Podcasting as a method for communicating science provides a fantastic way to improve access to geoscientific research, especially during the pandemic and various lockdowns. Rather than physically attending lectures at universities or other institutions, keen geoscientists can now access hours of interesting content at any time and from anywhere in the world. A great example of the effectiveness of podcasting for disseminating geoscientific research is Geology Bites, a podcast hosted by former astrophysicist and self-described “keen amateur geologist”, Oliver Strimpel. Geology Bites has accrued an impressive catalogue of over 60 episodes since its inception in 2020, with new ones released every couple of weeks. Episodes have featured researchers from a wide range of geoscientific disciplines, such as plate tectonics, geophysics, planetary science, palaeontology, petrology, and volcanology, with a handful of instalments focusing on geochemistry, the social and industrial aspects of geology, and early Earth history.
Episodes are roughly 30 minutes long and begin with a brief introduction to the topic. Strimpel then introduces the guest, who is an active researcher in that field, and the podcast continues in a conversational question-and-answer style. The approach is not a rigid interview, which allows the guest to speak freely about their area of research, but also lets Strimpel backtrack when additional explanation of jargon or complex concepts is needed. Accompanying figures are available online for each episode, which helps the listener to visualise and consolidate the information covered.
In a recent episode entitled Seeing the Ancient World in Colour, Strimpel spoke to Maria McNamara, Professor of Palaeontology at University College Cork, Ireland. McNamara researches how soft tissues, such as skin, muscle, and organs, are preserved in the fossil record. By examining exceptionally well-preserved fossils, McNamara has been focusing on how the colour of soft tissues can be deduced from colour-producing pigments within the fossils. Biological and chemical concepts are weaved together clearly, making the episode accessible to the non-specialist and an interesting listen.
Geology Bites is a fantastic resource for students wishing to dive deeper into different geoscientific topics, or for those who have been out of study and academia for many years but would like to stay up-to-date with the latest developments. It would be interesting to see more early career researchers featured as guests, to get their perspective on how research can be done and what questions they would like to tackle over their careers. Additionally, it would be great to see Strimpel build on previous episodes discussing the social aspects of geoscience by touching on the links between geology and environmental science, as well as the ethics of geological fieldwork, for example. No matter what direction or topic is next explored in Geology Bites, it will be well presented and propelled forward by Strimpel’s experience and enthusiasm.
Reviewed by Marissa Lo
Geology Bites (Podcast)
BY: Oliver Strimpel