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Geoscience Studio Videos, Animations Bring People Back to Earth

They call him greedy, but he still wants more. More interest and learning about our home planet from you, John Q. Public.

UT Dallas geosciences professor Dr. Robert Stern, who has taught students about the Earth’s dynamic crust for nearly 40 years, is using 21st century tools to teach more people about the Earth and employing geosciences students to get the job done.

Robert Stern, PhD
Robert Stern, PhD

In 2016, he and doctoral student Ning Wang launched UTD Geoscience Studios (UTD GSS) as part of the Department of Geosciences, which awards BS, MS and PhD degrees.

“UTD Geoscience Studios leads the world in teaching people about the planet they live on with all the work done by our excellent students.”

Robert Stern, PhD, geoscience professor

Since then, each spring Stern has offered a class called Geoscience Animations and Video (GEOS 4391), where several upper-division students research an area of earth or space science that interests them, create a script to explain it, learn how to film and animate to illustrate the topic, and submit a 3-minute-long video at the end of the course for a grade.

These videos cover subjects ranging from the age of the Earth and why the moon is white to how caves form and what happens to a plane when it flies into volcanic ash. All topics are chosen by the students, and their work is guided by Stern and his graduate students. 

“UTD Geoscience Studios leads the world in teaching people about the planet they live on, with all the work done by our excellent students,” Stern said. “They get to apply what they have learned to teach others at the same time that they learn useful job skills. They also get to learn the joy of creating something that thousands of people will enjoy.”

UTD GSS: Are There Volcanoes in Texas?

UTD GSS has created more than 100 videos in the past three years, which includes about 50 produced for geoscience outreach purposes. 

“We post most our videos on our YouTube channel and on our website,” he said. Our Youtube channel now has 1,600 subscribers and 170,000 views and continues to grow. We are also making fun videos about the geology of Texas, including “Windy Texas,” “Ice Age Texas,” and “Texas Volcanoes.” 

Stern said, “I love what we are doing because it deeply engages the students and magnifies the impact of our small department.”

UTD GSS Wind in Texas on YouTube

Stern teaches a required undergraduate course in igneous and metamorphic petrology and a required graduate course in tectonics, along with various elective undergraduate and graduate courses. 

His research concerns include the disciplines of tectonics, igneous geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, and geochronology. Research areas include the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc system in the Western Pacific, Northeast Africa and Arabia, Iran, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico. He has carried out field studies on land in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan and at sea in the Western Pacific. 

Stern served as geoscience’s department head from 1997 through 2005.

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by Haywood McNeill — January 28, 2021