Exploration of Recruitment of Earth Scientists

Projections of shortages of geoscientists for the workforce are 90,000 by 2024 as current geoscientists age out of the workforce and are not replaced by geoscience graduates. Skilled, diverse geoscientists are needed to deal with economic and sustainability issues facing an increasing global population. Such geoscience-related problems include: energy and mineral management, flooding related to climate change, soil conservation, planning for geologic hazards, groundwater management, and disposal of hazardous wastes. The projected growth in jobs for “geoscientists” for the period 2014-2024 is 10% above the average for other jobs. A major challenge is that few students encounter rigorous geoscience courses in high school and so are unaware of the varied career opportunities and advantages of a geoscience career. There is clearly no single, “magic-bullet” solution to increasing majors. Project EXPLORES - EXPLoration Of Recruiting Earth Scientists – investigates a variety of approaches linked by a framework of exposing self-identified STEM majors to career opportunities and the fun and excitement of studying geoscience, building their interests through welcoming them into the existing geosciences community at NAU, providing sound career information by practicing professionals, culminating with an authentic research project.

The theory of change guiding this project is that (a) increased awareness of geoscience majors and careers by undergraduate STEM majors combined with (b) opportunities to participate in geoscience research and field activities contributes to (c) an increased interest in the geosciences by undergraduate STEM majors which increases (d) the recruitment of new students into geoscience majors thus (e) increasing the number of geoscience majors and the available geoscience workforce that, in turn, (f) sustains increased awareness of geoscience majors and careers, thus increasing the sustainability of the program into the future.

The specific activities include:

  • targeting self-identified STEM majors in an introductory chemistry course with geoscience-oriented lab investigations;

  • providing career information from practicing professionals at social events attended by prospective and current geology majors;

  • leading students on geology field trips; and

  • linking interested students with geoscience research labs for a research activity.

The objectives of Project EXPLORES assessed by our research and evaluation plan are to:

  1. Determine which factors have led geoscience majors to choose this discipline;

  2. Increase awareness of geoscience careers among STEM majors at NAU;

  3. Improve perceptions by STEM majors about geoscience as a career;

  4. Strengthen the sense of community among new and current undergraduate Geology students;

  5. Provide authentic research experiences to new Geology majors to help prepare them for geoscience careers; and

  6. Increase the number of Geology majors recruited to the Geology program by at least 15%.

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PI - James Sample, Ph.D.

Co-PI - Ron Gray, Ph.D.

Co-PI - Mary Reid, Ph.D.

Co-PI - Brandon Cruickshank, Ph.D.