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Earth Institute Research Projects

GP-IMPACT: Science Technology Engineering and Math Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS)

Lead PI: Sharon Katz Cooper

Unit Affiliation: Office of Marine Operations, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

July 2017 - June 2020
Active
Global
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Non-technical: The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the U.S. health and economy, yet retention rates in STEM fields are poor, and the Geoscience community in particular is faced with a looming workforce shortage. Moreover, the Geoscience community continues to lack the diversity of the population at large. The STEM Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) project is a 3-year partnership between the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, and the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) aimed at addressing three priorities: (1) increasing the number and diversity of students pursuing degrees and careers in geosciences; (2) preparing students for all possible career trajectories in the geosciences; and, (3) contributing to the evidence base for effective student engagement, learning and retention in STEM. The STEMSEAS project is achieving these goals by taking advantage of unused berthing capacity available on UNOLS vessels as they transit between U.S. ports in preparation for their next scientific expedition. These short (~5-7 days) transits offer a unique mobile classroom setting where undergraduate non-STEM, undecided-STEM, and geoscience majors can be exposed to geoscience professional practice and career exploration. By partnering with UNOLS and campus ?champions" at universities, including minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the project sends diverse cohorts of students to sea with a small team of geoscience faculty and mentors. STEMSEAS is built on a pilot-project that sent three cohorts (~10 undergraduate students each) selected from an applicant pool of ~875 students on three different research vessels during 2016. The pilot-project demonstrated the logistical feasibility of the program, and showed through preliminary data a strong potential for positive impact. While at sea, the students engage in a variety of hands-on activities that incorporate geoscience content, lab exercises, data collection/analysis, career exploration, and discussion/reflection. Upon completion of a transit, each participant is required to complete a post-expedition project, which they present back at their home institution, write a short article about their experiences, and participate in post-expedition webinars with other cohort members. Technical: The STEM Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) project is a 3-year initiative aimed at addressing three priorities: (1) increasing the number and diversity of students pursuing degrees and careers in geosciences; (2) preparing students for all possible career trajectories in the geosciences; and, (3) contributing to the evidence base for effective student engagement, learning and retention in STEM. Application materials and evaluation surveys are providing data to assess the impact of the STEMSEAS project on student knowledge of and attitudes toward the geosciences and geoscience careers. The STEMSEAS project is designed to add to the evidence base regarding what kinds of experiences and interventions help to increase retention and persistence in geoscience-related majors, and what strategies are most effective at increasing the number and diversity of students entering the geoscience workforce pipeline. By creating innovative learning experiences on board charismatic research vessels, STEMSEAS is gathering data on the effectiveness of novel approaches for engaging students who may never have considered the geosciences as a field of study or career, students who are interested in the geosciences but are unsure of what direction to go, and STEM-interested students who may not have considered the specifics of the geosciences. Through these immersive experiences, STEMSEAS is exploring the effectiveness of short-term but intense learning activities.