Paper No. 94-12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
WHAT FACTORS PROMOTE INTEREST IN GEOLOGY?: RESULTS FROM SURVEYS OF GSA MEMBERS
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.