Girls into Geoscience STEM Outreach event

S3 geographer, Heather Monaghan attended this year’s Girls into Geoscience STEM Outreach event online and learned loads! Coordinated by the University of Plymouth, this innovative annual event aims to showcase the wide range of exciting courses and careers available to geographers, geologists and earth scientists. Here is Heather’s report.  

On Monday 6th of July, I attended a virtual version of Girls into Geoscience, hosted by the University of Plymouth. Usually, it would take place in the University itself, but due to the circumstances, I took part over Zoom.

The day consisted of different live Q&A sessions on topics such as life in the field or careers in geoscience, and also a variety of different workshops and talks. There were speakers from all across the country, who work in a range of areas, which made the event even more interesting. It was amazing to hear about the many careers relating to this area!

To start, I learned about the tsunamigenic hazards that volcanic eruptions can create. We used Stromboli as a case study to help us understand the effects of landslides and PDCs (Pyroclastic Density Currents), and how they – and various related factors – affect the ‘personality’ of the tsunami they create. Through numerical modelling (a simulation that creates different scenarios for studying) we created different types of tsunami. Then, we used our knowledge to predict what factors had changed. We also looked at graphs of registered wave heights, in which you could see the differences between tsunamis caused by landslides, or tsunamis caused by PDCs.

Next, we went on a virtual field trip to Siccar Point, which is more widely known as Hutton’s unconformity. We learned about the principle of uniformitarianism (that natural processes that occur today have been doing so continuously in the past, and will continue to do so in the future), and studied different rock types. There are two main units of rock at Siccar Point – firstly, Silurian rocks that were deposited in the ocean, and reddish Devonian rocks from a river environment. Using the clues in the rock, we learned to tell them apart by closely studying any fossils or small ripples as these can tell us the original depositional environment of the rocks. On the field trip, we also discovered how the first unit ended up nearly vertical – through the process of rock deformation. Put simply, the way the rock was deformed through tectonic forces, forming folds, then uplifting eventually led to the creation of the unconformity. We finished the trip by making an accurate field sketch.

After this, we studied the states of volcanism – dormancy to eruption, and identified the factors which determine these states. We learnt about the different types of volcano, and the different types of eruptions that can occur. We also studied the different reasons for why eruptions are effusive (weaker) or explosive, and why some eruptions produce large columns of ash while others only slowly bubble out lava. Finally, we looked at many contrasting ways of volcano monitoring and modelling, including volcano stratigraphy, photogrammetry and also physical and statistical modelling. Interestingly, we took a small detour and discovered the reason behind volcanic lightning, which was amazing!

Lastly, I made my own earthquake machine, and used to understand how faults slip – we turned the results into a graph which proved the difficulty of predicting earthquakes! We learned about the elastic rebound theory to understand the process of an earthquake and why multiple quakes can occur on the same fault.

This experience was incredible, and it was awesome to work with so many inspirational women! I would’ve loved to complete all the workshops if there had been enough time, but the ones I did do were amazing. I really enjoyed spending time with girls who have similar passions, and learning about so many new and exciting subjects!

Our sincere thanks go to the organisers for arranging such a varied and inspirational programme in difficult circumstances. Well done, and thanks, to Heather for taking time in her summer holiday to attend the event and report back to the Geography Department.