Yes, it is Friday. Repping my favourite planet in t-shirt form this morning. Today's chat - the future of earth sciences in the UK!
In the UK, the number of students choosing to study geology at university is decreasing. A brill article by @FabianWadsworth et al. highlights this and discusses key reasons why: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/earth-sciences-face-crisis-sustainability
More numbers here from @geoscientistmag: https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/Archive/September-2019/Feature-2
In short, A-Level geology numbers are in decline and it's partially due to the association geology has with fossil fuel industries. Young people are much more environmentally-conscious, and rightly so.
But the wider issues with traditional earth science degrees must be considered. Fieldwork is a fundamental part of understanding geological concepts. Some of my best (and worst) memories of my degree were in the field.
However there are SO MANY barriers to fieldwork! @GilesPalaeoLab @seis_matters & @NatStephen wrote an amazing Nature review article on it: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43017-020-0022-5?proof=trueMay
Barriers to fieldwork in undergraduate geoscience degrees
Fieldwork is an integral part of geoscience subjects, but changing career pathways and student demographics have major implications for the future of compulsory fieldwork. The ways in which fieldwork...https://www.nature.com/articles/s43017-020-0022-5?proof=trueMay
So much of what they discussed applies. Before uni, I had limited countryside experience (I'm from Brum #0121), let alone fieldwork experience! Luckily I did @DofE so had a clue but still had to buy field gear which others took for granted. The financial burden is a deterrent.
Accessibility in the field is also a huge issue! Those who cannot fully engage due to having a disability, mental health issues, restrictions to travel etc are put at a disadvantage.
While lockdown has made teaching more challenging in general, a positive is that field skills teaching has had to become virtual and has forced people into thinking about things differently.
I know at Liverpool for example, map skills are being taught on MS Teams in preparation for future mapping projects. @SEELeeds have a really cool environment for virtual learning: https://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/virtual-landscapes/
Geology needs rebranding at school, sixth-form and university-level in order to show young people how important it is. To tackle climate change, use resources responsibly and manage natural hazards with ever-growing populations, we need earth scientists.
There are so many things you can do with an earth science degree! @geolsoc show this perfectly:
We also need diversity in decision-making so that geology teaching at school, university and beyond best reflects the future of earth science. Diversity not just in name, by the way.
If we all have the same background, did geology at school/college, come from a family of geologists etc. we won't get difference of thought. Difference of thought is needed to understand different perspectives and tackle global environmental challenges.
We need more young earth scientists! But in order to attract them we need to adapt our way of thinking. I know many are working hard to do this and I hope that just me being visible and vocal about why I love what I do plays a small role.