Increasing diversity in the geosciences through the AfricaArray geophysics field course
Thursday, 18 December 2014
For the past nine years, the AfricaArray diversity program, sponsored by industry, the National Science Foundation, and several partnering universities have supported outstanding U.S. STEM underrepresented minority undergraduates to gain field experience in near-surface geophysical techniques during an 8-week summer program at Penn State University and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). The AfricaArray geophysics field school, which is run by Wits, has been teaching field-based geophysics to African students for over a decade. In the first 2-3 weeks of the program, the U.S. students are given basic instruction in near-surface geophysics, South African geology, and South African history and culture. The students then join the Wits AfricaArray geophysics field school – working alongside Wits students and students from several other African universities to map the shallow subsurface in prospective areas of South Africa for platinum mining. In addition to the primary goals of collecting and interpreting gravity, magnetic, resistivity, seismic refraction, seismic reflection, and EM data, students spend time mapping geologic units and gathering information on the physical properties of the rocks in the region (i.e. seismic velocity, density, and magnetic susceptibility). Subsurface targets include mafic dikes, faults, the water table, and overburden thickness. Upon returning to the U.S., students spend 2-3 weeks finalizing their project reports and presentations. The program has been effective at not only providing students with fundamental skills in applied geophysics, but also in fostering multicultural relationships, preparing students for graduate work in the geosciences, and attracting STEM students into the geosciences. Student presenters will discuss their experiences gained through the field school and give their impressions about how the program works towards the goal of increasing diversity in the geosciences in the U.S.