GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 99-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM


BRILHA, Jose, University of Minho, Earth Science Centre, Campus de Gualtar, Braga, 4710-057, Portugal

The number of visitors of America's most popular national parks has reached record levels in the Summer of 2021. Considering the existence of travel restrictions to foreign tourists due to covid-19 pandemic, it seems logical to consider that the vast majority of this visitation is made by national visitors. These visitors are attracted by dramatic geologic landscapes but it is unlikely that many visitors refer geology as one of their main interests to visit a national park. The absence of geology topics in the national curriculum and the lack of geosciences teachers with solid training are certainly two of the reasons (unfortunately not a U.S. exclusive) why national park visitors are not aware that they do enjoy to visit geologic sites. Many of these sites have singular characteristics that make them part of the American geoheritage.

The identification, management and interpretation of geoheritage can certainly help to raise awareness of general public on geology. A basic knowledge about Earth's materials and processes can help citizens to make responsible choices and to better understand the challenges we have to face, such as climate change and geological risk reduction.

The conservation of geosites with high scientific value is determinant to guarantee the advancement of geosciences research that is essential to humans' well-being and for the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. Geoheritage with high aesthetic value, good and safe accessibility and effective interpretation resources can be converted into a high-quality tourism attraction. Like in many countries worldwide, the rich mining history in many U.S. regions could also be seen as a potential tourism resource with the capacity to promote jobs creation and the revitalization of local economies.

The geoscience community is asked to play a crucial role on geoconservation. Together with park managers and community leaders, geoscientists can help to define the best conservation and management strategies of sites, in particular when they present significant degradation risks.

In order to reinforce the role of geoscientists on geoconservation, it is important that universities offer training on geoconservation to young geoscientists and that funding agencies recognize this topic with the same priority level as other geosciences domains.