Let’s Talk About It: Communicating the Geoscience Brand

Guest post by Allegra Whistler (2018 SciComm Intern)

Today, the notion that scientists should communicate their work beyond the professional community to the wider audience of policy makers and the public seems broadly accepted – Iain Stewart, 2012

In summer 2018, I completed my first field season as a geologist in Yukon. During training, my manager emphasized that the work of a modern geologist involves more than just geology. In addition to prospecting, mapping, core logging, and sampling we must also manage logistics, complete applications, submit reports and much more. It has become apparent throughout my work and studies that being a geologists, or any type of scientist, also entails a balance of science communication.

Photo credit: AME

I’m an earth sciences undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Throughout my time at university, I have always had been involved with science outreach programs through various organizations at SFU, including Science Alive, Science In Action, Let’s Talk Science. I have delivered STEM lessons to children all over the lower mainland in classrooms, science fairs, and events like Roundup’s Discovery Day. Now in my last year at SFU, I have discovered a whole new field that I’m very passionate about – Science Communication.


Diversity and inclusion at RFG 2018: Wed 20 Jun 1:30 pm

Resources for Future Generations – RFG 2018 – begins this Saturday 16 June. I’m looking forward to catching up with friends who are flying in from around the world to attend, and am proud to be convening a session on the impacts of gender bias on resource sector careers with two inspiring colleagues and friends, Libby Sharman and Mona Forster.

At 1:30 pm on Wednesday 20 June in Room 210 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, keynote speakers Anne Thompson and Libby Sharman will discuss the challenges they have faced and strategies to overcome them. Following the keynote, we will have two panel discussions, separated by coffee and cookies. Our speaker and panelist biographies are listed below the poster. (more…)

Geo-movie review: Gold

In my quest to see all “geology” movies (no matter how cheesy or inaccurate!), I finally watched Gold (2016). This film hits closer to home for me than some other geo-movies, like Volcano, The Day After Tomorrow, or the heart-wrenching Impossible, since I live and work in Vancouver. This city is home to more junior exploration companies that any other so I occasionally mix with slightly similar characters and understand the games they play!

In Gold, Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a sleazy, drunken “prospector desperate for a lucky break”. His exploration/promotion business, inherited from his father, looks for gold deposits, and hopes to find investors willing to pay to develop them into mines.

The company goes downhill after his father passes away, and the ragtag crew take up office in the local tavern, spruiking small, pitiful projects to gullible investors between swigs of beer and whiskey. One day, Wells hears that a geologist, Michael Acosta (played swarthy Edgar Ramirez), may be sitting on a literal gold mine in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia and travels to the project.

Spoilers ahead!


My moderate gender bias

“Your data suggest a moderate association of Male with Science and Female with Humanities compared to Female with Science and Male with Humanities.”

I took the Implicit Association Test (IAT) today. It was created by researchers to explore our unconscious thoughts and feelings. The goal of the test is to uncover what you know about your own mind, and what you think you know about your own mind, and measure the distance between them.

The IAT was suggested to me by a colleague at the recent Canadian Institute of Mining convention. I had attended a couple of panel sessions on inclusion and diversity in mining, and was frustrated by the lack of progress, particularly for women in mining. I wanted to know what companies were doing about it. This colleague works for a mining company who put the senior management team through unconscious bias training a year earlier, and pointed me to the IAT test on the Harvard University website.


Taking to the skies for girls in STEM

One excited co-pilot

Fewer than five per cent of pilots, flight engineers, and flight instructors are female*. That’s 19 men for every one women flying a fixed-wing plane or helicopter, maintaining an aircraft, or teaching a class of new aviators. As with so many male-dominated industries, female role models for young women dreaming of taking to the skies are scarce. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is the mantra. So, in 2012, Kirsten Brazier, a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot, founded “The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too” to energize more girls and women to discover the opportunities available to them in aviation, aerospace and space.

“From shop floor to top floor, we’re inspiring future leaders!” says Brazier.

Kirsten Brazier is a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot and founder of the Girls Fly Too event

The annual event is held at Abbotsford airport, about an hour east of Vancouver, B.C. A free helicopter flight for first-time female fliers is the highlight of the event for most attendees, but there are also the opportunities to peek inside the coast guard helicopter, watch a police dog at work, or even meet a real astronaut.

When my family and I first went to the event in March 2015, my daughter was four and a half. Two years later, she still remembers her flight, getting her face painted, and learning to pop-rivet! (more…)

Ask a Wonder Woman: Three questions for a science writer

“But, what’s the first step?”

Last night, I attended my first SCWIST (Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology) event. They are a non-profit working hard to empower women and girls in science, engineering and technology and each year they run the Wonder Women Networking Evening at Science World. This years’ event introduced about 45 women at various stages of their careers in STEM fields to women who were studying, searching for their first job, looking for a change, or just interested in hearing about the twists and turns most career paths take.

I met meteorologists, engineers, software developers, researchers, pathologists, pharmacists, biologists, a trainee mechanic and lots of physicists! What stood out as we introduced ourselves was the number hats people wore. For example, “I’m an environmental engineer by day and my partner and I are raising money for our start-up…” or “I’m a research scientists, I teach at university, and volunteer at…” The other common thread was that very few career paths were straight lines. The word du jour – ‘pivot’ – was overheard more than once! (more…)

A week in #geology #hashtags


The Tonight Show mascot: Hashtag the Panda

#ThinSectionThursday is a thing. So is #FridayFold and #MineralMonday.  Today I discovered a whole new genre of science communication: geology-themed hashtags on Twitter.

If you are a geologist, or just a fan of earth science, there is literally a hashtag for you every day of the (working) week.

Hashtags are used on Twitter to link conversations and to search by subject. Creating a hashtag is as simple as placing a ‘#’ symbol in front of a word or short phrase.

If you don’t tweet yet and would like to know more, check out my post, Social media basics: Twitter. You can search twitter.com for these hashtags even if you don’t have a Twitter account.

With help from my new friends on Twitter (Thanks @MicroEarthSci and @metageologist) I’ve put together a list of geo-themed hashtags to satisfy geologists everyday of the week. (more…)

Rio Tinto mines big data

Rio Tinto data centre (source: Rio Tinto photo library)

Rio Tinto data centre (source: Rio Tinto photo library)

Rio Tinto today announced that it will expand its mining operations beyond digging resources like iron ore, copper and coal out of the ground, to mining vast volumes of data too.

The company launched the Analytics Excellence Centre in Pune, India, to crunch massive amounts of data collected by sensors attached to equipment at its operations around the world.

“The Centre will help us predict the future through the use of advanced data analytic techniques to pinpoint with incredible accuracy the operating performance of our equipment,” explains Rio Tinto group executive for technology and innovation, Greg Lilleyman, in this media release.

“Our aim is to run more efficient, smarter and safer mining operations and provide greater shareholder returns.”

Data mining has been around for a while and is the process used to simplify and summarize data. This normally involves collecting and storing data in giant databases and then using powerful computers to search for patterns and anomalies. We can then make predictions about new situations based on what we learned from the data. (more…)

Salmon Sperm and Recycling REEs

2014-05-04 13.35.12What a quirky and exciting development for sustainability: a way to extract and recycle the rare earth elements we need for green technologies, like wind turbines.

It’s time to scrape that salmon semen off your plate, because it’s got a much better use than tickling your taste buds (yes, fish sperm is actually a delicacy in Japan). This unusual magical ingredient could help us extract and recycle rare earth elements from ore and a variety of other materials, such as magnets or old electronics. Not only would this process be significantly cheaper than traditional chemical extraction methods, but it’s also much better for the environment.

Read more: Salmon Sperm Could Help Us Recycle Rare Earth Elements | IFLScience.