April 2007     
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      Welcome to this edition of
      Your geoscience e-newsletter courtesy of the Australian Geoscience Council

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     Feature article | Geoscience News | Geoscience Views | Geoscience Activities
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This edition of GeoEdLink is sponsored by
Kagara Zinc

Trevor Powell AGC President

Welcome to this first edition of GeoEdLink

The launch of this newsletter reflects concern by Australia's learned and professional geoscience societies regarding the parlous state of geoscience education at all levels of the Australian education system and the lack of community awareness of the importance of geoscience to Australia. This newsletter will provide a vehicle for reporting and discussion of geoscience education news and activities, promoting collaboration and facilitating communication about geoscience education matters at the primary and secondary level and promote awareness of the issues to a wide and diverse readership. We look forward to your active involvement and feedback in this important initiative.

Trevor Powell - President, Australian Geoscience Council

GeoEdLink is an initiative of the Australian Geoscience Council [AGC]. The AGC is the peak body representing 9 major Australian geoscience organisations with a combined membership of over 7000 professionals. Presently, there is a ground swell of enthusiasm for improvements to the teaching of geoscience at all levels in Australia amongst many teachers, academics and industry professionals. Furthermore, there is action on the ground in many parts of Australia that is riding the ground swell to produce many new initiatives and improvements to teaching, resources for teachers and the highlighting of career pathways for students. The GeoEdLink e-newsletter is a timely attempt to use the current momentum to aid the success of the present initiatives, assist the development of new ones and inform all members of our disparate community of the good work that is underway. However, a communication vehicle of this type is only useful if it is kept alive by contributions from the subscribers it is designed to cater for: You! Help inform your colleagues of your great achievements, your programs, your plans and even your glorious failures. Without your contribution, the newsletter will only meet some of its aims and your colleagues may expend valuable time and effort reinventing your wheel! Help us to help ourselves.

Greg McNamara - Editor, GeoEdLink

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

Geoscience highlighted by speakers at the World Conference on Science and Technology Education [WorldSTE2007].

The 2007 Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association [CONASTA 56] will be held in Perth this year as part of WorldSTE2007 in conjunction with the Conference of Science Teachers of Western Australia [CONSTAWA], the Conference of Primary Science Teachers [PRISSEM], and the Conference of the International Council of Associations for Science Education [ICASE]. ICASE is the world body coordinating the conference.

Paul Willis on Seymour Island

The conference program is packed with quality science education offerings that will include six highlight speakers on geoscience topics, several workshops with geoscience themes, a variety of geoscience organisation booths and geoscience post conference tours. What a fantastic effort, complimented by significant sponsorship from major geoscience organisations. The highlight speakers are:

  • Dr Paul Willis - of ABC Catalyst fame - speaking about his transition from palaeontologist to science journalist.
  • Dr Simon Toze - CSIRO Land and Water, discussing reuse of water using Managed Aquifer Recharge.
  • Dr Steve Rogers - CSIRO LEME, describing how to find gold using the biogeochemistry of the regolith.
  • Ian Hore-Lacy - Australian Uranium Association, will bring us up-to-date on the state of the Uranium industry.
  • Dr Graeme Beardsmore - Monash University, outlining the future of geothermal energy for Australia.
  • Don Sanders - APPEA, speaking about the geoscience career pathways open to school leavers like never before.

Visit the WorldSTE2007 web page to find out more about the conference and download the program ...

Nice rock New Earth and Environmental Science course in WA rocks!
Many schools in Western Australia have signed up for the new Earth & Environmental Science Course offered for the first time this year. Earth Science Western Australia, a consortium of University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology, CSIRO, the Geological Survey of WA and the WA Museum have pooled their resources together with resources from sponsors to ensure the new course is well provide for.
Read more here ... and find out more about the ESWA consortium here ...

Pathway to a geoscience career on the rocks?
The Geoscience Pathways Project, funded under the Australian Schools Innovations in Science, Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) project initially involved a cluster of five metropolitan primary and secondary schools. These schools developed the unique Geoscience Pathways web site which will be officially launched at the Norwood Morialta High School next month. This innovative site has since attracted the interest of up to 15 other schools wanting to participate, including schools in remote areas of WA, Darwin, Victoria and metropolitan Adelaide.

Unfortunately there is no funding for this project past the end of May. Salary for a part-time webmaster [1 day per fortnight] will be needed between June 07 and February 08 to keep the project going and avoid loss of valuable momentum. A further Commonwealth grant has been applied for but even if this application is successful funding from this source will not be available until February 08.

To find out more about this fantastic resource, how to join in and how to contact the organisers if you can help with funding, visit the Geoscience Pathways Project ...

On-line resources - links and reviews:

Water points the way to nickel wealth
say researchers with the CRC for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration.
Analysing groundwater could be the new way to search for nickel in Western Australia's North-eastern goldfields. This substantial report will be essential reading for all those interested in nickel exploration.Read More [5.8Mb pdf]...

Many teachers touch on the use of GIS in class but find using GIS software in class too difficult.
GeoToolKit comes highly recommended by David Hamper of International Grammar, Sydney. David is a member of the GTANSW and is very keen on GIS. He finds this software package meets the needs of classroom teachers and their students while still managing to demonstrate the power of the GIS environment. Review available on request.

Minerals Council Australia has a great range of resources that many teachers have come to depend on when teaching the geoscience parts of their program. In recent years their range has been been updated with excellent interactive packages that can be downloaded for free.
If you haven't looked at the MCA range for a while follow this link to find out more ...


Geoscience Education Views

The plight of Geoscience Departments in Australian Universities:
Caught between a rock and a hard place

Professor Ray Cas, Director of the Australian Crustal Research Centre at Monash University, tells it like it is.

Geoscience is one of the main disciplines underpinning the current resources boom and the national economic and stock market boom. The natural resources sector consistently generates 40 percent of Australia's export earnings, with major input from both the minerals and energy sectors. Geoscience is therefore a strategically vital discipline for Australia. It will continue to perform an essential role in the ongoing discovery and extraction of minerals and energy resources for a long time, and with Australia's emerging water and climate change problems, it will play an increasingly vital role in helping to solve our water problems and in the monitoring of water quality.

Despite the current 'boom' in the natural resources industry, university geoscience departments are suffering. The principal issues facing geoscience departments in Australia, including even their survival, are considered below.

The role of Tertiary Geoscience Education in Australia

In addition to the obvious role of being a provider of graduates to the natural resources and government sector, tertiary geoscience educators have the responsibility for educating the community at large about the fascinating origin and evolution of our planet Earth during its 4.5 billion years of history because geoscience has no presence in the school curriculum in most states except recently in Western Australia. Academics and researchers also play a leading role in international level pure and applied research. We are also in a position to use our expertise and understanding of the Earth's dynamic processes and history of climate change to contribute to understanding the nature of current climate change trends and helping to resolve the problem of water resources needs for the future. We are also in a position to make educated and scientific contributions to the somewhat misguided and irrational debate on creationism.

There is therefore no reason why the number of geoscience departments nationally, should be controlled just by the number of graduates needed by industry. However, the facts are that in the last ten years at least ten geoscience departments have either been closed or downsized to the point of being ineffectual. If any more were to decline it would impact significantly on the natural resources sector nationally, eventually on the national economy, and on the need to lift the educational profile of geosciences.

Read more in the full article [113kb pdf]...
In the full article Professor Cas examines the state of Geoscience Departments in Australian Universities, uses the state of the School of Geosciences at Monash University as a case study and discusses options for a positive way forward. This is essential reading if you are interested in the fate of university science teaching and research in this country.

Professor Ray Cas
Director, Australian Crustal Research Centre
School of Geosciences
Monash University

Geoscience in schools: Reasons enough
Teacher Len Altman makes the case for all teachers to take time to incorporate geoscience in their lesson plans.

Career opportunities through study or training in the geosciences are now well recognised. A flier recently circulated in SA for example, stated that:

    "The minerals sector has become the state's largest export commodity, earning approx $1.7 billion annually and accounting for 19% of the state's total exports. Over 10,000 South Australians are employed in the Minerals sector, and this figure is expected to almost double over the next five years"

These new opportunities will become available for students now in schools. Currently for example, seek.com.au has 626 advertisements for geologists (nationally), many for multiple positions. Aside from purely economic and employment considerations there are other very substantial (but less well recognized) reasons to include at least some geoscience in our school curricula.

Human society has an urgent need to find a sustainable future. The development of geothermal and alternative energies, geosequestration of carbon dioxide, aquifer storage and recovery of stormwater (ASR) and other "water" science, uranium mining, nuclear energy and waste disposal have (arguably) become the most urgent issues of our time. In the interests of fostering informed public debate it is incumbent on educators to provide students with opportunities to learn about these issues, most sensibly via the science curriculum. Unfortunately, there is currently very little such opportunity. Students are more likely to learn about the moons of Jupiter or the rings of Saturn than about the planet Earth and its history in our Primary schools, while only a small handful of secondary schools currently offer courses in Geology or Geoscience.

Perhaps a greater issue for our younger students is their need to develop conceptual and thinking skills (to think "scientifically" and critically), connectivity to their life worlds, and dispositions to proactive and futures thinking. As most science teachers well know, it is quite possible to frame a complete middle school introduction to science, entirely from a planet Earth perspective. The Physics of motion, light and waves, gravity, magnetism and many other topics in physics and many fundamental concepts of Chemistry and Biology can be introduced in a powerful and engaging way through the study of the Earth, its systems and history. Furthermore, experience has shown that younger students love the hands-on approach of geoscience. There are indeed strong reasons for geoscience to be included in school curricula, at all levels.

Len Altman
Coordinator, Geoscience Pathways Project
Marden Senior College


Geoscience Education Events & Activities

Careers Night in Mining, Energy and Exploration, Adelaide, Wednesday 16 May, 2007 - 7.00pm
This event is FREE. Learn about exciting career opportunities in the Mining, Energy and Exploration Industries and the education and training pathways that can lead to these careers.
Download the event brochure here [377kb pdf]...

ARRC Showcase Teachers' Night. Perth, Monday 28 May, 2007 - 5.00pm
This event is FREE and open to all teachers interested in exploring the science and technology behind WA's resources boom.
Read more here ... or Download the event brochure here [89kb pdf]...

Exploration and beyond! Perth, Nov '07.
The 19th International Geophysical Conference, joint minerals [ASEG] and petroleum [PESA] conference has something for everyone and its not too late to submit papers.
See what is on offer here ...

Water and groundwater are topics you can no longer avoid.
The Centre for Groundwater Studies have the answers you need.
Visit the Centre for Groundwater Studies web site for details of up coming courses ...

2008 is International Year of Planet Earth
Watch this space! There will be many events set to rock come 2008 and beyond to celebrate IYPE.
Follow this link to find out more about IYPE ...

Geotourism conference, Perth 2008
Tourism promotional literature is often filled with spectacular pictures of rocks! Attend the Inaugural Global Geotourism Conference, Perth 2008 and find out why ...


GeoEdLink is a newsletter published by the Australian Geoscience Council.

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This issue is sponsored by Kagara Zinc.
The AGC and the newsletter community appreciate their support.

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