Traveling in Multiple Worlds: Geoscience, Education, and Research

Nievita Bueno Watts, Oregon Health and Science University

In another book of my life I worked in P-12 education. I was at times a pre-school teacher, an elementary school teaching assistant, and a high school learning disability paraeducator, but without a teaching credential. At the high school I was able to bridge back to my childhood love of science as liaison between the Special Education and Science departments. Upon the insistence of my students, I began the journey to a teaching credential taking night school courses at the local community college. Then a geologist joined the science teaching staff and I was introduced to Earth Science, which I decided I wanted to teach. So I quit my job and went to study Earth Science education through the Science Teacher Prep Program in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Arizona.

While there I was invited to attend a Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) meeting where I was introduced to the McNair Scholars program and the idea that more minority scientists were needed. After doing a summer internship at HBCU Norfolk State University I realized that I loved research and I was passionate about addressing the problem of minority underrepresentation in the sciences.

I became a McNair Scholar, received a Space Grant, and spent the rest of my undergraduate days working with Mars Orbiter Camera images, looking for signs of ice on Mars while also working on EarthScope digital education database. There was only one course difference between earning a BA in Earth Science Education or a BS in Geoscience, so I decided to take Structural Geology instead of Student Teaching, and apply to graduate School.

I attended Arizona State University under the tutelage of Dr. Steve Semken. There I worked on EarthScope seismometer siting, sense of place research, and research on the visitor experience of deep time cognition at Grand Canyon National Park through the Trail of Time, which was being built. For my Master's thesis work I looked at visitor perception of landscape formation at Petrified Forest National Park.

I pursued my PhD in Science Education, still at ASU, and worked on a large high school science teacher professional development project, Communication In Science Inquiry Project and analyzed elementary student drawings of engineers and robots. But then I returned to my passion to do my dissertation on the barriers and supports Native American student experience while pursuing a tertiary degree in geoscience. After a post-doc at Purdue University, where I worked on an informal science exhibit about gold mining emplaced on the halls of the department, I accepted a position as Director of Academic Programs at a National Science and Technology Center. Here my research skills have been put to use collecting and analyzing data and developing reports, projects, and programs; and I have worked steadily to develop pathways and support for Native geoscientists through the Geoscience Alliance. But now the center has sunset, and I am wondering where the next steps along this pathway will take me...