October 27, 2014

The IAGD: making geology accessible to all

Posted by Laura Guertin

I have just returned from the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC.  Each year, GSA provides us with those moments, milestones, and memories we won’t soon forget – seeing one of our students present for the first time, seeing a colleague receive an award, hearing an exciting lunchtime or evening keynote speaker, etc.  I think the biggest takeaway for me this year was seeing the expansion of a relatively young professional organization and the impact new technologies can have to make geology accessible to all audiences.

If you have not yet heard of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD), I strongly encourage you to check out their website and learn more about their mission and vision.

The IAGD Mission
The IAGD mission is to improve access to the geosciences for individuals with disabilities and promote communities of research, instruction and student support.

The IAGD Vision

  • Celebrate the diverse abilities of all geoscientists while fostering student engagement in geoscience career pathways
  • Provide faculty professional development in instructional access and inclusion
  • Unify and promote efforts of collaboration in research and instructional best practices
  • Develop a community of resources for faculty and student support
  • Advance knowledge of access and accommodation within the geosciences through scientific research

Getting out in the field can be viewed by some as a barrier to participation in geoscience activities – but not to those at IAGD.  The IAGD organized GSA’s first accessible fieldtrip, which was captured as part of a GSA TV episode.  Please view the video below to learn more.



There was another “activity” that caught my eye in the GSA Exhibit Hall, the 3-D printing of foraminifera at The Cushman Foundation booth.  I recently saw articles about a 3D model print USGS earthquake data (see article) and of Hurricane Julio (see article), and I think 3D printing of fossil specimens is an excellent way to share the textures and details of micro- to macrofossils with blind and low-vision geologists. (*More to come in a future blog post about 3D printing in geology)

Currently, membership in IAGD is free, and there is no need to wait to become a member.  Each of us have something that we can contribute to the growth of this amazing organization and to making geology an inclusive science for students to professionals.  For those that are working with students or colleagues with a visual, audio, or physical impairment, or if you want to learn more about non-apparent disabilities, please see the Resources section of the IAGD website, as well as the following articles published by our peers in the Journal of Geoscience Education:

  • Tiffany A. Wild, Margilee P. Hilson, and Kathleen M. Farrand (2013) Conceptual Understanding of Geological Concepts by Students With Visual Impairements. Journal of Geoscience Education: May 2013, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 222-230. (PDF online)
  • Audrey C. Rule (2011) Tactile Earth and Space Science Materials for Students with Visual Impairments: Contours, Craters, Asteroids, and Features of Mars. Journal of Geoscience Education: November 2011, Vol. 59, No. 4, pp. 205-218. (PDF online)