Geology and Geography Departments: Complementary Assets for a Strong Geosciences Presence on Campus

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The academic geoscience community has been agitated over recent high-profile geosciences department closures and near-closures.  In response to the clear challenges that the geosciences traditionally face – low enrollments of majors, high departmental operating costs, and poor articulation of the departments’ mission – many geosciences departments over the last 30 years have evolved in name and nature to survive.  One persistent phenomena since the decoupling of the resource industry and U.S. university geosciences programs is the emergence of ‘environmental’ programs to attract students.   One consequence of this action, coupled with the increasing interdisciplinary trends in science, is that the boundaries between geology and physical geography programs are increasingly blurred.  This has resulted in program closures and mergers between departments where administrations perceive duplication across programs, or see the possibility of combining smaller programs into one that has a critical mass.

We will discuss how these evolutionary moves by geology programs have tended to be detrimental to their long-term survival.  Trends in geosciences research show evidence of interdisciplinary activity that likely parallel and compliment many areas of strength in geography.   In addition, relative to the geological science, geography research and activities build a stronger context for the human impact of science, something at-risk geology departments have been generally unsuccessful in conveying to prospective student and administrators.   The American Geological Institute has begun programs to assist departments in danger of closing, and is building bridges between the geosciences and geography disciplines to promote the success in the broad “geo” fields.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Cindy Martinez*
  • American Association of Geographers Meeting 2010