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Plate Tectonic Stories

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Plate Tectonic Stories

In 2017, the Geological Society is celebrating 50 years of plate tectonics. In December 1967, Dan McKenzie and Bob Parker published a paper in Nature – ‘The North Pacific: an example of tectonics on a sphere’. This paper, building on work by many other scientists in the preceding years, was arguably the crucial final step in establishing the paradigm of plate tectonics, which provided a unifying context for the previously disparate disciplines of Earth science and was rapidly accepted across the geological community.
Since then, plate tectonics has arguably become the one ‘big idea’ in Earth science that just about everyone knows something about. It has also entered into wider usage as a metaphor for slow and seemingly inexorable change, perhaps most often used and abused by political commentators! But most school students who learn about this fundamental concept in Earth science probably have no idea that its origins are within living memory, and some of those whose work underpinned it remain active researchers.

To mark this milestone anniversary, and to celebrate the important role of narrative and storytelling in geology, the Geological Society has developed Plate Tectonic Stories – an online resource that tells the story of 20 geological sites showing how the UK and Ireland have been shaped by plate tectonic processes, and highlighting other 'twin' sites across the world where similar processes and features can be observed. You can start exploring the sites by following the links below.

We are also delighted to launch our Plate Tectonic Stories competition! We are inviting you – school students, members of the public and even enthusiastic geologists – to tell us a plate tectonic story of your own, using whatever medium you prefer, from words, pictures and videos to baking or embroidery…

Find out more about the Plate Tectonic Stories competition here

Plate tectonic stories schools competition

Get your class a FREE poster when you enter our competition!