GeoLog

I’m a Geoscientist

GeoTalk: Meet Andi Rudersdorf, winner of I’m a Geoscientist 2015!

GeoTalk: Meet Andi Rudersdorf, winner of I’m a Geoscientist 2015!

Earlier this year we ran the second I’m a Geoscientist event, an online chat-based game show in which school kids vote for their favourite geoscience communicators. In this week’s GeoTalk, Laura Roberts  talks to Andi Rudersdorf, a neotectonics PhD student and winner of this year’s I’m a Geoscientist…

First, for those who didn’t been following I’m a Geoscientist, can you tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide to take part in the competition?

My name is Andreas Rudersdorf, Andi, and I’m a Geoscientist – studying the neotectonics of an intracontinental basin in the Gobi Desert: the Ejina Basin. This basin lies between the Tibetan Plateau and the Gobi Altai ranges. Currently, I am finishing my PhD thesis at Neotectonics and Natural Hazards | RWTH Aachen University on the integration of geological, geophysical and remote sensing data which I collected to find out when and where tectonic processes shaped the Ejina Basin, where the topography is very flat and where only few prominent geological features document past earthquakes.

I first heard of I’m a Scientist last year when the first geoscience event was advertised and when I was just about to plan my trip to the EGU General Assembly. We have just had an intern in our institute who really liked all the different topics we were working on during that time and I thought it would be great to get in touch with even more pupils and to excite their curiosity in geosciences and to show them what I do.

Have you done any geoscience outreach before?

Our working group in Aachen is quite activeon social media – my colleagues and I are trying to get our friends and followers involved in what we study and publish. So sharing pictures and stories about my work was not new to me. I even suggested to my supervisor that we create a Facebook page to reach out to even more people. However, I guess that the first followers were our students – so the outreach component was rather small at that time…

But there is this great community and blog called paleoseismicity.org, where my friend Christoph and many other authors from the scientific community around the world write about scientific news, recent earthquakes, tsunamis, past and upcoming meetings, field work and recent developments in the fields ofearthquakes and active tectonics. I joined the authors during my Master’s in 2011 and now I’m preparing a weekly section called the Friday links. Of course we aim to reach the scientific community, but we also have lots of readers outside of science.

What inspired you to take part in the competition?

From my blogging experience I knew how good it feels to get feedback when you share your work and how motivating it can be to see others learn new things.

Last year, my supervisor Klaus Reicherter got in touch with school classes where he and my colleagues started a project to teach geology and natural hazards to young pupils. The pupils were really keen to learn about our work and they loved the experiments and field trips they did together. They eventually planned to prepare the first German ShakeOut Day, a school event where earthquake awareness is raised and the right actions during earthquakes are trained. I was impressed by this project and was certain I wanted to take part in a similar event: then the call for the second “I’m a Geoscientist event” started circulating.

What was your toughest question during the competition and how did you respond?

There were quite a few questions that were tough to answer, for example the ones on what happened before or during the big bang, or whether a dress is white and gold or blue and black… In the questions section those questions were great, because I had the time to read a bit on topics outside my field or sometimes think outside the box, and then answer what I learned. During the chats with the students, I just had to learn to say that I didn’t know. And the pupils liked that!

Andi out in the field. Credit: Andreas Rudersdorf

Andi out in the field. Credit: Andreas Rudersdorf

What was the question you enjoyed the most?

I enjoyed all the questions on natural hazards and climate change, because it showed that the pupils were aware of current topics. I loved explaining earthquakes, because I could share how and why I study them and why it is important to learn about the past to understand the present.

You’re the lucky winner of 500 euros, how do you hope to spend it?

I’m still planning to engage more pupils with active faults and earthquakes! But I still have a couple of things to solve before I can break the news…

What’s your top tip for aspiring geoscientists?

Oh, I hope I can give great advice in a couple of years from now. Today I can say that it certainly is fun and rewarding to pursue a career in science. It’s great to answer small scientific questions that may eventually lead to figuring out how to answer the big questions we face today.

 

 

GeoEd: I’m a Geoscientist 2015

Imagine a talent show where contestants get voted off depending on their skills in their area of choice. Then imagine that this talent show is populated by geoscientists with school students voting them off based on the scientist’s ability to communicate their research well. This is the basis of an educational initiative called I’m a Geoscientist, a spinoff of UK’s I’m a Scientist. I’m a Geoscientist is funded by the EGU and, as such, it’s open to Union members, as well as all teachers who have participated in EGU’s Geoscience Information For Teachers (GIFT) workshops.

The first event of the programme ran in the summer of 2014 and following its success, was repeated in March of this year. A total of 200 students, from across 13 international schools, were able to engage with and learn from five European geoscientists. Students connected with the scientists by talking to them directly during hour-long live chats, by posting questions to them (ASK) or by reading the scientists on-line profile. The participating students enjoyed the event, with 99% (!) of registered students actively taking part by putting questions to the scientists and/or voting for them to remain in the competition.

I'm a Geo_Report1

Over the two week event, the scientists were faced with in excess of 250 ASK questions! The students were particularly interested in aspects of the geoscientists’ research, meaning they came up with well-thought-out questions covering a number of fields: the geoscience of other planets, extreme events and super volcanoes. “Oceans are very big and vast, can they really be threatened by human action?” It wasn’t just geosciences the students wanted to know about. The scientists also had to field questions about the practical aspects of their, such as: “What was your biggest challenge while working in the field?”, and share study and career tips.

ImAGeo_Report2

The on-line chats where lively too. The scientists proved to be good at communicating the essence of what geoscience is, allowing students to start making connections between the geosciences and wider culture such as referencing books and sci-fi. Students were enthused by the discussions and often wanted to know more, asking ‘what if?’ style questions. Faced with some challenging queries the scientists did a great job of making even the most complex science accessible to the inquisitive students.

“How long could we survive without the atmosphere?” (student)

“We wouldn’t survive very long at all without the atmosphere! We need air to breath, but also the atmosphere keeps us safe from the sun! Without the atmosphere the heat from the sun would boil away all the oceans :s” (Rhian Meara, scientist).

After a hectic two weeks of questioning, probing and voting, Andi Rudersdorf, a PhD candidate in seismology at Aachen University, Germany, was crowned the winner of the 2015 event. Of his time in the competition Andi says “I learned a lot! I learned from the other contestants, from finding answers to challenging questions, and also from the students!” Being voted for by the students as the event champion, Andi wins €500 to communicate his work with the wider public. “With the money I would prepare a day out for many, many interested students to understand what earthquakes and natural hazards mean to all of us in real life.” It’s not just about the scientists! In recognition of great engagement and questions during the event, one of the participating students will also receive a certificate.

The scientists who took part in the 2015 event.

The scientists who took part in the 2015 event.

If you would like to get in contact with the EGU about I’m a Geoscientist or any of our other education initiatives, please contact Bárbara Ferreira at media@egu.eu. You can also read the full report on the event here.

Connecting Earth scientists and school students – Apply to take part in I’m a Geoscientist!

What and when

Imagine a talent show where contestants get voted off depending on their skills in their area of choice. Then imagine that this talent show is populated by scientists with school students voting them off based on the scientist’s ability to communicate their research well. This is the basis of a recent EGU educational initiative that launched earlier in 2014, and that will return in 2015.

The EGU are continuing their collaboration with Gallomanor, the UK company in charge of I’m a Scientist (Get me out of here) and I’m an Engineer (Get me out of here), to run the European-wide sister project I’m a Geoscientist. The event provides school students with the opportunity to meet and interact with real (geo)scientists!I'm a geoscientist

The event takes the form of an online chat forum using an innovative online platform. School students log on and post questions to the scientists taking part, querying them on everything (with moderation) from their research to their favourite music. The scientists then log on and answer those questions. Based on their answers (e.g. on how well they’ve explained a particular piece of science), students get to vote out scientists until there is one left – the best scientific communicator – who wins €500 for a new public-engagement project of their choice.

The primary objective of the event is to change students’ attitudes to the geosciences and make them feel it’s something they can relate to and discuss in a rapidly changing world. Students have fun, but also get beyond stereotypes, learn about how science relates to real life, develop their thinking and discussion skills and make connections with real scientists. Giving students some real power (deciding where the prize money goes) also makes the event more real for them. The student who interacts the most with scientists and asks the most insightful questions will also win a €20 gift voucher.

I'm a geoscientistIIThe next I’m a Geoscientist event is taking place on 9–20 March 2015. If you’d like to apply as a teacher (giving your classes the opportunity to interact with geoscientists) or as a researcher, see the details below. The deadline for all applications is 26 January 2015, and GIFT teachers and EGU members are eligible to apply.

 

Teachers

To apply to take part in the event, go to http://imageoscientist.eu/teachers/ and fill in the simple online form for teachers. Applications are open to all teachers who have taken part in a GIFT event (at any time). Successful teachers will be notified shortly after the deadline for applications, and the event will take place over two weeks on 9–20 March 2015. You will need to use some class time before the event to prepare your students, but we have flexible lesson plans already prepared to help you keep the class time used to a minimum.

To take part you need to be able to devote at least 2 hours (it doesn’t matter when, and the maximum you will need is 5 hours) for those two weeks to ready your students for interacting with the scientists and take part in some online discussion – and of course you will have to have reliable internet access. The entire event will be conducted in English, so you and your class will also need a basic understanding of and ability to write questions to scientists in English. Why not team up with your school’s English department and use the event as a language learning exercise as well? If you choose to do this, make sure that the teacher who has been involved with GIFT in the past is the one who formally registers.

 

Scientists

For scientists, this is a unique opportunity to get involved with some public engagement from the comfort of your own home or lab computer, in your own time. You can build up your skills in talking about your research to varied audiences, tick the box for public engagement in your funding proposals, gain an understanding of how the public relate to research and, importantly, help inspire the next generation about the geosciences.

The potential of winning the €500 prize for further public engagement is also attractive. A public engagement activity could involve: buying equipment to allow a research oceanography vessel to communicate with school students during expeditions, funding an open day for communities living in a disaster area to find out about natural hazards research and get advice, giving the money to a school in Uganda to pay for science kits and a projector to watch science films on or buying a quadcopter to film inside the rim of a volcano and help school children understand their local natural environment. To find out more about the experience of participating as a scientist read the interview with 2014 winner Anna Rabitti.

To apply to take part in the event go to http://imageoscientist.eu/geoscientists/ and fill in the simple online form for scientists. Applications are open to all EGU members (if you are not a member you can register on the EGU website) from across Europe. Once applications close, we will ask the registered school classes to judge the scientist applications and chose the final 5 scientists who will get to take part in the final event. Successful scientists will be notified a couple of weeks after the deadline for applications.

To take part you need to be able to devote around an hour a day (it doesn’t matter when, but if you can devote more time that is always better) for those two weeks to answer the questions posed by the students – and of course you will have to have reliable internet access. The entire event will be conducted in English, so you will also need to be able to confidently understand and communicate in English.

If you have any other questions about the event, please contact Bárbara Ferreira at EGU (media@egu.eu, +49-89-2180-6703) or Gallomanor’s Angela Manasor (angela@gallomanor.com, and +44-1225-326892).

This blog post is based on materials by Jane Robb, former EGU Educational Fellow

 

GeoEd: Announcing the winner of I’m a Geoscientist!

The last two weeks have been action-packed, with ten schools from seven countries heading online to ask five fabulous geoscientists questions about anything from how the Earth works to what it’s like to be a scientist in the first ever I’m a Geoscientist, Get me out of here! competition.

Find out more about the event at http://imageoscientist.eu.

Find out more about the event at imageoscientist.eu.

The aim of this thrilling fortnight was to let school kids interact with real geoscientists and challenge their knowledge in a competition to find out who was the best geoscience communicator. The scientists (from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Malta and the USA) fielded questions on earthquakes, climate, floods and more to share their science and win the favour of students taking part. And in the last few days they narrowed their favourites down to a final two, who battled it out on Friday for the champion’s title.

After almost 150 questions and over 450 answers we had a winner! Congratulations to Anna Rabitti, an Italian oceanographer working at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)! In a post on imageoscientist.eu she explains how the Earth and space sciences can inspire great curiosity, whatever your background: “our Earth still has the power to amaze and question each and every one of us, from young students to geology professors.”

Anna at sea on RV Pelagia – the rocks were collected some 2300 metres below the surface, not far from the Atlantic’s Rainbow hydrothermal vent field (Credit: Roald van der Heide)

Anna at sea on RV Pelagia – the rocks were collected some 2300 metres below the surface, not far from the Atlantic’s Rainbow hydrothermal vent field (Credit: Roald van der Heide)

Anna will be awarded 500 euros to use on science outreach. She hopes to spend it improving the way scientific data is shared on the public ferry that doubles as a research boat and connects the island of Texel in northern Holland with the mainland. The data collected by the boat (ocean temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and more) is currently displayed on big screens for all passengers to see, but Anna hopes to set up something more interactive to inspire the next generation of geoscientists. In Anna’s words, “There are many ways to be a scientist, if you wish you can find your own.”

By Sara Mynott, EGU Communications Officer