Category: Geology

Ruins and Rain (by )

As part of Mothers Day Alaric took me for a walk around the ruins of St Oswald's Priory here in Gloucester - I realised that I had not explored it properly and he decided that that needed to change - in general I like exploring old buildings and plan to do it a bit more this year including more Cuddly Histories as well as the science. This was only part of our walk which also included the industrial run down bits but I've separated them out for now. These photos are not meant to be academic though I really do want to study them more as being a geologist I kind of want to know the full story of each and every stone!

If you want to know more about the history then go here (actually the lovely website I was going to link to seems to have disappeared so I will try and do a write up on the blog at some point), also this year is really important for the Priory and there are going to be all sorts of things happening in and around it this summer due to one of the founders Aethelflaed!

Serious check this woman out - warrior queen and all sorts!

Now to the photos - I am putting them up here as I know several people want to use them for art projects (me included), you are welcome to use them to draw from - if you use the actual photos this is fine for non profit works (though please still credit me) but could you please talk to me for anything else. πŸ™‚

You can see larger version of the photos by just clicking on them - there will also be a prose-poem type thing at some point but for now this is the photo dump for us artists to be getting on with πŸ™‚

St Mary's Gloucester (I think) The ruins of St Oswalds Priory Looking through the window St Oswalds Priory Remnants of rooms Gloucester History Wood in stone St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Structures in Stone St Oswalds Priory Clouds Through Stone Gloucester History Buildings within buildings St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Nature reclaiming ruins Gloucester Shapes in the stone St Oswalds Priory Striations in the stone St Oswalds Priory History and Geology Gloucester Roots of like on the decay of ages St Oswalds Gloucester Hidden features St Oswalds Priory Some arches are older than others St Oswalds Patterns and shapes St Oswalds Priory Accidental crenulation St Oswalds Priory Blocks and shapes St Oswolds An arch that was St Oswalds Priory Two ages envisioned St Oswalds Layers of History Gloucester Looking along the ruins St Oswalds Gloucester Regal Ruins St Oswalds Priory Which window is which St Oswalds Priory The angle of ruin St Oswalds Priory Tower through the window St Oswalds Priory Tree through ancient window St Oswalds Priory Alaric examining the stones St Oswalds Priory Gloucester A Little Nook St Oswalds Priory Shapes and Hidden Ages Amongst the Stones St Oswalds Priory Structures within and without St Oswalds Priory Colour and shape History Gloucester A view down the stones Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Shape and Space St Oswalds Priory Stone and structure St Oswalds Priory Ruins through the arch St Oswalds Priory The dark and the light Gloucester Through the arch more arches can be seen St Oswalds Ruins Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Brick and Stone Gloucester History Life's struggle Gloucester St Oswalds Priory St Oswalds through the Gate Graves shape curve and angle St Oswalds Priory Branch and Ruin St Oswalds Priory The Wall and the Branch St Oswalds Fragments of self eaten by time St Oswalds Priory Stone and shape and weathering St Oswalds Priory Shapes cut from stone St Oswalds Pillars and supports St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Rocks and rocks and different rocks St Oswalds Priory

p.s. it kept raining hence the title!

Form more images to draw from you can look through the archive on this blog or check out some of the stuff on my photo and images blog, or look at my Flickr.

SmashFest Photos (by )

Back in the autumn we took part in SmashFest Earth and Sky Tour when it came to Gloucester Library. It was an amazing day with lots and lots of people - so many that I we began to run out of our Space Craft supplies so that was more than I typically get through at a whole weekend of music festival!

As Cuddly Science we had a fantastic time and my new asteroid impact simulator went down very well as did the paper mΓ’chΓ© volcanoes!

Here is the SmashFest Flickr account with some cute pics of Mary etc... hidden in and amongst it all and maybe the rest of us as well πŸ™‚ Mary had her rainbow coat.

Working Things Out (by )

Cuddly Science is about the kids engaging and discovering things for themselves - sometimes this leads to "off topic" discovers such as how the magnetism of the earth works when the workshop was about looking at the rocks with the hand lens attached to the compass! These are the best moments though when the child is fully engaged and working things out for themselves and asking questions!

Working out how the world works with Cuddly Science

Plus this is a super cute picture of Mary πŸ™‚ But in all seriousness one of the things I came up against time and again is restricted learning - to keep children focused on the "task in hand" for box ticking rather than it being about the learning process. This is one of the reasons I am sticking to informal education rather than formal - my brain doesn't work like that and though will agree that children including those with ADHD need help to learn to focus often I feel it is detrimental.

I love these moments when the child falls down the rabbit whole of enquiry and you can see their brains actually working things out for themselves - it is AMAZING!

Ada Lovelace Day 2017 – Dr Rebecca Wilson (by )

Today is Ada Lovelace Day - an annul celebration of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), named after the Victorian mathematician and visionary Ada Lovelace.

Each year we try to do a little write up on women who have inspired us in the sciences. There are many entries for previous years - in fact later today I am going to make a special category for them all πŸ™‚

This year I have chosen my friend Dr Rebecca Wilson.

Broken lift

Rebecca started off in Geology studying at Imperial College's Royal School of Mines, where she not only excelled in her own studies but helped me with some of the more advanced GeoChemistry elements, lending books and explaining things in multiple ways.

She was part of the posse that went with me to the Natural History Museum London to get work experience and helped me get into the meteoritics department. A PhD at the Planetary and Space Science Institute looking for organic material in micrometeorites.

She went on to post doc and research and science outreach at Leicester University and the associated Space Centre. During this time she developed some pretty awesome out reach kits. Those that can be available to the public/teachers are downloadable here.

Rebecca also won an science journalism internship which took her to Ireland, she has in fact been all over the globe studying, researching and presenting.

She has side stepped into medical data visualisation realm where she is pushing the frontiers of science ever forwards as well as highlighting the issues of accessibility on her various travels.

Rebecca has rubbed shoulders with the top people in both space and planetary science as well as within the deep data computering spheres not to mention the odd science communicator such as Brian Cox! Becca he is highly versatility and extremely dedicated and she is also a hell of a lot of fun to be around πŸ™‚

She was even chosen by Jean for a school project on role models and heros!

Of Finger Prints, Stones and Old Bones… (by )

So last week I went to Bristol to meet up with my friend and walk around the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery which neither of us had yet been in even though we have lived in the area for years now. It was fantastic and I have loads of photos but that is not really what this post is about - no this is about a book I found in the shop on our visit.

I saw this book and I could not resist it! For a start I am doing a general interest talk on cave art etc... at the Gloucester Museum at the beginning of September and am doing some little bits of research trying to build some lovely maps up and this is exactly the sort of thing I want to be reading right now. And secondly when I started looking through it I realised that it was the write up of part of a group of projects that I helped out on during my work experience at the Natural History Museum London (it is actually an NHM publication) - it even has one of the people I was working with named in it! Simon Parfitt.

The project the book is about is the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project - I believe I was actually working on a European sister project but that they tied in together - I wasn't doing anything uber exciting - I wasn't out digging trenches against the clock like in Time Team - no I was sieving cave sediment and then pulling out "organic" material. This was one of my first encounters with each group having very specific meanings for words which don't always tie in with everyone else's definitions. I was a geologist - I realised they did not mean the Chemists idea of organic i.e. everything with carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in, nor the astrophysicists idea of organic i.e. anything that is heavier than helium (I think - it was something like that anyway and linked to star evolution), so I was going for the biologists definition with a bit of geology laid on top - I was pulling anything that had once been alive or had been created by living processes. However what the archaeologists actually meant was mammal teeth, bones and poo and maybe some insects if I was lucky!

This meant all the little cave corals I'd carefully extracted were a waste of everybody's time!

Still once I realised what I was supposed to be doing I got on with it. My friend had initially come along with me but she had too much work etc... so for most of the time it ended up being just me. I didn't actually like this - I'd liked it initially when the two paleo-anthropologist/archaeologists and their volunteer where there but most of the time it was just me and it was a faff to get in and there were often weird skulls plonked down on the workbench were I worked. I couldn't go and get coffee in the paleo department because my back was bad meaning I was having issues with my hands if I over taxed them - the door to the coffee/tea room was a big old heavy thing so there was no tea for me because I couldn't push the door open!

But I did like it when Simon gave me papers to read on the various types of animals I was finding - I remember thinking I'd found a hamster tooth - it was a little rodent - most of it was mice and bats teeth - what's living in the cave when tells you when it was and was not occupied by humans. And I liked it when the lady was in the office as she would get my coffee and tell me about how what she did for her work experience and the projects she was working on.

Sometimes I would get mistaken for a guy who worked in the department who had long hair - we both tended to have a thick plait and wear the same hippy/metal type t-shirts. I was quiet shy so it was always a shock to have some bloke slap you on the shoulder and then go into hyper babble as they realised I wasn't the person they thought I was!

I was also working in Meteoritics in Mineralogy - they gave me my own pass and it became easier to go in and work on rocks from space. And there were people in the lab... and I ended up with my own project. Even so I think Paleo would have kept me if the lab move hadn't happened.

In fact the museum could have had a lot more of us students and for longer but there was a miss communication. In our first year we had brazenly gone to the museum in a group of about give I think, and asked about work experience and voluntary positions. We were told that they kept those positions for final year students only, so we went away and awaited our final year. When we told the researches in both Mineralogy and palaeontology this tale they were horrified as that is not the case at all! And we had Wednesday afternoons off at uni for things such as sports or work experience.

Now the scientists Simon and Tiana(?) where great but were often just not about and because I didn't understand how academia worked I did not know that you were supposed to ask people to be your refs. I think I asked in general and Simon had said yes but I couldn't remember his surname so I put the ladies name down instead (ironically I currently can't remember it! Poss. head injury, poss. the passage of time and I think I only remembered Simon's as it was in the book!). Of course this kind of floored her and she asked me to warn her next time - me being shy... felt I'd upset her and had been stupid etc... but I don't tend to give up so would have continued with the work anyway - had not been for the lab move...

I was in lab (Anthropology 2 I think) when it was time for computer upgrade - the nhm is a large and sprawling thing and so though mineralogy had shiny computers in the early 00's - paleo did not and it was time for ethernet (everyone else was moving to wifi!). The guy came to install, the guy found the lab was lined with asbestos - I was sitting there at the time! - I don't know if that is the reason for the move but I know I wasn't happy with the situation as my granddad had died in 2000 of asbestosis (or rather the cancer caused by it!). Anyway all the stuff was moved and I was shown were it was but... I'm not good at remembering such things and they both went off on their digs and no one else knew where the samples were that I was supposed to be working on and... they'd finally given me a pass and all I could do with it was wonder aimlessly looking for the samples - so I left a message explaining and went and got on with stuff I could do in mineralogy and rocks from space.

And never heard from them again :'(

It's interesting because now I can see that it was me not knowing how things worked and being shy.

I still love Quaternary Science and all things to do with human and civilisation origins, I also still love the Pre-Cambrian and the questions surrounding the origins of life... and of course Space - I love stars and stuff and to me these things hold the same fascination - academically they are very different areas especially at post grad level. When I was considering doing a PhD this was one of my issues - which area to choose?

It was why I picked the MRes in research techniques in Earth Sciences - it taught the stuff used in all the areas so I was pretty much still looking for some breathing space before having to choose and I also felt I needed to bone up on the old maths and physics - without A'levels in them I had struggled through my degree and I felt I needed them to do proper science. I've been told that I am intuitive at maths by multiple people, I just don't have the basics or language in place to use it.

Of course that pathway did not work out for me and I ended up being the Geologist Running Scared.

I thought I'd stopped being a geologist - I'm an artists and writer now... I did the post grad in Practical Science Communication but that is science in general and is kind of just an extension to the writing and art and performance etc...

But I think that you can't stop being something you are - you might not be able to apply it and you may study something you aren't but I am and always have been a geologist.

And I think... I might not be the only one in this family anymore. I get excited about rocks, the girls now know my fern tree tale off by heart - I still tell them about giant cats/marestails every time I see the little plants.

Jean sometimes asks questions but was always more books and keyboards (even as a baby we had to give her a keyboard) but she still has a rock collection and has always been drawn to them πŸ™‚

Mary also collects rocks, lots and lots of rocks and I have to stop her from pillaging other people driveways. Also bits of pot - to be fair her sister started this craze. At Blists Hill last week I had both of them geologing in different ways - Jean asking questions about the underlaying rock structures and formation processes and Mary steadily filling a bag that was getting heavier and heavier and watching metal pouring and general how to make things and getting excited about old mine workings.

Mary is a little confused about word definitions - she wants to be a hair dresser because they do art stuff and she already is an engineer, she says, but she also says she wants to be an artists because they find out how things are made and how they work - like Mummy is an artist and that includes science stuff because she has no concept of them being different things. She has collected stones and sticks and feathers since she could grab things. She loved the rocks in South Africa and Wales and will always find something to bring home.

This is very like I was - I had bags and bags of finds and it only solidified into an idea of something when I saw the giant dinosaur in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum (I wanted to show it too her but will have to await the bronze replacement skeleton that is going in the gardens - I just don't think she will engage with the whale skeleton that now hands in the NHM's main entrance hall in the same way).

This summer we have also been to the dino exhibition at the Gloucester museum as well were we had to forcefully extract the girls! And of course we went to Jodrell Bank where she was awed by space and planets and rocks from space.

Her enthusiasm has awoken me to the wonders I love once more - I had shied away feeling a keen pain when I thought about geology and the academic world I was no longer a part of. I'd focused Cuddly Science on science and engineering in general and then last year we went on holiday with my brother down in Cornwall including looking at old mines and seeing the rocks along the beach and the kids all showed interest and I thought about how I needed my paleo posse puppets and set about designing things.

The trip to South Africa showed me that I could still read landscapes and that setting me loose on a mountain was going to result in everyone panicking when I lost track of time and didn't make the rendezvous.

This year I have thus ended up running archaeology and palaeontology workshops and drawing colouring sheets and looking at rocks and buying books on rocks. I count everything as rocks and rocks are everything from our origins to our futures to the stars and the seas. If they are not rock currently they are part of rock forming processes.... and so on.

I am excited. I was excited about the book I got at Blists Hill on general geology in Britain:

And the book from the museum: Britain - one million years of the human story. Both times Mary announced "BORING!" at the books (her general reaction to books (unlike her sister)) and both times I have found her either reading them/looking at the pictures or found sticky finger prints just the right size for a precocious little 6 yr old!

I don't think I a geologist in hiding or running scared anymore - I used to say "what use is a geologist on crutches/in a wheelchair?" I even wrote stories about a geologist who is injured and creates an exoskeleton so she can continue in the field. I know I will probably never be out in the field (even without the crutches) or in a lab and that does still make me sad (I am a high octane engine in a little skoda chassis). But also I've seen that light of wonder in kids eyes as I explain Mary Anning's discoveries to them - I know that the stones are in my bones and I can not stop being a geologist. And I am no longer alone - I have little rock minions to help me (even if one of them is now taller than me) πŸ™‚

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