September 2012      
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A message from the AGC President

Neil Williams

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

Australian geoscience is now well and truly on the international geological map following the 34th International Geological Congress held in Brisbane from 5th to 10th August.

The event was the largest geoscience event ever held in Australia and the final statistics for the Congress are impressive: 6012 delegates from 112 countries. There was a strong Technical Program that included 3712 oral presentations and 1469 poster presentations covering the full range contemporary geoscience issues. There were also 5 Plenary Sessions in which leading geoscientists from around the world gave us new insights into a range of important geoscience topics facing modern society. There were 24 Professional Development Workshops, 29 multiple-day field trips and 283 spaces occupied by exhibitors in the GeoExpo hall. We also had a strong GeoHost program with 244 delegates, 140 of whom participated in 3 Training Workshops.

Since the Congress ended I have been receiving a steady stream of messages of congratulations from around the world complimenting the Organising Committee on the delivery of a really successful Congress. As President of the Congress one of my few regrets was the impossibility of having all of Australia's science teachers attend the event. A few did, and I'm sure, like me, they saw and heard much of great interest.

A highlight of the Congress were the Plenary Sessions and Public Lectures that were on topics of broad public interest and I am pleased to report that all these lectures were recorded and are presently being prepared for podcasting so that those who couldn't get to the Congress will still be able view and hear some very interesting presentations by some of the world's most influential geologists. Plenary sessions are now available on line here:

While many were focussed on the 34th IGC, another important geoscience event was unfolding a very long way from Brisbane. As the 34th IGC got under way the NASA vehicle Curiosity landed safely on Mars near a small mountain - Mt Sharp - composed of what appears to be a layered sequence of sedimentary rocks. The early images being received from Curiosity are truly amazing and if you haven't already viewed them, I commend the following web sites where you can view first hand the unfolding of a very historic event in human exploration, and one with important implications for geoscience research not only on Mars, but also back here on Earth. The websites include: (the very fine imagery being received from Curiosity); and from the orbiting cameras above Mars: and also

One of the main aims of the Curiosity program is to determine whether or not life ever existed on Mars. The scientific instrumentation on Curiosity is very sophisticated and impressive and several Australian geologists are involved in the program. When appropriate I hope to get one or two of them to contribute articles to GeoEdLink on their work and the implications of the results they are obtaining via Curiosity.

Prof Neil Williams PSM
President, Australian Geoscience Council


I had the great pleasure of attending the 34th IGC in Brisbane recently and am happy to report it was the best conference I have attended in recent years. The conference was by far the biggest geoscience event in Australia that I have attended and the venue, the trade displays and the program certainly contributed to its success. However, I rate it so highly because of the people I met and the presentations I heard or read. It struck me as I walked amongst the thousands of delegates just how all-embracing the geosciences are and how cross-curricula they are. It may seem self-evident to those of us embedded in the geosciences but the amount of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, physical geography, human geography, astronomy, agriculture and medicine encompassed by the study of Earth Systems science is truly staggering. However, it is through the lens of geoscience that the interconnectedness of these disciplines comes fully into focus. Teachers who attended the sessions have reported a thoroughly enjoyable and informative experience. Let us hope we can assist them utilise such a vast array of knowledge to improve the education of the world still further.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 What are you doing for Earth Science Week 2012?

Earth Science Week 2012 will be held 14-20 October this year and has the theme: Discovering careers in the Earth Sciences.

ESW image

Earth Science Week aims to:

• Provide students with new opportunities to discover the Earth sciences
• Highlight the contributions of Earth science to our lives
• Pass on the message that Earth science is all around us
• Encourage stewardship of the Earth through an understanding of earth science
• Provide opportunities for geoscientists to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about Earth
• Have fun!

What's on?

Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA)    is running a ESW competition on their Facebook page for WA Earth and Environmental Science (EES) students. Just 'like' their page and then tell ESWA in 100 words or less why you think students should choose to study Earth and Environmental Science (EES). Prizes will be awarded to the top three responses from past and current Western Australian EES students and all submissions will be published on the ESWA website for Earth Science Week.

The Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP)    has a DVD (Australia: The Time Traveller's Guide) to give away to a teacher of science, years 7-10. In less than 500 words simply tell TESEP about your most engaging Earth Science activity (3 pictures maximum to go with the text) and how it links to the new Australian Curriculum for science. Entries close COB October 8 and the winner will be announced during Earth Science Week with the best 3 entries to be published on the TESEP website.

Geoscience Australia    is running the GeoTopShots competition. There is a student category. Now that Spring is here, why not head outdoors and experience Australia's amazing and unique geology. Take your camera with you and grab a photo of that unusual geological formation or your favourite landscape, and you could be in the running to become Australia's next Top GeoShot. Entries close 22 September. Get snapping those shots!

All entries will be displayed in the foyer in the lead-up to Earth Science Week, and winning entries will receive a professionally framed enlargement of their image. A selection of the best photos will be showcased on GA’s website and the winning photos will again feature in GA’s 2013 calendar.

GA will also announce the winners of the Geologi Short Film Competition at an awards ceremony in Canberra during Earth Science Week..

International Earthcache day October 14    Read more about Earthcaching here. There are heaps of Australian Earthcaches!    Visit the Earthcaching Facebook page here.

Visit the Earth Science Week website for more ideas for activities to celebrate Earth Science Week 2012.

 Seismometer in Schools teacher recognised in Eureka Awards

Congratulations to Geoff McNamara on his winning of the NSW Trade & Investment Eureka Prize for Science or Mathematics Teaching. Apart from his involvement with the Seismometers in Schools program Mr McNamara has an impressive history of innovative and engaging science teaching which this award recognises. Read the full Eureka Award citation here.

 Geoscience Australia shapes the nation (for free)

Geoscience Australia launched their amazing new book Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia at the recent 34th IGC in Brisbane. The book is the story of a continent's geological evolution as seen through the lens of human impacts but it is more than that. In exploring the geology, resources and landscapes of Australia, the book reveals how these have helped to shape this nation's society, environment and wealth and provides teachers and students with an amazing cross curricula resource. Presented in a refreshingly non-linear format, the book will provide endless avenues for research and exploration. For the avid reader, an accompanying DVD hosts extensive appendices, including supplementary reading and reference material, maps, movies and an interactive 3D model showcasing many geoscience datasets.

In addition to the exceptional content, the price of this massive tome is also exceptional. The 571 pages of high quality full colour printing is yours for an exceptionally reasonable $70 plus shipping from Geoscience Australia but, and it is a big but, the same book as a PDF can be downloaded for FREE for ANU e Press. What a bargain!

 International Earth Science Olympiad 2012 is almost here

The next International Earth Science Olympiad will start on Sunday 8th October in the city of Olavarría, 350km from Buenos Aires, Argentina. An Australian team has been assembled, lets hope they do as well as last years Australian team! Visit the IESO 2012 web site to find out more.

 34th IGC a stunning success for Geoscience Education and Outreach

The 34th IGC was a triumph of organisation and planning but no conference is a success without excellent presenters and an appreciative audience. The 34th IGC had both in abundance and was a success by any other measure as well. Geoscience for Society was but one theme amongst 37 running concurrently and it had 6 sub-themes including Geoscience Education and Geoscience Outreach. These two sub-themes alone boasted 47 oral presentations spread over 6 sessions plus 27 posters. The range of content was an impressive mix of program documentation, fundamental research, pedagogy and discussion. The full conference program is available here. A summary of the Geoscience for Society symposia is available here.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 Mars: The field trip!

Curiosity has landed on Mars and is now starting its field trip from Bradbury Landing to Aeolis Mons aka Mt Sharp via Glenelg.

Stratigraphy on Mars

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The landing site and Earthling litter scattered across the Martian landscape!

The road to Mount Sharp.

Curiosity has a laser and knows how to use it!

It rained rocks and it hurt.
News report:
Weather reports from Mars

Martian stratigraphy.
NASA report:
News report:

Now for some arm waving.

... and finally; just what is the Morse Code of JPL? Just ask Curiosity!.

I can see you

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

... and now you can FRIEND Curiosity on Facebook! FB logo
Curiosity is constantly blogging about what it is up to and where it has got to.

 Try the VSSEC for more Martian educational opportunities

Visit the Victorian Space Science Education Centre to explore the vast array of Martian educational opportunities they have available. You can even download Mars the Comic!

 Send your students to the bottom of the ocean!

A new site from NOAA takes you to the depths of the ocean to explore submarine volcanoes and their biologically amazing environments. See the Ocean Explorer home page for links to videos, pictures, datasets and live video feeds from actual dives. An amazing resource for students you want to send to the bottom of the ocean for the nicest of reasons!

 AGIA informs with a byte

The Australian Geoscience Information Association (AGIA) aims to:
• initiate, aid, promote and improve the exchange of information in the earth sciences and related areas
• encourage mutual co-operation among users and processors of earth sciences and resources information
• maintain links between members and geoscience information organisations in Australia and overseas

Membership of AGIA is open to anyone with an interest in geoscience, minerals or petroleum information, and new members are very welcome.

The AGIA website features upcoming events including conferences, seminars and networking opportunities, and provides links to Australian and international geoscience information resources. You can also explore the extensive archive of AGIA newsletters to discover a range of articles which discuss geoscience information issues.
For online networking, join the AGIA group on LinkedIn here.
Check out the AGIA e-Newsletter, The Great Australian Byte.

 Phosphorus: The Eureka moment!

Your bones need it. Muscles can't move without it and life as we know it is not possible if it is not present. However, most people only know Phosphorus as a fertiliser, in the form of 'super phosphate', that farmers need. Recently recognised with the 2012 Eureka prize for Environmental Research researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have identified a looming Phosphorus shortage as one of the key limits to growth in the future.
Read the Eureka prize citation here.

 Hong Kong gong for Geopark researcher

Dr Young Ng, a driving force behind the Hong Kong geopark and a University of Sydney alumnus, has been awarded a Medal of Honour by the Hong Kong special administrative region for his work on the geopark project and on geoconservation.
Read the Australian news story and find out more about Geoparks here.

 Astrobiology is go!

The NASA Astrobiology Institute has an on-line newsletter with lots of relevant announcements, events, updates, and news items related to Astrobiology. There is even a section listing travel grants and awards that might be of interest to students and young investigators.
Navigate to life in the universe here.

 Uluru and Kata Tjuta explained

An excellent new publication, Uluru and Kata Tjuta : a geological guide, is now available from Geoscience Australia. This book provides the visitor with a guide to the many fascinating geological features of two of Australia's most significant indigenous heritage sites and fully explains how these geological marvels come to be standing in the landscape the way they are today.

 IUGS-COGE at the 34th IGC

The International Union of Geological Sciences Commission on Geoscience Education took the opportunity to meet face-to-face in Brisbane at the 34th IGC when many of the commissioners were present. The Commission was established in 2004 by the IUGS to examine and develop programs to assist developed and developing countries to maintain, expand or introduce better earth science education, outreach and technology transfer within their country. You can find out more and follow their links to many useful web sites here.

Commissioners at the IGC: Left to right; Gary Lewis (GSAmerica), Bronte Nichols (IGEO), Chris King (COGE Vice-Chairman), Greg McNamara (GSAust & TESEP), Jen Nocerino (COGE Secretary/Treasurer), Prof. Dr. Jesús Martínez Frías (COGE Chairman), Elyvin Nkhonjera (Malawi), Ashvin Wickramasooriya (Sri Lanka) and Roberto Greco (Italy).

 The human face of geochronology

Optically stimulated luminescence dating is not a phrase that most people would connect with the quest to understand human history but Dr Zenobia Jacobs, ARC QEII Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong, is out to change that. Her research also demonstrates how today's students still have many challenges and opportunities ahead of them.
Find out more about this dating technique and how it relates to Neanderthals here.

 Monash Science Centre has something for everyone

The Monash Science Centre, situated on the Monash Clayton Campus, is a great venue for exploring the wonderful world of science. Check out their schools program and their upcoming school holiday program.

 A review or two for you

The latest issue of Australian Universities Review is available for your reading pleasure.
Review the Review here.

 Can't get enough geoscience?

If your thirst for geoscience news and views is unquenchable try subscribing to GEOZ, the eNewsletter from the Geological Society of Australia.

If that's not enough try subscribing to TAG, The Australian Geologist magazine from the Geological Society of Australia.


Geoscience Education Views

 The Australian Seismometers in Schools program: Progress to date.

The Australian Seismometers in Schools program is calling for expressions of interest from High Schools across Australia to get a seismometer installed in their school. These earthquake recording instruments are sensitive enough to record seismic waves from both local and distant earthquakes, sometimes from earthquakes as far away as Chile or Japan.

AuSIS flow chart

AuSIS is a four-year project (2011-2014) run by the Education component of AuScope Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS) which is funded by the Federal Government's Education Investment Fund (EIF).

The project will install 40+ seismometers in high schools across the nation to provide real-time monitoring of the Australian continent and raise awareness of geoscience through observing our dynamic earth in motion.

The Australian Seismometers in Schools project aims to:
  • Raise community awareness of regional earthquakes
  • Raise awareness of seismology and, more generally geoscience, as a field of study
  • Promote science as a possible career choice
  • Provide a tool to assist teachers in educating high school students in Physics and Earth Science

The Australian Seismometers in Schools Network is making excellent progress. Most of our first batch of instruments has been installed as part of the pilot program. Two of these instruments have been installed at ANU, one at the Mt Stromlo vault and the other at the Research School of Earth Sciences. The other two have been installed in schools in the ACT, Melrose High School and Daramalan College.

Our pilot schools have recorded local events around Canberra (magnitude ~3), regional events from Victoria, such as the earthquake near Moe (magnitude ~5) and distant earthquakes from Indonesia, Chile and Japan (magnitude > 5).

The reaction from the teacher and the student's at Melrose High School can be summarised in the quote: "This is really, really exciting! I showed the kids the traces from the site test and they were very interested. The idea of being able to detect earthquakes from other countries under their lab was so cool! I am hoping it will help generate real interest in geophysics and, combined with visits from yourself and others, can inspire the odd geophysicist of the future." Geoff McNamara, Science Teacher.

The website for AuSIS is currently under development. Some of the content it will include are:
  • List of latest earthquakes, both in Australia and globally
  • Waveform viewer (still in development)
  • Map of stations
  • Educational tools and resources
  • Information for schools and expression of interest form
  • Contacts

We have just received our next batch of 20 instruments and aim to start installing them nationwide by late 2012-2013. We have also been building a network of interested seismologists, both professional and amateur, that are interested in being involved and connecting with schools.

If your school is interested in hosting earthquake recording equipment please fill in our online form at There is also an information sheet about hosting seismometer on the webpage with the form. If you have any questions please email me at or if you want to check out our recent events visit out Facebook page

Dr Natalie Balfour

Natalie Balfour is a Postdoctoral Fellow at ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and is the Seismometers in Schools Coordinator.


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 ESWA Competition for ESW 2012
Details in the newsletter above. Closing date: 8 October.

 TESEP Competition for ESW 2012
Details in the newsletter above. Closing date: 8 October.

 Top GeoShots Photography Competition 2012
Details here. Closing date: 22 September 2012.


 Writing Clear Science Open Workshops
Melbourne 24-26 September, 2012.
Canberra 30 October - 1 November 2012.
Adelaide 27-29 November 2012.
Details here..

 TESEP Teacher Professional Development Workshops
Townsville Qld 9 October, 2012.
Moranbah Qld 10 October, 2012.
Wandoan Qld 11 October, 2012.
Dubbo NSW 2 November, 2012.
Dubbo NSW 3 November, 2012.
Melbourne Vic 3 December, 2012.
Melbourne Vic 4 December, 2012.
Melbourne Vic 14 December, 2012.
Details here..

 Earth Science Week, Australia-wide, 14-20 October, 2012.
Details here..

 Free ESWA revision seminars for Western Australian Earth and Environmental Science students, 22, 24, 25 and 26 October, 2012. Perth
Follow this link for registration details.

 SASTA Maths and Science Middle School Conference 2012, 30 November, 2012. Adelaide.
Details here.

 STAVCON 2012, 29 & 30 November, 2012. Melbourne.
Look here for more information.

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

 Water Education, Water Efficiency & Water Skills National Conference, 5-7 March, 2013. Sydney.
Use your wetware here.


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