Professor Iain Stewart MBE, Professor of Geoscience Communication and Director of the University's Sustainable Earth Institute

Plymouth University’s expertise in the earth sciences will be in evidence as students and academics play a leading role in a global conference this month.

From September 27-30, more than 750 delegates will gather in Torquay for GGN2016, the 7th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Designed as a celebration of geoscience, it will see senior UNESCO officials, scientists, policy makers and government officials from all over the world discussing the health and wellbeing of communities through creative and active engagement, and the role of the natural environment and the rocks beneath our feet for the sustainable development of local communities.

Plymouth University is one of the conference’s strategic partners and Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication and Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute at Plymouth University, will be welcoming delegates to the event.

Academics and students will also demonstrating their expertise on the region’s geology by leading field trips as part of the event.

Professor Stewart, Patron of the English Riviera Global Geopark, said:

“Across the Geopark, there are countless ways in which the economic vitality and cultural creativity of the region is rooted in its scenic beauty and the resources hidden underfoot. Geoparks globally emerge from bottom-up, grassroot initiatives that celebrate the locally distinctive sense of 'place' and Torbay is no exception. As one of only two 'urban' Geoparks, it is especially important to showcase how geology and geography interact to make a meaningful contribution to people's lives here in the South West.”

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences was the University’s highest-rated submission, with 85 per cent of its research graded as Internationally Excellent or World-Leading. And in the QS World University Rankings 2016, Earth and Marine Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Geography and Area Studies were all in the top 200 in the world, based upon academic and employer reputation, and research impact.

Dr Mark Anderson, Head of the School of Geography Earth and Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University, added:

“We are delighted to be working with the International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks. It is a chance to give delegates a taste of our world-leading expertise in this field, at the same extending the unique experiences available to our students and academics.”

The conference takes place every two years and has previously been staged in China, Northern Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, Japan and Canada. The 2016 gathering will aim to generate a renewed sense of collective purpose in local, national and transnational wellbeing, informing, educating and celebrating what this means for life in the 21st Century.

Chair of the Conference Organising Committee Nick Powe, the director at Kents Cavern prehistoric caves, Torquay, said:

“There are currently 120 Geoparks in 33 UNESCO member states and Plymouth University has been instrumental in the development of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark over the past 10 years. In September we will be welcoming a wide audience from over 50 countries to Torbay. This will include geologists, tourism and economic regeneration experts, academic and teaching professionals, as well as representatives from government and non-government organisations. The exceptional geology of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark, combined with the expertise and support of our colleagues from Plymouth University, will ensure the delegates not only enjoy a world class experience but discover how Global Geoparks use geological heritage to make a difference in their territories.”

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