Bournemouth University

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Jurassic Coast project earns Young Scientist prize

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Titanic wreck Tom Hearing and his poster

A Dorset pupil who worked on a Jurassic Coast science project with BU has been named UK Young Scientist of the Year 2010 at the national ‘Big Bang’ Science Fair in Manchester.

Thomas Hearing, a Year 13 student at Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, spent six weeks working with Dorset County Council’s Jurassic Coast Team on a project that examined the erosion of one of the World Heritage Site’s key fossil locations - the Ammonite Pavement on Monmouth Beach near Lyme Regis.

Tom was mentored by Dr Anjana Ford, education coordinator for the Jurassic Coast Team together with Andrew Ford, a Lecturer in Geoinformatics from BU’s Centre for Conservation Ecology & Environmental Change. He beat off competition from around 200 other young people to win the top science prize in the National Science and Engineering Competition and was presented with his award by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

The project involved intensive periods of field work on the Jurassic Coast using a high resolution Global Positioning System (GPS), provided by BU, to map the extents of the ammonite-rich ledges. This data was then taken back to the laboratory and analysed using a Geographical Information System (GIS) where Tom created a series of maps that show which areas of the ammonite pavement are liable to erosion, and therefore vulnerable to losing fossils. 

He prepared a report and poster for a regional Nuffield Foundation celebration at Bath University entitled: "A baseline study of Monmouth Beach's Ammonite Pavement". The study was later published by the Ordnance Survey.

“BU was very fortunate to be part of Tom Hearing's Nuffield Bursary,” said Andrew Ford. “His project applied the latest techniques in surveying coastal erosion using GPS, developed here at the University, to create the first ever maps of the Ammonite Pavement (aka Ammonite Graveyard) near Lyme Regis.

“This site has "outstanding universal value" due to its numerous fossils and is part of the reason the Jurassic Coast was designated a World Heritage Site,” Andrew continued. “Yet it is also under threat from erosion by the sea, not least due to the potential of sea level rise. Tom's maps will allow us to monitor the erosion of the site for years to come. Tom was an excellent student and completed an extremely challenging and important project.”

Tom will now present his Jurassic Coast research project at the International Science Fair in San Jose, California. He also won a framed certificate, a trophy, a cash prize of £2000 and a trip of his choice to one of the leading scientific institutions in the world.
Thomas Hardye School has just become a UNESCO Associated School and Tom’s project has contributed to the science and conservation of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

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