Geoscience Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Bridging the Gap from Niche Discipline to General Awareness for Sustainable Development

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Friday Session


Tricia Alvarez, The University of Texas at Austin
Trinidad and Tobago is located within an active plate tectonic boundary characterized by regular seismicity, and it is also positioned at the southern margin of Atlantic Basin hurricane paths. Consequently the islands are affected by geo-hazards; earthquakes, landslides and floods, which pose significant risk to life and property. The country has a history of petroleum exploration and production activities for >100 years, and the energy sector currently accounts for ~35% of GDP. Energy industry activities carry inherent risks for environmental hazards including the potential for catastrophic environmental impact events.
Earth science issues are introduced at elementary school; through the study of current natural hazard events and associated societal impact, in social-studies classes. Students may take geography classes in lower high school (up to Grade 8), but beyond this level, less than 50% continue to receive geography instruction which includes map reading, natural Earth systems, and environmental hazards and resources issues relevant to the Caribbean. At the tertiary level there are undergraduate degrees in geography, and environment and natural resource management; as well as applied/specialized degree programs which include relevant earth science modules.
While instruction at the high school level is appropriate for generating understanding and awareness of earth science issues many citizens do not receive sufficient exposure. The need for increased public awareness and action to mitigate the risks of natural and human-induced hazards have been documented and are evident from recurring loss due to natural hazard events and industrial pollution issues. An informed and engaged public have the potential to influence policy designed to minimize loss associated with earth processes, and promote sustainable development of earth resources. Action to increase awareness include: (1) enhanced student engagement with geoscience topics and issues, (2) appropriate preparation of educators to integrate geoscience topics within the curriculum and, (3) general public awareness campaigns.