Initial Publication Date: November 27, 2019

This month's GER Spotlight is Dr. Renee Clary, Professor at Mississippi State University in the Department of Geosciences and the Director of the Dunn-Seiler Museum. Dr. Clary is a longtime proponent of geoscience education, especially with a multidisciplinary approach, and she was just named a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What is the focus of your current geoscience education research?

One of the best features of a university is that you can explore different areas in your research—and I have taken advantage of that option! I currently research several areas for improving geoliteracy within informal, online, and traditional learning environments. Some of my research areas include effective informal learning at US fossil parks; inclusion of the history of science in science teaching for improved understanding of the nature of science; how Sense of Place and geographic affiliation influence learners' knowledge gains and emotional responses to content; and the development, optimization, and implementation of visualization tools in geoscience education—including the development of virtual learning tools that provide access to learners that they otherwise would not have. I'm a staunch supporter of interdisciplinary STEM, community engaged learning, effective science communication, and increasing diversity within the geosciences.

What does GER look like at your institution, in your position?

I professionally reside within the Department of Geosciences, College of Arts & Sciences, at Mississippi State University. We are fortunate in MSU's Department of Geosciences to have multiple specializations within our department—in atmospheric sciences, geography and geospatial sciences, and geology. Several faculty are engaged in geoscience education research. I actively collaborate within my department, across MSU's campus, and beyond in my geoscience education research. As a geoscience education researcher in a "traditional" science department, I teach courses in my geological specialization areas (paleontology, environmental geochemistry) as well as courses in geoscience education (scientific visualization, philosophy and ethics). Dr. Athena Nagel (karst, GIS) and I direct the GeoViz Lab, and we meet weekly with our graduate students to problem-solve and maximize student success. We are always searching for qualified students to join our group, at either the masters or doctoral level.

What is your advice for someone who is interested in starting out in geoscience education research or scholarship of teaching and learning?

As geologists, we rally around the slogan that "Geology is best taught in the field." Similarly, if you want to develop expertise in geoscience education research or scholarship, network with other geoscience education researchers in collaborative projects and workshops. Identify the area of geoscience education research in which you would like to engage, and recognize there are differences between research groups--including traditional science education researchers (trained extensively in cognitive science/ learning theories), geologists who are interested in education research, STEM educators who seek to improve pedagogical learning tools. . . and more! Check out the published research, and network within active geoscience education research groups. I hope you enjoy this field as much as I do—and please reach out to me with questions.

Read some of Dr. Clary's upcoming publications.

Clary, R.M. (in press). Location, location, location: Challenges of effective geoscience education within geotourism opportunities at coastal US fossil park sites (Chapter 12). In R.B. Singh, D.Wei, and S. Anand, Eds., Global geographical heritage, geoparks, and geotourism. Berlin: Springer Nature.

Cho, Y., & Clary, R.M. (in press). Challenges and opportunities for virtual learning in college geology education. (Chapter 44). In J.J. Mintzes & E.M. Walter, Eds. Active learning in College Science: The Case for Evidence Based Practice. Berlin: Springer Nature.

Nagel, A.O., & Clary, R.M. (in press). Google Earth in online science classrooms (Chapter 42). In J.J. Mintzes & E.M. Walter, Eds. Active learning in College Science: The Case for Evidence Based Practice. Berlin: Springer Nature.