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Portsmouth Earth & Environmental Science Staff


Montage kindly supplied by Anthony Butcher, 1998.

This page is for present and past Portsmouth Earth and Environmental Science Lecturing, Research, Technical and Administrative staff. Again, summaries of current and recent activities will be given, together with some personal news and photographs - ancient or modern! Further details for current staff can be seen on the SEES website.


Mike Chaplin's and Greg Power's retirement event - June 2005.

Left to right - Mike Barker, Mike Chaplin, Pete Hall, Pete McDowall, Fran Miller, John Vigay, Mike Ryan, Brian Walton, Brian Daley, Andy Poulsom, Geoff Browning, Dave Hughes, Rog MacCallum, Andy Miller, Tony Poynton, Greg Power.



Neil Duncan (founder of the Degree course) and Andrew Poulsom (one of its first graduates) at the Engineering Geology Degree 40th Anniversary Reunion October 2007.


Geoff Browning - Engineering Geology Lecturer at Portsmouth, 1970-1991 and 2002-2008, died recently (April 2010) aged 66, after a long illness. Andrew Poulsom writes :-

Geoff obtained his first degree in Geology from Leicester University in 1965.
After working for the National Coal Board Open Cast Executive and Le Grand Adsco Ltd,  he attended Imperial College and obtained his Masters degree in Geophysics in 1967.  He then went to Sheffield University as a Research Assistant and then on to Durham University as a research associate before joining the Department of Chemistry and Geology at the newly designated  Portsmouth Polytechnic as lecturer in Engineering Geology on 1st Nov 1970.  Geoff’s forte was a rare mix of academic rigour coupled with practical industrial application and he was very much at home, and a very important player, in the Engineering Geology team headed by Neil Duncan. 

As well as teaching Geoff played a major role in teaching Geology to Civil Engineers, leading numerous field courses to the Isle of Wight and South west England.  His observational skills, encyclopaedic knowledge and clear presentational skills were loved by his students, whilst his gregarious nature, relentless banter and humour meant that staff found it a pleasure as well. 

Geoff's lecturing style was inimitable.  A tall man with a strong voice and hands and arms which would wave around when he lectured, he was a commanding presence in the lecture theatre.  His openness and approachability invited discussion and participation from the students and he appreciated their humour.  One story he recounted was of a student who, because of Geoff’s arm waving, asked “Excuse me, Mr Browning, but will there be hand-signals in the exam?” 

He engaged widely in consultancy, working mainly locally with his colleague and great friend Bill Hodges, but also on a number of overseas projects.  He also extended his academic repertoire, becoming an external examiner, working for the Open University on summer schools and as tutor, and engaging with both the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy and Geological Society of London on their vetting committees.

After 20 years at Portsmouth he became frustrated at his lack of progress to Principal Lecturer and, reluctantly concluding that he needed to pursue his career elsewhere, he joined Wardell-Armstrong in 1991.  However, the pull of the south coast proved strong, and he eventually returned to the University by a circuitous route.  He served as a free-lance lecturer teaching up to MSc level in both the Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering Departments from 2002 to 2008.  He continued to use his expertise within the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences where he oversaw the accreditation of the geology courses by the Geological Society. He played an invaluable role in the organisation the Engineering Geology and Geotechnics 40th Anniversary Alumni Conference held in Portsmouth October 2007, which proved such a memorable and joyful occasion.

Neil Duncan, his mentor, friend and colleague for 14 years, wrote a reference for Geoff which reads as follows :
Mr Browning is regarded by both staff and students as a first class lecturer with a thorough grasp of his subjects. 
He has a capacity for original thought and an excellent communicative ability.  He has the rare ability to see clearly the practical and theoretical aspects of his work. 

He is a man of outstanding personality, character and intellect.  He applies himself to every aspect of his work and profession with an enthusiasm and diligence which is all too rare." 



Paul Garrett

27 Nov. 2009

Dear Brian.

While working at Portsmouth, in about 1972, as a grade 2 technician I had contact with professional geologists working in the teaching and research areas, and I very nearly went to Greenland as Allan Arnold's field assistant ! After leaving I worked for a London company making equipment for  high vacuum equipment (Ken Gwilliam, are you there?)
Then six weeks around Europe in an Austin J4 diesel van,(!) then overland to Katmandu via Kabul (!)
and from there to Sydney, No work there, so Annette (my wife) and I came here to N.Z. where she is from. Got married, and worked in the electroplating supply industry, and then started this business. At Portsmouth a technician who I remember as 'Mr Christmas' showed me the elements of operating a darkroom which was critical in this business.  So, Portsmouth was a key event in my career.
I still 'do' rocks, and my collection is a bit embarrassing.  
Paul Garrett
Managing Director.
Photoetch Industries Ltd.
23 Brisbane St, Sydenham,
New Zealand.
Phone: (64) 3 3799421
Fax :     (64) 3 3799348


Andrew Miller

28 Nov. 2011

Andrew was a laboratory technician in the Geology Department from 1967 to 1977 and married Fran (Keeble) - Portsmouth Geology graduate 1974. Since 1992 he has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Leston. He is Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.

Andrew Miller wrote:

Good to hear from you. Just one for your diary, I am giving the Peter Kent lecture on March 15, 2012 at the Geological Society, on 'Probabilities and Possibilities in Parliament: How a learned society can help improve our decision-making'.

A limited number of free tickets are available on application to policy@geolsoc.org.uk by 1 March, 2012.





Merry Christmas - John Vail, Greg Power and Brian Walton!


Mike Ryan

Date: 14.10.06

Mike has sent in his 'Memories of a Field Trip'.

18 Nov. 2009

Since retiring in 2002 (or was it 2003? the years simply merge one into another!) I've been writing 'my memoires' - in the form of a novel, loosely based on my youth and student years. I say "loosely" in the sense that the sex involved is more as I wished it had been rather than how it actually was! Aside from writing, I continue to play bridge with my partner of 44 years, Brian Daley. We have yet to get our names on the honours board of Southsea Bridge Club for winning The Southsea Cup - came within a whisker a couple of years ago but the prize itself eludes us. (We are still known as "the boys" even though Brian has turned 70 and I'm approaching it. Just goes to show how great the average age of club members is!)
I spend a fair amount of time childminding in London and Birmingham - my four-year-old grandson is hooked on dinosaurs (and other fossil reptiles) following a superbly illustrated book (suitable for undergraduates - he does, after all, carry the Ryan genes!) that I gave him. Now I've just got to get him interested in minerals and 'hard rock'.
Holidays involve bird-watching and gentle exercise : the Assynt District with its spectacular unconformities, thrusts and the superb Handa bird cliffs; Isle of Mull - the best holiday ever! Fourteen days of unbroken sunshine, eagles galore and even the elusive corncrake! This year (2009) I returned to Norway for the first time in thirteen years to look around the Lofotens. Well inside the arctic circle, twentyfour hours daylight and midnight sun, spectacular scenery - it was just like Greenland, but with roads and trees! I was a little worried beforehand that I might have forgotten my 'norsk' - but, on meeting an old fisherman on the first day's walk, I asked him whether he'd seen any sea eagles.... and it all came flooding back. Best food ever tasted in Reine Gammelbua (restaurant) - especially if you like your fish fresh! And I do mean fresh - straight from the boat, across the quay and into the kitchen.


Dr. Mike Ryan, Senior Lecturer in Geology 1965-2003.





Brian Walton


Brian, Joyce and Jack  - May 2013

Updated  October 2015

Since I retired in 1997 Joyce and I have lived at Bosham, near Chichester, together with our Yorkshire/Jack Russell terriers 'Sparky', and now 'Jack'. I try to keep my interest in geology going mainly by continued membership of the Geological Society of London and the Geologists Association, and by usually visiting geologically interesting places on holiday! I particularly enjoy reading ‘Geology Today’ and any books with a good general geological interest.

In 2000 I joined a sponsored trek to Patagonia in aid of Mencap, which was generously supported by many of our Geology graduates.

I got a shock in 2003 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after a mastectomy (!) and radiotherapy, I'm now fully recovered.

I like keeping in touch with our graduates, and in 2004 went to a Tectonics Conference in South Africa where I stayed part of the time with Allan Arnold, 1967, and his family. I also met Jane Carr (Enderby), 1983, Mike Lynn, 1984 and Simon Johnson, 1994. The Conference included visits to the Bushveld Complex and the Limpopo Fold belt. In 2006, I helped David Whiting lead the Earthquake and Volcanic Risk Assessment course to Campania, Italy.

Joyce and I were members of Chichester University of the Third Age for some years and we have taken geology groups on several overseas trips.
We were also members of Chichester’s classical music society ‘Music on Sundays’ and I was their Secretary for nine years. Unfortunately, the club has now closed.
We are quite involved with the Bosham village community and until recently enjoyed sailing my Wayfarer from Cobnor. For four years I was a Community Governor at Bosham Primary School. For some years Joyce has been producing performances for 'The Bosham Old-Timers' - a music hall style variety group, which I also am involved with. Apart from that we have seven children, twelve grandchildren and one great grandchild (!) between us and can recommend an active retirement - we have recently had our 80th birthdays!

In April 2009 I joined the field trip to examine Dinosaur Habitats of the Isle of Wight led by Dave Martill and Andy Gale of the Portsmouth Geology Department and organised by the newly-formed Solent Group of The Geological Society.


Some of the group giving the thumbs up for a fine Iguadon footprint at Hanover Point.



Nick Walton

Updated 5 Nov. 2011

Nick Walton 'appeared' on BBC Radio Solent (96.1 FM) over a period of 92 plus weeks, (why 92 you ask yourselves  ....... ?), at 10-40 am on the Jon Cuthill show, giving a 10-minute interview on each individual Chemical Element in the Periodic Table (hence the 92 weeks). He started on Tues. 28 July 2009 with Hydrogen following with Helium  etc etc .......


Nick in his broadcasting studio!



Advice for all Earth Science Lecturers - How to Organize and Run a Geology Field Trip...

1. Plan to visit far more sites than you can reasonably expect to visit during the allotted time available for the trip. The success of a geology field trip is measured by how much ground you cover, the number of outcrops you visit, and how fast you do it.

2. Make sure that your field trip covers the maximum topographic relief possible in your area, preferably within one stop. If your area includes a hill or mountain of any kind, make sure that climbing it is on the itinerary. If the outcrop on top of the mountain is essentially the same as what is at the foot of the mountain, climb it anyway. Then you can show people how thick the unit is. If there is no outcrop on top of the mountain, climb it anyway. Mountain tops are unsurpassed as settings for arm-waving. Remember, real geologists don't need reasons to climb mountains.

3. Be sure to include stops that you've never visited before, or haven't visited for 30 years. Searching for a new or barely remembered outcrop is part of the fun of a field trip, especially if you're leading a large group. Everybody can help look! The fun can be maximized if the outcrop is at the end of a long hike through tick-infested woods or a large cow pasture full of thistles, burdock and cow paddies.

4. Be sure to include stops that have plenty of sentimental value for you, even if there's nothing to see. "This is the black shale outcrop where I collected the first rock for my thesis." Also include sites of historical interest. "This concrete abutment covers the spot where George Spudge defined the type locality of the Mullet Formation. The Mullet Formation was later abandoned when it was discovered to be part of the Clinton Formation. There used to be some great fossils here, but they're all covered up now by the concrete abutment." Don't let the fact that there is nothing to see at an outcrop stop you from visiting it. "This outcrop is full of acritarchs. You can't see them, but they're there. Put away that rock hammer! We don't have permission to collect here." The farther you have to hike to visit these, the better.

5. Whatever you do, don't postpone the field trip for any meteorological reason. Remember that blizzards, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and freezing rain are just part of Earth's dynamic system, and will make the field trip more interesting. Students who don't enjoy looking at outcrops in freezing rain shouldn't be going into geology anyway. The only reason to postpone a field trip is if you discover that it conflicts with an important sporting event.

6. During the field trip, make sure that you move your group from one outcrop to the next as fast as you can make them run. The faster you go, the better a geologist you prove yourself to be. Spend as little time at a given outcrop as possible. People who want to lollygag at outcrops to take pictures, write notes, collect samples and study the outcrop are just wasting your time and everyone else's. If they are so interested, they should come back to the site later, on their own time. A good judge of how much time to spend at an outcrop is to wait until the last stragglers come into view, and then move on. That way, the fast people will have a chance to rest, but the stragglers won't, and maybe that will convince the stragglers to get out of geology and leave the field to those who can take it like a man!

7. During the mountain-climbing part of the trip, make sure that the group ascends the mountain as fast as possible. You can then relax and spend a fair bit of time on the top while waiting for people to stop vomiting and having asthma attacks. At the top of the mountain, you can go into a grand, sweeping lecture on the stratigraphy of the region, pointing out distant features of regional significance. You should do this even if the features are obscured by rain, snow, sleet or haze.

8. Don't waste time scheduling stops for meals or use of the restroom. Meals can be eaten from a bag lunch while running from one outcrop to another. And anyone who can't figure out how to pee and poop outdoors shouldn't be in geology. That goes for women, too, and if there's no place for her to hide to drop her drawers and do her business, she should just do it out in the open. After all, what does she think she has that everyone on the trip hasn't seen already?

9. And speaking of women, don't let any of them convince you to make an unscheduled stop at a store to buy feminine hygiene products. They're supposed to know when they're going to need them, and plan accordingly. Likewise, make it clear from the beginning that you're not going to have any unscheduled stops for any reason: injuries incurred on the trip (people need to learn to be careful), forgotten lunch, drinks or medicine (tell them to do without, and they'll remember next time), diarrhea attacks (they can hold it until the next stop), and other hokey excuses that students will come up with to get you to stop.

10. When talking about an outcrop, use the most esoteric language possible to prove that you're the best geologist there, and if you don't know any really technical-sounding stuff, you can always make up some words or abbreviations that will awe the students and humble your colleagues (like referring to river mouth bars as RMBs, for example).

11. There is no need to cut a field trip short if it gets dark before you're finished. You can look at roadcuts by the headlights of your van, and other outcrops with flashlights.

Remember, the success of a geology field trip is measured by how much ground you cover, the number of outcrops you visit, and how fast you do it!

Anon. ( Of course, Portsmouth field trips are not quite like this. )