How do we attract the next generation of Earth Scientists

Selway, Kate1, Condon, Jo2, Przeslawski, Rachel3, Tiddy, Caroline4, Underwood, Narelle5, Cohen, David6

1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia, 2Marketing and Communications, AuScope, 3Discovery and Engagement, Geoscience Australia, 4Future Industries Institute and MinEx CRC, University of South Australia, 5NSW Surveyor-General and Chair, NSW Surveying Taskforce, 6School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales and Australian Geoscience Council

Join us to discuss how we might collectively and effectively promote pathways to diverse, exciting and meaningful Earth Science careers to late high school students across Australia.

Earth Science education in Australia is facing critical challenges. University Earth Science departments face low numbers of undergraduate student enrolments, which in some cases are threatening their viability. These low undergraduate enrolments reflect weak interest in Earth Science at the high school level, and result in insufficient skilled graduates to meet industry needs. This is bad for Australia, which needs skilled geoscientists for its environmental and economic future, bad for industry, which needs skilled graduates to continue to innovate, and bad for the students themselves, who miss out on fulfilling careers.

In this presentation we discuss efforts to promote Earth Science to students in late high school. We consider this to be a key focus within broader strategies to improve Earth Science education more generally. Students at this level are actively considering their university study options and many have little exposure to Earth Science or have negative perceptions of the field. University-level Earth sciences in Australia typically boast a higher than average retention of students from first year to subsequent years. Therefore, successful programs that attract more high school students into Earth Science could substantially increase graduate numbers even on a five-year time frame.

Many existing programs, run by government, industry, and academic groups, are already aiming to promote Earth Science pathways to high school students and in this presentation we will summarize some of these programs. Any successful program must be student-focussed and respond to the students’ own priorities, as illustrated by the increasing numbers of students studying climate science. Therefore, we will also summarize some of the broader data surrounding the attitudes and priorities of late high-school students. We consider the attributes of programs in other fields, most notably surveying, that have successfully produced measurable increases in high school student engagement and higher education enrolments. We present this analysis in the hope that it will help guide the discussion on how we can most effectively ignite the interest of late high-school students in pursuing Earth Science.


The authors come from a range of backgrounds in academia, government and industry and are united in wanting to help inspire more people to get excited about Earth Science.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.