Energy, Resources and the Environment

GeoEd: GIFT Workshops at the General Assembly – What the 2016 participants can expect

GeoEd: GIFT Workshops at the General Assembly – What the 2016 participants can expect

The General Assembly (GA) is not only for researchers but for teachers and educators with an interest in the geosciences also. Every year the Geosciences Information For Teachers (GIFT) is organised by the EGU Committee on Education to bring first class science closer to primary and high school teachers.

If you are an educator attending this year’s edition of the GIFT workshop –the topic of which is ‘The Solar System and beyond’ and is co-organised with the European Space Agency (ESA) – you might be asking yourself what to expect. If so, read on, as this post should go some way towards showcasing the important take-home messages which come out of taking part in the workshop.

Anna Elisabetta Merlini, a teacher at the Scuola Dell’infanzia Alessandrini, near Milan in Italy, attended last year’s edition of the GIFT Worksop at the 2015 General Assembly in Vienna. Following the workshop she wrote a report about her time at the conference. Below you’ll find a summary of the report; to read the full version, please follow this link.

“My experience to GIFT workshop 2015 has been a real opportunity to find the connection between schools and the geoscience world,” explains Anna in the opening remark of her report. The 2015 GIFT workshop focused on mineral resources and Anna felt that “the GIFT workshop gave all teachers a new awareness of the presence of minerals in our daily routine” and equipped participating teachers with tools to tackle important mineral ores related topics, carrying out practical and productive activities with students.

As a teacher with a geological background, Anna found that the GIFT workshop allowed her to achieve mainly three different goals:

  • Realisation of new didactic ore related projects

Following the workshop, Anna took some of the things she learnt during her time in Vienna and applied them to ongoing teaching projects she was involved with prior to the GA. In particular, she

Anna (center) with other teachers at the 2015 GIFT workshop in Vienna. (Credit: Anna Elisabetta Merlini).

Anna (center) with other teachers at the 2015 GIFT workshop in Vienna. (Credit: Anna Elisabetta Merlini).

adapted existing teaching activities to highlight the practical connection between daily life and minerals found in objects. For instance, the youngest pupils in the Milan based school enjoyed a more hands on approach to learning about soil by exploring the areas just outside the building gates!

  • New interconnection to other teachers and scientific institutions

During the workshop in Vienna, Anna realised “how important is to involve young generations in geoscience topics in order to grow a more eco-aware generation in the future.” This notion inspired the primary teacher to start the Geoscience Information for Kids (GIFK) programme  to be implemented throughout local schools.

  • New ideas for my professional future within educational area

The GIFT workshop is not only an opportunity to develop new skills and develop new ideas, but also a place to network.  Through interactions with the teachers she met at the GIFT workshop, Anna felt empowered to “improve my skills in teaching geoscience, learning new tools and new strategies to involve students in the best way.”

For example, fruitful discussions with a Malawi based teacher meant she now better appreciates the differences between teaching in two, so vastly different, countries and how that impacts on students.

Anna concludes that the GIFT

“experience opened my eyes about the future, enforcing my conviction that children are our future and educational programs need to involve students at all levels, starting from the beginning.”

The EGU 2016 GIFT workshop ‘The Solar System and beyond’, co-organised with the European Space Agency (ESA), is taking place on April 18–20 2016 at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 17 to 22 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Mother Tree

 Mother Tree, Mongolia . Credit: Gantuya Ganbat (distributed via

Mother Tree, Mongolia . Credit: Gantuya Ganbat (distributed via

Landlocked, home to mountains, deserts and the southernmost permafrost territories, Mongolia’s climate is harsh.  Warm, often humid summers, give way to freezing winters where temperatures dip as low as -25°C. Rainfall is restricted to a short period in the summer months of June and August.

These climatic factors, combined with the lack of a strong forest management strategy and anthropogenic influences, mean that only 11% of the vast 1567 million km²  of the Mongolian territory (that is larger than the area covered by Germany, Italy, France and the UK combined), is covered by forests.

The majority of forests are located in the northern part of the country, along the border with Russia. They form a transition zone between the cold, subarctic forests of Siberia and the vast steppes of southern Asia.

This week’s Imaggeo on Mondays image is the imposing, and holy, Mother Tree. Located in one of the many Tujiin Nars (pine forests) of the northern Selenge Aimag province, this giant pine is worshiped by locals who believe if you ask a wish of the Mother Tree, it will come true. Its lowermost branches are lavishly decorated with Khadags, traditional Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial scarves, brought as offerings by locals and foreign visitors alike.

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at

Communicate your Science Video Competition finalists 2016: time to get voting!

For the third year in a row we’re running the EGU Communicate Your Science Video Competition – the aim being for early career scientists to communicate their research in a short, sweet and public-friendly video. Our judges have now selected 3 fantastic finalists from the excellent entries we received this year and it’s time to find the best geoscience communication clip!

The shortlisted videos will be open to a public vote from now until midnight on 21 April; – just ‘like’ the video on YouTube to give it your seal of approval. The video with the most likes when voting closes will be awarded a free registration to the EGU General Assembly 2017.

The finalists are shown below, but you can also catch them in this finalist playlist and even take a seat in GeoCinema – the home of geoscience films at the General Assembly – to see the shortlist and select your favourite.

Please note that only positive votes will be taken into account.

How do dunes form by Yvonne Smith.  Like this video to vote for it!

Subtle Whisper of the Earth by Beatirz Gaite. If this is your favourite then vote for it here!

Mobilization of Nanoparticles in Contaminated Soils: Where, What and How Fast? By Veronica Morales. Like this video to vote for it!

If watching these videos has inspired you to try your hand at using videos to communicate your research to the public, but you aren’t sure where to start, why not come along to the scientists must film short course during the 2016 General Assembly? You’ll get the opportunity to meet the finalists of the 2015 Communicate Your Science Video Competition, as well as learning how to disseminate your work effectively by attending a talk by an online & cross media specialist. Join us in the GeoCinema room (0.90, Yellow Level) on Thursday the 21st April from 10:30am (CET) onward.

Field Rucksack – Inside the bag of a mining geologist

Field Rucksack – Inside the bag of a mining geologist

Inspired by a post on Lifehacker on what your average geologist carries in their rucksack/backpack, we’ve put together a few blog posts showcasing what a range of our EGU members carry in their bags whilst in the field!

Of course, it’s not only research geoscientists who carry kit! Earth scientists in industry often require a number of tools to carry out their daily duties. Today we feature the contents of Dave Perkin’s bag, a mining geologist working in a gold mine in Western Australia. In Dave’s bag, equipment to keep him safe in as he works in the depths of the Earth is almost as important as the tools he needs to fulfill his technical duties.

This bag belongs to:

Field Work location:
Underground gold mine, Western Australia

Duration of field work:
Continuous. I am employed full time to work at the mine as an Exploration Geologist.

What does your work entail?:
In order to keep producing gold the Exploration team must continually find new sources of gold to replenish what is mined. In order to do that we utilise diamond drill rigs and part of our job is managing these rigs to ensure we are drilling the most prospective areas. We also perform mapping in the underground environment – similar to surface mapping but in a much more confined space with limited exposure. In the average week we might spend a couple of days underground depending on what work needs to be done. Production geologists will spend ~6-7 hours per day underground performing their duties, such as mapping and sampling development faces and making ore/waste calls to ensure material is moved to the correct locations.

The main tasks for an exploration geologist is collating all the data available (diamond drill core logging, gold assays, underground mapping, etc.) and interpreting the mineralised domains to produce further exploration targets and mineable areas to produce gold. We will generally drill and interpret areas ~18 months before they are mined so we look at the big picture and long term goals.

The contents of Dave's field bag. Safety underground is paramount! That's why Dave's most treasured items include his safety equipment.

The contents of Dave’s field bag. Safety underground is paramount! That’s why Dave’s most treasured items include his safety equipment.

The one item I couldn’t live without:
As the mine is active we have to carry a lot of safety equipment and protective clothing. Reflective stripes on all clothes are essential as there is no natural light within the mine and this allows heavy machinery to see us when we are on foot. All personal protective equipment is required by law to be carried everywhere when underground. Two essentials are a cap lamp and hard hat (to see anything) and a self-rescuer (this is a self-contained emergency oxygen system which will provide oxygen in the event of a fire/other emergency and will last long enough to get to safety).

Aside from the legal things, the most essential item is probably spray paint. If time is limited then we will paint around interesting structures so that the surveyors can measure them and put them into 3D for interpretation. As a bare minimum, this will allow you to begin your interpretation.

If you’ve been on field work recently, or work in an industry that requires you to carry equipment, and would like the contents of your bag to feature on the blog, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact the EGU’s Communication Officer, Laura Roberts (


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