Tuesday 16 February 2010

Podcasts in Geology

I like podcasts. They are a good companion at work, in the car or doing sports. But being a geologist, there is not much choice about what we can listen if we want something relating with our field of expertise.

Some years ago I discovered the “Corecast” of the USGS, but to be honest, it is quite light and … disappointing. The program is well done, is good, but only if you don’t know much of geology. Its target audience is the general public. Obviously that is fine because that is the task of the USGS: to educate general public about our work.  

From time to time, in programs like “Radio 4 Choice”, of the BBC, they include content related with geology and this is great. But that doesn’t happen very often.

So, what do we have?  Well, thanks to The Geological Society we have a few episodes of a geology podcast. Few means three so far! But their quality is quite good.

Sarah Day, the Earth Scientist Communicator of GSL, conducts the program where she interviews the speaker of the popular Shell Lectures, which are carried out on a monthly basis (montly…ish).

So far, the episodes are (description take from the GSL website):

Episode  3: The Present is the Key to the Past
Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology was published between 1830-1833, and introduced the famous maxim, ‘the present is the key to the past’. Bruce Levell, Chief Geologist at Shell, explains the relevance of this principle to the oil and gas industry today, and why it might be hindering, rather than helping the search for energy resources.

One of the biggest consequences of our use of fossil fuels is its effect on sea level, which is continuing to rise. Is sea level rise natural, or are humans playing a part? And how can geologists help protect our coastlines? Lynne Frostick, Professor of Geography at the University of Hull and Geological Society President, explains what rising tides mean for our future, and how an understanding of our geological past can help us prepare for the future.

Episode 2: Spider Webs and Seamounts

Sarah visits Professor Martin Brasier at the University of Oxford, who made the news last month when he published reports of the world’s oldest fossilized spider webs. Preserved in amber dating back to the early Cretaceous, the webs are 135 – 140 million years old, and capture a crucial period in spider evolution.

November’s Shell London Lecturer, Professor Tony Watts, explains the importance of his research into sea mounts – mountains under the sea. Potential causes of geological hazards, they are also focal points of biological diversity. Earth Scientists remain divided as to their cause, with some critical of the increasingly prevalent ‘hotspot’ theory. 

Episode 1: Climate on Earth and Mars

In our very first podcast, Dr Matt Balme explains how he uses his knowledge of Earth to understand the Martian climate. And Dr Rosalind Rickaby tells of a tiny marine organism that’s facing a big climate challenge.

The ocean’s ability to absorb co2 is vital to reducing the impact of carbon emissions on climate. Approximately one quarter of Co2 emissions caused by human activity are absorbed by the ocean, which is becoming increasingly acidic as a result. By carrying out photosynthesis, marine phytoplankton such as the coccolithophore are an important part of this process, but can struggle to build their shells and skeletal structure as waters become more acidic.

Whilst the ‘paradigm view’ is that the ocean acidification will make it harder for the coccolithophore to build its calcium carbonate shell, recent research suggests they are in fact responding by calcifying even more. Understanding how these tiny marine organisms will respond to rising levels of atmospheric co2 is crucial to predicting how climate will evolve in the future

Besides, the GeolSoc.org.uk website also includes the links to the podcast of NERC Earth science, the Planet Earth series: http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/site/GSL/lang/en/page6262.html

A whole list of Planet Earth podcasts is available at: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/multimedia/index.aspx

Enjoy the podcasting!

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