In 1969, after what he considers a slow start to his career and education, geologist and gemmologist, Ian Mercer (BSc Geology 1975) could see that pursuing a degree would be key to fulfilling his desire to live a life filled with interesting and meaningful work. “Going to Birkbeck completely altered and directed my whole life. I quickly saw that my degree would enable me to reach out and help others to understand complex concepts in the simplest and most interesting ways”. Little did he know that while studying at Birkbeck he would meet a fellow student, Ros, who 45 years later would become his wife…
Ian and Ros stayed in touch occasionally through the years, living their lives and raising their families; indeed, Ian became Godfather to Ros’s three sons. Eventually there were great changes to their lives and they were there for each other. Now Ian is also stepfather to the boys, to add to his own three children!
Central to their new scientific lives is geodiversity. This is an integral part of the natural environment; it is the variety of rocks, fossils, minerals, landforms and soil, and all the natural processes that shape the Earth’s landscape. Both Ian and Ros have built successful careers as professional geologists, travelling the world and all around the UK to uncover the history that lies beneath the rocks around us. Their work has brought to life a history stretching back hundreds of millions of years, of ancient rivers, volcanoes, deserts, glaciers and deep seas. Unearthing fossils from subtropical sharks and crocodiles to Ice Age hippos and mammoths – and all of that is just what lies beneath their home county of Essex!
Most importantly, their work demonstrates critical changes in the Earth’s past that can play an integral role in preserving its future. Now retired, Ian and Ros are committed to engaging people with the geodiversity of the world around them and their passion for their subject has never been more apparent. Both are actively involved in promoting geology, creating accessible and inspiring educational content to their community and leading various geological societies that engage professionals and enthusiasts alike. “I believe it is crucial to use the knowledge that I gained during my years at Birkbeck, and through my subsequent careers and retirement, to help as many people as possible become more aware of the Earth and its workings on different timescales. Maybe in some small way, I can help people understand enough to demand and vote for change and help others live on this planet with the best chance of stability in the short to medium term.”