Earth Science Week 2012 Focuses on the Importance of Geoscience Careers

Message to the Geospatial Industry: Promote the Week and the Career Pathway

In 1998 the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) launched Earth Science Week (ESW) “to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth.” Over time, the annual event has set its chief focus on K-16 teachers and students, working to build interest in the geosciences—in classroom teaching, college majors, and ultimately the geosciences workforce.

ESW 2012 runs October 14-20 but in many ways this is the kick-off of a year’s worth of exploration. The ESW web site points to an array of resources and activities educators, students, and the public can access. Over 16,000 educational kits have been sent to schools across the country. Each kit contains a range of timeless educational resources including a calendar of monthly lessons produced by ESW sponsors and supporters. This year Esri, a sponsor of ESW since 2005, has produced an activity on geospatial careers for November, providing a tie to GIS Day, and a print resource pointing educators to the Esri Education Community including ready-made ArcGIS Online maps, apps, and galleries with an education focus like the STEM-GIS gallery.

STEM Gallery

Each year, ESW is framed by a compelling, organizing theme. For 2012, the theme is Discovering Careers in the Earth Sciences. The preface to the activity calendar proclaims the mission: To enhance our understanding of interactions among the Earth systems—the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere —we all need to know about the work done by professional geoscientists.”  While learning about what the geosciences workforce does every day is an overarching goal, a deeper foundational motivation is clear from a story in the December 2011 issue of Earth magazine, “Jobs, jobs everywhere, but not enough people to fill them.” In short, the article peers into 2021 and predicts that geoscience jobs will grow far faster than the current stream of incoming geoscience graduates are entering the workforce. The combination of rapidly advancing Baby Boom generation retirements and constrained flow of new qualified entrants equates to a gap of 145,000-202,000 geoscience jobs unfilled in 2021.

The Esri Education Program, a 20-year proponent of the use of geospatial technology in science education, has been attentive to this and similar impending dilemmas and prospects in a variety of fields. As we look at the current state of the world, imagine the future, and recognize that others must jump into the breach to tackle local to global matters and predicaments, we have always seen GIS and a geographic perspective as essential to working to steward the planet and local communities. This very much includes the geoscience community—from people seeking to solve energy sustainability issues to those helping ensure our planetary ecological footprint is softer to those contending with interrelated ocean and atmosphere changes. A great step forward is getting the geospatial industry to embrace and actively promote Earth Science Week and the geosciences career pathway.

Anyone who has participated in the annual Esri International User Conference or has pored over the annual Esri Map Book knows that geography and science touch our lives every day. It is incumbent upon us, and others we inspire, to confirm that what seems like fringe technology and approaches are clearly mainstream and that our collective futures depend upon advancing them and that greatly includes the broad range of the geosciences.

Choose a GIS Career

By George Dailey, Esri Education Program Manager