Student scientists unlock the secrets of the Earth

28 January 2016

Students learn magnetic mineral separation techniques

Students learn magnetic mineral
separation techniques

Students from across Australia have been welcomed to Geoscience Australia in January, as part of the annual National Youth Science Forum (NYSF). Providing Year 12 students with opportunities to carry out practical science exercises, the program is also a chance to learn new Earth science skills, make new friends and explore how the geosciences support industry and innovation.

Welcoming the students, Geoscience Australia's CEO, Dr Chris Pigram introduced some of the opportunities that working in the geosciences can bring: "Earth science is a very diverse field, which integrates many different disciplines" he said. "By studying subjects such as geology, environmental systems, maths, chemistry, physics, computing and engineering, you have the potential to help unlock the secrets of Australia's ancient mineral systems, which are currently concealed deep below the surface".

During their visit to Geoscience Australia, students learnt how to find and analyse a hidden heavy mineral sands deposit. Drawing on their teamwork skills, the students completed a magnetic survey, used laboratory equipment to separate out the minerals found, and completed a detailed data analysis of their samples. The event culminated when the groups shared their results, discussing what they had found and reflected on working as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Students discuss zircon dating with Dr Andrew Cross

Students discuss zircon dating with
Dr Andrew Cross

"By giving students real-world problems to solve, we can demonstrate some of the excitement and importance of scientific discovery" said Shona Blewett, coordinator of Geoscience Australia's Education Centre. "There are some incredible career opportunities open to people in the Earth sciences, and we'd like to see them back here in a few years as fully fledged geoscientists"

Several NYSF Alumni were on hand to assist the students, including geoscientist Stephanie McLennan, who recalled that she too had been part of the NYSF a decade previously. "I found that the program really helped me think about career opportunities in science" she said "and I'm excited to see so many students taking up the opportunity to learn."