EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

“The Skin of the Earth – Where Life meets Rocks” – A Science Movie

Kirstin Übernickel1, Friedhelm von Blanckenburg2, and Todd A. Ehlers1
Kirstin Übernickel et al.
  • 1University of Tübingen, Geosciences, Tübingen, Germany
  • 2GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany

What forms the landscapes of the Earth with their mountains, rivers, soils - the places we live in? Earth’s surface is shaped when rocks are uplifted by geologic forces, and are then destroyed by rain, ice, and wind that carve landscapes by erosion and weathering. But there is the green layer of life between rocks below and climate above. Do plants with their roots, animals that dig into soil, and the vast number of microorganisms shape the landscapes? Or do minerals, soil, and water provide the environment for life? Or are they both interdependent? Can they together resist the massive climate change imposed by humans today?

Showcasing these complex interactions in an audiovisual format provides a fantastic opportunity for science dissemination, but making a movie is a formidable challenge that scientists are not experienced in. Based on the the German National Science Foundation (DFG)- funded research network “EarthShape – Earth Surface Shaping by Biota”, we produced a movie intended as public outreach for scientists as well as classrooms and a general public audience.

Watch the scientists of the German-Chilean “EarthShape” project study the shaping of the Earth along a climate gradient in Chile, in the National Parks Pan de Azúcar, La Campana, and Nahuelbuta. Take a tour through fascinating landscapes and see the young scientists study the interactions between geology and biology, from the dry Atacama desert to dense forests, and in their sophisticated home laboratories. See how feedbacks control Earths’ climate. The movie is available online in Youtube, including separate process animations, and as Open-Access MP4 resource.

Playlist on Youtube:; DOI of the English movie version:

How to cite: Übernickel, K., von Blanckenburg, F., and Ehlers, T. A.: “The Skin of the Earth – Where Life meets Rocks” – A Science Movie, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7321,, 2020.

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Display material version 1 – uploaded on 28 Apr 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-7321, Damien Cardinal, 08 May 2020

    Dear Kristin et al.,

    Congrats for this wonderful movie. I watched it and I'll certainly use it in some of my courses, at least to Earth Science engineers. It is very understanble , extremely well shot with field and labwork + conceptual animations, and it show very well the interplay between biosphere, geosphere and climate. I think it would be useful to have a version with English subtitles because non-native English speaking undergraduate students can have difficulties - at least in France :-/



    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Kirstin Übernickel, 08 May 2020

      Dear Damian, thank you so much for this feedback. I am delighted about the use you are mentioning. Subtitles could be an option for all non-native English, Spanish or German speakers, this is true. I think youtube has an option where subtitles are generated (quality varies a lot), but it might be worth looking into it. Thank you for this input, and maybe next time I can include such an option.

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Damien Cardinal, 08 May 2020

        Thx I did not know this option. I quickly checked and it seems to work more or less (except for family names, e.g.  Todd 'illness" and Mita 'ility poet' according to youtube :-)


        • CC3: Reply to CC2, Damien Cardinal, 08 May 2020

          and also the geochemist 'free telephone Blankeburg' :-)

          • AC2: Reply to CC3, Friedhelm von Blanckenburg, 08 May 2020

            Damien I can live with "free telephone" in the french version (although I hate telephones especially those that call you) - not sure whether Todd wishes to be called "illness"...

          • AC3: Reply to CC3, Kirstin Übernickel, 08 May 2020

            hahaha, oh I love the creative youtube subtitles for Todd and Friedhelm. Thanks for pointing this out.