UnEarthed a science showcase with ice beards, pledges and grains of rice

Posted on November 30, 2017 (Last modified on October 19, 2023) • 2 min read • 414 words
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A stand at NERC’s public engagement event, called UnEarthed, was recently run by CEDA (Centre for Environmental Data Analysis*) staff. UnEarthed was a showcase of the diverse environmental science undertaken by NERC scientists, ranging from decaying Puffins, making clouds in a bottle, to virtual reality floods. The event was free to attend at Dynamic Earth, in Edinburgh, and nearly ~7000 people visited over 4 days.

ir camera demo
Poppy Townsend organised the ‘Our changing planet seen from space’ stand with colleagues at NCEO (National Centre of Earth Observation). Activities included the Infra-red camera, Sentinel 3 satellite model, visualisations for how big Sentinel data is, and a pledge wall.

Poppy explains, ‘The main narrative was that we use similar thermal cameras on satellites in space to measure temperature - and therefore climate change (whilst demonstrating all the usual fun IR activities - like drawing beards with ice, or wearing safety goggles).

The next section linked to the Sentinel satellites and how they produce huge amounts of data; ~10TB is archived at CEDA every day… and just like when we take too many photos on our phones, we run out of space for satellite data too. This was represented by grains of rice and comparison to animal weights.

(2 grains of rice = average smartphone; 625 grains = 10TB daily Sentinel data; ~125,000 grains = 2PB of total archived Sentinel data)

 As the nature of the science discussed climate change, we thought it would be a nice way to suggest small easy changes (or pledges) that individual’s could make. The idea being that climate change is a huge issue and sometimes it’s hard to know how to reduce your impact on the planet. Examples included; using less single-use plastic, going vegetarian one day a week, and only filling the kettle with the water you need. Approximately 180 pledges were recorded on our poster wall and visitors even suggested new pledges of their own.’

Pledges and sea surface temperature floor puzzle

The event was a huge success and had very positive feedback - some examples include;

‘It was amazing. I would go again and again and again’

‘I want to be a scientist when I’m older’


If you’d like to see more photos from the event then search for #UnEarthed2017 on Twitter. Contact Poppy Townsend if you’d like more information about the activities and resources used.

The CEDA staff involved were Poppy Townsend, Ed Williamson and Kate Winfield - massive thanks to you all!

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