SEGH Articles

35th International Conference on Geochemistry and Health 1-5th July 2019, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester UK

06 September 2019
Sanja Potgieter-Vermaak and Dave Megson (Chair and Co-chair of SEGH 2019) summarise the 35th International Conference on Geochemistry and Health, 1-5th July 2019, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester UK


Delegates started to arrive on the 1st of July and was welcomed with a quintessential English afternoon tea, complete with bubbly and all. The conference opened officially on the 2nd of July and delegates were entertained by 6 keynote speakers over the 3 days of presentations, with talks on each of the 6 themes covered: Urban wastelands: potential for enhancing urban resilience; Environmental change: impact on the environment & human health; New technologies; Environmental monitoring; Environmental health, and Sustainable nutrition and agriculture. These introductions to each session were followed by 8 oral presentations per session (total of 48 oral presentations. Plenty of poster viewing sessions were scheduled throughout the event and each presenter also got an opportunity to give a flash poster presentation, which evidently enabled everybody an opportunity to present to the group orally, albeit only for 90 seconds (more than 60 posters were displayed and presented). These presentations were very well received and enjoyed by one and all.

The content of the talks and posters varied from specialist topics such as lichen biomonitoring of air pollution and GC-ToF-MS for remote monitoring in Cape Verde to multi-disciplinary talks during which various aspects of geochemistry were linked to health. The plenary lectures were excellent and covered a wide range of related topics. Carbon Capture Gardens: a new function for urban wastelands led to many debates and discussions, as Prof Manning presented a novel approach to carbon capture. Professor Ricardo Godoi had a fascinating talk on basal ice lubrication in West Antarctica during which he described that perchlorate aerosol deposit perchlorate salts of such concentrations that, together with geothermal heat flux, they may be key contributors to basal ice lubrication. The talk on Lab-on-a-Chip in the Environment from Dr. Kirsty Shaw, was well received by all, but especially by the environmental microbiologists attending the SEGH conferences of late. Thanks to Stuart Harrad’s plenary on persistent organic pollutants I will no longer be eating any mint imperials I drop on my living room floor next to the TV set. Sarah Dack also gave us a great insight into what exactly is background contamination and how we (often don’t) account for it. 

The social events were very popular, especially the visit to the Manchester City Football Club and the tour of the Etihad stadium. The tour guide gave some background on the history of the grounds, which was a brownfield that has since been remediated. Delegates got a unique opportunity to act as commentators during a virtual press conference. The silver service dinner at the Midlands hotel, with its history (the place where Mr. Rolls and Royce met to form the Rolls Royce Company), was an equally memorable experience. These social events would not have been possible without the fantastic support from our sponsors, for which we were extremely grateful – as were the delegates!

The last day ended with an interactive session on sustainable nutrition, led by Manchester Metropolitan’s Dr Haleh Moravej and her students, all part of MetMUnch. A wonderful collegial atmosphere was created during the kimchi making and I am sure that everybody enjoyed his or her kimchi shortly after the conference ended. Here are some of the tweets of the day:


The field trip seemed to have been a great success and those who visited Jodrell Bank could say that they have visited a UNESCO world heritage site (it was announced the day after the visit).

The conference was closed by handing out prizes for the two best oral presentations and the best poster. These were selected based on strict criteria and were limited to early career researchers. The oral presenter winner was Tatiana Cocerva and the runner up Carly Woods. The best poster prize was given to Amy Sansby.

This was followed by an SEGH AGM, where it was announced that the 36th SEGH conference in 2020 will be in Eldoret, Kenya.

The 35th SEGH conference will seek to publish a special issue in the Environmental Geochemistry and Health journal and presenters were asked to express interest by contacting Sanja at

My thanks to all who helped in organising this conference, all the sponsors for making it possible to provide lower registration fees for everybody and enabling all to attend the memorable social events, and all the workers who ensured that the conference ran smoothly. You are too many to name individually, but know that it is greatly appreciated.

We are all, I am sure, looking forward to next year’s conference in Africa.

Sanja Potgieter-Vermaak (Chair: SEGH 2019) and Dave Megson (Co-chair: SEGH 2019)

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Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Soil contamination and human health: Part 1—preface 2020-01-27
  • The influence of application of biochar and metal-tolerant bacteria in polluted soil on morpho-physiological and anatomical parameters of spring barley 2020-01-27


    The paper presents the results of the model experiment on spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) grown in polluted soil. The influence of separate and combined application of wood biochar and heavy metal-tolerant bacteria on morpho-physiological, anatomical and ultrastructural parameters of H. vulgare L. has been studied. The joint application of biochar and bacteria increased the shoot length by 2.1-fold, root length by 1.7-fold, leaf length by 2.3-fold and dry weight by threefold compared to polluted variant, bringing the plant parameters to the control level. The maximal quantum yield of photosystem II decreased by 8.3% in H. vulgare L. grown in contaminated soil, whereas this decrease was less in biochar (7%), bacteria (6%) and in combined application of bacteria and biochar (5%). As for the transpiration rate, the H. vulgare L. grown in polluted soil has shown a decrease in transpiration rate by 26%. At the same time, the simultaneous application of biochar and bacteria has led to a significant improvement in the transpiration rate (14%). The H. vulgare L. also showed anatomical (integrity of epidermal, vascular bundles, parenchymal and chlorenchymal cells) and ultrastructural (chloroplasts, thylakoid system, plastoglobules, starch grains, mitochondria, peroxisomes, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, vacuoles) changes, revealed by light-optical and transmission electron microscopy of leaf sections. The effects were most prominent in H. vulgare L., grown in polluted soil but gradually improved with application of biochar, bacteria and their combination. The use of biochar in combination with metal-tolerant bacteria is an efficient tool for remediation of soils, contaminated with heavy metals. The positive changes caused by the treatment can be consistently traced at all levels of plant organization.

  • Earthworms and vermicompost: an eco-friendly approach for repaying nature’s debt 2020-01-23


    The steady increase in the world’s population has intensified the need for crop productivity, but the majority of the agricultural practices are associated with adverse effects on the environment. Such undesired environmental outcomes may be mitigated by utilizing biological agents as part of farming practice. The present review article summarizes the analyses of the current status of global agriculture and soil scenarios; a description of the role of earthworms and their products as better biofertilizer; and suggestions for the rejuvenation of such technology despite significant lapses and gaps in research and extension programs. By maintaining a close collaboration with farmers, we have recognized a shift in their attitude and renewed optimism toward nature-based green technology. Based on these relations, it is inferred that the application of earthworm-mediated vermitechnology increases sustainable development by strengthening the underlying economic, social and ecological framework.

    Graphic abstract