An innovative animated series aimed at young children that tells the story of the Indian subcontinent’s epic tectonic history in creative and even entertaining ways is now closer to reality, thanks to the AAPG Foundation.
Trustees have approved initial support for “The Ocean on the Top of Our Mountain,” which graphically tells the story of the region’s 5,000-mile migration northward from Gondwana to its collision with Asia.
“(Our) scientific objectives are to effectively inform people with no prior knowledge of geology that our Earth has a dynamic and exciting history, which is of huge consequence to our potential wellbeing,” said Nigel Hughes, professor of geology at the University of California-Riverside and a key member of the project, when he reached out to the Foundation.
The project, which continues to seek final funding, is a collaboration between the UC-Riverside, the National Institute of Design – AP, India, and the Dristikon Art House.
This isn’t the first time that team leaders are working together to creatively talk about geology and geosciences: Some may recall their cover story in the November 2020 EXPLORER, which first introduced their aspirations.
“Our request is to produce, publish and promote an animated cartoon series … that will be made freely available on the internet to the children of the Indian subcontinent and beyond,” Hughes said, “with a specific target audience of over 200 million viewers.”
It will be presented on the free-to-access YouTube platform, making it accessible even in rural areas, presented in Hindi/Urdu and Bengali languages.
Geology, geosciences, education, innovation and the potential to reach a new, young global audience are all factors that impressed the Foundation leaders.
“A large part of the Foundation’s mission is to help fund geoscience education,” said Foundation Chair Jim McGhay, “and the Trustees found this creative project compelling and potentially far-reaching and influential in its reach.
“Children who see these mountains every day, and others who even just see pictures of mountains, are going to experience and know about geology and the earth from a very early age because of this animated series,” McGhay said. “For them, it will be fun. And for the world of geosciences, this is an exciting approach.”
McGhay noted that this project is similar in vision to Paul Weimer’s interactive geological series, which the Foundation also supports financially, in that it is creative, high-tech, scientifically important and accessible for all.
“Like Paul’s work, this will bring geology to millions of people who would have missed the story,” McGhay said.
“Many of those who donate to the Foundation do so because they believe in geoscience education,” he added. “That’s what the Foundation is about, and the Trustees are passionate about providing support for exciting new projects like this.”
“The Ocean on the Top of Our Mountain” was inspired by a simple observation and question: Fossils found on the summit of mountains throughout the Indian subcontinent contain fossils of marine life – hence, the title.
The question: How do we introduce young people – and, perhaps, adults – to that concept?
The answer was inspired by one more observation: Not everyone (of every age) can read, but for their target audience in India, almost everyone had access to a cell phone.
“Visitors to India from abroad might be surprised at just how ubiquitous cell phones have become, even in remote areas,” Hughes told the EXPLORER in 2020.
So Hughes and others on the team, all remembering how inspired they were as young children watching science films that would be considered amateurish by today’s standards, thought … let’s tell a story that everyone – especially children – can easily see on their phones!
“The story is told via animated, charismatic fossil characters from the key time slices during this (5,000-mile migration) history,” Hughes said. “(And) While the story will be told as an imaginary interaction between a fossil and a child, all care is taken that the geological facts are presented as scientifically accurately as possible.”
Specifically, the story is told through the interactions of Gutishuti, an enrolled trilobite collected from the top of Everest, and Nushrat, a village girl who is given the trilobite by a climber. In Nushrat’s hand, Gutishuti uncurls, returning to life and, after explaining rock stratification and uplift, takes the child on a 450-million-year journey of adventure to witness key geological events during the subcontinent’s northward journey.
Together the trilobite and girl observe a series of key geological events – they meet a charismatic set of Indian Cretaceous dinosaurs as well as Eocene walking whale fossils who are key to the story – that ultimately result in the modern geography of the subcontinent.
At the end of the series, Nushrat and the viewer understand the basics of stratigraphic accumulation, evolutionary succession, relative dating of strata, plate motion and mountain building.
“’Oceans …’ will bring these transformative geological concepts to life among a primary target audience of several hundred million children and young adults from ages 7 upward,” Hughes said.
“Our mission is thus to maximize the ability of geology to inspire,” he added, “no matter what the educational background of the viewer.”
A promotional video of the project can be found at YouTube by searching “The Ocean on Top of Our Mountain.”
For more information about the AAPG Foundation and how you can support geoscience education, please contact 918-560-2644; or email [email protected]; or visit our web page at Foundation.AAPG.org.