Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Geoethics at the AGU-GAC-MAC-CGU JA 2015: 
A report from Montreal

by Vincent Cronin (IAPG-USA co-coordinator) 
and Anne-Marie Ryan (IAPG-Canada coordinator)

The IAPG workshop Teaching Geoethics in Undergraduate Science Programs” was held on 3 May 2015 for three hours. 
Catherine Pappas-Maenz, Anne-Marie Ryan, Charly Bank and Vince Cronin were joined by five colleagues for presentations and discussions about the need to help novice geoscientists to develop as ethical workers, and about the various challenges and opportunities involved in that process. Conveners talked about the possibility of developing an online geoethics course that might be able to mitigate some of the difficulties inherent in trying to develop or offer geoethics courses within university geology departments. Although participants number was small, the discussion was lively and beneficial for those present. The discussion certainly confirms and supports the need to continue to work on best pedagogical practices for teaching geoethics.

There were presentations at the IAPG symposium How do we build a healthy geoscience community that better serves society?”, held on 7 May 2015. Once the session began, the audience consistently numbered between about 30-36 people.
Dianne Quigley (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island) began the session with an account of her work with the Northeast Ethics Education Partnership ( As a small regional effort that has attracted external funding from the US National Science Foundation, it can be a model for the cooperative development of ethics resources that are appropriate for their constituent students. 
Catherine Pappas-Maenz of Dawson College in Montreal told about the context for her work to infuse ethics in geology coursework. Her school requires some general coursework that covers general moral philosophy, and so her efforts are focused on particular ethical issues in geoscience without having to provide background on major ethical theories. 
Charly Bank (University of Toronto) presented work he has done in collaboration with Anne-Marie Ryan (Dalhousie University) in which students confront a variety of ethical issues in the context of a water-related project. This project involves students in consideration of the history of the area, pollutants in the soils, issues of property, the sensitivity of information about hazards, and public policy. 
Vincent Cronin discussed a collaborative effort to develop educational materials in support of teaching undergraduate geoscience students about geoethics, and how those materials might be incorporated in courses. Vince also described how an entire course could be constructed from those materials. 
Gary Rosenberg (Milwaukee Public Museum and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) described the significant legacy of Aldo Leopold with respect to environmental ethics.
Oliver Bonham (Geoscientists Canada) described the self-regulation of geoscience ethics and practice in Canada, achieved through the cooperative efforts of professional geoscience organizations and regional authorities. 
Jan Boon (Carleton University, Ottawa) closed the session with an account of his work to identify the importance of various social and ethical factors in determining the success or failure of nine projects that he has studied as part of his doctoral research.

Poster at EGU 2015, by Vincent Cronin et al.
Vincent Cronin posted two small copies of his EGU 2015 poster in the symposium room with some blank post-it notes, and invited the audience to contribute ideas to those that are already on poster. Several new posts were submitted.