2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 94-12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


LADUE, Nicole, Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, Davis Hall 302, DeKalb, IL 60115 and PACHECO-GUFFREY, Heather Anne, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Bridgewater State, Bridgewater, MA 02324, nladue@niu.edu

We present an analysis of results from 2011 and 2013 surveys collected at the GSA Annual Meetings to examine factors influencing interest in the geosciences. Surveys contained both open- and close-ended items that were developed based on relevant prior qualitative studies. The 2011 survey asked one open-ended question, “How did you get interested in geology?” followed by a set of close-ended questions related to prior education, field experiences, and hobbies/interests. The 2013 survey asked 3 open ended questions soliciting participants’ interest in geology related to early experiences, experiences with family, and experiences with nature. The same set of close-ended questions from the 2011 survey were used following the three open questions. In total, 182 participants (n=85 female) completed the surveys in 2011 (N=81) and 2013 (N=101). Participants ranged from PhD geologists (n=46) to undergraduate students (n>19) with a mean age of 32.5 years. Open-ended responses demonstrated the influence of outdoor experiences (n=47), field trips (n=43), family members (n=55), and academic mentors (n=49), such as teachers or professors, on interest in geology. Results from the close-ended items indicate that only 26% (n=47) of all participants entered college intending to study geology and half of respondents (n=98) changed their major while an undergraduate student. Professors teaching introductory geology (n=92) and other geology (n=64) courses positively influenced geologists’ path. Respondents indicated that 52% (n=95) have a family member in a STEM career; in comparison, only 29% (n=52) have a family member in a creative field. Participants’ engagement in activities such as hiking (n=152), reading science magazines (n=122), and scouts (n=82), while not explicitly mentioned in the open-ended responses, characterize common interests of the geologists. In contrast to the open-ended results, the close-ended portion of the survey highlights the importance of academic mentors for 89% (n=162) of respondents. The results presented here demonstrate the value of outdoor experiences, family, and academic mentors in fostering interest in the geosciences. Future studies including non-geologists from STEM and non-STEM fields as comparison groups would bolster the inferences that may be made from these findings.
  • GSA2014 Interest in Geo_Final.pdf (1.3 MB)