Brock Talks

As part of UBC’s Centennial Celebration, the Pacific Museum of Earth and the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences teamed up to produce Brock Talks, a public lecture series that showcases cutting-edge and provocative topics of broad public interest in Earth science. From global climate change and sea level rise to the natural hazards of large destructive landslides in British Columbia—Brock Talks covers subject matter that are relevant and topical to everyone living in the dynamic geological environment of western Canada. The lecture series’ name commemorates Reginald W. Brock, geologist and geological engineer, who was one of the first four professors appointed at UBC in 1914 and who served as the first Dean of Applied Sciences and Head of the Department of Geological Sciences (currently Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, EOAS).


Join us in the Earth Sciences Building lecture theatre for an evening of innovative science presented by internationally renowned scientists. The Brock Talk series aims to educate the community on scientific issues that affect our collective safety, financial, environmental, and educational well-being. By dedicating the lecture series to one of UBC’s founding faculty members, R.W. Brock, we hope to involve the Metro Vancouver community in a dialogue of B.C.’s unique geographical and geological setting and how UBC and B.C.’s shared history has and will continue to contribute to the stewardship of the province’s natural resources and natural environment, while maintaining a sense of excitement surrounding the Centennial year celebration.

Watch past Brock Talks:

Prof. Paul Hoffman, Nov 7, 2015 (introduced by EOAS Professor Mark Jellinek)


Earth’s Astonishing Climate History

Talk Abstract

Since the time of the French Revolution, physicists and geologists have challenged each other to understand the inner workings of the climate system. The unexpected discovery of the Pleistocene Ice Ages prompted the recognition of global warming, the radiative energy balance and the greenhouse effect. The nonsensical distribution of Carboniferous glacial deposits led to the theory of continental drift. Recently, the implausible theory that the Earth is susceptible to total glaciation, reversible only through tens of millions of years of greenhouse-gas buildup, has been stunningly confirmed by geologists and climate dynamicists. As the 82 million year pan-glacial period corresponds with the first appearance of multicellularity in animals, the challenge of Earth’s astonishing climate history must now engage more deeply evolutionary biology.


Professor Paul F. Hoffman, Harvard University and University of Victoria. Paul Hoffman is a known as “one of the most inspiring and charismatic geologists of our time, inspiring a wealth of new research fields…” (Wollaston Medal citation, 2009). Hoffman’s academic career spans nearly half a century. Paul is best known for his penetrating work to verify Snowball Earth, an enigmatic period between 600 and 800 million years ago during which Earth was entirely covered by glacial ice. He has demonstrated that forerunners for the diverse and complex life, which characterizes our planet today, emerged when Earth thawed. His current work explores a connection between snowball Earth and the biodiversity of our current world. Paul’s career has made seminal contributions to our understanding of plate tectonics, Earth’s climatic and glacial histories, the origins of complex life and the philosophy and history of science including elucidating key ingredients for scientific revolutions in Earth science.