Driving Geo-education and the Development of Geoparks in Hong Kong
Individual staff and students in the Geography Department have close links with Kenya dating back more than 40 years. Research in the Great Rift Valley over that time has been published in many top journals, including Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research has raised popular awareness of Kenya’s geological heritage within the country and internationally and has led to efforts by Kenya officials to develop a North Kenya Rift Geopark.
Early geological work in the 1980s and 1990s, at Olorgesailie in the Great Rift Valley, was incorporated into a site museum display on human origins. More recently (2018), studies of hominin-climate linkages at Magadi (south Kenya Rift) were reported in eighty international newspaper/magazine outlets. As a result of these studies, awareness of Kenya’s geological heritage has been raised among stakeholders, who receive benefits from increasing geotourism. This was achieved through discussions with government officials, chiefs and community leaders, and through media promotions, including for example, a National Science Foundation (USA) funded video on human evolution and climate change in the Kenya rift. This video was shown, for example, at the National Museums of Kenya and the national Museums of Ethiopia, and was later adapted for international audiences in a Public Broadcasting Service (USA) documentary (Climate of the Hominins).
This multi-decade African research and also books published on Hong Kong’s geopark and the Maclehose Trail helped to stimulate work on a similar cross-rift geotrail in Kenya. The Baringo District ecotourism warden, for example, commented “when I first saw this work it led me to think there should be a similar trail across the North Kenya Rift”. These long-term research efforts were formally recognised when Owen was invited to take part in the ground breaking ceremony for the North Kenya Rift Eco-tourism Centre at Mogotio in 2014 (photo). In addition, Owen was invited to join the “Kenya Government Geoparks Advisory Board”, which promotes the future Kenya Geopark and provides scientific advice on geological research through invited membership of the “Great Rift Centre for Research and Development (GRICERD) NGO”.Professor Bernie Owen was invited to take part in the 2014 ground breaking ceremony for the North Rift Ecotourism Centre Mogotio Kenya (002) Owen is also co-authoring a new book for the publisher “Springer” on the geology of lake basins in the Kenya Rift as a further means to promote geological heritage in the region.