Texas Tech University

Outreach

“Water, Water, Everywhere” STEM Outreach

 
 

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Water, Water Everywhere' – STEM outreach activity to middle-school girls (see photo) and the new Environmental Geologyconcentration in the Geosciences BS degree.

 

While West Texas may be geologically best known for the productive oil and gas deposits of the Permian Basin, environmental geology is also an important component of our economy, lives and deeply intertwined with the petroleum industry. In oil-rich, dust-blowing West Texas, we have a shortage of water in terms of both precipitation and surface water. The treasured Ogallala aquifer continues to decline, resulting from decades of over-withdraw. Impacts of urban development and industrial activities on the environment have become palpable, including natural occurrences of toxic elements and contamination by manmade chemicals in soils and groundwater. Additionally, the petroleum industry uses significant amounts of water for exploration and development of reserves, collectively known as the Energy–Water Nexus.

In order to meet these competing needs it is necessary to educate and train a new generation of diverse geoscientists with broad skills in Geosciences. The Department of Geosciences is addressing this need through public outreach and enhancements to the undergraduate curriculum.

Recently, a group of Geosciences faculty (Dr. Moira Ridley, Dr Juske Horita, and Dr. Neo McAdams) and volunteer students (Alex Washburn, Raven Landers, Karen Yao, and Shanice Diniz) hosted a one-day Tech Savvy workshop titled ‘Water, Water Everywhere'. Tech Savvy is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach program for middle-schools girls. The ‘Water, Water Everywhere' workshop focused on water and environment related issues in West Texas. Twenty-three middle-school girls from as far as away as Fort Stockton attended the workshop as well as an eager 8 year-old participant, Taylor, whose father was one of the graduate student presenters.

The workshop included an introduction to the water cycle and hands-on activities depicting groundwater and aquifers, mixed with lively discussions and interactions between faculty, student instructors and the girls. The workshop closed with an important discussion of water conservation. We plan to continue this new Tech Savvy workshop for middle-school girls, hoping that they may choose water and environment related subjects at high schools, and perhaps one-day a major in Geoscience here at TTU or another institution.

In 2017 the undergraduate BS in Geosciences was expanded to include a concentration in Environmental Geology. The department's desire to meet increasing demand for students pursuing careers in environment geology prompted the introduction of this new concentration. We added new senior-level course in Hydrogeology, which is currently taught by Dr. William Asquith (son to emeritus Dr. George Asquith) of USGS Texas Water Science Center in Lubbock, TX. Dr. William Asquith holds a Ph.D. in Geosciences as well as a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and is an adjunct faculty member. 

We are excited to announce that our first Environmental Geology BS student will graduate in May 2019 and roughly, 10% of the current undergraduate students have chosen this track.  While a plurality of TTU Geosciences students continue to be interested in careers in the petroleum industry, we believe the new concentration is complimentary to providing the broad skills necessary in the field of Geosciences. A number of our graduates are successfully finding careers in industry and agencies related to environmental geosciences.

 

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Hands-on activity with discussion of aquifers and groundwater.

 

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Dr. William Asquith teaches a new Hydrogeology class