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Earlier this year, post graduate students from the University of Otago Centre for Science Communication took on the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark (WWG) as a ‘client’ for their 400 level paper Science Exhibitions and Interpretation taught by Professor Nancy Longnecker. The aim of the project was for science communication students to produce new resources for use by WWG.

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Geoeducator Sasha Morriss gave a presentation to the class on the geopark concept and the kind of resources currently used for educational outreach such as worksheets on earth process topics found within the WWG. The students were then able to talk in small groups with the geoeducator about their initial project ideas. Later in the course, students enjoyed a tour with Sasha of some of the highlights of the geopark to scope out potential project topics and to meet some of the geopark team.

The students pitched their project proposals to the geopark and received feedback directly. Project proposals included topics such as: a geologic timescale relating directly to WWG geosites; rare plants within the geopark; and the prehistoric giant penguin Kairuku.

Sasha Morriss said, “Working with students from the Centre for Science Communication who are able to use their skills to bring alive particular aspects of the geopark has been a great opportunity.”

Telling the story of our land and its people is at the heart of the WWG. The Geopark hopes to use these new resources in their education and outreach programmes.

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is currently awaiting UNESCO’s evaluation after submitting its application in November 2019. Due to Covid-19, the evaluation missions have been delayed until it is safe for the evaluators to travel again. Irrespective of the new timeline for the UNESCO mission, the work for us in Waitaki does not stop. The Geopark is working with partners on interpretation and signage, touring routes, education programmes and much more.

Photo credit: Steve Ting

Sasha Morriss (WWG Geoeducator), Petrina Duncan, Sarah Manktelow and Professor Nancy Longnecker (Centre for Science Communication) hold up some of their project work completed by students as part of their degree. Absent: Jenny Stein.

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