December 2011      
      Dear  Reader / Subscriber
      Welcome to this edition of
      Your geoscience e-newsletter courtesy of the Australian Geoscience Council

AGC logo

     Feature article | Geoscience News | Geoscience Views | Geoscience Activities
     Subscribe/Unsubscribe details can be found at the foot of this newsletter

A message from the AGC President

Neil Williams

Neil Williams PSM
Professor, University of Wollongong
President, Australian Geoscience Council

I am pleased to announce that the AGC has recently provided a grant of $25,000 to the Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP) as bridging funding for the TESEP program to move from Stage 1 into Stage 2. This funding is specifically directed to two immediate issues:

• Enhanced promotion and accessibility of TESEP as it moves into Stage 2. This has already enabled TESEP staff to promote TESEP workshops, webinars and other resources to teachers at the Science Teachers Association of Victoria conference and will facilitate similar activities in 2012 at other state and territory science and geography teacher gatherings, the Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association (CONASTA) and the 34th IGC in Brisbane.

• Development of Australia-wide case studies, in collaboration with Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA), to compliment the ESWA Year 11 and 12 Earth Science text book 'Exploring Earth and Environmental Science' to enable the book to be of even greater use to teachers outside Western Australia.

This funding initiative is consistent with AGC's objectives of facilitating geoscience education at the national scale and in informing the general public as to the role of geoscience in the economy and management of the environment.

The AGC is also pleased to acknowledge that Jill Stevens, TESEP Chairperson, was recognised by the AAPG with the prestigious 2012 Harrison Schmitt award in recognition of outstanding accomplishment in Teacher Education outreach work (for more information, see

Finally, as the year draws to a close, I wish all members of the AGC member societies and all teachers and students of the Earth Sciences a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous and fulfilling New Year.

Prof Neil Williams PSM
President, Australian Geoscience Council


The end of the year is upon us and we now look forward to the challenges that 2012 will bring. Many teachers around the nation realised this year that the new F-10 Australian curriculum for science is now finalised and they will need to spend the coming year either implementing it or preparing for its implementation in 2013-14. In coming to this realisation many teachers have also acknowledged that their capacity to effectively teach the Earth Science components is not as good as their capacity in other domains of science and that they will need help in ensuring a quality delivery. ESWA, TESEP and many other groups within Australia are well placed to help but their message does not always get out to those who need to know. My message to you, the GeoEdLink subscriber, is simple: Talk to anyone who will listen about the good things the Australian Earth Science community is doing to help educators do their job even better than they do it now and make sure that those educators know about the help at hand.

While on the subject of the Australian curriculum, 2012 is likely to see the final version of the Year 11-12 Earth and Environmental Science curriculum released. A forum in March will enable interested parties an opportunity to comment on the next draft and you can be assured the AGC and representatives from many other Earth Science groups will be present, with the best interests of educators, students and the Earth Science disciplines in mind.

2011 has been a busy year but a fruitful one for advancing the interests of Earth Sciences in Australia and I look forward to bringing you news of similar advances in 2012. Enjoy the holiday season, take a well earned break and travel safe.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews


The whole tour group; Mt Ainsley lookout

 Scinspiration Sizzles and Rocks in the National Capital

Monday 21 November 2011, 41 excited students and their parents gathered at the Townsville Airport along with 5 staff members, ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime - they were the Scinspiration Team, heading off to tour our National Capital, Canberra, in search of scientific inspiration!

Scinspiration was an idea formed by Science Spark, Primary Science Facilitators Hayley Laidlow and Louise Nicholas at the CONASTA 60 conference in Darwin, earlier in the year. After months of careful planning and preparation, Scinspiration finally got off the ground! The tour brought together enthusiastic young science minds from rural and remote communities in the Burdekin, Charters Towers and Hughenden areas and gave them the opportunity to visit the National Capital. The aim of the tour was to nurture these students' interest in science and inspire them to take their science studies further, both into high school and on into the future careers.

An action-packed week ensued students and teachers visited over 15 attractions in Canberra, ranging from Parliament House to the Canberra Deep Space Complex. Each venue we visited offered the students a chance to explore various scientific fields and to test and extend their scientific knowledge. Some of the highlights of the trip included Questacon: National Science and Technology where the students got hands on with science as they experienced what an earthquake feels like in the 'Earthquake House' and experienced a 2 storey free fall on the giant drop slide. The Australian War Memorial also proved a popular venue as the students investigated the science of war and had a close encounter with Princess Mary of Denmark. GeoScience Australia was an earth shaking experience with students creating their very own earthquake on the GeoScience seismograph. The brilliant behaviour and high level of engagement displayed by the entire group reflected the success of the tour. In the words of some of the students, 'We would highly recommend this trip because it was a great experience. We loved Scinspiration 2011!'

We were extremely fortunate to have a number of sponsors whose kind donations made the tour even more special for the students and staff. We would sincerely like to thank the following organisations James Cook University, Meat and Livestock Australia, NQ Dry Tropics, Agforce, Reef Guardians and Burdekin Printers for their kind donations.

As teachers in charge, it was inspiring and uplifting to see so many students not only having fun, but learning and being inspired to study science. We look forward to taking another enthusiastic group of rural kids to visit the National Capital in 2012!

Hayley Laidlow and Louise Nicholas
Primary Science Facilitators
Burdekin and Charters Towers Regions

 AAPG recognises excellence

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) has recognised Jill Stevens and TESEP with the prestigious 2012 Harrison Schmitt award in recognition of outstanding accomplishment in Teacher Education outreach work. The award, named in honour of Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist and in fact the only scientist to walk on the Moon, is given to persons who are deserving of recognition for some outstanding accomplishment which does not otherwise qualify for other AAPG awards. Jill and TESEP are in impressive company, with Harrison Schmitt, Marcel and Conrad Schlumberger and Eugene Shoemaker amongst the more well known recipients.

The award is to be presented in Los Angeles 22 April 2012 at the AAPG Awards Ceremony during the AAPG Conference and Jill plans to attend. Jill says a team effort has seen TESEP advance (through 2007-2011) to its current state of presenting "The Challenging Earth" series of 8 professional development workshops for teachers with attendance by approx 800 teachers across many locations in eastern Australia and this award is a fantastic acknowledgment of TESEP, and the entire team who made it happen should be proud TESEP has been recognised in this way.

TESEP needs more partners to continue their excellent work with the Stage 2 programme. Follow this link to find out how you can help.

 ESWA pipped at the post

ESWA was named a finalist in the WA Science Awards and were in the running for science communication initiative of the year. This is a fantastic achievement for a truly inspirational program. In part, their citation says: Since ESWA started working with schools in 2006, there has been more than a 17-fold increase in the number of upper school students undertaking studies in Earth Science, more than a 6-fold increase in the number of schools offering Earth and Environmental Science and more than a 8-fold increase in the number of students sitting tertiary entrance examinations in Earth Science. You can read more about ESWA here

Unfortunately, competition for the top spot in all such awards is stiff because all those short listed are of such a high standard and the winner for 2011 was the Farm Business Resilience Program. Congratulations to winner of course but congratulations to ESWA for being there and setting such high standards.

 Going deep to raise understanding

In Western Australia's spectacular south-west region the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association's (AMRTA) Caveworks Eco-Centre is offering some great new educational experiences. Focusing on the fantastic natural attractions nestled within the limestone karst landscape of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, each educational program consists of a combined interactive presentation followed by a specially themed tour of one of the sites. The attractions managed by the AMRTA include three caves - Lake, Mammoth and Jewel, as well as the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. All programs are designed to both educate and excite students, while complementing learning areas within the Science and the Society and Environment curriculum. The programs are adaptable to students of all year levels. There is a brief description of the programs included here.

The newly redeveloped Jewel Cave; winner of this year's WA Tourism Awards Gold medal in the Tourist Attractions Category and Silver medal in the Eco-tourism Category, is the setting for the Biodiversity Program. Students will discover our unique place within Australia's only International Biodiversity Hotspot, its importance and vulnerability, as well as exploring the ecosystems found in and around the Spectacular Jewel Cave.

The Megafauna Program is conducted at Mammoth Cave, one of WA's most significant palaeontological cave-sites. First students participate in an interactive presentation discovering Australia's unique megafauna history, the importance of the Mammoth Cave fossils, as well as extinction theories, then students explore the living museum; the awe-inspiring Mammoth Cave.

Lake Cave is the site used for the Climate Change Program. After discussing the role of climate change over geological time has played in the formation of our limestone caves, we examine possible evidence of rapid change within our caves. Students will learn about the Lake Cave Hydrology Project, in place to protect the threatened cave fauna of the stunning Lake Cave.

You can read more about these programs and the Culture and Heritage Program at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse on their impressive web site.

 New field guide sets the standard

ESWA has produced a new book, A Field Guide to Perth and Surrounds. Compiled to support the teaching of the senior years Earth and Environmental Science course in WA, it is also set to become the new standard for geology field guides aimed at a wider audience. The book describes six localities around Perth and has clear, easy to read maps, locality descriptions (with excellent supporting photographs) in plain English with essential technical terms highlighted and well explained in a comprehensive glossary. It has been designed to allow teachers to confidently run excursions to these locations and succeeds admirably. See the ESWA web site for more details.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 Earth Science Literacy Principles

The Big Ideas and Supporting Concepts of Earth Science are clearly articulated in this excellent document from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each big idea is backed by supporting concepts comparable to those underlying the US National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. See for the document in English or Spanish with accompanying notes and 10 short videos. This is a must read document and the videos a must watch series for any teacher uncertain about why Earth Science must be taught and what messages need to be included in the teaching. The material would also be a brilliant introduction to any Earth and Environmental Science course.

 Earth Ed set to rock Victoria

Earth Ed is a new specialist science and mathematics facility providing real world Earth Science experiences for Victorian students. Their programs provide access to specialist scientific equipment, innovative digital resources, and promote a scientific inquiry approach to learning. Set in grounds adjacent to Mt Clear College, Earth Ed, is at the heart of the Victorian goldfields - Ballarat - and provides the ideal setting for discovering the Earth Sciences. Earth Ed has already hosted many school excursions but 2012 is the year when they are set to officially rock Victoria. See the Earth Ed web site for details.

 Science blogging all the go in Victoria

There is no doubt that the internet is an integral part of modern life and is becoming more important in the class room too. Here is a one teacher utilising this resource to engage and educate her students. Here are some examples of their response.

  Seismometers in schools

The Australian Seismometers in Schools Network is an interesting initiative that is placing 40 seismometers in schools and integrating their output into a national dataset that will be combined in an on-line portal designed to align with educational syllabus from primary to tertiary levels. Visit the Geophysical Education Observatory to find out more or contact their Project Officer, Dr Natalie Balfour.

 US has something to teach us

The United States National Science Teachers Association has an excellent on-line presence. Apart from news and views there is an extraordinary amount of resource material available for free download, most of it directly applicable to or easily modified for the Australian context. One highlight is an excellent Q&A section on the teaching of evolution; another is the Galápagos Islands education site. Visit the National Science Teachers Association web site to explore for yourself.

 CONASTA keynotes on-line

In keeping with the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) announcement of their on-line portal initiative at CONASTA 60, ASTA have placed all keynote addresses on their portal for free access. Follow this link.

 On-line lectures from the USGS

The United States Geological Survey has filmed and made available on-line an amazing variety of public lectures given at USGS facilities by experts in their fields. These excellent presentations are designed to bring science to the public and well worth the time to view topics of interest to you and your students. Browse the list of available lectures here.

 UNESCO support for Geoparks is ongoing but what is Australia doing?

Geoparks are the most successful bottom-up initiative from UNESCO. At a meeting that produced the latest resolution in support of Geoparks, Australia was the only country to speak against the resolution, using the grounds that it would only support programmes approved by the IUCN and the IUGS. This is curious as both organisations do support Geoparks. It is noted the IUGS awarded Wolfgang Eder, regarded as the 'father' of Geoparks, the 2008 James H. Harrison Outstanding Achievement Award at the 33rd IGC in Oslo, Norway and in the 2008 annual report the IUGS states: There is a real sense that the time is right for Geoparks, and individuals are encouraged to use the Geopark Network guidelines for the development of existing and proposed Geoparks. Download the UNESCO resolution here (a 3 page pdf).

 What have bananas got to do with rocks?

GeoEdLink has featured the Earth Learning Idea website before but the good ideas keep coming so here is a reminder.

 Facebook is all the go

Everybody has one don't they?
A Facebook presence is a must-have these days, even for businesses and professional societies. The Geological Society of Australia has recently launched its Facebook page and TESEP has one too. So does ASTA! Follow them on Facebook to keep up to date!


Geoscience Education Views

 The 1st Australian Geoscience Teaching Workshop - new ideas for teaching Tertiary geoscience

In January 2012, approximately 35 geoscience lecturers from across Australia will gather in Adelaide for the inaugural Australian Geoscience Teaching Workshop. This meeting will, for the first time, bring together Australian academics to discuss new approaches, techniques and strategies for Tertiary geoscience teaching. This workshop represents the first event run by the newly formed Australian Geoscience Learning and Teaching Network, which involves partnerships between geoscience departments in 12 universities from seven states and territories, to collaborate and constantly strive to improve geoscience teaching.

The teaching of geosciences in Australian universities has recently been facing a number of challenges, particularly surrounding the rapid increases in undergraduate numbers. With some university classes doubling in size in just a matter of years, teaching practices have been required to quickly adapt and new approaches are being adopted to improve student learning both in the class room and in the field. The workshop will comprise of two days of presentations and discussion sessions on topics including enhancing the first year geoscience experience, the use of new technology in geoscience teaching, and new approaches for teaching of field work and the understanding of geological concepts in three and four dimensions.

The workshop is being kindly sponsored and supported by the Geological Society of Australia, Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the Minerals Tertiary Education Council. For information on the workshop, please contact the organizing committee, care of Mark Tingay.

Mark Tingay

Mark Tingay currently teaches and coordinates Drilling Engineering II and Introduction to Petroleum Engineering at the University of Adelaide where he is also the first-year coordinator at the Australian School of Petroleum. He has a strong interest in learning and teaching issues, with particular emphasis on increasing student engagement, developing group work and research skills, and wikis. He is a founding member of the Australian Geoscience Learning and Teaching Network.

 The Third Global Geotourism Conference, Oman, November 2011

Three international conferences have been held on geotourism over the past five years. The inaugural conference was held in Perth, Western Australia in 2008 and the second was convened in Sarawak, Malaysia in 2010. The third conference was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 30 October - 1 November. Working to the theme 'Seeing destinations differently', the conference was jointly convened with the Oman's Ministry of Tourism and attracted 330 delegates from over 30 countries. The Conference was opened by His Highness Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture to an audience of around 400 people. This was followed by an address by Dr Mahmoud Al Mahrooqi, President of the Geological Society of Oman (GSO), the showing of a short film on the geological attractions of the country then a tour of a photographic exhibition on Oman's geological wonders.

Conference on the rocks

The conference field trip takes in the rocks

The first day comprised six keynote presentations and 12 concurrent papers from delegates from eight countries. Three keynotes focused on geotourism in the host country Oman and included 'Developing Geotourism in Oman' (Salem Al Mamari, Ministry of Tourism), 'Opportunities and Challenges' (Dr Mahmoud Al Mahrooqi, GSO), and 'Geotourism in the Oman Mountains' (Professor Sobhi Nasir, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). These country presentations were augmented by three international contributions on 'Geotourism's Global Growth' (Professor Ross Dowling, Edith Cowan University, Australia), 'Geotourism and Geoparks in China' (Young Ng, China, Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong), and 'The Role of Authenticity in Geotourism' (Stephen Martin, National Parks Service, USA).

The keynote presentations were supplemented by twelve concurrent papers in three themes. In the Resources and Conservation stream papers were presented on 'Geoheritage in Hexigten Global Geopark, China' (Jing Guo, China), 'Geotourism at Al Khayran, Oman' (Sobhi Nasir, Oman) and 'Geoconservation and Geotourism in the Central Mediterranean' (Louis Cassar, Malta). The Management and Development stream comprised papers on 'Geopark Potential in Western Australia' (Alan Briggs, Australia), 'Developing Geotourism: The role of local awareness' (Elizabeth Conrad, Malta) and 'Developing Ras Al-Hadd as a geological and ecological tourist destination in Oman' (Maged Negm, Egypt). The third concurrent session included 'Geotour Guiding' (Ross Dowling, Australia), 'The Motivations of Tourists Undertaking a Geotourism Experience in Jordan' (Ross Dowling), 'Interpreting a Geopark' (Ewan McCarthy, Scotland) and 'New Technologies supporting Geotourism and Sustainable Development (Henning Schwarze, Oman).

Day One of the Conference finished with a tour of Muscat to the old Muttrah Souk and the Sultan's Palace. The second day of the conference was a full day field excursion by 4WD vehicles to Wadi Mayh and Bandar Al Khayran. Here the Ministry of Tourism showcased its new i-Tour being developed for the Muscat area. In the evening the Conference Dinner at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel included the showing of a one-hour film presentation on 'The Geology of Oman'. The third and final day of the conference included more keynote presentations, a host of concurrent session papers, and a final plenary session. The morning began with a keynote paper on 'Geology and Geotourism in Oman' (Dr Mohammed Al Belushi, SQU), 'Visitor Impacts and Site Management at Geotourism Destinations' (Professor David Newsome, Murdoch University, Australia) and 'Geoparks' (Professor Ibrahim Komoo, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia).

Concurrent Sessions 2 & 3 included many papers in three streams. Those in the Resources and Conservation stream included 'Resource evaluation for potential geotourism destinations' (Yan Yang, China), 'Caves as geotourism features' (Paolo Forti, Italy), 'Mexico's geodiversity' (John Pint, Mexico), 'Rivers as geotourism resources' Hassan Siuki, Iran, 'Geotourism applications in Oman (Bader Al Dhuhli, Oman), 'Geotourism in the Baltic Coast' (Sebastian Willman, Sweden), 'Developing Al Jabal Al Akhdar as a geological destination in Oman', (Yaqoob Al Busaidi, Oman), 'A new approach in geological surveys for geotourism' (Alireza Amirikazemi, Iran).

Papers in the Management & Development stream were 'A time trek trail through the history of the universe (Ari Brozinski, Finland), Geotourism in Iceland (Ross Dowling), 'Reykjanes Geoparks, South West Iceland' (Kristjan Palsson, Iceland), 'The Geotourism Potential of Dhofar, Oman' (Said Al-Musharfi, Oman), 'The Development of Al Hoota Cave, Oman' (Andrew Lawrence, Oman), 'Managing geotourism in Abu Dhabi, UAE' (Mark Beech, UAE), 'Geotourism development within geoparks' (Jonathan Karkut, England), 'Opportunities and challenges in developing geotourism on the Salmah Plateau, Oman (Andrew Lawrence) and 'Managing the geodiversity of future geotourism projects in Oman' (Hichem Trache, Oman).

The third stream Communication & Education comprised papers on 'Interpreting Geology in Oman (Yaqoob Al Busaidi, Oman), 'Mapping survey to promote geotourism' (Stephen Raynor, Denmark), 'Tourism on a Plate: Marketing Geotourism' (Peter Keage, Oman), 'Tourism in the Austrian Alps' (Martin Reeves, Austria), 'The economic brand Karpaty in Central & Eastern Europe' (Fedir Shandor, Ukraine), 'Developing Al Jabal Al Akhdar as a geological tourist destination in Oman' (Yaqoob Al Busaidi, Oman) and 'Geotourism studies: A new approach in geological surveys' (Alireza Amirikazemi, Iran).

During the close of the conference the Undersecretary of Tourism, Her Excellency Maitha Mahrouqi, released a Conference Statement:

  • Recognizing the value of potential contribution of sustainable tourism development at the international, national and regional levels,
  • Acknowledging the potential of geotourism and geoparks as a means to conserve, interpret natural and cultural values,
  • Aware of the potential social, economic and environmental benefits of Geotourism, and
  • Acknowledging and welcoming the 330 delegates from 30 countries, who met in the Sultanate of Oman, a country that hosts a rich and diverse geological features.

Call upon Governments, tourism agencies and companies to:
  • Ensure that geotourism is incorporated in formulating and managing sustainable tourism strategies
  • Foster and increase communications with international and national agencies and tourism practitioners
  • Identify opportunities for expanded geotourism research, management and marketing, especially as part of sustainable tourism strategies
  • Increase geological knowledge and understanding in management, training, guiding and promotions
  • Adopt new technologies for the interpretation of geological sites, especially for improved education and awareness, and for reduced environmental impact
  • Support initiatives that protect, conserve and interpret geological features.

The conference made many advances in Geotourism with key outcomes including the geological underpinning of the subject, the number of emerging countries and regions involved in destination development, the range and diversity of geologically based attractions and activities, and the strong links between Geotourism and Geopark development.

The conference was influential in advancing geotourism in Oman, especially in terms of geotourism's profile and contribution to Oman's tourism strategy and associated activities. As well, the Conference was open to many invited governmet agencies, tertiary students and tour operators making it a highly visible educational and industry development opportunity.

The Fourth Global Geotourism Conference is scheduled for South West Iceland from 22-24 September 2013 and there is talk of the Fifth Conference in Quito, Ecuador in 2015.

Professor Ross Dowling

Professor Ross Dowling was founder of Global Geotourism Conferences and Co-Convenor of the Third Global Geotourism Conference. He teaches tourism at Edith Cowan University and is a current Director, former Vice President, former Treasurer, and co-founder of Ecotourism Australia, as well as an Academic Advisor for Cruise Down Under. In Western Australia he is Chair of the Forum Advocating Cultural & Eco Tourism [FACET], the Minister of Tourism's appointee to the Council of the National Trust, and an elected Council Member of the Royal Automobile Club.


Geoscience Education Events & Activities

 1st Australian Geoscience Teaching Workshop - Jan 18 & 19 2012
Contact Mark Tingay here for more information.

 Writing Clear Science Workshop, Sydney - Feb 7-9 2012
Workshops in Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide to follow.

 Science Teachers Association of Victoria VCE Science Subject Conferences - Feb 17, 20 & 24 2012
Look here for more information.

 Geological Survey Open Day, Perth - Feb 23 2012
Promoting the prospectivity of Western Australia - PDF brochure.

 STAWA Primary Science Conference 2012, 17-18 March, 2012
Look here for more information.

 SASTA Conference 2012, 12-13 April, 2012
Call for presenters.

 CONSTAT, 27-28 April, 2012
Find out more here.

 CONSTAWA 2012, Margaret River, 25-27 May, 2012
Follow this link.

 CONASTA 61, 8-11 July, 2012
Registration is now open. Abstract submissions close February 13..

 34th Session of the International Geological Congress (IGC) 5-12 August, 2012
Early bird registration is still open! Abstract submissions close February 17.
Register now - you know you want to.

 STANSW K-6 Science Conference, Sydney, 6 August, 2012
Details here..

 STANSW 7-12 Science Conference, Sydney, 7-12 September, 2012
Details here..

 STAVCON 2012, 26 & 27 November, 2012
Look here for more information.

 STAWA Future Science Conference 2012 , 30 November, 2012
Look here for more information.


GeoEdLink is a newsletter published by the Australian Geoscience Council.

AGC logo

The AGC is the peak body representing:

AIG logo AUSIMM logo GSA logo

ASEG logo AAG logo PESA logo

IAH logo AGIA logo


GeoEdLink can only continue if its subscriber base grows, enabling the AGC to assist more teachers and allied professionals learn and understand more about the geosciences and teach them more effectively. The more subscribers, the more effective the newsletter can be.

Please do not reply to this email. If you wish to contact the Australian Geoscience Council please do so via links at Australian Geoscience Council

GeoEdLink is managed for the AGC by Geoscience Education and Outreach Services .

Contact | Privacy | Archive
Copyright © 2007-2011 Australian Geoscience Council