Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Smiles & Science at Nottingham Open Day..... by Carrie Soderman

A-level student Carrie Soderman and her sister Jenny visited the BGS site in Keyworth with their mum for the open day last Saturday. Here are her thoughts on the day!
I was excited about all of the activities and areas on offer at the BGS open day but I definitely wanted to visit the ‘Anthropo-Zone’ and ‘Fossil Fun’! We went to the ‘Anthropo-zone’ first where I learnt about storing CO2 deep under the North Sea in a dense fluid state (Carbon Capture and Storage), and the possibilities of fracking (extracting gas from shale rock) in the ‘Frac-Shack’. However, one of my highlights of my day was examining Antarctic ice cores and learning about what they can tell us about past climate.
Jenny and Carrie Soderman

Here is what I learned:
As snow falls and gets compacted over time, the air that was present at that moment becomes trapped as air bubbles within the ice. Lines of summer and winter snowfall and any periods of melting can be identified within ice cores. It felt very bizarre to be holding ice from Antarctica that was releasing 500 year old air, the purest air I will ever breathe, and listening to it crackle as it did so! I was soon beginning to understand how analysis of this air and specifically the CO2 levels within it enable us to track fluctuations in global temperature through glacial and interglacial periods (Marine Isotope Stages) back nearly 800,000 years ago – and compare our current high atmospheric CO2 concentrations to those from the past. All this and I met a very stylish penguin called Petula J
Some other highlights for me!
‘Fossil Fun’ was an incredible part of the day. I saw a gigantic fossil of a mammoth thigh bone and the tiniest of micro-fossils which were barely distinguishable under a microscope. There was a huge range of fossils to admire and learn about! Not only that, but a 3D printer was in action, printing a dinosaur claw in just 24 minutes!
In the ‘Maps to Apps’ area I learnt about “OpenGeoscience” and why the garden at home is so difficult to grow plants in – with a bedrock of Murcia mudstone and then glacial till on top, it’s no surprise that the soil is so clayey and gets water logged so easily. The BGS iGeology app (which I promptly downloaded) is a fascinating resource...
I examined zircons and learnt about how they are used to date rocks by radioactive decay from uranium to lead. I discovered ‘calcareous ooze’!! I also saw Professor Iain Stewart!!
The whole day was great fun and a wonderful opportunity to improve my geological knowledge. Having just finished my AS exams, it was a lovely way to kick start some post-exam learning. The weather was ideal for walking along the Geological Walkway and taking a fast-track tour from the Precambrian (2500 million years ago) to the Quaternary (up to present day). Two of my favourite rocks were the Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and ‘Bluestone’ which make up Stonehenge.
Thank you to BGS and to everyone I spoke to (as well as everyone else involved) who helped make it such an enjoyable and successful open day!
Carrie Soderman is an A level student at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston, Birmingham

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