At Western Michigan University's Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, we place a high premium on education and outreach. The following initiatives describe the concrete ways in which the faculty and staff at MGRRE share their research and expertise in order to inspire future geoscientists, inform future voters and collaborate with industry members.
In Michigan, earth science has not been a priority in the public schools, as is evidenced by the fact that it is no longer required at the high school level. This is unfortunate for many reasons, one of which is that young people need an alternative source of factual information for the earth sciences so they can become knowledgeable voters. To meet this need, teachers require a readily available resource for classroom materials and inspiration. To this end, the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education's K-12 outreach program, CoreKids, addresses these needs by providing classroom modules that tell the story of the earth’s age, its resources and how they are used and managed. Through hands-on experiments, students learn about subsurface materials in their own backyards. We hope this might inspire them to pursue careers in the geosciences as well!
Training Future Geoscientists
Downsizing, coupled with the fact that large amounts of current geosciences professionals are nearing retirement, has caused a shortage of geoscientists. The average age of those geoscientists remaining in the field is 50. Within the next five to 10 years, many of them will retire. At a time when we face increasingly complicated questions about resource use and management, this is particularly troubling. Environmental issues, assessments of risks and land-use allocation must all be considered by public, industry and governmental agencies. Well-trained geoscientists will be relied upon to bring facts and sound judgment to address these issues.
At MGRRE, our faculty, staff and resources are committed to training the next generation of urgently needed geoscientists. In the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences our students learn not only the subject matter, but they also learn how to analyze data and apply their knowledge to real world situations. At MGRRE, our students learn to use state-of-the-art modeling software such as Petra. This exposure makes our students very competitive in their job searches. Furthermore, our students gain practical experience through collaborating on solving real-world problems with our industry partners. Our students continually make us proud by presenting their research at professional meetings, even while they are still here at MGRRE.
TRAINING GEOSCIENTIST Educators
Train a geoscientist and the world will get a geoscientist. Train a geoscience educator, however, and the world may get hundreds of inspired geoscientists. As a part of a project sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award # 1636441), WMU geoscientists are training science educators to see and appreciate the link between geology and chemistry. During a series of summer workshops, K-12 science educators from around the State met in Kalamazoo to learn and practice applying information about the elemental chemistry of earth materials. These workshops also delivered much needed resources to enhance existing K-12 outreach efforts to expose the regional community to the unique and diverse geologic history of the Michigan Basin, local industry, and industry-related projects. We have educational materials, including lectures, data-based learning activities, and elemental data from common rocks and minerals.
Because MGRRE is the Michigan center for the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council, we provide industry outreach through offering workshops and also through the information we provide online. We have been offering workshops since 1994, and throughout those two decades, thousands of attendees have told us they have used the information they learned there. Through offering industry outreach workshops, the faculty and staff of MGRRE get to interact with the larger petroleum community. This has proven to be rewarding work for us and it benefits the state’s economy.