UCB Concerns Regarding Volcanic Eruption Possibility in My Community Discussion

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Identify a geology?related issue likely to have a negative impact on your community within the next 50 years

Communicate the importance of understanding the science behind this issue to help prepare your community to minimize anticipated

  • Identify your political representative – someone who has the potential to affect change with this knowledge – for your community
  • We live on a dynamic planet and this ever?changing environment can have a negative impact on people and communities. Early civilizations developed near tectonic plate boundaries, oceans and rivers due, in part, to the wealth of natural resources in these locations. However, tectonic activity creates abundant natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, and rivers flood. According to the U.N., about 40% of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast and half the world’s population lives in urban areas, which rely on fresh water piped in from surrounding areas. What natural geologic issues could have a negative impact on your community?
  • Human interaction with the environment has the potential to exacerbate existing hazardous phenomena (e.g., effect of urbanization on flood intensity) or to create new ones (e.g., the rise of earthquakes in regions with fracking and waste-­??water injection disposal). What human-­??induced geologic issues might be found in your community?


Write a letter to your political representative or local decision maker about an important geoscience?related issue (natural or human-­??induced) likely to have a negative impact on your community within the next 50 years.

In this letter:

Identify the person to whom this letter is addressed including their title and mailing address (Note: you do NOT need to send this letter – it is not required for this assignment).

Write an introductory paragraph introducing yourself as a concerned constituent and, briefly, introducing the contents of the letter: that this geoscience?related issue may affect your community and what you will be requesting of them (1 paragraph)

Describe this geoscience-­related issue accurately, using correct terminology and communicated in a way accessible to the general public (i.e., a scientist is not your audience). In other words, explain the problem and provide enough detail so your argument is convincing but not so much that you overwhelm your reader. (1-­??2 paragraphs)

Describe the potential impacts (economic, social, and/or environmental) of this hazard on your community (for example how drought affects farming or urban water use/availability and cost, or how sediment build up behind dams decreases reservoir volume and thus water supplies/cost). In other words, why they should care about this issue. (1 paragraph)

Include a specific request of your policy maker – one that they have the ability to fulfill (e.g., cosponsoring a bill, taking a leadership role on an issue, funding a small informational education program). In other words, what would you like them to do to address the issue? (1 paragraph)

  • End with a concluding paragraph that, briefly, summarizes the key points that you would like your reader to take away from this letter, includes an offer to discuss the information further, and thanks them for their attention to this (1 paragraph)

Be sure to cite the source of any specific information included in the letter

  • Topics: The range of possible topics for this assignment is quite large; depending on how you identify your community, you can discuss a naturally occurring phenomenon (e.g., volcanic eruptions, coastal erosion) or human-­induced (e.g., land subsidence due to excess groundwater withdrawal, contaminated groundwater). Part of this assignment is to identify a local geoscience-­related problem and solution. As such, global effects of climate change will not be a particularly effective topic. Instead, addressing a particular impact of climate change (e.g., how sea level changes are affecting your particular section of the coast, or how an increase in annual temperature affects farming in your community) will be much more effective. Which is your political representative or local decision maker likely to find more compelling – a problem that impacts their constituency or one that may affect people outside of their sphere of influence? 

I am happy to talk over possible topics with you, either in person or via email.

  • Tips for Science Communication

Columbia University – Science Communication (Links to an external site.)

  • Nature: Communicating Science to Policy-makers (Links to an external site.)

Grading Rubric:

  • (5 pts.) Written mechanics: appropriate grammar, correct spelling, clear sentences, etc. are used. This is clearly a proofread and polished piece of writing.

(5 pts.) Clarity and flow of the information: is your text organized, do you use topic sentences for each paragraph, does each paragraph feed off earlier paragraphs and facilitate later ones, do you include introductory and concluding paragraphs; does all information help to support the main point of what you are writing with none of the information being “extra” – i.e., do you have a paragraph that doesn’t contribute to the point of what you’re writing, etc.?

  • (10 pts.) Strength of support: do you address a significant geology-related issue for this region, is your argument a sound one, do you describe the science correctly, do you conduct a thorough synthesis and analysis of information and include potential economic and other impacts on the community, does your request address the problem, do you use scientific data to support your argument, and do you illustrate how the use of science can help provide a solution to this local issue?

(5 pts.) Sophistication of argument: a simple argument supported by simple evidence can be sound, but I am also looking for evidence that you have taken things a step or two beyond this What is distinctive about your location that affects the geology-related issue? For example, you can say that “sea level is rising along coastal Virginia and this will probably cause flooding.” While this is true, your argument will be more sophisticated if you indicate the rate of local sea-level rise relative to other areas, as well as why the rates may differ.

  • In each category, evaluation is noted as follows:

“5 stars” indicates an outstanding job, really knocked my socks off! (100% of available points) “4” indicates a solid job, may have a few flaws and room to improve (90% of available points) “3” indicates acceptable or adequate, with room for improvement (80% of available points), “2” indicates barely acceptable, with substantial room for improvement (70% of available points), “1” indicates below average performance, would benefit from significant revision (60%), “0” indicates unacceptable quality of writing and/or analysis, missing, and/or plagiarized (0-60%, as indicated, depending on quality)

Hence, if your comments indicate:

A. 5 stars, . 3b stars, C. 4 stars, D. 3 stars, or 5, 3, 4, 3

This would yield a grade of 22/25 (88%) – really solid but not quite in the A range, which normally will reflect construction of a solidly grounded analysis with some substance to it that is also clearly and logically presented.

This assignment is adapted from: 

Linda A. Reinen & Karen M. Kortz (2019) “Geologic issues: Community impacts and science communication”—An introductory geoscience assignment designed to help underrepresented minority students see value in the geosciences (Links to an external site.), Journal of Geoscience Education, 67:4, 400-416, DOI: 10.1080/10899995.2019.1630885

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