Arts and Entertainment

Professor teams up with his former teacher for Planet Geo podcast

Chris Boluis, a nationally recognized Earth sciences teacher, left, teamed up with his former student, Jesse Reimink, assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State, to create the podcast Planet Geo. The show, which is a general-audience look at the forces of the Earth, is available at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other sites. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Jesse Reimink remembers the first time someone planted the Earth science seed that for him blossomed into a career in the geosciences.

Nearly two decades ago, Reimink was a high school student of Chris Bolhuis, a nationally recognized teacher with a passion for promoting Earth science education. Reimink, now an assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State, said Bolhuis gave him that sense of wonderment about the world we live in and it inspired him to both teach and conduct research.

Now, through the podcast “Planet Geo,” the two are partnering to reach even more people in promoting the Earth sciences.

The podcast, which the duo said is geared at a general audience, covers topics such as “What is a Tectonic Plate,” “Diamonds: The Earth’s Deepest Gem” and “Where is the World’s Water: A Looming Problem.” In some episodes, the hosts interview experts such as Diana Roman, volcanologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Harlan Kredit, longtime Yellowstone Park Ranger.

They said the target audience is people who are curious and interested about the world around them, even if they don’t have a geosciences background.

Reimink, who researches early Earth in the hopes of better understanding the birth of our planet and others, said he approached Bolhuis in March about creating a podcast that would appeal to the masses. Through research, the avid podcast fans found few fun, yet educational, shows in the geosciences realm.

“I used to listen to podcasts to get information as quickly as possible,” Reimink said. “And then I listened to a couple where they’re more relationship based. And it’s really interesting: You’re listening and you’re participating in this relationship between people. As friends we have an interesting relationship that’s fundamentally based on a passion for geoscience. We thought that approach would engage people and help communicate the science.”

That approach works well for episodes such as the one on diamonds. There, Reimink discusses misconceptions about the formation of diamonds — and the geological process that makes some easier to find — while detailing his search for a Canadian-diamond-sourced engagement ring from a region he researches. (Don’t worry. She knows and said ‘yes’!)

As the push continues for improving science outreach and communication, Reimink sees podcasting as a natural transition. It’s something that can be done without costly equipment or an extensive time commitment. Remote interviews in a time of COVID-19 are also commonplace.

“There’s this whole brave new world of educational tools. Whether it be Zoom classes or alternative education, there’s a whole new trend,” Reimink said. “And we felt that podcasts are one that’s underutilized.”

For Bolhuis, it’s yet another chance to get people passionate about science. Since he began teaching more than 20 years ago, he’s seen the nationwide decline in Earth science education. Podcasts like Planet Geo are a way to combat that.

He said Earth literacy — as in understanding the complex and fragile nature or our planet — is another goal.

“We absolutely want to raise awareness about our planet,” Bolhuis said. “There is no Planet B. We’ve got just this one place, and it’s pretty awesome. We want to tell people that these topics are not only interesting, but that they are important to know so that we can better understand and take care of this place.”

Last Updated January 19, 2021