What are the similarities and differences between Slapton Sands and Utah Beach?
Challenged by this question, is how 36 bright MsC/MPHIL Environmental Change and Management students from the University of Oxford started their field trip along the Start Bay coastline in the South coast of Devon, England, UK. I am Andres Payo, lead researcher of the coastal resilience and marine shallow geohazards research line at the British Geological Survey, and I want to share with you my experience on how to communicate the importance of geology on issues that matters to people today.
On Sunday 30th of September 2018 I was driving from the nearby hotel to the Slapton Ley Nature Centre where I will meet the students to start the field trip with a one-hour introductory talk. I am not alone on this trip but with my wife Ruth and my son Andres to whom I am keen to show the beautiful coast of Start Bay. We have eaten our breakfast as fast as possible (you do not want to be late when not one, but 36 people are waiting for you) and gave us a good 40 minutes for what is only a 20 minutes’ drive along the coast. When we were only 2 minutes away from the Centre…surprise! the road was closed because it was damaged during the last storm (duh! I should have known that!). We have to turn around and spend another 20 minutes driving through an alternative route to the Centre to reach the place just right on time. Even before I start the describing the talk and walk, here you have the first issue that connect coastal processes (coastal erosion) with an everyday activity (driving from A to B).
“Geology, before the trip, appeared as something profound that geologists do. In past, I have struggled with identifying rocks on my own and identifying how geological processes shape any landscape. Hence, it was an uncanny feeling that morning to figure out the history of Slapton Ley by observing sediments and construe it piece by piece. To hold a flint or a slate and call it by its right name was a happy feeling. It seemed almost like a detective story where we were trying to put different pieces of the puzzle together and understand how the coastline of Slapton Ley was transformed over the course of time. Some aspects of the story were quite shocking and made me realize the fragility of life on our planet. The most memorable experience was to hold a Devonian sedimentary rock in Devon and find myself connected with the big history. At that moment, I saw myself, in the third person, as a geologist.”
If you have read the students feedback all the way until here and you are a geologist, you are probably feeling as happy as I am feeling 😉…any time that I might feel down, I will re-read this post to boost me up.