GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 223-18
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


MOSS, David1, GUIDA, Ross1, BENFORD, Bryn A.2, SPEARS, Christa L.2, ZHOU, Renjie1, HILL, Joseph1, COOPER, Brian1 and HARRIS, John P.1, (1)Environmental and Geosciences, Sam Houston State University, 1900 Avenue I, Huntsville, TX 77341, (2)Geology Department, Lone Star College - University Park, 20515 State Highway 249, Houston, TX 77070

The future geoscience workforce shortfall is of great concern for geoscience enrollments at colleges and universities and for the economic well-being of the country. One of the most important reasons for declining enrollment is that high school and college students are largely uninformed about the subject and career opportunities. To help remedy this situation our NSF GEOPAths funded project, Geoscience Exposure and Training in Texas (GET TX), hosts a series of teacher workshops, open houses, classroom visits, and a 12-day summer bridge program. We conduct pre- and post-surveys for each event to better understand student perceptions. Questions focus on three themes: 1) in which STEM disciplines are they most interested; 2) in which areas of geoscience are they most interested; and 3) what does a geoscientist do? Here, we present preliminary data from year one of our three-year program. Data indicate that high school and community college students rank Geology and Geosciences low in terms of STEM courses of interest but high as a career path. For geoscience topics, students rank field geology, oceanography, and environmental geology at the top. Somewhat surprising for southeast Texas, students indicate low interest in petroleum geology. When asked what geoscientists do, the top choices were: use math or statistics, write papers or reports, and use chemistry. While preliminary, our results provide helpful information for recruitment. Students are interested in the broader applications of the Geosciences rather than in more traditional routes. Some high school students are also lacking guidance, indicating in bridge program applications that marine biology or ecology are preferred pathways, while describing environmental geoscience-related projects and details that they are not connecting to geology pathways. The skills students believe geoscientists use most often may continue to be significant hurdles for most students beginning college and might contribute to low geoscience enrollment. Continued outreach and maintenance of strong relationships with high school teachers will likely be key for sustaining geoscience programs as they evolve in the coming decade.