December 2019 GeoEdLink AGC logo

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President's Report December 2019

David Cohen

David Cohen,
AGC President

AGC Matters

I am continuing to hold a series of informal meetings with MO executive members, heads of earth science schools and the surveys to discuss institutional-specific and more general issues for the sector, though this will extend well into next year. The AGC has approved the terms of reference and general panel composition for a light review of the strategic directions and plans of the AGC. This includes our three main pillars of Education, Advocacy and Sustainability (of the MOs). It is hoped to complete the review by March 2020. We have put out the call for nominations for the next "Geoscience Champion".

Science meets Parliament

Science meets Parliament (SmP) was held on 26th and 27th of November. Ted Tyne and I formally represented the AGC, though Marina Costello (in capacity as a member of the STA Board) and former AGC Sec Ron Hackney (through involvement in the IODP) were also involved. The first day involved a number of sessions for the delegates to assist in preparation for our meetings with the parliamentarians, and was led by a very impassioned speech on the value of science to society by Prof. Fiona Wood who has pioneered skin grafting techniques (some of which are no doubt being called upon after the events surrounding the Whakaari/White Island eruption). This followed with opportunity to test out our "pitch" with other delegates and the chance to meet informally with some MPs at a dinner in Parliament House.

On the second day Ted Tyne met with Dr Helen Haines (Independent for the seat of Indi in Victoria) and I met with Senator Pauline Hanson (ONP Queensland) in a meeting that was extended for an extra half hour. The AGC focussed on three main points at this year's SmP:

  • The need for new mineral deposits discoveries in Australia if we are going to remain a major supplier of critical metals for future low-carbon high-tech economies;
  • The challenges for mineral exploration, especially those two-thirds of the continent that are under cover, and the need for national research programs to develop new exploration methods; and
  • Means of ensuring the country maintains sufficient number of highly trained geoscientists through continuing professional development programs.

The SmP program finished with a demonstration of cage fighting (a.k.a. Question Time in the Reps).

Review of the ANZSRC

A review of the Fields of Research Codes is being undertaken by the ARC and ABS. While this is very exciting for those of us caught up in the arcane world of inter-university sub-disciplinary metrics battles there are some proposed changes that I believe should be supported under Division 04 Earth Sciences, including expanding the number of sub-divisions within the fields of Atmospheric Sciences and creating a new sub-division for Geoinformatics.

Finally, with this the last report for 2019, on behalf of the AGC I extend our very best wishes for the upcoming year and hope you enjoy a very relaxing holiday over Christmas.

David Cohen
President, Australian Geoscience Council



The opinions expressed here are those of the Editor and may not reflect the views or policies of the AGC.

The end of 2019 is rapidly approaching and it is time to reflect on the year that was and where 2020 will take us.

2019 saw the election of a new government and the usual upheavels it brings to government departments and federal-state relations. I must admit I have not noticed a great deal of change on the ground for the schools I visit or deal with but the wheels of government do turn slowly so perhaps manifestly obvious changes to the education sector are yet to reveal themselves but I suspect nothing much has changed because nothing much has changed.

It is something of a tradition for individuals to make New Year resolutions but sometimes organisations do the same. My resolve in 2020 is to continue to do what is best for teachers and students within the limits of my professional capacity and the resources I have available to do so. For others it might be something more ambitious; perhaps building a new organisation to do great things in their area of expertise and passion or setting the bar for leadership and client satisfaction even higher. For yet others it might be to simply survive in a world getting ever more difficult to live in, let alone thrive. What you or your organisation do, and how you do it, does matter - make and implement your resolutions wisely.

What ever your 2020 resolutions are, the one thing that time has taught me is that they are always more likely to succeed in the long-term if you go about achieving them with honesty, openness and a willingness to share your passion and ideas unconditionally. Short-term gains can always be made through less open, less honest and more selfish means. However, in the long-term such achievements - as good as they look - come to nothing if you have not earned the respect of your peers and clients along the way.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas break and a truly productive and enjoyable 2020.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

2020 AUGEN: Field Geology in the 21st Century - NE Tasmania Field Meeting 29 - 31 January, 2020
6 places left as of December 18. Don't miss out!

Contact to secure your place.

 Welcome Shenal 

The Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) has announced the appointment of Mr Shenal Basnayake as its new Chief Executive Officer, commencing on 1 November 2019. Nathan Curnow, a member of the Science Teachers Association of Western Australia (STAWA) and Associate Head of Science at John Curtin College of the Arts, Western Australia has been appointed to the role of President, for 2020-2021. The AGC welcomes the appointments and looks forward to working with Shenal and the ASTA team to strengthen our education pillar in the years ahead.
Read more here.

 CONASTA 69, 2020
CONASTA 2020 logo  CONASTA 69, Canberra, 5 - 8 July 2020

The CONASTA 69 theme of Science Revealed has been chosen to showcase all that Canberra has to offer as a science City. As the major science education event in Australia, CONASTA has a strong reputation for offering high quality and stimulating professional learning experiences for science teachers, school laboratory technicians/managers and others with an interest in science education. Our delegates include representatives from all Australian states and territories, government and non-government schools, all years of schooling and from metropolitan, rural and remote locations.

 The GA Education Centre turned 20 and the minister cut the cake!
GA education team with Minister Matt Canavan and GA CEO James Johnson
GA education team: L-R: Lara Sharp, Ngaire Breen, Katy Buffinton, Shona Blewett, and Leanne McMahon
with the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan and GA CEO James Johnson (far right)
Image courtesy of Greg McNamara.

The Geoscience Australia Education Centre was established in 1999 and officially opened its doors to student groups on Monday October 11, 1999. 20 years on the centre has had a physical makeover, grown bigger and is busier than ever; bookings over year in advance are not uncommon!
Take a virtual tour of the centre here.

To celebrate this milestone, Geoscience Australia held a party for everyone associated with the centre over the years. The Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan cut the cake and signed the visitors book on Monday October 14 2019, to celebrate the occasion. Students from Forrest Primary School, which was the first school to visit in 1999, assisted the minister.

Minister Matt Canavan cuts the cake
The Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan cuts the cake with students from Forrest Primary School
Image courtesy of Greg McNamara.

The inaugural manager of the centre (and erstwhile editor of GeoEdLink), Greg McNamara, gave a short talk reflecting on the history of the centre and Geoscience Australia CEO, James Johnson. officiated.
Read the minister's media release.

 Hawaii, Italy, Iceland and more ...
Teachers on Hawaii
Great company, great rocks, fantastic trip!

See amazing volcanoes first-hand and explore active volcanoes and more on great teacher-orientated trips through GEOETC. Collect data, samples and learn how to develop scientific field notes and map in the field. They model learning in the field and provide opportunities for group work in mapping and data collecting.

These trips cater for a small number of people so that a personalize learning experiences can happen for all the participants. The trips are also not overly expensive, with all the land transport, accommodation, breakfasts, some dinners, park entry fees etc covered. The adventures in 2021 include Iceland and Hawaii. Check out for the current list of available trips or email Gary Lewis on for more details.

 ESWA branches out

Earth Science Western Australia has secured funding from the Gold Industry Group to deliver excellence in the Yr 11-12 Earth and Environmental Science curriculum in New South Wales. A new NSW based position is now available and focuses on expanding the current Western Australia model throughout NSW, in conjunction with the Chief Executive Officer and ESWA Board, by creating, producing and delivering innovative earth science experiences. Download the flyer here and the position description here.

   On-line resources - links and reviews   

 CoRE Learning Foundation goes from strength to strength

The CoRE (Centre of Resources Excellence) Learning Foundation Inc is a not for profit responsible for overseeing the implementation of the CoRE Expansion Project, firstly throughout Western Australia, with the intent to go national in coming years. The CoRE Expansion Project is founded on the CoRE Learning Model, initiated and developed over a thirteen-year period at Kent Street Senior High School.

Behind CoRE is the premise that learning should not be limited to the classroom. CoRE is about bringing industry expertise into the traditional learning environment and taking students out into the field to apply their knowledge and develop their understanding. Students are encouraged to network and collaborate with each other and with industry personnel, and utilise their learning to apply innovative solutions to real-world problems. Find out more here.

 Virtual gold

The Gold Industry Group (GIG)'s National Gold Education Program provides teachers with access to free, interactive gold demonstrations delivered by passionate gold class facilitators who work within Australia's gold industry.

Students will learn all about gold, its importance, relevance and opportunities, from real industry professionals through hands-on activities that incorporate STEM learning and are designed for upper primary students (Years 4-6) and lower secondary students (Years 7–10).
Find out more or book a session here.

 Geology online

Here are some sites for you to review over the holidays!

edX Geology courses
Introduction to Geology textbook
The planet we live on
The Rocks cycle and the Earth System
Exploring Geoscience across the globe
Geoscience Practices in Basic Education



Geoscience Education Views

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

 Mount Stromlo Observatory looking good

Students attending school in the Canberra region can now access high-quality optical telescopes at a purpose-built facility at The Australian National University's (ANU) Mount Stromlo Observatory.

The Mount Stromlo Observatory was established in 1924 but the site had been used for optical viewing of the night sky since 1911. Over time the facility established a reputation for its work, especially in solar and atmospheric observations. It was amalgamated into ANU in 1957 but was mostly destroyed in devastating bushfires in the region on January 18, 2003. Only the 1886 15cm Farnham telescope survived.

Redevelopment of the facility has seen a shift from ground-based optical astronomy at this location which left keen local observers of the night sky in the dark. Local science teacher, Geoff McNamara (no relation to the editor), saw this as an opportunity to use the location to provide high quality astronomy and in 2017 established the McNamara-Saunders Astronomical Teaching Telescope (MSATT) facility with the installation of the McNamara-Saunders Astronomical Teaching Telescope 1 (MSATT 1).

MSATT. Image courtesy of Geoff McNamara
Inside MSATT at night. Image courtesy of Geoff McNamara.

Geoff is a passionate teacher and communicator of science. He is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching, including the ANU Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching, Eureka Prize for Science or Mathematics Teaching, National Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Prime Minister's Prize for Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. He was recently made a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division for significant service to secondary education, particularly in the disciplines of science and astronomy. Geoff is presently the Convenor for Science Mentors ACT, a program in which students undertake investigations under the supervision of practicing researchers in a wide range of sciences and engineering.

In 2019, with the success of MSATT 1, MSATT 2 was commissioned. MSATT 2 has a larger aperture, to counter increasing light pollution in Canberra. The brilliant thing is, no experience with astronomy or telescopes is necessary to operate the equipment. Any student from the ACT region can apply for telescope time, Mr McNamara said.

Students who use MSATT also have access to mentors who can help them analyse and report their findings. Mentors are volunteers, largely graduate students from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA).

Both MSATT 1 and 2 were largely funded by scientist Dr Denis Saunders and his wife Vee, with RSAA providing the site and assisting with construction and operations. It is a collaborative project between donors, ANU and the ACT Education Directorate.

MSATT2. Image courtesy of ANu and Jamie Kidston
MSATT2. Image courtesy of ANU and Jamie Kidston

MSATT 2 was officially opened at a ceremony on 25 September 2019. MSATT facilities can be booked for use by contacting Geoff McNamara by email or calling 0449 966 200. Download the flyer here.


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 CONASTA 69, Abstract submissions extended to 20 December, 2019

 Science Talent Search (Victoria), Registrations open 24 February, 2020

 CONASTA 69, Earlybird registrations open March, 2020

 Big Science Competition, Registrations close 22 April, 2020

 Science Talent Search (Victoria), Registrations close 25 May, 2020

 Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School entrance exam, registrations close 17 July, 2020

   Events and Activities   

 Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School, ANU Canberra, 4 - 30 January, 2020

 2020 STEM X Master Class, ANU Canberra, 5 - 10 January, 2020

 2020 AUGEN: Field Geology in the 21st Century - NE Tasmania Field Meeting 29 - 31 January, 2020

 CONSTAWA 39, Novotel Perth Langley and North Metropolitan TAFE in East Perth, 3 - 4 April, 2020

 2020 SASTA Annual Conference & Expo, Pulteney Grammar School, 23 - 24 April, 2020

 Growing Science 2020, USQ Springfield Campus, 1 May, 2020

 Big Science Competition, 20 - 29 May, 2020

 CONASTA 2020, Canberra, 5 - 8 July 2020
CONASTA 2020 logo advert

 National Science Week, 15 - 23 August, 2020

 Digital Earth Australia Quarterly Showcase, Canberra, 22 August, 2019


 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 November 2019.


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