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Geosciences has paved the way for global citizenship

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice,” wrote historian and philosopher Will Durant. Are you scared of the sciences? You don’t have to be. In a story from a related discipline, a colleague reminded a parent who was nervous about her child’s STEM aptitude: “Nobody learned math, before they learned math.” Recently, I have taken on an increased interest in Geological and Earth sciences, or Geosciences. This field focuses on the physical aspects of the Earth such as its composition and structure as a fully integrated system. In a world where environmental challenges are at the forefront of global discussions, the choice of academic majors is becoming more critical than ever. While traditional fields like business and engineering often dominate, there’s a gem of a discipline that deserves more attention: Geosciences.
Here’s why undergraduates should consider diving into the depths of the Earth’s mysteries: Geosciences offer a holistic understanding of our planet, encompassing a myriad of interconnected fields such as geology, meteorology, oceanography, and environmental science. By majoring in Geosciences, students gain a profound appreciation for the Earth’s processes and dynamics, from the formation of mountains to the intricacies of its climate systems. The demand for professionals in Geosciences is steadily increasing. As we grapple with issues like climate change, natural disasters, and sustainable resource management, there’s a growing need for experts who can assess risks, develop mitigation strategies, and promote environmental stewardship.
Geosciences has paved the way for global citizenship. Understanding the Earth’s systems and the impact of human activities on them is essential for informed decision-making on both local and global scales. By studying Geosciences, students become advocates for environmental conservation and sustainable development, contributing to a more resilient and equitable future for all.
I recommend the Idaho State University Department of Geosciences, which takes advantage of our location in the Northern Rockies with its low cost of living and offers students affordable tuition. Their courses include hands-on learning, field exercises, laboratory experience, and the latest geotechnologies. “Our professors have helped write the book and map for Idaho Geology,” the university website reads. “We are proud to host a nationally recognized summer field camp at Lost River Field Station, north of Mackay, Idaho. Discover what ISU Geosciences has to offer. Not only do we claim a strong field-based program, but we also have a legacy of national awards to prove it!”
A few semesters ago, my daughters and I observed a Geoscience 1100 course taught by Professor Benjamin Crosby. The course helps students understand the Earth as a dynamic system and explores the interaction between four major Earth components: the solid Earth, the atmosphere, the ocean, and biological communities, including humans. The class offers a specific focus on climate change, natural hazards, and the Earth’s resources. Crosby’s teaching style is engaging and inclusive, with his knack for breaking down complex concepts into digestible bits, making them accessible to students of all backgrounds. His passion for the subject matter was palpable, which translated into thought-provoking discussions. The session not only deepened our understanding of some of the Earth’s dynamics but also deepened our sense of responsibility to protect and preserve our planet.
Geoscientists explore the Earth through fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and computer modeling to deepen their comprehension of the planet. Their work contributes to safeguarding the environment by examining it, gleaning insights to aid in forecasting future trends. They conduct environmental evaluations and scrutinize global ecological mechanisms. They identify water, mineral, and energy reservoirs to provide earthquake prediction and groundwater assessment. Geologists also forecast geological hazards and deliver guidance on significant developmental endeavors. Geoscientists use fossils to forecast ecosystem responses to climate change. They combat water pollution and mitigate sea-level rise and enhance resilience against natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. These scientists contribute significantly to the development of alternative energy sources, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by harnessing hydrothermal resources and optimizing wind turbine placements.
Research in geoscience spans various scales, from tectonic plate movements over millennia to immediate post-storm creek behavior, often intersecting with disciplines like Biology, Atmospheric Sciences, and Social Sciences. Geoscience students enjoy memorable field trips across scenic California, fostering camaraderie with their peers and faculty outside traditional classroom settings. Active engagement in departmental activities, including barbecues, game nights, and a student-run Geology Club with regular research presentations enriches the collegiate experience.
Geoscience graduates find themselves at the forefront of innovation, working in diverse sectors ranging from energy and mining to conservation and urban planning. Geosciences offer ample opportunities for fieldwork and firsthand research. Whether it’s conducting geological surveys in remote landscapes, studying marine ecosystems on research vessels, or analyzing data from satellite imagery, students in this field are constantly engaged in real-world applications of their knowledge. This experiential learning not only enhances their academic experience but also fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are invaluable in any career path. Geoscience study opens doors to lucrative job prospects, with median annual salaries nearing $100,000 and opportunities spanning environmental consulting, governmental agencies like NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as tech giants like Apple leveraging graduates’ strong analytical skills. Students will also find diverse career opportunities across various sectors including climate and global process modeling, petroleum and mining exploration and extraction, ocean sciences, energy policy, planetary sciences, natural hazards assessment, environmental remediation and engineering, land-use planning, paleontology, and education in both K–12 and university settings.
Majoring in Geosciences offers a multifaceted journey of discovery, exploration, and impact. It’s a field that not only provides intellectual fulfillment but also equips students with the tools to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, to all undergraduates pondering their academic path, I urge you to consider the profound possibilities that await in the world of Geosciences. Embrace the Earth, and you’ll find a world of endless opportunity beneath your feet. Learn more at: https://www.isu.edu/geosciences
Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University and studies at Idaho State University.

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