ENGAGING THE PUBLIC, NON-GEOSCIENCE MAJORS and YOUNGER STUDENTS

Outreach is important for all areas of society. In today’s media landscape, public scientific literacy is at threat, raising the importance of communicating results from scientific work to the public. We have an urgent need to make sure that our discipline can be and is understood by everyday voters. To inform them about the challenges our society faces and what we can do as scientists to address these problems. Ultimately, with so much of scientific funding coming from government sources, and therefore public scrutiny, it is crucial to the future of science to communicate discoveries clearly, concisely and in a manner that is accessible.

Improving the geoscience literacy rate involves going beyond those directly studying the subject, reaching out to other students, to children, and direct to the public.  During my PhD I was a founding editor of the department’s graduate student outreach blog ‘OnCirculation’. I wrote 76 articles, and facilitated many more. I attended a three-day Workshop in Science Communication run by the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, a workshop by the Alan Alda Centre and have been a guest on the ‘Further Afield’ podcast talking about science and adventures while on fieldwork.

My favorite teaching moment of the last few months was a panel discussion on climate change towards the end of an Introductory Oceanography class. We had a lively discourse on climate change, personal and political actions and responsibilities with an ever-increasing number of raised hands from the non-geoscience majors. By providing a chance to discuss a critical issue with an expert, an opportunity likely not encountered before, we were able to inform and engage these students in a critical topic.

I demonstrated on a week-long first-year field course in Australia taken by many initially as a science credit. We spent a week visiting outcrops and locations along a stretch of the southern New South Wales coast. The ability to teach and learn in a relaxed environment allowed for the transfer of not only content but the reasons why geosciences was an interesting subject and why it was something that had value to the students. The course was credited by many as confirming or changing their choice of major, with successful ‘conversions’ from physics and law.

I was a repeated guest lecturer at the ACE Science Seminar Scheme for middle school students in the Australian Capital Territory. Here the focus was not only on explaining my research in easy to understand terms but also on the breadth and diversity provided by a career in science. Dispelling stereotypes and learning what scientists do, are, and look like, encourages young students into STEM. The best feedback from the course came from one student who previously was worried at the age of 13 that he didn’t yet know what profession he wanted to do when he grew up. Through my lecture on my career trajectory and day to day working life he learnt that it didn’t yet matter and that it was more important to be excited and engaged by STEM, and the possibilities it might bring him.

 
 The first team of editors at OnCirculation

The first team of editors at OnCirculation