Earth Science Week 2012: Exploring Careers in the Earth Sciences

Photograph of a USGS employee encircled by children learning about earth science. Image Credit: USGS.

Image Credit: USGS.

Every October, geologists, hydrologists, paleontologists and other professionals in the field of Earth Science get to revel in a little extra recognition. The rock-hammer and the gravelometer are dusted with glory: Earth Science Week is on its way.

In 1998, the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) established an event to encourage stewardship while fostering recognition and understanding of the Earth sciences. Every year since then, Earth Science Week (ESW) has been held in mid-October as an opportunity for learning and discovery. This year, Earth Science Week is celebrated from Oct. 14-20.

The event is national and international, with Geoscience Australia offering a related photo contest. In the United States, some states issue official proclamations to recognize the week, and across the nation, different organizations will celebrate by hosting Earth science days at museums and parks. ESW’s website offers a list of upcoming events, sorted by state. There are even contests for visual arts, photography, and essays.

Since 2002, AGI has offered a theme for Earth Science Week. Themes have included “Water is All Around Us” (2002), “Monitoring Our Changing World” (2003), and “Understanding Climate” (2009). This year’s theme is “Exploring Careers in the Earth Sciences.”

The related objectives are:

• To engage students in discovering the Earth sciences
• To remind people that Earth science is all around us
• To encourage Earth stewardship through understanding
• To motivate geoscientists to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the Earth.

These objectives underline AGI’s belief that having well-educated, conversant Earth scientists is crucial to solving current and future environmental problems.

Historically, Earth sciences have played an important role in the development of new ideas in science and in society. People studied local rock formations to make decisions about mining. They employed astronomical concepts to help navigate at sea. Discoveries about geologic stratification by Steno and, later, geologic progression by Hutton and Lyell’s created a foundation for such ideas as the study of evolution through fossils and other changes in the natural world over time. In the 1890s, when the National Education Association was determining standards for the nation, they believed that science should form at least a quarter of the education curriculum. Over the following decades, writers, educators, and statesmen etched out a clearer definition of what they expected from science curriculum. Some states chose to specifically require Earth science education, including geoscience, oceanography, meteorology, and space science. Earth science education in schools continues to change to meet fluctuating standards and new concepts. Likewise, careers and studies in Earth sciences also change and shift.

Today, Earth science describes a colorful variety of projects and careers available to budding scientists. Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey released a short video titled “Earth Science Careers: Not Just Rocks” to help offset the misconception that Earth science relates only to geology.

Earth Science Week offers an opportunity to recognize a diverse field of study. For those who are inspired by the event and wish to continue participating in Earth science, the ESW website offers opportunities for continued learning. Teachers, students, and any one else interested in Earth science can visit www.earthsciweek.org/forteachers/index.html to find toolkits and curriculum ideas. Another way to stay up-to-date is to sign up for the monthly newsletter, The Earth Science Week Update.

References

Fiorillo, Tony, and Brian Speer. “The Geologic Time Scale in Historical Perspective.” http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibit/histgeoscale.html. N.p., 13 Dec. 1993. Web. 06 Oct. 2012.

Ireton, M. Frank Watt. “Revolution in Earth and Space Science Education – Brief History of Earth Science Education.” Revolution in Earth and Space Science Education – Brief History of Earth Science Education. Blueprint for Change, June 2001. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <http://www.earthscienceedrevolution.org/appendix/history.html>.