Denis Peach has been the British Geological Survey's chief scientist since 2007. He took on this role that had not been filled for a few years on the BGS executive. My aim was to reinvigorate the science base of BGS and have our scientific staff actively thinking about how research would underpin the Survey to provide better geological solutions.
Denis rapidly realised that we needed to move beyond the surveying and 3D geological models and enhance our capabilities in numerical modelling so that we could provide numerical solutions to geological problems. We embarked on a programme of hiring scientists with a numerical background and linking these staff to our geologists; the latter are very intuitive scientists and have the ability to think in three dimensions. Adding error bars to the geological observations was and still is a significant challenge, which is increasingly important when the public are asking explanations on processes such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear waste containment, and future use of unconventional hydrocarbons.
We need to understand the geological and physical characteristics of top few kilometres of crust - Denis in the BGS strategy termed this the "Zone of human interaction", which he defined as extending from the surface, where rocks react to form soil through interaction with water, air and the biosphere, down to the depths where resources are extracted.
Denis, leaves BGS next month and has made a significant step in bringing this fundamental shift in BGS science and I believe it will be measured as a major contribution far into the future as BGS continues to solve some pretty important geological problems for the UK.
Denis is a thespian and without a doubt some of his success has been in his “command of the stage” at executive meetings. A dedicated scientist who has devoted his life to geology. We would often laugh about his penchant for the watery world, but in reality he was very fair in his support of science across the board in BGS. Denis will continue to be active as a hydrogeologist, which is his primary science expertise, and he will work with BGS and Imperial College. His contributions have gone far beyond that of a chief scientist and he has served on numerous boards and committees for NERC and government.
We all thank him for his contributions and wish him a full and fruitful retirement.