleum Engineers and Geologists (HUNIG) where she is member of the Board, Croatian Gas Association (HUP), AAPG; and International Gas Union (IGU). Her long term membership in the Croatian Geological Society (HGD) has a special place in her heart she feels geologists share a lot of common interests and passion for our profession.

How many members does your association represent? How did your membership evolve over the past few years and in which field of geology do your members mainly work?

Currently, we are around 530 members, where about 70% of them represent employed geologists, 10% students, 6% retired geologists, 3% honorary members and 1% unemployed ones. A special, but not less important, category are Friends of the Society where their contribution in the total membership structure is about 9%. We are pleased to see the positive trend in the total members count over the past five years. For example, in 2012 we had only 375 registered members. Today, the  majority of employed members or at least 30% of them are with the oil industry, 22% are coming from the Croatian Geological Survey, 11% from the Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering, 8% from the Faculty for Natural Sciences, 5% from the Croatian Natural History Museum and 24% of them are employed with a number of different, smaller institutions and companies.

Could you introduce in a few words the people working for your association and their respective role?

According to the Croatian Geological Society Statute, President, Vice President, Secretary and the Management Board have the key roles in our Society management structure. On the operational level, Secretary is the busiest and the most important person being in charge of coordinating and organizing all activities, taking care of reporting, finances etc. That position is currently held by Dr Morana Hernitz Kucenjak, an outstanding personality and expert (Micropaleontologist with INA d.d.). Her dedication to the prosperity of the Society is extraordinary when dealing with regular, everyday tasks but also those urgent and unexpected ones. Professor Igor Vlahovic is the Vice president of the Society. Heis  the Professor of geology at  Zagreb University, Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering but also one of the youngest distinguished members of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Most of his career has been associated, but not limited, to research of the Croatian Thrust Belt and the Adriatic Carbonate platform. As the Vice-president of the Society, besides dealing with the Society organization challenges, he is dedicated to organizing educational events for students and young geologists, with the ambition to upgrade their knowledge level, especially when it comes to carbonate platform environments and genetics. Recently, he has been moderating discussions on the Croatian Geological Research Act, which is an important piece of Legislation when it comes to regulating geological research and related activities in Croatia. Our Society Management Board is composed of 10 members being appointed on behalf of the key institutions and organizations dealing with geological activities in Croatia: two Faculties of the Zagreb University, Natural History Museum, Industry and Geological Survey. President, Vice President and the Secretary are also members of the Management Board. We are meeting regularly and discuss all key issues to do with the Society key functions, finances, plans, programs and organizational issues.  Each of the Management Board members is responsible for specific area of expertise, therefore it is logical that they support activities in those areas in particular.

Can you describe your working space, the atmosphere, if you share your office with other associations, etc.?

Our team members are volunteers, so that they mostly contribute to the work of Society from their working places. Our registered office is with the Croatian Geological Institute (Survey), however only as a formal seat. We use different premises for our organizational & editorial activities, meetings, presentations, round tables etc. Under my presidency, for the regular Board meetings we mostly use premises of the organization that I work for. Geologia Croatica Editorial Board meetings are held in the Croatian Geological Institute whilst Croatian Geological Society bulletin (“Vijesti”) editorial meetings are mostly associated with the Editor’s working place, which is currently in the Croatian Natural History Museum. For the lectures and different meetings we mostly use the facilities of the Zagreb University or more precisely lecture rooms of the two faculties pursuing geology programs. Having one office could be advantageous but through above described ways we see a lot of dynamics and everybody is contributing organization-wise. Finally, it’s not about the place and the office space but about how we cooperate, how well we are coordinated and what kind of progress we see as a result of our efforts.

What was your association’s main achievement in 2016 and what is your focus in 2017?

By organizing 26 public lectures, we covered a really broad range of topics: geological, ecological, raw materials and new technologies.  We saw more than 100 participants in 3 field trips when 2 of them took place in Croatia and 1 in Austria, where we have visited famous Natural History Museum in Vienna. We organized, co-organized or supported 4 workshops and conferences in the areas of sedimentology, geo-mathematics, basin evolution and hydrogeology. In terms of geology popularization, we continued with implementation of our already traditional program “Meet the Earth, Take the Peek into the Microscope” and we took part in the Zagreb Science Fair where we have also presented GeoArt program for kids. We continued with active participation in two H2020 Projects; Kindra and Intraw, as a third party. One of the most important tasks in 2016 was delivering new Society Statutes in compliance with the Croatian legislation on public associations. However, one of the major achievements in 2016 was the revitalization of the Student’s division activities for which the leaders of the respective divisions received the Society annual reward. Also, in 2016, we managed to attract more funds in terms of donations and sponsorships than in previous years. We received more support from the Croatian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology where our education and publishing projects were recognized as quality ones. 2017 is the year dedicated to young geologists in which we intensify and diversify our education programs but also the year of remembering and celebrating the 160th birth anniversary of the famous Croatian geophysicist Andrija Mohorovicic, father of Moho. For the first time in our history, we have extended our educational programs to the Croatian islands by teaching geology in remote elementary and high schools on the Croatian islands. This year we do our best to pass the Act on the Geological Research which will better regulate our sector where the currently valid Act is completely outdated and hasn’t been changed since mid-eighties. By better regulating that sector, it would be possible to create solid foundations for more efficient functioning of key state institutions dealing with research, data repositories, exploration licenses. Ultimately, roles and responsibilities of the key players in the process would be better defined.

What are currently the main challenges for your association?

Like in many organizations or institutions, relatively limited number of members take really proactive approach in Society’s activities, therefore it is always a big challenge to attract and motivate more members to give quality contribution to the life of the Society. Inclusion of younger population, junior experts is still a challenge too. Despite the fact that over the past two years we experienced their increased interest in the work of the Society, we should employ even more efforts in direction of continued and quality dialogue with them. In addition to that, we would also like to see our more active participation in concrete EU projects and programs with clear and visible effects for our economy, not as a third party only but as reliable and more active partner in high impact projects. With that respect, we should be given the opportunity to promote our expert capabilities and capacities, we would like to show our strengths and also areas – projects where we could take the leadership and not necessarily follow others. We see the potential for closer cooperation with EFG in that area.

Do you promote geology towards society? If yes, how?

We are doing our best to implement our relatively new initiative which is named “Geology for Society”, where we would like to raise awareness on the importance of geology and geologists for the economy and society but also to better communicate our  needs and ambitions and increase our visibility. One important topic with that respect is to increase retention rate of graduated geologists within their core profession by opening communication fairways and fostering more positive attitude on the future of our profession and its importance for the wellbeing of the society. By organizing round tables, lectures, improving communication ways and cooperation with different media, with academia, similar societies and institutions, that is how we send positive messages towards the society.

Do you have any particular activities to attract young geoscientists?

Through our program, “Meet the Earth, Take the Peek into the Microscope”, which is mainly prepared for presentation of geosciences in schools, we try to introduce our young geoscientists to the world of teaching and interacting with school children. This can be a valuable and nice experience for all of them while they can share their knowledge and enthusiasm to elementary and  high school students of different age (from 7 to 18 years old). It is very interesting to note that the number of our young geoscientists volunteering in this way is growing each year (the program has been going on for 6 years now), as the gained experience is mostly very positive. We also organise the exhibition of photos named GEA, in which all of our members can take part, as well as non-members. Students are quite active and regularly submit their photos which are often excellent and even rewarded, as the exhibition has a competitive character. This year, the students initiated the organization of the Students day of Geology mini conference, which took place in May 2017, where lectures of students and professors, as well as field trips were organized, with an overview of  the formation and existence of the Adriatic Carbonate Platform. In this way, our young geoscientists have shown their will and desire to do more and show their knowledge and experience to their colleagues and their teachers, which was a great experience for all participants, and we hope it will continue in the years to come.

Are you in contact with decision makers at national level? If yes, in which field?

This is definitely something where we see possibilities for improvement. We take part in public discussion when it is about delivering new pieces of legislation which has to do with our area of operations. As I mentioned earlier, we are currently working closely with the Croatian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on drafting  new Geological Research Act. Before that, we took part in delivering a new Croatian Hydrocarbon Act. Where we would like to have more to say is in education, as today we see geology in primary and high school programs in very limited contents or as an addition to the geography, physics or biology programs. This could be changed through intensified dialogue with policy makers in the education segment.

Why in your opinion are National Associations important for geoscientists?

National associations are the only organizations that bring together all geoscientist, no matter their positions and whether they come from public or private organizations, be it universities, large oil companies, small private companies, etc. In that respect, they are indispensable for disseminating information, organizing events and delivering a unified platform for consulting and influencing decision makers regarding national matters related to geoscience.

Why is the EFG important for geoscientists and how does your work and the work of the EFG complement and reinforce each other?

For smaller nations like Croatia, it is especially beneficial to have an umbrella organization such as the EFG. It provides a platform to exchange useful information, experiences and best practices with geoscientists of complementary organizations, who often deal with similar problems and challenges. It also enables geoscientists to get involved in issues regarding geoscience that might surpass the national level.

Is there any experience/good practice from your association that you would like to share with other associations?

The most valuable experience we could emphasize is our work with younger population, especially students of geology, but also the younger school children. As geology is often poorly presented in school programs, our attempts to bring more of it to the children of all ages, or to anybody showing interest to geology, no matter their age, can be considered as a precious experience to all the members of our Society. Also, bringing geology to remote schools and poorly populated areas is something that we would gladly share with others.

In your opinion, how could EFG improve the knowledge about the activities carried out by other associations?

We believe EFG is doing an excellent job at exchanging information through its many publications, meetings and workshops. What might be a useful addition is a centralized calendar of events where each national association could post information on smaller events such as field trips, workshops, lectures they are organizing; ones they believe could have a wider audience. This might be especially useful for national associations from neighbouring countries, where their members might have an interest in an event that otherwise might not be broadly publicised outside of the organizing country.

What are your general hopes for the future of the profession of geologists and how can national and international associations help build that future?

This is really the most important question for all of us who truly love and care about our profession. We live in the world or rapid and sometimes unpredictable changes where we have to ask ourselves is we are always adapting adequately. It’s a kind of Darwinist question, to stay with our professional language. Needs and priorities of the societies and economies are changing so that the requirements and expectations from our profession are different, which shouldn’t necessarily have a negative impact. Ways and means of doing basic geology (in a traditional sense) are more or less the same, but today it is about changing tasks and priorities, putting more technology into the processes and integrating the results of our work through a holistic approach. This means closely incorporating more environmental impact, risk & economic elements into our projects. How could we have low hopes for our sector when society will always need water, all kinds of natural resources, energy, protected environment, potential hazards risk assessments, natural phenomena and occurrences monitoring systems, and when kids will continue to visit natural history museums with enthusiasm and curiosity? The education sector, the academic community but also us people from the industry should develop capacities to respond to some of these challenges more actively and at an accelerated pace. Not properly understanding new priorities and trends can cause misunderstandings and ultimately very negative perception on the future of our profession. And the idea of future, vision, perspective and importance of our profession are so important to be clearly communicated towards our young colleagues and geology students. Sometimes, they are just giving up too easily being attracted by the brighter lights of IT, marketing or service sectors which shouldn’t be underestimated.  So, back to your question, how can we help? By creating and promoting better education policies, by nourishing honest and opened communication between the colleagues from different sectors, but also with regulators, industry and academia and definitely through intensified and more concrete cooperation with EFG and other similar societies. Encouragement of our young colleagues is so important. Giving them direction and opportunities for development of their careers or taking part in the concrete scientific projects would be more helpful than promoting generic ideas and projections for the future. All mentioned is the role of national and international associations but also of each of us experienced individuals.