Geoethics As a Key Component to an Undergraduate Capstone Experience

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
John W Geissman, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, United States and Leslie D McFadden, University of New Mexico Main Campus, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Albuquerque, NM, United States
We have taught a required, senior, capstone course, with a focus on geoscience communication, for almost 35 years. While both of us were at the University of New Mexico, we alternated responsibility for teaching this course. The first author continues to teach a similar course at the University of Texas at Dallas. As the course has evolved and new approaches taken, we have incorporated more and more subject matter related to ethics in science and in particular the geological sciences. Our experiences indicate that (1) students are typically enthralled by and curious about the subject, (2) students have received little if any exposure to the subject in any form of formal classroom environment, and (3) students have personally experienced situations or have learned of situations from their peers that have left them in an uncomfortable position and left them questioning the appropriateness of the actions witnessed. We typically introduce the subject of GeoEthics by drawing students’ attention to the many Codes of Ethics or Professional Conduct assembled by Geoscience societies. Many students are quick to volunteer their experiences related to specific topics. For example, the statement in the Geological Society of America Code of Conduct, “Geoscientists should treat associates with respect, regardless of the level of their formal education, encourage them, learn with them, share ideas honestly, and give credit for their contributions” often incites lively discussion and reveals repeated behavior by some individuals.