Monday, November 30, 2015

Keeping Geology Alive 2015 Schedule


DIY astrophotography for educators and amateurs
Miller, Peter
Prior to the smartphone age, astrophotography was the hobby of wealthy individuals or scientific organizations that could afford expensive telescopes and cameras.  With the advent of cheap apps, megapixel smartphone cameras, 3-D printing, and free and open source software, astrophotography is possible with minimal expense.  Educators that have access to small telescopes can now record observing sessions of planetary bodies, star clusters, bright nebulae, and some galaxies. I will show the results of a quick observing session of the Pleiades star cluster to demonstrate the effectiveness of smartphone astrophotography. 

So You Want to Teach Geology: Examples from a Successful K-12 Outreach Program
McGraw, Lauren
I will give a brief overview of the University of Oklahoma's Pick and Hammer Club's outreach program, which has taught students of all ages about the geosciences. I will briefly describe the activities and learning experiences we have created that are appropriate for each age group and provide the steps necessary in order for interested listeners to start an outreach program of their own.

Teaching the next generation of scientists geology by utilizing the current one
Anderson, Peter
We focus on presenting to 5th grade students the basics of the geological sciences profession and in a more general sense science; as well as finding a career path that can allow for you to be active and not be confined to a sedentary position. We want to introduce young children to science and show them it can be fun, and that they have more options for the future than they may realize. I try to make the presentations fall on dates where me and a fellow geologist (a female) can present together. The reason for this is to show the young girls that anyone, not just old white men, can be a scientist. Eventually we hope to expand into other nearby regions as students and professionals show us they are willing to help, present, and fund this endeavor. The presentations entail: (approximately 1h in length, to no more than 30 children at a time)

Rock Crayons: An Interactive Introduction to the Rock Cycle
Ryan, Kerry
Rock crayons is a hands-on activity in which participants learn about the three main types of rocks (sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous) and the changes that occur between different stages of the rock cycle while making usable crayons. We start off with wax shavings of various colors. By layering the wax and applying various amounts of heat and pressure students can explore the transformations that rocks undergo through various geologic processes. In the end, students can take away their rock crayons and a basic understanding of different rock types and the processes that create them.



How multidisciplinary water research can bridge the gap between data and people
Aubry-Wake, Caroline
By its nature, a research project tries to answer a small question nested in a larger problem. Multiple projects are required to understand the broader question. However, even a multitude of projects undertaken from the same perspective, by scientists from the same field, will only capture one aspect of the situation. To fully understand the broader situation, multiple viewpoints are needed.
Hydrology is no different. We can gather data, get numbers and apply equations, but that will only allow us to understand the physical aspect of water. To fully understand a situation, we need to broaden our scope, and look into the social side of water.
I am part of a multidisciplinary research project that looks at water issues from multiple dimensions, from the point of view of groundwater hydrologist, glaciologists, social geographers and historians. I present insights obtained from working in this team, and how it changed my vision of hydrology.

An effective way to understand the earth system for the climate scenarios
Ragi, Kishore
Climate models are several issues related to physical processes. So, we have to find those issues and mend them with appropriate physics before going for the climate projections.
Here, we show how to find such malfunctioned processes through process sensitivity experiments so that those can be mended. These improved climate models project the climate with more confidence than the present state-of-the-art models.

Reaching Out as You Dig In: Tips for Successful Education and Outreach Activities During Fieldwork
Accardo, Natalie
Journeying into the field for data-collection is not only a necessary but also an exciting component of many graduate student's academic careers.  While the integrity of the recovered dataset is ultimately the priority, making a difference to the influenced community should also be considered.  There are numerous easy and enjoyable means of reaching out to the public near and far to disseminate the science and motivation behind your research while you adventure in the field.  From the time you start your packing lists to the moment you stow away your last instrument, opportunities abound to successfully share all components of your field activities.  



Research as Art: Using Figures as Outreach
Rabinowitz, Hannah
As scientists, we spend a significant amount of time thinking about how best to express the results of our research through figures. These can range from graphs to microscope images to movies. They all serve the purpose of communicating complicated ideas to our colleagues in the scientific community. However, this narrow focus can cause us to overlook the opportunity to use scientific figures as a way of communicating science to a broader community. To help researchers embrace this secondary goal of scientific figures, we have instituted an annual event at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) called Research as Art. For this event, scientists submit figures from their work that they see as artistic. These figures are displayed in a gallery-type exhibit for the community to appreciate. Each piece is accompanied by a brief, non-technical caption. In the context of the LDEO exhibit, Research as Art provides a gateway for scientists from a broad range of disciplines within the Earth Sciences to learn about work that is entirely unrelated to their own. Submissions included artistic graphs, SEM images, and a video showing the sequence of earthquakes associated with the 2015 Mw 7.9 Nepal Earthquake. After the event, attendees commented that they had never before thought about how a non-specialist would view their figures and that they would keep this in mind when making future figures. Thus, the biggest benefit of exhibits such as this is to teach scientists to view our work through a non-specialist’s eyes. Our figures are art, and when we start to treat them that way, we open a world of possibilities for teaching the public about our research.

Measuring Gravitational Tides Cheaply with Arduino
Leeman, John
We present a simple gravimeter design that is adequate to detect tidal signals from the Sun and Moon. Conductive foam is wedged between two rigid conductive plates and light pressure applied by fishing weights. This makes a variable resistor that is placed in a voltage divider. An Arduino and a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter are used to read the output of the voltage divider to provide the relative gravity change. With simple modifications, the design can be extended to measure other environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. The observations can be posted online in near real-time for students to examine. The cause of gravitational tide can be introduced to young students with a hands-on activity of measuring it. More advanced students can use the data to learn about gravitational fields and gravitational field models. Advanced students can model the predicted tide and compare it with their readings.

Application of Virtual Globes for 3D Deep Earth Visualization
Pratt, Martin
The ability to display and relate 3- and 4-D datasets on an intuitive platform is a powerful way to analyze and understand deep Earth structures. The use of 2-D media for the display of 3-D structures can prove misleading in scientific literature. Until recently, visualization of the subsurface and particularly of deep Earth datasets has been the realm of somewhat hard-to-use, and not widely accessible software. Virtual globes are used not just within the scientific community, but also by the general public. I have explored the potential of virtual globes for displaying a wide range of geologic data, in particular geophysical data, in Google Earth, a software that is familiar even to the lay person. This tool allows the plotting of points, lines, polygons and models in 3-D spherical coordinates, and also allows the possibility of adding a time dimension. The major drawback, as with a lot of widely used virtual globes, is the inability to plot and view beneath the default Earth surface. It is, however, possible to utilize the space around the globe and scale features accordingly to allow representation of the subsurface on many scales. I have written a variety of MATLAB codes to convert online resources of geophysical data into KML format for display within the Google Earth platform. Relationships between datasets, for example, the passage of raypaths through lower mantle seismic velocity anomalies, can be visualized and explored. Future development may involve more widespread visualization of deep Earth data, from deep life, to geodynamic models.

Discussion and Demos


Friday, August 28, 2015

Abstract Deadline "Extended"

Hi all! We're happy to announce that you can STILL submit an abstract to our session here. Since we don't use the official AGU abstract system, we can keep submissions open longer. We've already had some great abstracts submitted and can't wait to get yours as well! Don't wait, submit an abstract today since we will have to close submissions soon to plan the schedule.

Thank you,

John & Hannah

Friday, July 31, 2015

Abstract Deadline is August 5!

Have you submitted your abstract yet? Don't be shy! We are really excited to see the great outreach and education activities everyone has been developing. The abstract submission is not done through the main abstract portal, but a special pop-up portal (linked below). It's a short form to fill out and best of all, it's FREE! This abstract doesn't count towards the AGU 1st authorship limit and costs nothing to submit. Please send in your work and encourage your colleagues to do the same!

- John and Hannah

Pop-up Listing
Abstract Submission

Saturday, July 4, 2015

2015 Session is a go!

Hello all! We have received the go ahead for a session from AGU with a slightly modified plan! We encourage you to read our session description (below) and submit your geoscience education abstract.  Remember that this will not count as your first author abstract for the conference, so you can submit to this session and your primary research.  There are also no abstract fees this year! Submitting to this session is a way to demonstrate your commitment to quality education and what you are doing to change the way geoscience education is done.  We spend lots of time making classroom activities, this session gives you an opportunity to show off that work.  Last year was a great success, help us make this year even better!Please share this session with your peers.  Be sure to use #keepinggeologyalive in your social media posts. The new abstract submission page can be found here.

- John Leeman and Hannah Rabinowitz

This session offers students an opportunity to give a 5 minute presentation focused on outreach and classroom activities and demonstrations related to the geosciences.  Presentations can cover classroom and public demonstrations, methods, or platforms for sharing geoscience research to students and/or the public  in an accessible and engaging way.  Inclusion of videos and other media is encouraged.  The goal of this session is to share ideas for engaging students and the public in geosciences research.  A blog will be maintained at and will include content that presenters wish to make public, including but not limited to, videos and instructions on how a demonstration was conducted.  This Pop-Up Session is limited to students only.  Submit a proposal for a talk in the Keeping Geology Alive Pop-Up Session.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bringing the Coral to the Classroom

Guest blog post by Logan Brenner (

I love the ocean and everything about it, from the isolated atolls down to the creepy deepsea anglerfish and back up again to the coral reefs. But those distant ecosystems don’t appeal to everyone. However, just because something is geographically far removed doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. As a graduate student studying ocean science and climate change, I want to use my research to share the importance of the reef system and how scientists can use corals as tools to learn about the past.

I developed a quick, easy, and inexpensive experiment to help younger students learn how paleoceanographers core and analyze corals. The goals of this project are to introduce students to ocean studies and to teach, albeit in a slightly abstract way, how to conduct fieldwork.  The main goal, however, is to take what maybe a completely unfamiliar part of the world, a coral reef, and learn in a hands on fashion without having to go to the ocean. This project was originally created for an open house setting where students were passing through, but could easily be adapted for the classroom.

As I said this project is inexpensive and only requires:
             -- A clear/glass casserole dish,
            -- Cut bubble tea straws,
            -- Two colors of art dough,
            -- A pen,
            -- Confetti,
            -- Paper cut outs of corals,
            -- tape
Instructions for Set Up:
            -- Layer the dough in the casserole, alternative colors. This represents banding in stony corals
            -- Pour confetti on the top layer to represent the tissue layer
            -- Tape the paper cut outs to the casserole dish to make a lively coral reef
Project Procedure for Participants:
            -- Choose a bubble tea straw
            -- Place the straw on top of the tissue layer
           -- Press the straw straight down to the bottom of the casserole
            -- Slowly pull the straw straight up
            -- Use a capped pen to push the coral core out
     Analysis Questions:
            -- What could the different colors represent? (annual couplets, different seasons)
            -- Why the layers different sizes? (represents different lengths of time)
            -- Why do the layers get tilted? (grew that way or perhaps from coral core removal)

Please contact me at with any questions.
Happy Coring!
Logan Brenner

Check out Logan's blog at:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Learning Through Teaching and Metacognition

When switching disciplines, one of the hardest tasks is gaining the background knowledge necessary to be successful. This is especially the case if you're no longer a student or have no access to the classes that you need. Fortunately, there are many ways to counter that and learn what you need. One method that is often overlooked is teaching, both formally in a classroom or informally through outreach or just talking with family and friends.

In order to successfully teach, you must have a solid understanding of the topic yourself. Having a thorough understanding of a topic means that you have multiple ways to think about or explain it. When faced with a question from your student, an inability to answer the question, or to answer it satisfactorily, can be a good indication that you need to improve your understanding. This is perhaps the most obvious way to learn from teaching, but there are more subtle ways as well.

A great method for anyone, teacher or student, to learn is metacognition - essentially, thinking about thinking. Metacognition is commonly used by teachers to help determine why a student is struggling or having difficulty with a concept or assignment. We ask questions such as "how did you come to this conclusion?" or "why did you choose that method?" to gather information about how the student is thinking. This method, however, is often overlooked when it's the teacher who wants to learn from the students. Asking these questions to the best, most successful students can provide the teacher with new ideas and new ways of thinking about the topic, thereby increasing the teacher's own understanding.

To get started with metacognition, you first need to learn the correct types of questions to ask. While some questions are useful for drawing out thinking patterns, other questions only probe knowledge of facts. So-called Socratic questions are very good at pulling out the types of information desired by metacognition. Before using them for teaching, you might try using them on yourself. How do you think?


Promoting Student Metacognition by Kimberly D. Tanner
Socratic Questioning by David Straker

Friday, January 16, 2015

Using Low Cost Environmental Sensors in Geoscience Education

Sensors and microcontrollers and coming down in price thanks to mass production and advances in process technology. This means that it is now incredibly cheap to collect both education and research grade data. Combine this with the emergence of the "Internet of Things" (IoT), and it makes an ideal setup for educators and scientists. To demonstrate this, we setup a small three-axis magnetometer to measure the Earth's magnetic field and connected it to the internet through I really think that involving students in the data collection process is important. Not only do they realize that instruments aren't black boxes, that errors are real, and that data is messy, but they become attached to the data. When a student collects the data themselves, they are much more likely to explore and be involved with it than if the instructor hands them a "pre-built" data set. For more information, watch the 5-minute talk (screencast below) and checkout the links is the resources section. As always, email, comments, etc are welcome and encouraged!

Talk Relevant Links

- Slides from the talk
GitHub repository for the 3D Compass demo
- My blog! I post lots of electronics/data/science projects throughout the year.
- Our IoT magnetometer data stream
- Python Notebooks
Raspberry Pi In The Sky
Kicksat Project
Weather Underground PWS Network

Parts Suppliers

- Adafruit
- Sparkfun
- Digikey
- Element14

Assorted Microcontrollers/Computers

- Beagle Bone
- Raspberry Pi
- Arduino
- Propeller
- MBed
- Edison
- MSP430
- Light Blue Bean


- Thingiverse 3D printing repository
- Maker blogs from places like Hackaday, MAKE, Adafruit, Sparkfun, etc