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The 2023 Geological Challenge!

The Schools Geology Challenge is an annual competition for A-Level students where they are given the chance to showcase their geological knowledge. There are two stages to the competition: the qualifier, and the final.

In the first stage, participants present a geoscience topic of their choice to an online audience. We were thrilled to receive entries across variety of topics, from the geology of Mars to the formation of Tsunamis, and we were impressed by the range of media used to illustrate the concepts discussed. The creativity of the students involved was immense and the evident passion students have for geoscience is always heart-warming. The team here at GeolSoc thoroughly enjoyed viewing each one.

Qualifying teams were invited to the Schools Geology Challenge final at Burlington House on the 23rd of March 2023. Reaching the competition final sees schools travel to the Geological Society at Burlington House to compete for a trophy as well as funding for their school. This opportunity brings school students together with professional geoscientists in a range of careers, alongside other student peers from across the UK.

The big day

The final of the competition always includes a problem-solving exercise inspired by real world case studies. This year’s activity asked students to assess the hazards posed to the fictional town of New Barnes by the volcanic activity of nearby Mt Akingbade. Students then had to create a management plan for the hazards, using a $1billion resilience fund created by the City Council of New Barnes. Participants took on the personas of Volcanologists and investigated hazard possibilities while looking at rock samples, borehole cores and a range of maps. Students were required to place knowledge learnt within classrooms and on the day into context, such as considering how topography and terrain could affect lava flow and lead to secondary hazards. Secondary hazards in this excercise involved the possibility of several vulnerable species being wiped out, including a population of the critically endangered O’Donnells Tree Toad. Participants were also asked to consider how lava type could affect the range of hazards and their impacts.

The final encourages students to think about more than the physical aspects of geoscience, but also how they relate to people, and be aware of the importance of this when evaluating hazards. Groups posed questions such as: will the lava type and surrounding landscape increase the likelihood of lahars? Which areas are likely to be affected and are they residential? If people are going to relocate, where is a safe area for them to move to?

Placing geoscience within the context of real-world examples highlights further the overlap between human and physical environments, and the vital role that geoscience plays within society.

To round off the day, students presented their findings and recommendations to our panel of judges, stating how they would manage hazard impacts and where they planned to invest funding.

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