Critical Experiences for Field Geologists: Emergent Themes in Interest Development

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Articles and Special Issues
LaDue, N. D., & Pacheco, H. A. (2013). Critical Experiences for Field Geologists: Emergent Themes in Interest Development. Journal of Geoscience Education, 61(4), 428-436.
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Geoscience education researchers are working to understand how we can most effectively increase our overall geoscience workforce capacity. The present study employed an inductive approach to explore the critical experiences that led to the persistence of successful field geologists in this STEM field. Interviews with 29 professional field geologists and 8 upper level undergraduates were analyzed to identify emergent themes. Three overarching themes emerged: Academic Experiences, Connections with People, and Engagement with Earth. Academic experiences, such as introductory courses and field trips, were commonly mentioned as being significant in recruitment. Relationships with people, such as professors and family members, provided encouragement for and exposure to geology-related activities. Participants provided detailed description of the regional geology where they grew up and the geology of locales from family trips as experiences with Earth influenced their interest in geology. The results of this study validate past studies of recruitment and retention of geoscientists, particularly in the influence of academic experiences on interest in geology. However, the abundance of themes related to the role of family, engagement in outdoor recreation, and personal experiences with local geology underscores the importance of informal science experiences for fostering choice and participation in field geology careers. Future models of retention and recruitment for the geosciences could benefit from emphasizing familial relationships and informal science experiences.

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