Trends in Participation for Ocean Sciences Research Experiences for Undergraduates Programs

Elizabeth Lynch Rom, National Science Foundation, GEO/OCE, Arlington, VA, United States, Tyler Pounds, New Mexico State University Main Campus, Las Cruces, United States, Angela Ousley, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, FL, United States, Miranda Valdez, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, School of Engineering & Computing Sciences, Corpus Christi, TX, United States, Shawndee Neilson, California State University Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, United States and Sara C Sanchez, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Recent reviews of demographic data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statics and from other sources have shown an increase in the number of women graduating with degrees in geosciences and ocean sciences. However, the same sources show that there has been little to no change in graduation rates for ethnically and racially diverse students. Data from undergraduate research internship programs that focus on ocean sciences provide additional information on workforce trends. One type of internship program, known as the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program, is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage the education of the next generation of students and researchers. Participant demographic and education data has been collected, compiled and analyzed since 2009 for REU Sites supported by the NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE). In 2009 OCE supported 19 REU Sites that created research opportunities for 201 undergraduate students, and a decade later, OCE supported 29 REU sites that hosted 320 undergraduates. Trend analysis of participant data shows that the percentage of female participants has increased from 59% in 2009 to 68% in 2019. The percentage of under-represented minority students who participated in OCE REU programs increased from 29% to 57% over the same period. Since 2009, the percentage of participants in the first or second year of college has slowly increased, and the percentage of rising seniors has decreased from 65% to 53%, as NSF urged programs to recruit students earlier in their undergraduate careers. This data analysis is used by NSF to improve outreach efforts for the OCE REU programs and to support efforts to diversify the Ocean Sciences workforce.