December 2014      
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A message from the AGC President

Bill Shaw

You fast-moving correspondent on the recent AIG/GSA Xmas Cruise
Photo courtesy of Max Frew

Long before secondary school I was collecting rocks and making trips from country Victoria to the Melbourne Museum to wander among the display cases trying to identify whether I had anything interesting. Green copper-stained rocks from Buchan and sandy fossilised wood from Mornington Peninsula, bits of (barren) quartz from Walhalla and more exciting specimens that a perceptive Aunt brought back from exotic places like the Gawler Peninsula (tillite!) and Andamooka (potchy opal!).

Years later when my own kids were in primary school I did some "What My Dad Does" visits that were just as much fun. Having asked the teacher to get their class to each bring an old egg carton with a 'rock collection' we spent a couple of hours looking at some fascinating pieces - some of course borrowed from parents who worked in mining (by this stage we were in WA) and others, more original, that comprised colourful varieties of 'brickite', cement, pottery and road surface bitumen. Finding 12 rocks from scratch is a big ask. But perhaps among the 20 or so little tykes were a few who like me saw aesthetic beauty in the way oxides and clays give way at depth to sulphides and many other wonderful rocks and minerals. The books I bought long ago on my trips to Melbourne are still on my shelves and still wonderful, more so perhaps now, as I understand more about the whole geological system we are part of. Maybe one of those kids will feel the same one day.

The Australian Geoscience Council has had a good few months since I last reported. We have bedded down a five-year strategic plan which is now being rolled out. We want to increase awareness of geoscience and see that the way to do that is to develop on three fronts that we are calling the pillars of our strategy: Geoscience Education, Geoscience Advocacy and Geoscience Sustainability. I believe that for too long we have diluted our efforts as geologists and educationalists through a lack of focus, by talking about earth science and allowing it to become suffused and confused with 'earth and environmental sciences' and at other times focusing down too far on our own specialist disciplines, such as geochemistry, geophysics, petrology, hydrogeology, etc. (you get the picture). Many of us think it is time to get back to talking about rocks - why we like them, how our society depends on them for everything that cannot be grown (and some that can, fertilisers need phosphates and trace elements need zinc), and how they have shaped our economy. Geoscience is one of the great sciences, like physics, chemistry and biology, and arguably one of the most modern.

I have been reading Geoffrey Blainey's wonderful book "The Rush That Never Ended". He presents the short sparkling successes and the long hard trails of deprivation that came and went with the alluvial gold rushes in Victoria, the copper mines in South Australia and the silver-lead mines of Broken Hill in western New South Wales. I have not yet got to the discovery of Kalgoorlie by Paddy Hannan but I am sure he will mention the nuggetty little Irishman with his waterbag, immortalised in bronze outside the Town Hall in Hannan Street. Let us all persevere and hope that our prospects for next year are as bright as his were.

Enjoy Christmas and the New year, and have a great summer break. I am sure you will find plenty to mull over in this issue of GeoEdLink.

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council


The curriculum review commissioned by the Commonwealth Government has been tabled and the Minister has provided an initial response. The report was surprisingly positive and reflected the views of many, including this author, that the development of the national science curriculum was thorough, inclusive and academically rigorous. However, it did seem to accept the proposition from a number of submissions that a dedicated science curriculum for lower Primary school was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in the final recommendation it extended its quest for content and coverage reduction through to Year 10. This should sound alarm bells for it is in the implementation of this recommendation that we may see an attempt to reduce the Earth and Space content in order to save the other content. We have seen this before and vigilance will be required.

On a more positive note the report stated the Australian [senior Yr 11-12] Earth and Environmental Science course is to be commended for adopting a holistic, modern and interdisciplinary approach in contrast with other senior science courses that were viewed more negatively.

Unfortunately the report also questioned the relevance and educational value of the cross-curriculum priorities and the weight given to the strand: Science as a human endeavour. This is unfortunate because this strand provides content linkages that enable teachers to make the content relevant and interesting for students. If Science as a human endeavour is taken out we will lose the leverage it provided and make it harder for Earth and Environmental Science content to be worked into areas where it is not explicitly mentioned in the curriculum.

The report has also made some recommendations for the Geography curriculum which may also prove problematic for science. The recommendation of most concern calls for a fundamental rebalancing with the aim of introducing much more physical geography content. While this may appear to make sense, historically Plate Tectonics was taught in geography and only with the advent of the national curriculum has it been moved explicitly into Yr 9 science. If geography teachers reincorporate Plate Tectonics into their physical geography teaching we will again see students bemoaning the fact that they have done it all before, disengaging with the lesson and the science. This is not a good outcome for students or geography and science teachers.

The initial government response was a 12 page document that concludes: … the Australian Government will be working through the recommendations, suggested actions and options for implementation with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments' Education Council. We anticipate that the time frame for implementing the findings of the Review of the Australian Curriculum will be addressed during those discussions.

Vigilance is needed to ensure the appropriate weight continues to be given to Earth and Space in the science curriculum. To access all the relevant documents visit this web site:

Enjoy your holiday break where ever you are and have an excellent 2015.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 Top GeoShot winners announced

The winners of Geoscience Australia's 2014 Top GeoShot photo competition were announced during Earth Science Week in October. Over 360 outstanding entries were received from across Australia, highlighting this years theme, Great Southern Land.

The 2014 overall winner was Mark Jekabsons from the Australian Capital Territory. Mark's photo Gibraltar Falls captures mountain and valley formations from the top of Gibraltar Falls in the ACT.

Callum Porter from New South Wales took out the student category with his photo Cathedrals.

The winning entries are available on Geoscience Australias website:

 ESWA's new patron

Dr Jim Ross AM, Co-founder and Chair (2005-2014) of Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA), has passed the mantle of ESWA chair on to Professor Peter Moore but remains in touch as ESWA's patron going forward. Jim's role in the development and achievements of ESWA cannot be overstated and the success of Earth and Environmental Science courses nationally is in no small measure due to Jim's influence. All Earth Science educators are indebted to his efforts!
Read more about ESWA here.

 2015 AUGEN Meeting

Plans are well advance for the next annual meeting of the Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network, to be held at the University of Melbourne, January 12-13 2015. The meeting is jointly organised and hosted by Monash University and the University of Melbourne. Read more about the event here.

There is still time to submit an abstract for oral or poster presentation! Please let the committee know as soon as possible if you would like to present. Please also consider attending even if you don’t intend to present – there are some excellent talks and discussions lined up and it would be great to have as wide as possible participation.

REGISTRATION IS FREE, but you do need to indicate your attendance for catering and planning purposes. Please email with your details if you plan to attend.

 Dinorama school holiday fun in Melbourne

Imagine a miniature landscape complete with river bed, trees and a suite of animals from the Victorian Cretaceous period, created in a classic museum diorama style. Now you can be part of the action by making a miniature of one of three animals – Koolasuchus cleelandi, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei or Qantassaurus intrepidus – all which lived in Victoria 120 million years ago. Animals moulded using Plasticlay will be added to the ‘dinorama’. There are 12 colours of Plasticlay and every couple of days a new colour will be introduced. By the end of the holidays there will be a wonderfully coloured Cretaceous miniature landscape!
Find out more here.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 AIGeoscope and GEOZ keep you up-to-date.

AIGeoscope presents a view of what's been happening in geoscience each week. Compiled by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists it is published electronically every Monday morning.
You can subscribe here for your weekly email.

GEOZ is complied by the Geological Society of Australia and is published electronically every fortnight. It provides an insight into national and international events of relevance to a very diverse geoscience community. Subscribe here.

 EarthLearningIdea keeps up the good work

EarthLearningIdea is publishing FREE Earth-related teaching ideas, designed to be practical resources for teachers and teacher-trainers all over the world. GeoEdLink has featured them several times and why not? They keep producing such good stuff! In 2014 alone they have published 58 new resources with 6 in the last 6 weeks. All activities are free to download and most require minimal cost and equipment. Best of all, they are fun!
Visit the website and explore.

 The Moon for 2015

Need some good graphics and information about the Moon and lunar cycles that are current for next year? NASA have come to your rescue courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Even better, they have created a Celestial south is up version, corresponding to the view from the southern hemisphere ... and if you are reading this in the northern hemisphere there is a version just for you!
click here for the South up version
and here for the North up version

 The Australian Coast re-released

The popular Geoscience Australia educational booklet The Australian Coast has been updated and re-released. Packed with many pages of good information and excellent diagrams the booklet also comes with master copies of excellent student activities. Even better, it is available for free download as a PDF or Word document from Geoscience Australia's website.

You can review other Geoscience Australia education booklets here.

 RIAus goes live...

RiAus is Australia’' national science channel, promoting public awareness and understanding of science. RiAus produces thought-provoking and entertaining events, broadcasts and publications as well as education and teacher support programs. Follow this RiAus link to discover the wonders of science [live].

 NASA is on your wavelength

NASA Wavelength is a digital library of Earth and space science resources for educators of all levels. These excellent peer-reviewed resources are east to find and even though the site is geared to the US education system there are certain to be many useful space, climate and geoscience activities to help teach the subject in Australian classrooms. The site has hundreds of resources to explore and the collection is constantly added to.
Select your wavelength here.

 ESWA on-line resources

Earth Science Western Australia's excellent resources for supporting middle school Earth and Space and senior Earth and Environmental Science teachers and students are ever expanding. Free for download the resources are available here for Earth and Environmental Science and here for Earth and Space.

 Start preparing now!

It is never too early to start preparing for the Australian Science Olympiads. 2015 is shaping up to be a great year with the Olympiad Summer Schools returning to the Australian National University campus in Canberra and the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School running for the first time. However, in 2015 students will be selected to attend the 2016 Summer School and now is the time when teachers should begin conversations with their keen students about planning for and sitting the Olympiad exams. For more information visit the Australian Science Olympiad website.


Geoscience Education Views

Geoscience Education Views is prepared using opinion pieces provided by invited authors. Any views expressed in Geoscience Education Views are the opinions of the author and may not reflect the views or policies of the AGC or AGC members.

 Geoethics: What it is and why it is important in Geosciences

Advances in science and technology have increased considerably in the past century. Geoscientists have new skills and tasks linking different disciplines, applying different methods and technologies, and facing new challenges, from micro to macro-scale studies, and from land, atmosphere and oceans to planetary exploration1. In response to these challenges Geoethics has emerged as a field of study in its own right in 1991 in Příbram (Czech Republic)2 but is still not very well known.

In accordance with the official definition of International Association for Geoethics (IAGETH) Geoethics is an interdisciplinary field between Geosciences and Ethics. It deals with the way humans think and act in relation to Earth systems. Planetary geology and astrobiology also require a geoethical approach.3

One of the most important features which characterises the modern concept of Geoethics is that it should not be understood as the simple combination of two terms Geoscience and Ethics but a real new discipline in which the whole is greater than the mere sum of its parts. Accordingly, any appropriate application of the ethical rules and protocols requires a good knowledge of the different geoscientific issues. Thus, in the same way that, for instance, in Bioethics it is important to consider and apply differentially the ethical protocols to microbes, lab mice or humans, in geosciences, it is also essential to differentiate about mining, environmental, hydrogeology, natural hazards, climate, planetary protection, etc. Above all, as indicated in Martínez-Frías et al. (2011)1 any geoethical action should reflect, among other things, freedom, scientific and professional skills, integrity and good practices, reflection, socio-cultural and human dimension and principles and motivations.

1 Martínez-Frías, J., Gonzalez, J.L. & Rull, F. (2011) Geoethics and Deontology. From fundamentals to applications in Planetary Protection. Episodes 34-4: 257-262.
2 Nemec, V. (1992) Ethical Geology in the Education Process. 29th International Geological Congress, Kyoto, Japan, 24 August-3 September 1992. section II-24-1 "New ideas and techniques in geological education" Abstract Volume 3/3.

Jesús Martínez-Frías
President, International Association for Geoethics (IAGETH) and Chair, IUGS Commission on Geoscience Education, Training and Technology Transfer (IUGS-COGE).
Instituto de Geociencias (CSIC-UCM), Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas C/ José Antonio Novais, 2, Ciudad Universitaria 28040 Madrid (Spain).


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 SASTA Annual Conference, 13-14 April 2015.
Earlybird registration end 15 March 2015.


 4th Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network (AUGEN) workshop, Melbourne, 12-13 January 2015

 Biology, Earth & Environmental Science and Senior Science Teachers Conference (BEESST), Sydney, 27 February 2015
University of New South Wales, Kensington

 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.

 SASTA Annual Conference & Exhibition, Adelaide, 13-14 April 2015
See website for more details

 Labtech Conference 2015, Melbourne, 12 June 2015
See website for more details

 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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