As Earth’s environment changes, it leaves behind clues used by scientists to paint portraits of the past: scorched timber, water-weathered shores, hardened lava flows. Chile’s Conguillío National Park is teeming with these kind of geologic artifacts; some are only a few years old while others have existed for more than 30 million years. The photographer Anita Di Chiara, a researcher at Lancaster University in the UK, describes how she analyses ancient magnetic field records to learn about Earth’s changing crust.
Llaima Volcano, within the Conguillío National Park in Chile, is in the background of this image with its typical double-hump shape. The lake is called Lago Verde and the trunks sticking out are likely remnants from one of the many seasonal fires that have left their mark on this area (the last one was in 2015).
The lake sits on pyroclastic deposits that erupted from the Llaima Volcano. On these deposits, on the side of the lake, you can even track the geologic record of seasonal lake level changes, as the layers shown here mark the old (higher) level of the lake during heavy winter rains.
The lake also overlaps the Liquiñe-Ofqui Fault, which runs about 1000 kilometers along the North Patagonian Andes. The fault has been responsible for both volcanic and seismic activity in the region since the Oligocene (around 30 million years ago).
I was there as field assistant for Catalina Hernandez Moreno, a geoscientist at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, studying ancient magnetic field records imprinted on rocks. We examined the rocks’ magnetised minerals (aligned like a compass needle to the north pole) as a way to measure how fragmented blocks of the Earth’s crust have rotated over time along the fault.
From this fieldwork we were able to examine palaeomagnetic rotation patterns from 98 Oligocene-Pleistocene volcanic sites. Even more, we concluded that the lava flows from the Llaima Volcano’s 1958 eruption would be a suitable site for studying the evolution of the South Atlantic Anomaly, an area within the South Atlantic Ocean where the Earth’s magnetic field is mysteriously weaker than expected.
By Anita Di Chiara, a research technician at the Lancaster Environment Centre in the UK
Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submittheir 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 http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.
This photo was taken during a fieldwork campaign following the mainshock of the deadly seismic sequence that struck central Italy starting from 24 August 2016. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake severely damaged nearby towns, claimed more than 290 lives and injured nearly 400 people in its wake.
As a geologist from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, I was in charge of measuring the manifestations of the seismic shaking (mainly fractures and landslides) on the territory. Some of the most relevant fractures were located along the mountain ridge formed by Monte Vettore (in the background of the photo) and Monte Porche (on which the photo was taken).
The new snow and the lowering temperature signaled that winter was approaching. The changing season also meant that my colleagues and I would have to rush the survey before the snow buried even the deepest fractures.
By Roberto Vallone, a technologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy
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 http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.
Solmaz Mohadjer is the winner of one of the first EGU Public Engagement Grants competition in 2016. Credit: Solmaz Mohadjer
Did you know that the EGU has a public engagement grant scheme which, annually, awards two EGU members with 1000€ to help them develop an outreach project?The 2018 call for applications is currently open.
In this GeoTalk interview, Laura Roberts talks to Solmaz Mohadjer, a winner of the first EGU Public Engagement Grants competition in 2016. If you are considering applying, then read on for tips from Solmaz on what makes a good outreach project, and how she invested the prize money to further the understanding of earthquakes among those most vulnerable.
Before we get started, could you introduce yourself and tell our readers a little more about your background?
I’m passionate about applying my skills and knowledge to help those who live in earthquake-prone parts of the world. Over the last decade, I’ve used different tools including GPS geodesy and terrestrial remote sensing (LiDAR) to quantify mountain hazards such as earthquakes and rockfalls, and communicate findings with at-risk communities.
My preferred approach to doing research is to allow questions asked by at-risk communities to drive my research goals and products. For example, the open access active fault database was designed by our research group at the University of Tübingen to address commonly-asked questions such as “Is there an active fault near where I live?” Publishing results, though important, are not the end target for me.
I am privileged to work with mentors and colleagues who not only publish scientific research, but also actively participate in science education and outreach. Collaborating with colleagues worldwide, we have developed educational materials for school communities (e.g., lesson plans, video modules, and posters), have organized training workshops for local geologists and teachers, and spoken at local public events such as TEDx conferences. Earthquakes are inevitable but earthquake risk can be reduced, and hazard scientists definitely have a role to play.
Some of our readers may yet not be familiar with the public engagement grant, can you tell us a little more about it?
The EGU Public Engagement Grants (€1000) are awarded for a period of 12 months to two EGU members interested in developing a public engagement initiative. The awards were offered for the first time in 2016, and I’m honoured to be one of the first recipients.
The award recognises the most innovative and effective outreach projects that aim to raise awareness of geoscience outside the scientific community.
What I like about the award is that there is no restriction on the format of the proposed project or activity. We went for videos while Gomez-Heras (also a 2016 award recipient) organised and carried out a fieldtrip.
The application process was fast and uncomplicated. The great news for the 2018 recipients is that in addition to receiving the funds, the registration fee for the next year’s EGU General Assembly are waived as long as they plan to present the results of their outreach work.
A team of early career scientists enthusiastically volunteered their time and skills to make the video lessons come to life. Credit: Solmaz Mohadjer
Why did you decide to apply for the funds?
Turning the earthquake lessons plans into video modules had been on my radar for several years. When my colleague, Sebastian Mutz, and I learned about the EGU public engagement grant, we decided to take this opportunity to realise this project.
The financial support certainly helped, but what attracted us the most was giving the EGU full access to our video modules for dissemination via its communication channels (e.g. our earthquake lesson plans are now available on the EGU’s YouTube channel). We wanted to reach a wide/diverse audience, and having the EGU’s support mattered a lot to us.
Tell us more about your outreach project: what were the aims and how did you decide to meet them?
Our goal is to enable easy and effective access to science-based earthquake hazard information. To do this, we converted previously developed earthquake lesson plans into video modules that are freely available to school teachers around the world as streaming video, internet downloads and DVDs.
The videos introduce students to the fundamental scientific concepts behind earthquakes (e.g., plate tectonics, faulting, and seismic energy) as well as earthquake hazards (e.g., landslides, liquefaction, structural and nonstructural hazards) and safety measures (e.g., drills and planning).
The unique teaching duet pedagogy used in the videos encourages the in-class teacher to collaborate with the video teacher (an Earth scientist) to help students understand the physical processes related to earthquakes and the self-protective steps they can take to mitigate hazards.
The video production is a collaborative effort between students and researchers from University of Cambridge (Matthew Kemp and Sophie Gill), University of Leeds (Ruth Amey and Lewis Mitchell), King’s College London (Faith Taylor), and University of Tübingen (Matthias Nettesheim, Reinhard Drews, and Jessica Starke).
My colleague, Sebastian Mutz, and I lead the video production. All presenters are early career scientists who enthusiastically volunteer their time and skills to make this project happen. Without them, we simply would not have any videos to share.
The videos can be accessed through the EGU YouTube channel. For lesson plans and other supporting materials, please check out the ParsQuake website.
Wow! It sounds like a very worthwhile initiative; have you got to the stage where you can start to assess its success?
We are currently in the process of editing and publishing the remaining four videos. Those published are getting many views on YouTube already.
We are now forming an evaluation team to design an effective online feedback form that will be available soon for collecting user’s feedback. This information will then assist us with evaluation and further development of this project.
Those interested in assisting us with project evaluation are welcomed to contact us at email@example.com.
What top tips do you have for anyone wanting to develop a public engagement initiative?
It is important to think about why you want to engage the public and who you want to target. Talking directly with the public and listening to their comments and questions can help with the why, who and how to engage.
You can start small by talking to those you know like family, friends and colleagues, and/or look for opportunities where you can engage with the broader public.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of partnership. Good partners can help with design, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of your public engagement project.
In your opinion, what gave your project the edge over other applicants in 2016?
There were several factors, I believe:
Our outreach materials (lesson plans) had been previously developed, field-tested and published in a peer-reviewed journal (Mohadjer et al., 2010). Later, they were refined, adapted and successfully implemented by Teachers Without Borders and their partners in their teacher training programs worldwide.
We had successfully created a pilot video of one of the lessons which was added to the video archives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later was dubbed in Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish and Haitian Creole due to high demand.
The project outcomes (video modules) have the potential to reach/impact a global audience because (a) they are released under an open license that permits their free use, and (b) they are disseminated by institutions with a broad geographic impact (e.g., ParsQuake, MIT BLOSSOMS, Teachers Without Borders).
Would you recommend other applying for the EGU’s Public Engagement Grants?
Yes. The application process is quick and easy, and if you already have an idea for an outreach project and want to make it happen, this may be a good first step. My suggestion would be to make sure the project budget remains within what the grant offers (€1000) or combine the grant funds with other forms of support to reach your project aims.
Interview by Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer
Has this interview inspired you? The 2018 call for applications is currently open. If you have an idea for a comic, podcast, documentary, set of experiments, or some other form of effective science communication that you want to promote, then please fill in the online application form and let us know why your project deserves to be funded.
We particularly encourage applications for projects aimed at engaging with hard-to-reach audiences, i.e., people or communities who are not generally interested in science or who tend to ignore mainstream scientific expertise.
Applications for the two EGU Public Engagement Grants are open from 15 November 2017 until 15 February 2018. All proposals will be evaluated by April 2018, with the winners being notified during the EGU General Assembly in Vienna and by email.
Drawing inspiration from popular stories on our social media channels, as well as unique and quirky research news, this monthly column aims to bring you the best of the Earth and planetary sciences from around the web.
Major story and what you might have missed
This month has been an onslaught of Earth and space science news; the majority focusing on natural hazards. Hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been dominating headlines, but here we also highlight some other natural disasters which have attracted far fewer reports. Quickly recap on an action-packed month with our overview, complete with links:
Thought the Atlantic hurricane season is far from over, 2017 has already shattered records: since 1st June 13 storms have been named, of which seven have gone onto become hurricanes and two registered as a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. In September, Hurricanes Irma, Katia and Jose batter Caribbean islands, Mexico and the Southern U.S.; hot on the heels of the hugely destructive Hurricane Harvey which made landfall in Texas and Louisiana at the end of August. Images captured by NASA’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite show the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma; while photos reveal the dire situation unfolding in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. OCHA, the United Nations Office for the coordinate of Human Affairs, released an infographic showing the impact the 2017 hurricane season has had on Caribbean islands (correct of 22nd September).
In the meantime, all eyes on the Indonesian island of Bali have been on Mount Agung which has already forced the evacuation of almost 100,000 people as the volcano threatens to erupt for the first time in 54 years. Unprecedented seismic activity around the volcano has been increasing, though no eruptive activity has been recorded yet.
The summer months mark the onset of the rainy season in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa which experience a savanna climate. Across the Arabian Sea, including the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, also sees the onset of the monsoon.
The western United States and Canada suffered one of its worst wildfire seasons to date. Earlier this month, NASA released a satellite image which showed much of the region covered in smoke. High-altitude aerosols from those fires were swept up by prevailing winds and carried across the east of the continent. By 7th September the particles were detected over Ireland, the U.K and northern France, including Paris.
Europe’s forest fire has been hugely devastating too. Much of the Mediterranean and the region North of the Black Sea continues to be in high danger of forest fires following a dry and hot summer. Fires are active in the Iberian Peninsula, Greece, and Germany (among others). Over 2,000 hectares were recently scorched by wildfires in the central mountainous area of Tejeda in Gran Canaria.
“Few disciplines in today’s world play such a significant role in how society operates and what we can do to protect our future,” writes Erik Klemetti (Assoc. Prof. at Denison University), in his post on why college students should study geology.
The BBC launched The Prequel to its much anticipated Blue Planet II, a natural history progamme about the Earth’s oceans. Narrated by Sir Sir David Attenborough, the series will featured music by Hans Zimmer and Radiohead. The trailer is a true feast for the eyes. Don’t miss it!
Although traditionally used to study earthquakes, like the M 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, seismometers have now become so sophisticated they are able to detect the slightest ground movements; whether they come from deep within the bowels of the planet or are triggered by events at the surface. But how, exactly, do earthquake scientists decipher the signals picked up by seismometers across the world? And more importantly, how do they know whether they are caused by an earthquake, nuclear test or a hurricane?
To find out we asked Neil Wilkins (a PhD student at the University of Bristol) and Stephen Hicks (a seismologist at the University of Southampton) to share some insights with our readers earlier on this month.