Meet the scientists…Who? Me?

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One very good scientist and four dressing the part

By Kelly

Just recently I was given a healthy reminder that some stereotypes are really hard to break. I am very open about the fact that I was always interested in science, however when I hit 16 I was more interested in being cool. Unfortunately I had no role models that were cool scientists which led me to make some decisions that would lead me away from science* for over a decade**. And so during my time at the Research School of Earth Sciences I have gladly been involved with the university’s Equity and Diversity Unit, that most recently included participating in their ‘Who are scientists?’ workshop that was held for 14 year olds from regional school along the coast.

The 8 representative ‘scientists’ were jumbled in with other staff from our coastal campus, and when singled out the 120 kids were asked to stand if they thought that person was a scientist. Of 120, guess how many stood for me……

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Not quite News yet – Part III


In this series we present fictive “News Articles” which some of us wrote when participating in a Science Communication Workshop at ANU. If you want to know more about the Why and How, please see this post here.

While the projects described are PhD projects that are on the way at RSES, the results (if they are described) in those “news articles” are by no means final and can be described from “That`s my current interpretation of my data that I came up with last night and I haven`t tested yet” to “Wishfull thinking”.

The aim of this series is to provide you with a glimpse of the diversity of ongoing Earth Science research at ANU, not to present final results.

And now, without further ado …


 

Lab grown crystals hold the answer to rock formation

 

By Louise

Small amounts of elements, in two minerals could be a new master key for unlocking the mysteries of how deep rocks formed.

Louise Schoneveld, a young doctoral candidate is currently simulating conditions from deep in the earth’s crust and growing crystals in the lab at Australian National University.

“Small amounts of powders are placed under the appropriate pressures and temperatures and they melt, and from this melt grow tiny crystals” explains, Miss Schoneveld. From the crystals; no bigger than the head of a pin, she hopes to create a “code” to help unlock the formation conditions of the Earths lower crust.

“When the crystals grow, they pick up elements. The amount of these elements change when the crystals form from different compositions and in various temperatures and pressures” says Miss Schoneveld.

Determining how much of these elements occur under various conditions will allow Miss Schoneveld compile a database of elemental amounts in a whole combination of temperatures, pressures and compositions.

“Once you have measured the amount of elements in these minerals, you can then look at this database and figure out in what conditions this rock formed,” says Miss Schoneveld.

This will be a great tool for other scientists to help confidently determine the formation conditions of rocks from many different locations in the world.

My favourite megafauna; a tribute to Dippy and Dusty

By Kelly

Motley crew

The cast of the Simpson Desert Dig 2014

If you haven’t been following my last few posts, I have been discussing my adventures post PhD submission that include participating in a camel expedition into the Simpson Desert (see Gallery). I was lucky enough to be joining the party in charge of investigating megafauna fossils first sighted in 2007. Now in 2014, the scientific party, a bunch of hangers-on (including myself) and 18 camels were off to finally retrieve said fossil, and prepare it for transport to Flinders University for further study. What made this particularly exciting was the species was yet to be identified, and therefore we did not know whether we were collecting a giant wombat-like creature, the Diprotodon, or the giant emu-like creature, Genyornis. But before we could even think about retrieving the fossilised megafauna, we had to get our contemporary megafauna to agree to take us. And trust me, at times it really did feel like a UN style negotiation!

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Not quite News yet – Part II


In this series we present fictive “News Articles” which some of us wrote when participating in a Science Communication Workshop at ANU. If you want to know more about the Why and How, please see this post here.

While the projects described are PhD projects that are on the way at RSES, the results (if they are described) in those “news articles” are by no means final and can be described from “That`s my current interpretation of my data that I came up with last night and I haven`t tested yet” to “Wishfull thinking”.

The aim of this series is to provide you with a glimpse of the diversity of ongoing Earth Science research at ANU, not to present final results.

And now, without further ado …


 

DIAMOND EXPLORATION REVOLUTIONISED

 

By Patrick

Researchers at an Australian university have developed a new technique which they hope will forever change the way we search for diamonds.

Current diamond exploration relies on poorly understood phenomena, but the advent of Mr. Goodarzi’s work will, it is hoped, clear up much confusion.

Patrick Goodarzi and colleagues made the breakthrough after years of laboratory work at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Science. The discovery was made using specialist apparatus which allowed them to make new rocks from scratch, in a way he describes as similar to making a cake. “We synthesize rocks by adding what we think to be the right ingredients, then bake them at very high pressures.”

“By replicating the conditions found within the Earth, we have been able to observe and control the conditions which stabilise diamond. Importantly, this can be related to the real world to provide key indicators of where diamonds may have been brought to Earth’s surface.”

Despite the work only recently being published, the findings are already making shockwaves in the scientific community. He adds “This is undoubtedly the most exciting research of our careers. We are proud to be advancing Australian industry, with ANU’s science at the fore-?‐front.”

Increased diamond production may become a reality sooner than we’d normally expect, with many high-profile companies already taking note. The effect on future diamond price is not clear, although many experts predict reductions to be minor.

Walking with purpose

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Who’s a cheeky camel then? Eddy’s a cheeky camel.

By Kelly

To continue on from my last post, I am regaling you all with stories of my thesis submission. As Evan pointed out, having a hard deadline is really important because you could go on refining the document for years, for a life time in fact. My carrot at the end of a stick four years long was the opportunity to participate in the Simpson Desert Paleontological Survey. The site was so remote that the only way we could access it….was by walking in with camels. I ask you, who wouldn’t stay up until all hours, forget to include both their acknowledgements page and to reference their own paper, as well as missing a typo in the final sentence*, for such an opportunity? Not me, that is for certain.

I’ll talk more about the dig in next week’s post, this week I’d like to focus on the trek, on the camels, and losing yourself to both. Today, we are walking with purpose. Continue reading

Not quite News yet – Part I


In this series we present fictive “News Articles” which some of us wrote when participating in a Science Communication Workshop at ANU. If you want to know more about the Why and How, please see this post here.      

While the projects described are PhD projects that are on the way at RSES, the results (if they are described) in those “news articles” are by no means final and can be described from “That`s my current interpretation of my data that I came up with last night and I haven`t tested yet” to “Wishfull thinking”.

The aim of this series is to provide you with a glimpse of the diversity of ongoing Earth Science research at ANU, not to present final results.

And now, without further ado …


 

Unravelling the Mysteries
of the Inner Earth

 

By Jennifer

New research into the workings of the inner Earth is being conducted at the Australian National University by graduate student Jennifer Prichard. Ms. Prichard says “The research will provide a unique insight into a part of the Earth which is otherwise impossible to study, and will help us understand just what the inner Earth is made of”.

The chain of volcanos that are collectively known as the Hawaiian Islands will be a case study for the deep-Earth research. This chain of volcanos display a bizarre chemical pattern that is still baffling scientists: the entire north-east side of the island chain is distinctly different from the south-west side.

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The Hawaiian Islands – a chain of volcanos.

This sort of pattern is not typical, and it is often assumed that the chemistry of lavas should be fairly uniform among volcanos that seemingly have the same source. It is possible that this pattern is caused by the presence of two different chemical groups nearly 3000 km deep in the Earth.

Ms. Prichard has stated “by analysing Hawaiian lavas, we will be able to tell at what depths this differentiation occurs. We have good evidence so far that it does occur very deep in the Earth”.

If her hypothesis is correct, it could have significant implications for our fundamental understanding of what the centre of our Earth is made of, and may reveal previously unimagined Earth processes.

‘F’ is for Finished

By Kelly images-1

It has been so very long since I wrote a blog post I barely know where to start. In this instance, I feel compelled start at the end…

I SUBMITTED MY THESIS!

The first article I ever posted was called ‘M’ is for Midterm and finally, two and a half years later, I get to write ‘F’ is for Finished! I have learned so many things since that first post, about blogging, about research, probably most importantly about deep-sea coral (that was* after all my PhD topic) and an AWFUL lot about myself; some things that I shall carry forward and a few things that I shall gladly leave behind. The whole process of doing a PhD is often described as a roller coaster, which was most definitely the case for me. The extreme highs were coupled to some rather uncomfortable lows. So perhaps I was naive to think that the ride ended on the day of submission, and I was not entirely prepared for how strange it would be to put my feet back on the ground. Like the astronaut returning from space readjusting to earth’s gravity, I discovered on my own re entry, that perspective on Planet PhD was so different to that on Planet Earth that I needed some time to learn how to walk again.

I’ll save my survival tips for another post, although I will say that Evan pretty much covered most of them in PhD: Epilogue. What I’d like to tell you about is the incredibly surreal period that culminates in the days leading up to (my) submission, and in my next post, the days that follow **.

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