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The Tjörnes Story: Fire and Ice

Guest blog post by Jonathan Hall (@jhgeol), Doctoral Researcher in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who received a large grant from the UoB PER Fund to support his Fire & Ice project. Featured image (above): Jonathan Hall delivering leaflets to local entrepreneur Martin Varga at Tungulending .

Earth Science PhD student Jonathan Hall and MSci Geology student Matthew Allison travelled to northern Iceland in late March to deliver their University of Birmingham PER funded project, titled The Tjörnes Story: Fire and Ice, which involved engaging with local community members and tourist facilities to promote and increase the profile of the world-class geology of the Tjörnes peninsula.

Jonathan and Matthew undertook a fieldwork season in summer 2018 mapping the geology of the Tjörnes peninsula and collecting rock samples for geochemical analysis, as part of their research projects. During this fieldwork period, they initiated discussions with local community members about their research and the significance of the Tjörnes peninsula as an unparalleled geological archive into past climatic events in the North Atlantic region.

Front page of the Tjörnes geology leaflet

Martin Varga, a local entrepreneur who owns a guest lodge, café and community hub called Tungulending, which is located centrally on the peninsula and is a popular destination for outdoor adventure and educational tours, expressed his interest in collaborating to produce accessible resources outlining the importance of the geology, geological history and its present-day utility for scientific research aimed at visitors and the local community. Martin described how over 5000 visitors explore the peninsula each year to solely experience the geology and to investigate the unique fossil layers exposed in the low-lying cliffs. He described his frustration at a lack of information or resources for these visitors and supported the need for accessible and educational literature focused on the geology and the fossil-rich strata. Martin believed printed leaflets would be the most suitable form of media and an appropriate first step to help inform tourists and the local community to promote the Tjörnes geology.

Back page of the Tjörnes geology leaflet

Upon returning to Birmingham, Jonathan submitted a UoB PER grant application which successfully secured funding to produce and deliver leaflets which included vital information on the location, rock types, fossils, past environments and geological history of the Tjörnes peninsula. A map was also included highlighting sites where visitors could observe significant geological features, such as ancient lava flows and petrified tree remains. Importantly, the leaflets incorporated his research findings and included diagrams and up-to-date information derived from his current paper (In Prep.). Jonathan collaborated with an Icelandic graphic designer, Elena Schneider, who is based in the nearby fishing town of Húsavík, to co-design the leaflet; Elena formatted the typography, layout and colours to give the leaflet a distinctive and appealing Nordic theme.

Jonathan and Matthew returned to Tjörnes in March to deliver the printed leaflets to Tungulending and other community, educational and tourism outlets. Whilst in Iceland, they presented and discussed their research and leaflets with a community committee, including representatives from local businesses, government and the University of Iceland’s Research Centre in Húsavík, in order to highlight the international scientific interest in Tjörnes geology, the relevant research undertaken at the University of Birmingham and to discuss opportunities for further public engagement. The Tjörnes Story: Fire and Ice has been a great project to develop important public engagement and science communication skills for an international audience. Collaborating with Martin, Elena and other local community stakeholders proved an exciting prospect, providing inspiration and support, and cumulated in a successful project which benefited all participants. Discussions are currently ongoing to seek support and secure additional funding from the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to develop additional resources, including visitor notice boards, in order to continue this project to highlight the significance of the Tjörnes geology.

Fossil-rich strata exposed on the Tjörnes peninsula in northern Iceland
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