Celebrate Earth Day with the Deep Earth Explorers!

Celebrate Earth Day with the Deep Earth Explorers!

Happy Earth Day 2022! To celebrate this event in a slightly different way, EGU Seismology blog editor Matthew Kemp thought he’d go on a journey to the centre of the Earth, and highlight the work of the Deep Earth Explorers

Back in March 2020, Professor Sanne Cottaar‘s Deep Earth seismology group at the University of Cambridge, UK, unveiled their new exhibit “Deep Earth Explorers” at the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge’s Natural History hub. Little did they know that this launch event was going to be one of the last in-person events they’d do in a long while… This innovative exhibit took you on a journey through the Earth’s structure, showing that it isn’t just a set of concentric layers, but rather that it is a dynamic ball of rising plumes and descending slabs, and deep mantle mountains sat atop a swirling outer core. It also highlights the use of seismic waves to illuminate these deep Earth landscapes.

An Interactive Convection model (adapted from Ian Rose)

This exhibit had many interactive elements, such as: a 3D Earth model with moveable layers which can be read like a book; a seismic wave generator; and an interactive convection model where you can set off plumes and slabs inside a churning mantle. A key part of this project was a set of cartoons depicting the members of the group doing their research. This aimed to show attendees what it was actually like to be a researcher – what motivated them and what day-to-day life was like – pulling back the curtain on a sometimes mysterious process.

One of the many cartoons featured in the exhibit (illustrated by Dr Gautier Nicoli)

As hinted at, the launch event led directly into the UK lockdowns, which meant the team had to pivot to putting this exhibit online. They managed to translate lots of the interactive elements into this digital format, and added lots of hands-on activities to do at home, and some teaching materials that can be used in schools. Now that the museum has opened back up, many punters have been able to view the exhibit in-person, though the website still plays a big part in their outreach.

The exhibit in-situ at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, UK

And now for a musical finale! In my spare time from my PhD at the University of Oxford, I write and perform musicals about geology and science with Roberta Wilkinson, as Geologise Theatre. We wrote a song to accompany this exhibit, which I performed at the opening event, and later recorded to put up on the website. So Happy Earth day, and whilst we tackle all the challenges facing us on the surface, spare a brief thought for the dynamic world beneath our feet. I think I feel a song coming on…

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Visit the exhibit digitally the Deep Earth Explorers website:

Or visit the exhibit physically at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, UK:

We are a team coming from mixed places with various interests: Janneke does her DPhil in DIAS, Dublin and is the Seismology ECS point of contact. Javier joint recently from Chile and is doing his DPhil in DGF, Universidad de Chile. Eric is finishing up his DPhil in Vienna, Austria and takes care of our Twitter account. Michaela is doing her DPhil in ETH, Swiss. Maria is doing her first PostDoc in DIAS, Dublin and since recently she is the editor-in-chief for the blog. Nienke hangs around in the University of Cambridge, UK and Walid is starting a PostDoc in Washington University in St Louis, US.

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