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Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Secondary schools and colleges

A secondary school student conducting a model volcano experiment at the University
Secondary school pupils can get hands-on with experiments at the University.

Our activities, specially designed for secondary school and college students, will ignite a passion for science and the study of our world.

We offer a range of guest lectures on various topics, each designed to get everyone from those starting life in secondary school, to those gearing up for their GCSEs or A-levels thinking about and understanding the world around them.

Alongside this, we run a series of activities that provide a great opportunity for secondary school and college pupils to connect with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. To organise guest lectures or activities for your school, please get in touch.

Earth Science Matters

The next Earth Science Matters event will take place online on Wednesday 25 November, 1pm-4pm.

Earth Science Matters is a bespoke programme to show how A level Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics are both applicable and essential to the study of the earth and the environment.

The virtual event will be led by academic staff within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who will use their expertise to deliver online interactive sessions. Sessions run in parallel, and you are asked to choose the Physics and Maths itinerary or the Chemistry and Biology itinerary.

Content will include:

Physics and Maths

Chemistry and Biology

In our degrees in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, students apply their physics, maths, biology and chemistry skills by studying how the Earth formed and evolved, the processes controlling weather, climate and pollution, the evolution and ecology of ancient and modern life, how the natural resources we depend on are formed, as well as the driving forces behind natural disasters.

We encourage you to come and join us if you are taking any of the above science A levels. Students taking geology, geography, or environmental science A levels are also welcome.

You can read about our previous Earth Science Matters: Biology and Chemistry' event on the Department blog.

Global Warming

The Global Warming activity is suitable as a focal point for visits to campus, for school workshops and science fairs.  It produces carbon dioxide through reaction of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate in a water solution, then channels the gas into a transparent bottle.  An infra-red lamp illuminates the bottle and a digital thermometer records the increased temperature due to carbon dioxide absorption of radiation.  It frames the science learnt in lessons in a clear and simple experiment that aids understanding.  Discussion about the science, related university study and careers, environmental consequences and politics naturally follow, facilitated by the university scientist but driven by the students.  Risk assessments are produced and verified for every activity.

Contact Dr Simon O'Meara with questions or to arrange a visit to your school/college or a visit to campus: simon.omeara@manchester.ac.uk.

Resources

In the sections below you will find links to resources that can supplement your studies and enhance your learning. These resources may be used by teachers in building online lesson materials, or students researching independently. Many of these resources have been created by academic staff within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Palaeontology with Professor Phil Manning

TEDx Talk, Brighter Than A Billion Suns: Imaging Life On Earth 

Palaeontology is often viewed as a 'blue sky' science, one with little relevance, beyond Indiana Jones movie scripts, in the 21st Century. Phil Manning buries this prehistoric notion in a compelling talk that first and foremost reminds you just how totally cool scientific research can be. To wit: we can now harness synchrotron light, brighter than 10 billion suns, to view dilute concentrations of elements that played crucial roles in life, both present and past.

Mission Jurassic: Searching for Dinosaur Bones

A ten-year project in the badlands of Wyoming to uncover a plethora of dinosaur fossils is underway, and has received significant coverage from the BBC. 

As our graduate Jake Atterby attests, the project has involved University students working alongside leading palaeontologists, with many summers of work and new exiting discoveries ahead.

"There's probably enough dinosaur material here to keep a thousand palaeontologists happy for a thousand years" - Professor Phil Manning

You can read Professor Manning's article discussing Mission Jurassic, 'Excavating Jurassic Giants', in Geoscientist online

Planetary Science resources

Earth and Solar System

The Earth and Solar System blog, and their podcast (The Cosmic Cast) reflect the research interests of the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Group at The University of Manchester. In our laboratories we study samples from comets, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust, Mars, the moon and asteroids to understand how the Earth and the Solar System were formed, how they evolved and became what we see today.  We study the Earth and its chemistry to understand how it works, its mantle, crust, oceans and how we change it. 

Both the blog and podcast are for sharing science. We want to share and discuss what we, and other research groups discover with everyone.

Links:

Welcome to our Earth - MOOC

Welcome to our Earth: Its climate, history, and processes - Massive Open Online Course

Professor David Schultz facilitates this free online course. Develop a greater appreciation for how the air, water, land, and life formed and have interacted over the last 4.5 billion years.

The course can be taken for free at any time, or you can pay to gain a certificate upon successful completion of assignments. It is delivered online and you can find out more on the MOOC delivery website.

General resources

Here we provide links to general resources for teaching and learning:

Get a taste for earth and environmental sciences

These lectures formed part of our June 2020 undergraduate virtual open week. Now in a bitesize, accessible format, viewers can dip in to the subject that interests them most:

Geology

The Earth Project

The Earth Project’s aim is to showcase planet Earth and promote sustainable Earth stewardship. This will bring together the global community with experts, artists and scientists, combining data, technology and passion to spark the new thinking and innovation needed to solve some of the planet’s greatest social and environmental challenges. See the latest news, events, and ways to get involved with The Earth Project.

Microbiology

PhD student Naji Bassil at the University's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has created an app that simulates bacterial growth under different pH and temperature conditions.

Dalton Nuclear Institute

The Dalton Nuclear Institute engagement pages can connect you with a variety of tools, games and information sources about nuclear energy. Resources include videos and lessons covering 'What is nuclear?', 'DECC 2050 game', 'UK Nuclear Education' and 'NeoK12'.

Connected with the Dalton Nuclear Institute is work on social research at Sellafield. In a news item discussing the Sellafield Site Futures project, two Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences students are featured – Callum Robinson and Natalie Byrd. Robinson contributed sediment collected from the site to 'Future Font', a piece within Wallace Heim’s exhibition, x=2140, which considers the 120 year process of decommissioning the Sellafield Nuclear Plant in Cumbria. Byrd's images of cement taken under a scanning electron micros cope were incorporated into the piece 'Font No 1' to create texture.

Heim states that the core themes of the exhibition are the "philosophical questions of how to care for the lands, the soils, waters, elements, airs and living beings as they shift and migrate and settle over these coming generations of transformation and uncertainty".

You can read the article and see more photos of the exhibition at the link below:

Recently, two new research papers have shown that microbes can actively colonise some of the most intensively radioactive waste storage sites in Europe. In these two new studies, a team of geomicrobiologists based in The University of Manchester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, studied microbes that can potentially cause ‘summer blooms’ in a large outdoor spent nuclear fuel storage pond at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria, the largest nuclear regulated site in the UK. Blooms reduce visibility, disrupt fuel retrieval and slow decommissioning. You can read more about this important new research and how it can help keep decommissioning programmes on schedule and within budget via the news item below:

The Radioactive Waste Management Research Support Office launched in 2020. We spoke with Professor Francis Livens, Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute, about the work of this office.

Environmental science

Schmidt Ocean Institute provide a range of resources for 'deep sea distraction' including live broadcasts from research vessel Falkor. Broadcasts will focus on how scientists work in the lab on a ship, life at sea, and exciting findings. All live streams and connections can be viewed on Schmidt Ocean Institute’s YouTube Channel, Facebook page and website

Geography

The ‘dynamic rock cycle workshop’ developed for teaching the rock cycle in KS3 geography and science, has been developed by the Earth Learning Idea Team into an online workshop at:

You can take part in the complete workshop by downloading and following the PowerPoint and its supporting booklet, or by accessing all the videos of the activities separately. Each activity is keyed into CASE principles through a video script, to enable the activities to teach thinking skills as well as knowledge and understanding. If you are unfamiliar with CASE, you can find out more on the website by accessing the videos on ‘Using CASE’ and ‘Atmosphere and ocean in a tank – an example using CASE’.