Monday, August 20, 2012

STEM and the Earth Sciences

Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
Despite the economic downturn we are experience, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a nearly 20% growth in science and engineering for the period 2008-2018. This represents a greater growth rate than for most other categories of occupations.

Two-thirds of all currently employed STEM (Science, Technology Engineering, Math) workers hold a college degree and command wages that average 25% higher than their non-STEM counterparts.

The earth sciences/geosciences are a small part of the STEM workforce with only about 1500 college graduates added annually. But hey, we do important stuff!  Do you want to leave your destructive volcanic eruptions in the hands of amateurs? Or have any ol’ bloke predict the movement of the continental plates? I don’t think so.

And there are moves afoot to increase educational initiatives in the lower school grades. A few years back the National Science Foundation funded an Earth Science Literacy Initiative resulting in nine “big ideas” (principles) in earth science:

  1. Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
  2. Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
  3. Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air and life.
  4. Earth is continuously changing.
  5. Earth is the water planet.
  6. Life evolves on a dynamic earth and continuously modifies the earth.
  7. Humans depend on the earth for resources.
  8. Natural hazards pose risks to humans.
  9. Humans significantly alter the earth.
Each of these nine big ideas includes a number of supporting principles.

There’s a lot of fun stuff to be had in this niche of the STEM World.

Excerpted in part from a recent Professional Geologist magazine article by Michael J. Urban.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, I'm deeply inspired to go out and buy geology books now. We depend on the earth for resources? Who knew?

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

Aww AVI, come on, it goes a little deeper than that!