Around the end of 2019, the Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, Professor Dan Grigorescu was approached by the editor-in-chief of the Geoconservation Research journal, Professor Michael Benton of the University of Bristol, to write an ample introductory article for a forthcoming volume edited by the journal in 2020, dedicated to conservation activities surrounding geosites – places of significant scientific and educational value – in the Carpathian space. The invitation to contribute recognizes professor Grigorescu’s many accomplishments in this field, among them the creation of a university association for the protection of sites of geological significance at the University of Bucharest in 1977, which in March 1990 would evolve into one of the first non-governmental organizations in Romania – the Society for the Protection of the Geological Environment. Moreover, this invitation also comes in recognition of his contributions to promoting geoconservation efforts across South-Eastern Europe, having been a founding member of the European Association for the Conservation of Geological Heritage (ProGEO). In 2003, Professor Grigorescu was invited to the University of Bristol for a six-week teaching spell within the University’s Paleoecology and Geoconservation Masters and PhD programme.
On July 8th 2020, Professor Grigorescu forwarded Geoconservation Research his article titled “From Scientific Research to Geoconservation and Geopark”, a comprehensive review detailing the history behind the 2005 creation of the first UNESCO geopark in Romania, and the first in the formerly Communist countries of Europe prior to 1990: the “Hațeg Country” Dinosaur Geopark. His submission highlights the roles that scientific research, interdisciplinary approaches and the collaboration between the academic environment and local communities all play in regional cultural and economic development. The strategies applied in the creation of the Hațeg Country geopark have informed the recent creation of the Buzău Land Geopark, and are currently being adapted for the creation of another geopark in Dobrogea, with the aid of professors and students from the “Ovidius” University of Constanța.
University involvement in activities aimed at enhancing the study, conservation and capitalization of regional natural and cultural heritage by way of a holistic approach has proven to be an effective strategy for many of the over 150 UNESCO geoparks established across the world. Moreover, the consequences of such initiatives favourably reflect on university curricula, promoting direct contact between the students and the realities in the field, as well as fostering cooperation between universities and local authorities.
The history of the creation of the Hațeg Country Dinosaur Geopark will be covered at length in a forthcoming volume edited by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization. This volume, beyond merely recounting collective experiences, of use in the preparation of similar future endeavours, serves to support the cultural values of the natural environment, scarcely taken into account at present yet of significant importance for understanding the need to protect natural heritage.
At present, Professor Dan Grigorescu is overseeing the creation of the Geobiological History of Europe Mirrored in the UNESCO Geoparks volume series as a guest editor of the UK-based Geoconservation Research periodical. For this two-part series, already integrated into the journal’s editorial planogram for 2021, over 50 individual articles have already been announced.