Dr. Ilias Valiakos, UNESCO Global Geopark Expert and Lesvos UNESCO Global Geopark Vice-Coordinator as well as the Deputy Director of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest and International Institute on Geoparks Development from the University of the Aegean, was invited as a guest speaker to share with Geography and Resources Management (GRMG) students about the geoheritage, biodiversity, cultural traditions and sustainable development in Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark, Greece. The virtual talk held in March was an enrichment activity for the GRMG students who are studying geology and geotourism.

Lesvos is the third largest Greek Island with a massive volcanic eruption 20 million years ago. “Lesvos Island has many interesting geological features such as volcanic domes, columnar lavas, faults, dykes, hot springs, caves and karstic structures, waterfalls, and many spectacular coastal landforms. The most rare and impressive feature is the fossilized tree trunks due to the past intense volcanic activity”, said Dr. Valiakos.

Lesvos has many interesting volcanic geosites such as volcanic domes and columnar lavas (see photos) which are witnesses of the intense volcanic activity (21.5 – 16.2 million years ago). [Photo credit: Dr. Ilias Valiakos]

Dr. Valiakos pointed out that the Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark collaborates closely with local stakeholders to sustain local communities for a sustainable development. In addition, the Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark also collaborates with other global geoparks, including Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, to organise regular mutual visits, knowledge exchange and cooperation in geoscientific research, management and training.

Dr. Valiakos said the Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark collaborates closely with local stakeholders to sustain local economy. For example, the geopark organizes a festival every year to promote high-quality local products, food, and drinks prepared by the women’s cooperatives.

Students were keen on the discussed topic and raised lot of questions during the talk such as what Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark has done to educate the public on protecting the geologcial heritage; the management of visitor impact as well as excavation and conservation of the petrified woods.

Dr. Karen Woo, Academic Coordinator of GRMG Concentration Studies, was struck by the comprehensive action plans and measures for protecting and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage in the Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark. “This is a great opportunity for CIE students to network with global geopark professionals. They not only learn geology knowledge but also gain a fruitful cultural exchange experience through the guest talk that a classroom doesn’t offer,” Dr. Woo said. She also gives thanks to the Geopark Division of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for supporting the guest talk.

Dr. Valiakos encouraged the GRMG students to join their field trips of the Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark, to deepen their learning about our earth’s heritage.