Increasing geoscience enrollment and engagement by transforming perceptions of geoscience- Insights from outreach on YouTube and surveys

Thursday 1:30pm SERC Building - 116
Oral Session Part of Thursday Oral Session A


Rachel Phillips, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Enrollment in geoscience departments is currently decreasing, which is projected to cause a major shortage of geoscientists in the workforce over the next decade. It is crucial that we reverse this trend as geoscientists are vital for studying and combating the effects of climate change and other geological hazards. This study aims to increase geoscience enrollment and overall engagement by identifying and transforming misperceptions of geoscience among students and the general public. This work involves the investigation of student and public perceptions of and motivations for pursuing geoscience via publicly available enrollment data and survey responses. This study follows the Input–Environment–Output model to evaluate how inputs (e.g., student demographics, backgrounds, and perceptions) and environment (e.g., departmental factors) influence outputs (e.g., enrollment trends).
Geoscience outreach conducted through the YouTube channel, GEO GIRL, has also provided useful data revealing major public misperceptions of geoscience. This channel has accrued over 2.5 million views and reached viewers in over 150 different countries. Through surveying both university geoscience students as well as viewers on YouTube which vary widely in demographics, these data provide a diverse pool of respondents with which to draw broad conclusions regarding geoscience perceptions. With the findings from this work, we plan to develop more effective outreach and recruitment strategies for geoscience departments that will increase both student enrollment and public engagement. This work is ongoing, but this presentation summarizes our preliminary findings, future plans, and outlook.