Scientific communication and “diamonds” on Flinders Island, Tasmania
Intro: Science is pretty cool, and so is being a scientist. This is what I (and most other scientists) think at least. However, the further you continue your studies in science, the more specialized you get… and the more specialized you get, the harder it becomes to explain all the neat and cool science to people (whether it be the general public, scientists in other fields of study, and sometimes even scientists in your own field). This is thus the purpose and importance of scientific communication!
I try and do this consistently with my blog, and recently I was involved in a local program called Young Tassie Scientists. I, along with a number of other young PhD students and post-docs, got to visit various schools throughout Tasmania and share a bit about myself and my science to kids. As part of this I also got to visit Flinders Island. In this short blog I will briefly share some scientific communications experience, and a bit of the background and how to find the infamous Killiecrankie “diamond” of on the beaches of Flinders Island.
Science Spiel: Communication and “Diamonds”
Communicating science is all about knowing who the audience is… in other word, “who are the people you are trying to convey your science to?”. This will help you decide what kind of background concepts you can skip over, and what sort of jargon you should use. For example, in this blog I try to be quite general and explain things so you don’t need to know much about geology to follow along.
When I was visiting schools I had to deal with both young and old kids (i.e., kindergarten to year/grade 10s), thus my presentations had to be modified accordingly. For the older kids I went through my powerpoint presentation and into detail more about the rock cycle, geology and minerals, with an emphasis on the profession of geologist and how neat it is in terms of allowing you to explore and travel the earth and understand it as you go. For younger kids, will I still had a presentation, I mainly relied on interactive stuff like showing rock hand samples and demonstrating properties of certain minerals/rocks. Little kids love minerals and always have lots of questions!
I got to do this in various schools around mainland Tassie, but we also got a treat in visiting the one school on Flinders Island. Not only is Flinders Island home to stunning granite landscapes and some pretty bright kids, it also has “diamond”-laden beaches!
The Killiecrankie diamond are misleadingly named, as they are not actual diamonds. They are in fact the mineral topaz (Al2SiO4(F,OH)2). Topaz is also a precious gem, but not quite as rare and valued as diamonds (not to mention formed in a completely different way). The Killiecrankie topaz is from pegmatitic, or ultra-fractionated granites on Flinders. The dominant rock of Flinders Island is granite, and is part of the same Devonian (~ 360 Ma) granite belt that composes the Bay of Fires and Freycinet. The most famous granite mountain on Flinders is Mt. Strzelecki.
With time, the granites and coarse-grained pegmatites get weathered and eroded, and thus the Killiecrankie diamonds get concentrated in gravels and sands along Flinders Island. Since the “diamonds” are actually topaz, they are heavier than most other minerals and rock fragments. So in order to collect them, all you need in a sieve or pan to concentrate the heavy minerals at the bottom (i.e., just like panning for sapphires). The Killiecrankie Bay in the north of Flinders Island is a designated fossicking area, so it is open to the public to go and try your luck!
Final Thoughts: Scientific communication not only is important, but also can be very fun! It is rewarding to be able to inspire kids to go into the field of science and to keep them curious, and also educate the young and old of some neat stuff that isn’t always in the mainstream media. Being of part of the Young Tassie Scientists was a great opportunity to do this in my home-away-from-home state of Tasmania. Getting to visit Flinders Island was also an amazing bonus! The island is beautiful, wild and rugged, with very lovely locals; I would recommend anyone to visit it given the chance. You may even find some “diamonds” while you’re there…
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