July-August 2014      
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A message from the AGC President

Bill Shaw

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council

Let us hope that the faint signs of an upturn that we see in the market for geoscientists persists and that employment prospects for all of our 10,500 geoscientists in Australia are rising again. The surveys done by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, reinforced by comments by the AusIMM and other organisations that are part of the AGC, have shown that it has been a dire time for many. It is tragic that economic theory can drive us towards short-term optimisation rather than planning more effectively for the longer-term. This dichotomy is also evident to many of us in the stop-start approach to new project development and in the analysis of benefits versus consequences for many projects. What we need is more balance in our approach. Hopefully we will get to that position through better engagement with all stakeholders.

Having just spent a week at the very successful 9th International Mining Geology Conference in Adelaide I am once again very excited about current developments in geoscience. New technology to enhance mapping and logging such as hyperspectral scanning allows us to make real-time images of outcrops, mining faces, drill core and rock samples that show the mineralogy and structures and allow all this great data to be quantified. This means less time doing repetitive tasks and more time doing the interpretation and thinking (and looking at the beautiful false colour images that we expect from real science these days). More thinking time means better results, better science, and yes, more time to go and look at the rocks again.

Having visited the third floor of the South Australia museum to wander amongst the Ediacaran biota, I am heading off to the Flinders Ranges to see them in situ. Ediacaran of course is that slightly pre-Cambrian time period when soft-bodied life forms were mobile, browsing on algal mats. Biota because they are plants and animals (and some which are hard to differentiate). There will also be opportunities to sit and contemplate the sun rising in Wilpena Pound, follow the road along the ABC Range Quartzite, wander the Brachina Gorge geological heritage trail and admire the Hans Heysen scenery around Parachilna. (Check out the TESEP Wilpena_Lithostratigraphy Case Study among many other great sources on the web).

Even in these tough times there are still opportunities to use the geoscience knowledge we accumulate over a lifetime. I encourage my many young and old friends in geoscience not to lose heart but to consider new ways to apply and share our experience and common interest. Engaging in geoscience education at all levels is a key goal for our future.

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council


The federal government is yet to release the recent review of the Australian curriculum that was commissioned early this year. The final report was delivered to the Minister on the 15th August 2014. While the review was regarded by many as unnecessary, now that it has been conducted it should be released so as to remove the lingering uncertainty created by government in commissioning it. Until we know what changes, if any, are recommended for the realms of science and Earth Science in particular, those of us engaged in education policy and practice are unable to formulate a response or develop new programs with any certainty. The federal education department has indicated the Minister is considering the recommendations and that timing of the public release is at the Government's discretion. We can only hope the Minister is not too distracted by other issues to put this one to rest before the end of the year.

The Victorian government has released its review of the state's senior Environmental Science course. Having earlier dismissed any likelihood that Victoria would adopt the national Earth and Environmental Science curriculum, the review is largely one that recommends some restructure of the present Environmental Science course that accommodates some Earth Science with an Earth Systems approach. It opens up the possibility of students electing to do much more Earth Science orientated electives of their own choosing. However, this is not an Earth Science course and does not teach fundamental Earth Science concepts although it is to be applauded for adopting the Earth Systems approach to the subject. Sadly, Victoria has decided it will not teach any serious Earth Science at senior level at this time and joins Tasmania as the only states not to adopt the national Earth and Environmental Science course. The review can be read in summary form here or in detail here and the Victorian government welcomes feedback through an online questionnaire here. Deadline for the questionnaire is September 19. I urge all interested parties to provide feedback.

Greg McNamara - Editor, GeoEdLink
All feedback and submissions should be sent to the GeoEdLink Editor, Greg McNamara


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 Earth Science Week is coming!

Earth Science Week for 2014 has the international theme, Earth's connected systems, and will be celebrated from 12-18 October 2014.

This great international event aims to engage people of all ages in exploring ways that geoscience illuminates natural change processes. By understanding the interactions of Earth's systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere - Earth science helps us manage our greatest challenges. What will you do for Earth Science Week?

Geoscience Australia is again taking a leading role in hosting these celebrations. In addition to proving great support for the event, Geoscience Australia will announce the winners of its Top GeoShot photography competition Earth Science Week. Follow this link to Geoscience Australia's Earth Science Week page and this link to find out more about Top Geoshot.

What can you do?

Organise a special activity at your school or celebrate Earth Science Week with:
  •  A geoscience activity day
  •  scientific demonstrations
  •  photographic displays
  •  library displays
  •  earth science artwork displays
  •  science project displays
  •  teacher workshops
  •  public lectures.

To register an event or for more information contact education@ga.gov.au.

To find out more about the international program visit the Earth Science Week website.

 Volcanic rumblings in 3D

With lava flowing from Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano and ash clouds causing concerns over aircraft flight paths now is a good time to discuss volcanoes with your students. A dyke feeding the eruption has been tracked by the earthquakes and general land movements it causes. Global Positioning System receivers on the ground and ice above Bárðarbunga have recorded a sudden 20 centimetres westward movement as magma has risen to fill the crust just below the surface. Your students can 'see' the earthquakes in real time via this website and read more about this volcano and its historical impact on the region here.

 University of Sydney causes disquiet amongst geoscientists

The University of Sydney will include the School of Geosciences in the new school of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences if a current proposal is adopted. The university proposal is based upon a need to increase the visibility and viability of the life sciences but the concern is this may have the opposite effect on the geosciences. The Geological Society of Australia (GSA) has written to the university urging caution. The GSA suggests that merging such an outstanding geoscience department into a physical and biological science amalgam runs the significant risk of confusing both potential students and potential research sponsors. The GSA letter is publicly available here.

 New field guide from ESWA a winner

A Geological Field Guide to the Capes region of Southwest WA is the second field guide from Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA) and is authored by John Bunting. This A5, 208 page, spiral bound, full colour volume details seven locations including an access map, safety notes, an overview of the general geology, a detailed map, stops marked in and step-by-step descriptions of each unit/feature with diagrams and photos. If that wasn't enough it comes bundled with introductory notes and maps and a comprehensive glossary.

This excellent publication has been designed to support teachers delivering their Earth and Environmental Science field work but is a perfect compliment to any kind of field naturalists excursion to the region. Copies can be purchased for $38 (+postage) from ESWA.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 Minecraft goes mainstream

Most High School teachers will be familiar with Minecraft, if only because it is a topic of interest and distraction for many students. However, those who have delved into the game will be aware that it also has enormous education potential. This potential is not just latent; with customising options many teachers have already used it to create small scale landscapes to engage their students with real learning tasks in this fun environment. Now the British Geological Survey (BGS) have take this to a whole new level.

The BGS has reproduced the 2D geology of mainland Great Britain and surrounding islands within the world of Minecraft. They are currently working on a 3D geological model that will faithfully represent Great Britain in the subsurface as well.

You and your students can explore the endless possibilities here.

Wait there's more!

Geoscience Australia have produced a poster for the classroom comparing the concepts in Minecraft with science and geology. The 3Mb poster file can be downloaded here.

 Energy forum now available

The Australian Earth Science Convention, recently held in Newcastle, conducted a number of public engagement events including a public forum: Energy 2050. That forum was recorded by 1233 ABC Newcastle and is now available through ABC Soundcloud. Follow this link to listen to the entire proceedings.

 3D atlas of key outcrops no daydream
Broken Hill outcrop

Image source: http://www.utas.edu.au/earth-sciences/whats-new/news-item/geological-visualisation

Imagine being able to rotate this image in an ordinary internet browser window so you could view the outcrop from any angle. Dr Michael Roach from UTAS has been pioneering just that. Using automated terrestrial photogrammetry, UAV photogrammetry, gigapixel imagery and full spherical panoramas he can now bring field localities back into the classroom in 3D. This has immense possibilities and in a recent presentation to the Australian Earth Science Convention he foreshadowed the development of a national virtual atlas of outcrops and field trips. You can sample this amazing technology using nothing more than your computer browser here. This is certain to be a wonderful development for teaching, at all levels, once it comes on line.

 AB Splash, making waves

If you haven't explored the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's educational website - Splash - then it's time you did. Splash contains links to excellent ABC videos, games, digital books and other resources suitable for a range of pre-identified year levels. You can explore the full A-Z of topics here but below is brief summary of what is on offer for the Earth and Space curriculum:

D is for Dinosaurs: 27 items
E is for Earthquakes: 12 items
F is for Fossils: 39 items
F is also for Fossil fuels: 27 items
G is for Geology: 20 items
G is also for Gold rush: 8 items
M is for Maps, location and direction: 11 items
P is for Plate Tectonics: 6 items
P is also for Planet Earth: 3 items
R is for Rocks and minerals: 19 items
S is for Space and our solar system: 21 items
V is for Volcanoes: 10 items

 Q&A with Brian Cox

Professor Brian Cox is about to visit Australia with his Making Sense of the Cosmos Australian tour. He will also take time to answer students' questions on just about any topic but to join this free livestream Q&A on Tuesday 14 October you will have to register.

Follow this link to register for In Class with Brian Cox. You know you want to!

 Woodside Australian Science Project has teachers buzzing

The Woodside Australian Science Project and Earth Science Western Australia have been busy creating a vast array of excellent teaching resources for Years 7 to 10. The latest addition to the site is the Year 10 package that explores Global systems, including the carbon cycle, involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere.

Find Year 10 resources here: Global systems
and check out the other great resources too:
Year 9: Plate Tectonics
Year 8: Rocks & Minerals
Year 7: Oil & Water

 Case Studies come online

The Teacher Earth Science Education Programme continues to add more Case Studies to aid teachers and students engaged with studies in senior Earth and Environmental Science. The latest publication, The Adelaide Fold Belt, is a great Australian example of Plate Tectonics in action. You can download it here. More Case Studies are in the pipeline so it is recommended you revisit the Case Studies download page on a regular basis to see what is new or useful to your current teaching.


Geoscience Education Views

 The Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad off to a flying start

In the previous edition of GeoEdLink I wrote about the development of an Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad with the ultimate goal of selecting students to represent Australia at the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) in 2015 and beyond.

Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad

Time to think ahead!   In 2015-16 the Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad will select and train talented secondary students in preparation to compete at the 2016 International Earth Science Olympiad.

Year 10 and 11 students are invited to test their knowledge of Earth and environmental science by sitting a national exam in 2015. NOW is the best time to start talking to your students about this exciting possibility and developing their interest and understanding in the Earth and environmental sciences.

The 2015 exam will take place on Friday 7 August 2015 and teachers can register now at www.asi.edu.au.
For more information visit www.asi.edu.au

Enrolments to sit the selection exam for a place in the Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad 2015 summer school closed in July 2014 and enrolment numbers exceeded expectations. 380 students registered for the exam, which took place in schools on August 8. Exam papers have now been returned to Australian Science Innovations (ASI) for marking. This is a daunting task for ASI staff but not as daunting as it must have been for students sitting the intense two hour exam!

Marking will be complete in September and offers of places in the 2015 summer school will be made in October. Once all places on offer are accepted approximately 15 students who excelled in the exam will find themselves deeply engaged with national and international Earth and Environmental Science experts as they explore a wide range of topics at university level. Ultimately, four of the summer school students will be selected to attend the 2015 International Earth Science Olympiad.

Greg McNamara and Bronte Nicholls, ASI's Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad program director and deputy director respectively, will travel to Spain to attend the 2014 IESO as observers later in September. This will inform much of the summer school program since the students not only learn a wealth of new knowledge but are also in preparation for the IESO and a new format for the IESO is being rolled out this year.

No doubt the students are anxious to discover their results and ASI staff are looking forward to working with those selected for the summer school. However, congratulations must already go to all the students who sat the exam. Just finishing the exam is a massive achievement. Thanks also to all the parents and teachers who supported and encouraged the students to give it their best shot.

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry partnership with Australian Science Innovations. The Australian Geoscience Council has also supported this inaugural Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad. For more information visit www.asi.edu.au

ASO logo

Lillian Lesueur
Executive Director
Australian Science Innovations
lillian.lesueur@asi.edu.au 02 6201 2565


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 STANSWAC 'Crystallising Science' (K-12).
Registration extended until Friday 5 September.
Visit the STANSW web page here.

 61st Queensland Science Contest.
Registration closes Friday 5 September.
Visit the 61st Queensland Science Contest web page here.

 Top GeoShot photography competition.
Closing date for submissions 12 September 2014.
Download the flyer here.
Visit the Geoscience Australia web page here.


 TESEP PD9, Sydney, 5 September 2014
Plate Tectonics
Find details here.

 TESEP PD2, Sydney, 6 September 2014
Riding the Climate Rollercoaster
Find details here.

 STANSW Annual Conference, Sydney, 12-13 September 2014
Crystallising Science.
Find details here.

 TESEP PD4, Canberra, 10 October 2014
Fossil Sunlight
Find details here.

 TESEP PD7, Canberra, 11 October 2014
Our Place in Space
Find details here.

 Biological Earth & Environmental Science Day, Perth Zoo, 24 October 2014
Formerly known as the Geographical Earth & Environmental Science Day.
Find details here.

 STAVCON, Melbourne, 28 November 2014
This is a 1 day only conference.
Find details here.

 Maths & Science Middle School Conference, Adelaide, 28 November 2014
Bookings close 17 November 2014
Find details here.

 STAQ Senior Science Conference, Brisbane, 28 November 2014
Earlybird bookings close 19 September 2014
Find details here.

 Junior Secondary Science Series, Brisbane, 3 March 2015
4 x 90 minute sessions: Earth and Beyond: Planets, our moon and our sun
Find details here.

 CONASTA 64, Perth, 5 - 9 July 2015
CONASTA 64 logo
The STAWA Primary Science Conference and CONSTAWA will not be held as
separate conferences but will subsumed within the CONASTA program.
Find details here.

 GeoEdLink will list your event here!

If you have an upcoming Earth and Environmental Science education related event GeoEdLink will list its details here. Send your event details to the GeoEdLink editor. An event name, date, location and web site link are essential. The next GeoEdLink will be published in December 2014.


GeoEdLink is a newsletter published by the Australian Geoscience Council.

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