Communicating Earth Science

Back to one of my favorite topics – using films to explain earth sciences to a wider audience. Of course there are many great films about different aspects of earth sciences and these have been made with a huge financial budget and are shown on different TV channels. Just search for BBC’s Nature Collections and you will find a wealth of fantastic films that keep you entertained for as long as you wish.

But there are also other types of professional films, less known and made with a lower budget, which follow different scientists and their research in an excellent way. These films explain why scientists do what they do, show how scientists work and how their research contributes to a better understanding of a variety of geological processes. In a way I feel that these lower budget films decrease the distance between researchers and the interested public, while the expensive films are so well made that the distance between scientists and audience becomes very distinct. On one side we have these distinguished and well-articulated researchers, beautiful nature shots and one the distant side we have the audience. Maybe I am wrong and maybe I am biased, because I know many of the researchers, who feature in the low-budget films, which I list below. But on the other hand, I also know many of the scientists, who feature in the expensive films, and still I get the impression that it took a very long time to shoot the different scenes, which then leads to a kind of impersonal or stiff academic portrait.

When I started to become interested in documenting my research in films a few years ago, I felt uncomfortable watching myself on the screen and listening to my voice. I still do though, but the many DVDs, which we could give away to local villagers in Thailand, to schools and to colleagues not familiar with our research, by far outweigh my odd feelings!

Last week’s visit to SE Asian universities once more showed the power of film as a medium to convey a message. I was especially impressed by the efforts being done at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, which has its own Art Group. This group “develops original and innovative creative content inspired by Earth Science”, such as films, photography and video games.

Maybe some of you are interested in watching some of my favorite Earth Science movies? Below are my suggestions for a rainy Sunday afternoon:

Ash Ice Mud made by Plastic Buddha Productions explores climate changes which have occurred in the past, heating the planet and impacted the face of the Earth and it’s people considerably.

A whole bunch of videos by Isaac Kerlow of EOS can be found at: https://vimeo.com/eosvideos/videos

Coastal Sciences explains why and how research into coastal regions helps to better understand tsunami and storm deposits.

Forensic Volcano Petrology explains volcanic eruptions with a focus on Indonesia

A Tale of Two Tsunamis explains tsunami research and portraits the occurrence of historic tsunamis that occurred in the past

Unlocking Climate Secrets follows researchers, who investigate corals and the climatic signals they record

Mayon: The Volcanic Princess is about people who live around the most active and most destructive volcano in The Philippines.

People-Coral-Mentawai is about how EOS scientists develop a timeline of earthquakes in the West Sumatra region

And finally, the computer game Earth Girl is about a smart and action-loving SE Asian girl, who can save her family and friend from natural hazards.

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