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Undergraduate Perceptions of Climate Education Exposure in Natural Resources Management

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 62(3): 831-839. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13361) @2019
Authors:   Natalie G. Nelson, Lise Montefiore, Cord Anthony, Laura Merriman, Emma Kuster, Garey A. Fox
Keywords:   Climate change, Climate science, Natural resources management, Postsecondary education, Undergraduate education, United States.

Abstract. To meet rising demands for climate-literate workers, undergraduate courses and curricula will require updates so that students are afforded opportunities to engage in climate science education. Previous research on undergraduate climate education has primarily focused on evaluating whether students have grounding in essential climate science principles, but these studies fail to capture the degree to which students feel they are exposed to climate education in their undergraduate programs and courses. In this study, we characterize recent trends in undergraduates‘ perceived exposure to climate education across the U.S. by analyzing responses to a national survey of graduate students who attended undergraduate institutions in the U.S. (n = 423). Survey respondents scored the levels of exposure that they received to a variety of climatological topics during their undergraduate studies, which ranged from applied (e.g., earth observations, numerical modeling) to interdisciplinary (e.g., agricultural climatology, hydroclimatology) and specialized (e.g., boundary-layer climatology). Our results reveal that those who received bachelor‘s degrees from programs related to human dimensions of natural resources management (e.g., geography, resource economics) generally felt that their undergraduate curricula provided them with exposure to climate education, whereas those who graduated from programs in engineering and the agricultural and life sciences largely reported a lack of climate coverage in their undergraduate studies. Students of all disciplinary backgrounds indicated that they received poor exposure to numerical modeling of historical and future climatic conditions. Findings from this study underline key areas in which curricular or course improvements are needed to ensure that future decision-makers are confident in their practical use of climate science.

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