Geoscientist Haydon Mort is hoping to inspire geoscientists to connect with the public in a way that sparks interest in the field.
Mort says there is a crucial need to encourage geology as a next-generation career option, given the magnitude of challenges related to climate change and the global energy transition.
“Everyone can see a pinch-point coming in the future where there just isn’t enough human resource coming into the sector,” said Mort. “For me, it is clear whatever we have been doing with outreach hasn’t worked. We can all agree to disagree on the best way to do outreach. But we can all surely agree that collectively we failed to win over the public’s interest in the Earth Sciences to the point where we have an enrollment crisis at university and, by extension, a pending crisis in industry.”
Mort is the founder and CEO of Geologize Ltd., a global geoscience communication training platform for those working and interested in the geosciences. Its flagship course – Practical Geocommunication – is being rolled out across Canadian universities and is endorsed by several leading global geoscience organizations.
The course for geoscience students, academics and professionals focuses on how to communicate clearly, effectively, and powerfully in a way that promotes real change in society. Attendees will learn how to communicate with a range of audiences, especially the public. Mort’s teaching is based on a bottom-up approach where he teaches the basic principles of neurology and builds on it. Pedagogy, media distortions, social media and geotourism are also covered in the course, with bonus material provided by other leaders in geocommunication.
“I'm hoping that this course will create a groundswell of appreciation for how important basic communication skills are within the geoscience community,” said Mort. “My ultimate goal is that I go out of business insofar as every university in the world has adopted some kind of communication module in their science subjects, including geoscience, so that we are all able to communicate with the public more effectively.”
The ability to connect in a truly authentic way with the general public is limited early in a geoscience student’s journey through university, said Mort. He contends that “students are taught to think like a scientist when it's just completely the opposite in the public life.”
He adds: “They want to know the punchline first. Why is it important to me? We sell our subject for the sake of our subject. For example, we say, ‘Look, that's a fossil. It's amazing. It's incredible.’ But we don't actually translate that into a dialogue, which is meaningful to the everyday person. Nine times out of 10, the listener thinks, ‘That's kind of interesting’ and then moves on. My method of communication involves taking things that people come into contact with in their everyday lives, and showing how those things are related and connected to the earth.”
Geologize is partnering with the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES) to offer the Practical Geocommunication training within every Canadian university geoscience department, as well as discount rates for the 16,000 members of CFES’ member organizations.
Mort said the majority of geoscientists in Canada now have the possibility to get trained in more effective communication, which could create an extremely important shift in public perception of the geosciences, and, in turn, how humanity is connected to the natural world in the short and medium term.
Aside from the tangible requirement for geologists to play a critical role in the energy transition, Mort said more geoscientists are needed to help shift the public’s behaviour and attitudes.
“In order to create a society that both respects and appreciates the planet, we need to actually educate people how they are connected and invested in the earth, it’s environments and resources.” said Mort. “If geoscientists are trained to do this in large enough numbers there is possibility to shift society to a better and deeper understanding of how they’re connected to the natural world. That way, they will behave accordingly, in a more sustainable fashion.”
Mort is looking to expand his slate of courses to include geocommunication for the resources sector and is currently seeking sponsorships.
“This area will be huge because there's a massive demand for that, especially in middle management to senior leadership,” said Mort. “They need to know how to improve their corporate social responsibility, and that plays into their ESG goals.”