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Australian and New Zealand students get up close with geological wonderland - 14/12/2016

Twenty top earth science students from New Zealand and Australian universities recently had a blast exploring the geology of Wairarapa over three days.

The students were selected by their universities to take part in the fortnight-long marine geoscience ‘masterclass’, which introduced them to a broad range of practical activities in earth sciences.

Funded by the Australian-New Zealand International Ocean Discovery Program consortium, it is the first such masterclass to be held in New Zealand, with more planned over the next two years. Previous editions were run by CSIRO in Western Australia.

Students

Led by senior geologists from GNS Science, the students visited Castlepoint and Tora on the Wairarapa coast to learn about paleontology, sea level change, geological faults, earthquakes, sedimentary basins, ancient climates, and other aspects of earth science.

They then travelled to the South Island and spent time exploring Doubtful Sound in Fiordland and the laboratories at Otago University. At Doubtful Sound they spent four days on Otago University’s research vessel Polaris II undertaking marine science activities such as surveying the seafloor, using a multi-beam echo-sounder and side-scan sonar, as well as sediment and plankton sampling.

Some of the students slept on the ship while others stayed at a lodge in Doubtful Sound.

One of the Australian students described the two-week hands-on course as ‘probably the best experience of my life partly because of the amazing scenery and partly because we learned so much that has helped to cement my career choice.’

The masterclass was organised by climate researcher Giuseppe Cortese of GNS Science, and is a cooperation between GNS Science, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, and NIWA.

Dr Cortese said it was unusual for under-graduate students to be able to participate in hands-on activities in marine geoscience over an extended period. And getting full access to a research ship for four days was a highlight for many in the group. 

“Geology is a strongly observation-based discipline that relies on many practical skills. One of the main aims of the masterclass is to give the students a taste of a broad range of activities to help them decide what areas they may want to specialise in as they complete their degree courses.”

Students on the masterclass explore Castlepoint on the Wairarapa coast with GNS Science geologist Dr Kyle Bland.

Students on the masterclass explore Castlepoint on the Wairarapa coast with GNS Science geologist Dr Kyle Bland.