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Australian Geoscience Council Convention 2018 Update

The development of big issues and ideas for AGCC 2018

An outline of the technical program for our inaugural Australian Geoscience Council Convention (AGCC 2018) was published recently, when geoscientists were invited to engage directly with planning the program. The technical program will provide the opportunity for all geoscientists to communicate their work to a wide audience, and to hear about relevant developments presented by other geoscientists in multiple fields. Essentially, this broad program will provide the ‘bedrock’ of AGCC 2018 in a format familiar to regular attendees of the AESC, IGC and other large events. As is always the case, these sessions will be predominantly self-organising mini-symposia, strongly influenced by the actual papers that you submit as speakers, with guidance from our member organisations (eg, the International Association of Hydrogeologists) and overall direction by the Scientific and Technical Committee.

A proposed new approach

AGCC 2018 will provide opportunities to examine and consider some of the emerging issues that affect us all in geoscience. We anticipate these will be topics that attract attention from industry, government and academia, while also creating opportunities for non-geoscientists to engage and participate in our deliberations in Adelaide. This interaction will be a significant differentiator of this convention and will help us achieve our vision to ‘raise the profile of geoscience to be pre-eminent in Australia’. We also hope to expose delegates to ideas they would not normally engage with in routine technical talks, and to attract those people who don’t normally attend our various member organisation conferences.

To do this, we plan to have several focused discussions that raise the Big Issues, explore the Big Ideas (hopefully some including new approaches and directions for some of the Big Issues!) and reach consensus about providing commitment and support for ways to take geoscience forward. We are aware of the value of strategic planning and believe that exciting times are ahead for geoscience. Some of these have become apparent to many of us during the current formulation of a new Decadal Plan for Earth Science, sponsored by the Australian Academy of Science.

An example of one topic we favour will be built around the early commitment to attend by Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute in Plymouth, UK. Iain is a riveting speaker who is passionate about geoscience communication and education. We will hold a plenary session on this topic with additional key thinkers, an interactive question and answer session, the opportunity during the day to formulate an agreed convention position and a summing up statement (press release) that will be issued. We look forward to your thoughts on the merits of this approach and your likely level of commitment and engagement.

What are the big issues and ideas in geoscience?

We are seeking ideas about the Big Issues (and Big Ideas) that you want to explore, and about possible champions of these that will attract widespread community interest, support from major sponsors and the attention of policy makers.

At this stage, we have a think-tank subcommittee that has formulated the following possible topics from a much larger field of possible candidates:

  1. The future of the nuclear cycle in Australia
  2. Unconventional gas and energy security
  3. Resource-driven development of regional and northern Australia
  4. Reducing the impact of the boom-and-bust commodity cycle on Australian geoscience
  5. Geoscience education and communication.

Other possibilities could be the ever-increasing role of automation (robotics), improved drilling technologies, innovative geological models and the search for novel or unusual commodities, although these might be addressed comprehensively in the broad technical program. We are seeking your input on:

  • possible world-class thinkers to help us develop these or other topics
  • your own possible contributions eg, five-minute spoken position statements framing the issues and ideas
  • your interest in participation
  • your thoughts on our proposed approach (eg, whether these should be spread across the four days of the convention or all addressed on a single day)
  • whether these are the topics most important to you as geoscientists.

In conclusion

To reiterate, the broad technical basis of AGCC 2018 will allow us all to present papers on our specific technical interests (subject to acceptance by the Scientific and Technical Committee), which are of course very wide ranging and inclusive. There will no doubt also be embedded mini-symposia sessions covering the collective interests of many diverse groups and of our member organisations (eg, UNCOVER, JORC, Valmin).

We are now seeking your thoughts on the BIG ISSUES and BIG IDEAS component of AGCC 2018. To let us know your views, please get in touch with any member of the Organising Committee at our website: https://www.agcc.org.au/committee.

BILL SHAW

On behalf of the AGCC 2018 Organising Committee

Australian Geoscience Council – President’s Report

Current AGC President and former AIG President, Bill Shaw

Current AGC President and former AIG President, Bill Shaw

The AGC has continued to be very active in advocating geoscience in Australia throughout 2016.

A brief summary of our recent achievements follows before some exciting news about our AGC Convention to engage with all geoscientists in Australia and our Region. But first our activities:

We provided a submission to the National Review Of Research Infrastructure and also promoted the views of AuScope, UNCOVER and the Australian Academy of Science National Committee of Earth Sciences, which also made submissions.

We are supporting the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) initiative on Geotourism with a matching contribution of funds for an economic feasibility study on the Warrumbungle UNESCO Global Geopark proposal. This will be a benchmark study and will provide a template for proposals for other Geotourism projects in Australia. We see Geotourism as an important way for the community to engage with their local rocks, and potentially a way of creating opportunities for geoscientists. The GSA’s information is at http://bit.ly/Geotourism. Incidentally there was a successful ‘geo-cultural’ tour recently of Sydney’s iconic (and aptly named) Rocks District.

The AGC has been attending meetings to help develop the Decadal Plan for Earth Sciences in Australia. We see this primarily as a value proposition document to promote future benefits from investment in geoscience. By focusing on the Education and Advocacy sections of this document we consider it will promote the importance of Geoscience and the knowledge we derive from rocks as part of an integrated Earth Sciences strategy.

The AGC Strategic Plan was presented at the 35th International Geoscience Congress in Cape Town, South Africa in August. This provided an opportunity to engage with other like-minded organisations around the world and start to understand how we can all interact, support various initiatives, and learn from our shared successes. The presentation that I gave is available here.

We developed a Media Blitz for this year’s Earth Science Week in October with three main themes. The first was #OzRockStocktake, the photographic outreach event which many of you participated in. Results were very pleasing and can be found by using the hashtag to search Google, Facebook and/or Twitter. We also unveiled a new addition to the National Rock Garden in Canberra, being a piece of Moruya granite from the quarry that provided the dimension stone for the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons. And finally, we urged our Federal and State Governments to support the UNCOVER initiative to find the ‘next generation’ of hidden mineral deposits in Australia, as these will sustain Australia’s high level of economic prosperity and resource security. These three media releases achieved considerable penetration into Government at all levels. They can be found on the AGC web site.

We have provided some support to the programs developed by Ms Suzy Urbaniak of Kent Street Senior High School and we are pleased to note here that she was awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. I congratulated Suzy formally by letter (and informally of course). We know she is a great resource for others who want to emulate her successful engagement of students and the community.

Join in #OzRockStocktake: first photographic census of Australian Geology

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Rock fans to school kids urged to join in #OzRockStocktake: first photographic census of Australian geology Innovative social media project held during international Earth Science Week to showcase Australia?s real rock stars

Getting involved is simple and fun:

  • Take a pic of your favourite rock, outcrop, mountain or other geological feature
  • Post it on Twitter and/or Facebook with the hashtag #OzRockStocktake
  • Search for #OzRockStocktake on social media (be sure to select ?All? or ?Live? tweets or posts) 

Australians of all ages have the opportunity to join in an innovative social media project to record and promote Australia?s vast geological heritage.

The Australian Geoscience Council?s (AGC) #OzRockStocktake is being launched as part of Earth Science Week, which starts this Sunday 9 October and runs until Saturday 15 October.

Earth Science Week is an international event, held each year.  This year?s theme is ?Our Shared Geoheritage?.
“During Earth Science Week — and beyond — Australians are being urged to post a photo on Facebook and/or Twitter of their favourite rocks, outcrops, mountains or geological landscapes, with the hashtag #OzRockStocktake and a short description of where the photo was taken” AGC President, Dr Bill Shaw, said.

“We would also love to see photos posted of stone-based monuments, structures with stone features (like the Sydney Harbour Bridge), stone buildings, iconic geological sites like The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, dinosaur bones, other fossils and even meteorites. These all show our vast geological heritage and our fascination with the rocks that are the foundation of everything we are and do.

“We encourage everyone to get involved in this ultimate Aussie rock tour and geological census, whether it be posting a photo online or even just visiting the #OzRockStocktake pages to see what?s there.

“Through the power of social media, we hope to capture a significant collection of images that show the magnitude of our geological heritage, and the many areas of Australia in which it is found.

“It is entirely possible that some of the posts in the #OzRockStocktake might even uncover new geological features or geoheritage sites that we never knew existed, or have forgotten.

“Quite apart from informing us of unique geological features across Australia, we also want this project to demonstrate the many ways in which geoscience and geoscientists contribute to society.

“For example, our mountain ranges, rocks and soil-types determine where our water comes from, how successful particular agricultural exploits will be, our huge natural resources that underpin the high standard of living we enjoy in Australia, and our unique landscape.

Australia’s geoscientists who work across many fields.  While their work in the resources sector exploring for minerals and energy resources may be the first thigs that come to mind,  geoscientists also contribute in many other areas, like ensuring our GPS navigation systems align with the continuing movement of our continent, earthquake monitoring and tsunami warnings, deep ocean research, soil science for agriculture, investigating sites for major engineering projects, groundwater resource management and integrating data to understand climate change using their unique and deep understanding of our planet’s dynamic, interlinked natural systems.

“Geoscientists understand and monitor geohazards to ensure the tunnels you travel through and buildings you are in have solid geological foundations Dr Shaw said.  They discover and help develop the minerals we all use, including those in your smartphone, bicycle and car, and those that will enable the capture, storage and transmission of sustainable energy resources.

“Geoscience is one of the great four scientific disciplines alongside chemistry, physics and biology, and our geoscientists make a crucial contribution to Australia and to all Australians.”

#OzRockStocktake provides an informative and fun way for everyone to join in this work.

For more information about other Earth Science week activities in Australia visit the Geoscience Australia website.  The Australian Geoscience Council website also has information about specific events.

Information about Earth Science Week globally is available here.  You can also follow @earthsciweek on Twitter or search for the #EarthSciWeek hashtag.

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From Minerals to Magma: grants send geoscientists to explore the planet

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Unlocking the mineral secrets of Papua New Guinea, the long-term evolution of the Earth and using drones to map past climate change are just a few of the projects to win funding under the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) and the Australian Academy of Science’s inaugural geoscience travel grant scheme.

Eleven early-career geoscientists from Australia and New Zealand will share a total grant funding pool of $30,000 to support their world-class research overseas.

AGC President Dr Bill Shaw said: “We were overwhelmed by the number and quality of applications. We have awarded grants to support work that impacts on a variety of geoscience disciplines, from astrobiology to magma transport in volcanoes and how it impacts on volcanic hazards and ore deposit formation.”

Geoscientist Dr Phil McFadden, who represents the Academy on the travel grant scheme, said: “Geoscience is a global endeavour and it is important for early-career researchers to have the opportunity to study rocks in diverse environments if they are to make important contributions to the advancement of knowledge.”

The winners were chosen from a field of more than 100 applications seeking travel assistance for international fieldwork, to conduct experiments and learn new techniques in state-of-the-art laboratories around the world, or to attend international conferences.

Six applications were selected as having the greatest merit and these applicants will receive the full amount requested in their applications with a maximum grant of $5,000. A further five were awarded a portion of the amount requested to support their travel plans.

The Travel Grants have been made possible through a trust fund administered by AGC and the Academy, which was set up after the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane in August 2012.

The recipient list can be viewed here.

AGC – AAS Travel Grant Scheme

The Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) and the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) are pleased to announce the inaugural call for applications for sponsorship under our joint Travel Grant Scheme. 

AIG has been closely involved in the development of our Strategic Plan for the AGC, to raise the profile of Geoscience in Australia.  This was important to ensure that we allocate wisely the financial resources that are a legacy of the 34th International Geological Congress held in Brisbane in August 2012.

Another major outcome of the success of the 34th IGC is an agreement between the AGC and the AAS to create a substantial Travel Grant Scheme. The proceeds of some investments from the IGC surplus are being used to support the travel and associated expenses of Australian and New Zealand ‘early-career geoscientists’ to further their geoscience careers. This process is now in place and further details, conditions and application forms are online at www.agc.org.au . It is anticipated that this Scheme will be another significant legacy of the 34th IGC.

These travel grants may be used to participate in professionally organised geoscientific conferences or conventions, undertake field work in appropriate areas, visit and work with appropriate international experts, or inspect appropriate mines or other geoscientific features such as type localities. There will be around five grants made available each year of between $2,000 and $5,000.

The application process closes for this year on 31 October and results will be announced in early December, to support geoscientist travel during 2016.

The Australian Academy of Science has already commenced a substantial mail-out to all their academic contacts. We are hoping for a lot of publicity to ensure maximum benefit from this important initiative. For further information please contact me or Leanne Gunther at admin@agc.org.au