GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 243-3
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM


BROWN, Megan, MANNING, Cheryl, BARRY, Ashley and PORTER-MARETH, Parker, Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, 1425 W. Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL 60115

A significant barrier for geoscientists with disabilities is the field based culture of geology. Field courses are often required for bachelor degrees and few accessible options are available. Progress has been made on this front, but a paradigm shift is still necessary within geology departments to effectively increase inclusion. In addition, field work is often a requirement of entry level geology jobs. Gaps in college degrees and unemployment rates continue between individuals with and without disabilities.

In this study, we created a two part online survey for geosciences employers, predominately in the Mid-West United States. The first half of the survey focused on what skills geoscience employers desire in new graduates including specific field skills. The second half of the survey focused on perceptions of disability and accessibility.

Results pertaining to desired skills were consistent with the literature; communication, critical thinking, and integrating new information topped the list followed closely by field skills. Environmental geosciences field skills ranked highest in that category; this is unsurprising as most of the employers worked in consulting. A third of employers thought all tasks and careers were accessible to individuals with disabilities; the remaining two thirds of respondents indicated that it would depend or that only office work would be accessible.

There appears to be a disconnect between perceived accessibility and reality as 95% of respondents indicated that manual labor and field work was always or sometimes required for geoscientists. Therefore, to increase inclusion within the discipline as a whole, work needs to be done within the workforce as well as in university departments.