Suburban Geochemical Modelling

When I read the message “it’ll be out in the suburbs” I had images of the grim grey concrete monoliths that cluster the outskirts of the bonny Glasgow Clyde at home. I was pleasantly surprised this morning therefore when I found myself exiting the metro at I.P Pavlovna and strolling down idyllic aged cobbled side streets bathed in sunshine, lush greenery and exquisite architecture. It is my first visit to Prague, and the morning beauty of it made a grand first impression.

Prior to the main start of Goldschmidt 2015 on Monday the 17th August, a weekend of high quality workshops have been organised in the Charles University grounds of Albertov. I was attending the Geochemical modelling: Using PHREEQC For Laboratory And Industrial Applications course, yet many others were being offered, from the Marine Boron Geochemistry Workshop to Numerical modelling of igneous processes; a literal buzzing hive of geological information exchange. To say I was intimidated by the software and apprehensive about whether attending the workshop was a good idea for someone of my limited capabilities would be an understatement; I am a novice at chemistry, spending a significant portion of my PhD engineering Mars rover tools, rather than calculating detailed geochemical equations. However, I had not even made it past the main door before being greeted by a smiling face, welcoming me and directions how to find the room I needed.


The course was led by the highly capable Andrew Barnes, David Tait, and Julien Declercq from SRK Consulting.  A gentle sigh of relief was breathed when I saw the carefully compiled full colour booklet to guide us, step by step through the potential trauma of modelling. Sipping the awesome coffee I’d been given, I was ready for some chemistry. I did find the subject matter hard, but my stumbling was well guided by the humour and wisdom of the staff, and other helpful course mates. Vast amounts of water bottles, cups of coffee and fruit juice were provided to us, gratis, by the organisers. No doubt to attempt to offset the sweltering oven (at least to a Scot) that is 30°C. In fact, the highest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was 32°C in 2003, so we generally melt in Prague conditions.

After the tasty selection of sandwiches, sweets, cakes and pastries laid out at lunch time, I was expecting nothing more at 5pm, and was therefore pleasantly surprised when the day finished with complimentary beer pulled by the pint, slàinte mhòr. With the first day over, I’m not sure I’ll ever make a great geochemist, but I do at least feel enormously more comfortable navigating around the basics of PHREEQC, and that I sense, is the primary point of the workshop achieved. They whispered something terrifying about advanced modelling applications for the subject of tomorrow….