Inspiring girls in earth and marine sciences

16 August 2019

Organisers of the second Girls into Earth and Marine Sciences (GEMS) workshop say it was great to showcase and expose the young participants to the diverse range of research in earth and marine sciences.

On 19 August, the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) and Geoscience Australia co-hosted the second full-day workshop for 26 year 9 and 10 high school students. The program is designed to give them some insight into the study options available before they move into the final years of their high school education and consider a pathway at university.

"It's been really great seeing how the girls who attend discover a whole area of science they don't get to learn a lot about and that's something I would have loved when I was in high school," says PhD candidate Hannah James.

"I am proud that we can inspire them to think about a career in science."

The girls who participated in the GEMS workshop worked their way through four sessions relating to the history of earth and life, climate science, seismology and geophysics, and rocks and minerals. The sessions were a mix of short talks, hands on activities, lab tours, and sample show and tell, which were run by researchers from RSES and Geoscience Australia.

"Earth science is such an applied science, so this mix gives the students the opportunity to see firsthand the types of things we do in our research," Hannah says.

AuScope Earth imaging Project Manager, Michelle Salmon, who led the seismology session on behalf of Australian Seismometers in Schools, said the girls gained hands-on experience with the instruments used to record and study earthquakes.

"It is great to see all the women students, researchers and staff get on board with this program so the girls can see how they could fit into Earth Sciences," Michelle says.

This year's workshop took place during school holidays, giving the organisers a chance to see whether the program would work better during holidays or during the school term.

"To remove the stress this places on schools and teachers we thought this year we'd see how GEMS went having it during the school holidays. We'll be working with our partners at Geoscience Australia to develop the program and how best to run it in the future."

Hannah says her undergraduate degree didn't relate to earth or marine science at all, but she became fascinated by it and its use in archaeological science while she was studying her masters at ANU.

"Beginning a PhD at RSES my eyes were really opened to the wide range of subjects that fall under the earth sciences banner (geology, chemistry, climate, seismology, and geophysics etc.).

Hannah, who is studying archaeological science - using the earth sciences to answer archaeological questions about human diet and mobility - co-founded the GEMS program last year with fellow RSES PhD candidate Bethany Ellis.

The idea came about when both she and Bethany had seen some similar programs being developed in the United Kingdom also aimed at school age girls, and also encouraging them to delve into the world of marine and geoscience. When they saw that National Science Week ACT were advertising seed funding, they took the opportunity to try to develop a program like this at ANU.

"After the successful running of the program last year during National Science Week, Geoscience Australia partnered with us to provide the program this year," Hannah says.

Hannah hopes that next year's program will be expanded to all students and they'll be working with Geoscience Australia to continue to make it a success.

"Earth and Marine Science isn't just about rocks, there are so many other fascinating areas to study," she says.

RSES School Director Steve Eggins says the program has gone from success to success.

"I'm incredibly proud of the ANU students and staff involved in this fantastic program," he says.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them expand the GEMS program so that more high school students learn about Earth Sciences before they consider what to study at university."