March-April 2019 GeoEdLink AGC logo

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From the AGC President
President's Report following the AGC General Meeting
February 2019

Bill Shaw

Bill Shaw,
AGC President

Following the AGC General meeting in February I am happy to report the AGC is travelling well. Below is a precis of the full report available here.

The Adelaide Convention

Feedback to our questionnaire from over 250 attendees after the AGCC 2018 convention in Adelaide was overall very positive. The mood has certainly changed from We are not sure how this is going to work (which prevailed beforehand) to a resounding acclamation that can be summarised in the words of one attendee One of the best conferences I have ever been to, with a very good buzz. We have ended up with a clear model that should be fairly easy to replicate in the current format and one that can be improved with some fine tuning. Council has agreed that we should run it again and will now consider when we should do so and how can we ensure that there is no conflict or competition with other more specialised conferences, especially those run by our Member Organisations. The advantage of getting many diverse geoscientists together in one place to engage with ideas we don't often address is that it gives us a mandate for advocacy of Geoscience. The Big Issues Day was particularly successful in doing this. At our Council meeting the AGC passed a motion without dissent That the AGC commences planning for the next AGCC and forms an exploratory initial coordinating committee.

General business

The budget for 2019 has similar levels of expenditure to last year but two additional initiatives are noteworthy: sponsorship of the Dorothy Hill Women in Earth Science Symposium, and also of an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Murchison Meteorite landing in Victoria.

The AGC website has a new look, a new host and aims to provide more opportunity for supportive links with our Member Organisations and other Geoscience events and announcements.

Development of support for AUGEN (the Australian University Geoscience Education Network) is ongoing. It is likely that this group will form a strong part of the AGC Education Subcommittee through a Memorandum Of Understanding.

The AGC has offered sponsorship for two years to Suzy Urbaniak's CoRE Learning Foundation. The program is rolling out this year from Kent Street High School in Perth to two schools in the Pilbara and Goldfields Regions of WA. You can find out more on social media by following @CoRELearningFoundation and at

We have asked STEM superstar Dr Verity Normington to take on the role of Early Career Geoscientists Ambassador and we encourage you to contact her with thoughts, suggestions and offers of help.

Our Diversity Ambassador, Marina Costelloe, is working hard to ensure that we promote opportunities for all in Geoscience. Marina is also our representative on the Board of Science and Technology Australia (STA), and now the immediate Past-President of ASEG. Since AGCC 2018 we have supported opportunities for women and are promoting an Indigenous Geoscience Scholarship Program.

We have recently announced the results of the latest round of AGC-AAS Travel Grants for Early Career Geoscientists. We made 5 grants of which three were to university postgraduates and two were to geoscientists in government roles.

As President I represent the AGC on the AAS-Australian Academy of Science's National Council of Earth Sciences (developing the released Decadal Plan) and also on the Executive of UNCOVER. This latter body has been extremely successful in promoting deep exploration in Australia and in creating a framework for research. There is more on this in my full report.

Our report on the Australian Geoscience Tertiary Education Profile 2017 was released late last year and is accessible on our website. In it we note that secondary school studies have zero correlation with university enrolments in Geoscience as most students entering university make their decisions based on broad disciplines (science, engineering, medicine, law, etc) and on the institution's reputation. Nevertheless, having a Geoscience component at the secondary level provides more opportunity to attract students into STEM subjects, gives more people throughout the community a better understanding of the value of Geoscience and helps create a more generally 'Geoscience literate' society which is good for everyone. For this reason we are proud of our contribution and continue to strongly support all those who work in Geoscience education.

The AGC is developing a coherent national strategy for Geotourism. This follows on from initiatives of the Geological Society of Australia and will involve consultation with government and other interested organisations.

Under our Constitution the AGC is able to invite Observers to our quarterly Council meetings. Last year the Australian and New Zealand Geomorphology Group (ANZGG) attended. At our next AGM we are going to formally invite observers from Geoscience Australia, the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS), the Australian Quaternary Association (AQUA), and the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Earth Sciences (AAS-NCES). Through this process we hope to make the AGC even more inclusive, transparent and relevant in supporting Geoscience.

Finally, I note that we were fortunate to have a number of geoscientists again recognised in the Australia Day honours list. This recognition is important for us all in terms of showing that science and in particular Geoscience makes an important contribution to our social fabric along with many other disciplines and fields of endeavour. In particular I congratulate our Chairman Jon Hronsky for his personal recognition and again take this opportunity to thank him for his unstinting support of the Australian Geoscience Council and me personally during my tenure as President. Those Australian geoscientists recognised were:
  •  Dr Jon Hronsky OAM (mining)
  •  Prof Brian Kennett AO (seismology)
  •  Prof Michael Knight AM (hydrology)
  •  Prof Ross Large AO (economic geology)
  •  Dr Chris Pigram AM (science leadership)
  •  Dr Clinton Foster PSM (geoscience information)

Read the full report here.

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council



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

This summer I directed and taught at Australian Science Innovation's fifth Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School hosted at the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences (ANU-RSES) in Canberra between the 4th and 20th of January. It was a long brutal summer in Canberra as we undertook field work during a record breaking 4 days in a row above 40oC. About 50% of the summer school looks at the relationships between geosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere processes and how they impact each other and the biosphere. We certainly lived through those very impacts as we discussed them!

It was notable that all the students I spoke with see anthropogenic climate change and the environmental, social and political issues associated with it as one of their highest personal priorities. It was clear that they are frustrated by the slow pace of change in addressing issues and adopting policies and technologies to mitigate what they see as a looming environmental crisis that is not of their making. The message that I heard loud and clear from them was simple: Older generations simply need to step out of the way and let them get on with it!

These leaders of the future are not of voting age but they will be soon. The coming Federal election will not be won or lost with their votes but they will be watching the outcomes carefully and I have no doubt that, if not at this election then the next one, a changing of the guard will be forced upon us by a generation desperate to make a difference and drag their futures back from the brink and into a future their massive talents can certainly deliver if they get the chance. Collectively, we need to facilitate that chance. Education of all generations is the best way to do this and at least policies from both major parties going into the election unambiguously support geoscience research well into the future. The AGC's response to these policies can be read here along with the Australian Academy of Science's responses here and here.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion recognises and rewards an outstanding initiative that has led to greater inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It is intended to encourage the efforts of those who have improved STEM engagement amongst groups previously underrepresented or disengaged from STEM.

Entries and nominations for initiatives of all sizes are welcome, including those that have a local community focus or have been implemented in a local context. Find out more and enter here and about all the 2019 Eureka Prizes here.
Entries close 7pm AEST Friday 3 May.

 ESWA's new field guide a big hit with the locals.
Book covers
New field guides for Kalgoorlie and surrounds.

ESWA's new A5, 205 page, spiral bound, full colour field guide to Kalgoorlie and surrounds features ten locations with an access map, safety notes, an overview of the general geology, a detailed map with featured geological units and stops marked in. It also has step-by-step descriptions of each unit/feature with diagrams and photos. This is all supported by introductory notes and maps and a comprehensive glossary. By all accounts it is proving very popular with the very geology-orientated community in the area.
You can buy it for $54 (including postage) here.

 New rocks to grace Canberra.

The latest donations to the National Rock Garden are two magnificent samples of Mawson Charnockite (granite-like rock) from Antarctica. Once thought to be igneous rocks crystallised from magmas, they are now generally considered metamorphic rocks formed by deep crustal, high-temperature and high-pressure metamorphism. The rocks are currently in Tasmania awaiting funding to transport them to Canberra!
Read more about them here.

 CONASTA 68 - Darwin, July 2019
CONASTA 2019 logo
CONASTA 2019 in Darwin
Winter in the Tropics!

CONASTA 2019 is coming to Darwin, 7-10 July. The CONASTA 68 theme of Uncharted Territory: innovation in science education has been chosen to inspire all educators to focus on the influence of science on our lives. CONASTA 68 will celebrate the successes of science, particularly Australian science, and will explore the vital role of science in our future. Watch the promotional video here.
Earlybird registration extended to May 31.
Find out more here.
Apply for a Ruth Diricks scholarship to attend CONASTA here.

 National Science Week, 10-18 August 2019

National Science Week 2019 is just around the corner, so start planning your activities now! National Science Week aims to raise the profile and increase the public understanding and public appreciation of science, innovation, engineering and technology, and their role in maintaining and improving our society, economy and environment.
The 2019 school theme is: Destination Moon: more missions, more science

 Earth Science Week 2019
ESW18 logo

Earth Science Week 2019, October 13-19, celebrates Geoscience is for everyone. The theme encourages individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities to engage with the geosciences, whether that is as a geoscience professional, a hobbyist, or through public engagement.
AGI website:

 Selling fast!
Rock Kit
One of the best rock kits available for schools anywhere in the world
has been assembled by a dedicated team of TESEP geoscientists.

The TESEP Rock Kit and associated support materials was released for sale in Term 3 2018 and has been selling fast! Over 150 kits have walked out the door so far and sales don't look like letting up. However, supply is limited so if you plan on teaching about sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks this year in junior science this is the kit for you!

The kit is complimented by the TESEP Plate Tectonics poster and a range of online resources including detailed information about each rock, the source location and a 3D virtual version. Senior students will also enjoy the Virtual Petrographic microscope images of the TESEP rocks in thin section.

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

See amazing volcanism 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.

These trips cater for a small number of people so that personalised learning experiences can happen for all the participants. The trip is also not overly expensive, with all the land transport, accommodation, breakfasts, some dinners, park entry fees covered. Hawaii 2020 is waiting for you!

For more information you can visit or email Gary Lewis on for more details.

 The Olympiad entrance exams are not far off!

It is time to start enrolling students who are interested in sitting the Australian Science Olympiad Exams, which are held in August every year. Up to 24 students in each discipline (Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Science and Physics) will be selected to attend the Australian Science Olympiads Summer School in January 2020. Based on their performance at Summer School and in final selection exams, up to 17 students will travel overseas to represent Australia at the International Science Olympiad in their respective disciplines.

The upcoming 2019 International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) will be held in Daegu, South Korea and the 2020 IESO will be held in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In Australia, most students don't get an opportunity to study Earth and Environmental Science at school but you don't have to study it at school to get invited to Summer School or represent Australia at the IESO!

In fact, Australia has been very successful at the IESO since Australian Science Innovations started organising Summer Schools and selecting teams in 2015 even though most of the team members have not studied Earth and Environmental Science at school. Four teams have returned with a total of 3 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze medals in the individual competitions plus other awards for international team events they were in.

Summer School students and teachers
Students and staff, Summer School 2019

Students keen on Biology, Chemistry and Physics are all encouraged to sit the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam too. Why? Because, in recognising most students don't study the subject, the entrance exam is written to find good analytical thinkers with a capacity to learn, not students who know a lot of content. The ASI program teaches all the content (and more) that is needed at Summer School. The program is proof that good Biology, Chemistry and Physics students can make great Earth and Environmental Science students. It is also another opportunity for 24 students to have a great Summer School experience they might not have had otherwise!
Register students online here.

2019 Exam dates are:
  •  Chemistry – 7 August
  •  EES – 9 August
  •  Biology – 12 August
  •  Physics – 14 August
Registrations close 19 July 2019.

Note: EESO Program Director, Greg McNamara, recommends only inviting high achieving students to sit the entrance exam because, like all Olympiad entrance exams, it is designed to identify the top 24 students in the cohort. Consequently, it is exceptionally challenging for top students and less able students will not benefit from the experience.

 Prepare for the Fair!

The SEA*ACT Science and Engineering Fair will return in 2019 with submissions due 13-14 September 2019. That sounds like a long way off but a whole heap of preparation has to happen before then! Follow the link to find out more.

   On-line resources - links and reviews   

 Destination Moon: more missions, more science

National Science Week resource book Destination Moon: more missions, more science is now available. Download it for free here along with other great space resources!

 Big Science Competition

The Big Science Competition is a 50 minute, multiple choice competition testing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, not just factual recall. It is also one of the prerequisites for the Curious Minds - Girls in STEM program selection. Find out more here:
Ask for past papers here.
Registrations close 24 April for Pen and Paper, 15 May for online.

 Hallett Cove, virtually

Hallett Cove is one of the best known geological sites in Australia because of the evidence of an ancient glaciation that can be clearly seen in striated glacial pavements and sediments associated with the glaciation. The excellent brochure produced by the Geological Society of Australia, South Australian Division, has now been built upon by the Geological Survey of South Australia to produce an awesome virtual tour. It is well worth a virtual visit, especially if it's impossible to go and see the real thing!

 Australian Geology Travel Maps

The phone app, Australian Geology Travel Maps, has now been available for over a year, and is being used by hundreds of geologists and geology enthusiasts in Australia. It delivers simplified and detailed geology maps, aero-magnetic imagery, and the locations and details of mineral and energy resources for the whole of Australia. Geology is combined with topography, highlighting the landscapes of the country. Wherever you are, you can tap on the map and get details about the underlying geology and resources using the best available data from the state geological surveys and Geoscience Australia.
The app is available in Google Play and the Apple Store. Visit the web site below for download links and more information.

 Diamonds are forever interesting

This web site is dedicated to all things diamond. It has useful text in plain English and helpful still images and animated graphics to explain all the ways in which diamonds can form naturally. A useful research resource for teachers and students, the site also features information about how commercial diamonds are graded, cut, measured and sold.

 Sign up for the Dorothy Hill Symposium newsletter

The Dorothy Hill Symposium for 2019 is scheduled for November 14-15 and registrations are already open. However, to get the most out of the event you should sign up here for the symposium newsletter. This will ensure you get to see all the program updates and reminders.

 NASA's teachable moments

NASA's teachable Moments harness the latest space missions and discoveries from NASA to help educators inspire the space explorers of the future.
Explore all their moments here!

 What is Geoethics?

According to the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG), geoethics consists of research and reflection on the values which underpin appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the Earth system. Geoethics deals with the ethical, social and cultural implications of geoscience education, research and practice, and with the social role and responsibility of geoscientists in conducting their activities.
Watch an explanatory video here.
Read the IAPG newsletters here.

 Chris King awarded the 2018 Geoethics Medal

Well known and highly respected Geoscience Educator, Chris King, has been awarded the 2018 Geoethics medal at a ceremony in Beijing February 2019. His citation reads: The award is for ... his valuable contribution in promoting Earth Sciences in society by introducing innovative methods and tools to teaching, aiming at the proactive involvement of end-users based on developing their critical thinking and observational scientific approaches.

Chris King teaches (geo)scientific methods and geological knowledge in an easy, attractive and passionate way, through which he offers clear and careful explanations of geological observations without trivializing the content whilst always paying great attention to the quality of the scientific discourse.

His efforts in promoting geoeducation are much more than a mission to disseminate Earth Sciences knowledge among students and the general public: Chris King is an excellent example of a geologist who feels and practices his geological activity as a geoethical duty towards society.
Nominations for the 2019 Geoethics Medal close 30 June 2019.


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.

 ImageMatrix - A new tool for Virtual Petrographic Microscopy to explore rocks in thin section

Petrographic microscope
Petrographic microscopes
cost about $10,000 each

ImageMatrix has recently been developed to use multiple images taken of an individual geological/ceramic/fossil thin section, which, when manipulated by a student online, will imitate the experience of sitting at a petrographic microscope and examining physical thin sections. ImageMatrix is a flexible, device-independent, web-based learning and teaching platform that will enable educators to provide authentic learning experiences outside of the laboratory that are inclusive, stimulating and rigorous. The platform uses clustered 2D image data sets to simulate experiences like microscopy to explore the secret stories rocks have to tell. The system circumvents the enormous cost of purchasing petrographic microscopes for classrooms and decouples the difficulty of learning to physically use a petrographic microscope from the interpretation of data sets while maintaining the same educational outcomes. The project builds upon the highly successful 'Virtual Petrographic Microscope'. A prototype was deployed in October 2018 for testing, and feedback is welcome. A range of virtual thin sections are available, including many of the rocks in the TESEP rock kit released last year.

Mid-ocean ridge gabbro
Thin section (cross polarised light)
of a mid-ocean ridge gabbro,
Southwest Indian Ridge, Southern Ocean.

New custom-designed interactive online tools, not available to a student working with a physical microscope, and thin sections adds value to the platform and enhances teaching and learning opportunities and outcomes. For example, the student is able to measure and classify features on screen and annotate and save the resulting image for further study. These capabilities will improve the students' learning experience and their outcomes.

Students increasingly study while working, having other life commitments or living remote from their schools or universities. Limited access to petrographic microscopes or heavy timetable bookings for teaching laboratories restrict access for private study and method practice outside of class times. Moreover, students may initially struggle to grasp difficult hands-on tasks such as learning a fundamental skill like using a complex microscope, distracting them from the key learning outcome of how to interpret the samples they are examining. These problems challenge us to provide authentic learning experiences outside of the laboratory that are flexible, inclusive, stimulating and rigorous. The highly successful "Virtual Petrographic Microscope" (Daczko, 2015a,b; Daczko, 2016; Tetley and Daczko, 2014) was developed several years ago to begin to address this problem. However, web-based technology was not mature enough at that time and a simple stand-alone software package was developed.

Mid-ocean ridge gabbro
Thin section showing a
oscillatory zoned plagioclase phenocryst,
Solander Island, New Zealand.

The new platform and virtual space, ImageMatrix opens vast new opportunities to incorporate microscopy into teaching and learning for advanced study of rocks and minerals or of disciplines that traditionally have not had the capacity to invest in expensive microscope teaching laboratories (e.g. archaeology, soil science, palaeontology, medical science, etc.). Together these outcomes promise to provide a unique integrated digital experience that will deliver authentic connected practices for students that will create a sense of belonging through collaborative learning. Additionally, this new tool will facilitate engaging, research-led, discipline-specific learning experiences that will be embedded in teaching programs across a range of levels.

The project sourced primary funding from Macquarie University and sponsorship from other universities (University of New England, University of South Australia, University of Sydney) and industry (Pells Sullivan Meynink - PSM and the Australian Geoscience Council) to amplify the impact of this project.

References: Daczko, N.R., 2015a. Using a Virtual Petrographic Microscope in undergraduate teaching, in: McLaren, Anderson, Almberg (eds), 4th Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network Meeting, Melbourne, Australia. Geological Society of Australia Abstracts No. 131, pp 5.
Daczko, N.R., 2015b. Undergraduate teaching with a Virtual Petrographic Microscope, in: Siégel, Verdel, Rosenbaum (eds), Riding the Wave: GSA Specialist Group in Tectonics & Structural Geology Conference, November 2015. Geological Society of Australia Abstracts No. 113, pp 35.
Daczko, N.R., 2016. The free desktop software, Virtual Petrographic Microscope, in: King, Moore, Daczko (eds), 5th Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network Meeting, Canberra, Australia. Geological Society of Australia Abstracts No. AB115, pp 28.
Tetley, M.G. & Daczko, N.R., 2014. Virtual Petrographic Microscope: A multi-platform education and research software tool to analyse rock thin sections. Aust. J. of Earth Sciences, 61, 631-637.

Petrographic microscope

Associate Professor Nathan Daczko
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University

Thin section of a mafic granulite, Broken Hill NSW
viewing a rotating stage in crossed polarised light.
Plagioclase is multiply twinned in greys.
Quartz (white-grey), biotite (brown), pyroxene (pale colours) and amphibole (bright colours) are also present


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 Big Science Competition, Pen and paper registration closes 24 April 2019

 Big Science Competition, Online registration closes 15 May 2019

 CONASTA 2019, early bird registration closes, 1 June 2019

 Australia Science Olympiad exams, registration closes, 19 July 2019

   Events and Activities   

✱✱✱  2019  ✱✱✱

 SASTA Annual Conference and Expo, Adelaide, 15-16 April, 2019
Theme: Thinking Science
Click here to finds out more.

 STEM in the Early Years (Engineering Focus), Adelaide, 10 May, 2019

 Asian Physics Olympiad, Adelaide, 5-13 May, 2019

 CONSTAWA, Perth, 17-18 May, 2019

 Big Science Competition, in schools, 20-29 May, 2019

 Designing and Implementing STEM Challenges (Primary), Adelaide, 3 June, 2019

 Labtech 2019, 7 June, 2019

 TESEP at Labtech 2019, 7 June, 2019
Rocking Plate Tectonics & The Power of Synthesising Virtual and Hands-On Learning, Sessions B5 and C5

 Designing and Implementing STEM Challenges (Secondary), Adelaide, 14 June, 2019

 Innovating Through Science Workshop (Primary), Adelaide, 21 June, 2019

 TESEP Plate Tectonics workshop - Canberra, 9 August, 2019

 Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam, in schools, 9 August, 2019

 National Science Week, nationally, 10-18 August, 2019

 International Earth Science Olympiad, South Korea, 26 August - 3 September, 2019

 Science and Engineering Fair, 13-14 September 2019

 Earth Science Week, Australia-wide, 13-19 October 2019
ESW18 logo
Theme: Geoscience Is for Everyone

 Dorothy Hill Symposium, 14-15 November 2019

 STAVCON, 29 November 2019

✱✱✱  2020  ✱✱✱

 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 June 2019.


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