How can geoscientists engage the non-scientific community to ensure sustainable outcomes?

Kathy Goetz Troost, Marilyn J. Suiter, Richard Berg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


As scientists and geologists most of us work most comfortably inside our own labs, at our computers, at our field sites, or in our own scientific social networks. But we must challenge ourselves to reach out beyond our comfort zones and engage the non-scientific community to ensure sustainable outcomes for our urban systems. How do we do this? Start with small efforts and build up to large ones. Find your voice. Find your message. Find your strength. Find your stride. If you are new to outreach, begin by interacting with local teachers and youth group leaders and offer to give presentations about geologic hazards, groundwater resources, local geology, or your favorite geology topic relating geology to society. Explain why geology matters. Find a message you feel passionate about, for example: "preparing for geologic hazards", "mitigating contamination", "underground mine hazards", or "sustainable water sources". Use your scientific message to interact with community groups and the media. The media are always looking for subject matter experts and you can cultivate a good relationship with a reputable journalist. Use your strength to spread your message. If your strength is with the written word, use your specific area of expertise and offer to provide professional reviews of codes, ordinances, and public policy. Write letters to your decision makers and emphasize the importance of the role of geology in sustainability. If your strength is presenting, then offer to lead field trips and seminars for the non scientist, and then your theme can be on how society depends on geology. If you produce geologic maps, then be sure to include a user's guide for the non-geologist and explain the significance of each geologic unit and why they should care. If you can make your message relevant then you will find your stride. Keep moving up the ladder until you reach the decision makers, the legislators, and the civic leaders. Consider joining commissions and boards, and the ultimate sacrifice, consider becoming a politician. Keep looking for opportunities to fill the gaps between the non-scientific community and the geosciences. The more you reach out beyond your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. The sustainability of our urban systems depends on us.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeological Society of America Abstracts with Programs
Volume50 (6)
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameGSA Abstracts with Programs


  • ISGS


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