Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Geological Sciences


Aaron A. Velasco

Second Advisor

Diane I. Doser


This Dissertation is comprised of four studies: three related to research on geoscience education and another seismological study of the South Island of New Zealand. The geoscience education research is grounded in 10 years of data collection and its implications for best practices for recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students into higher education in the geosciences. The seismological component contains results from the relocation of earthquakes from the 2009 Dusky Sound Mw 7.8 event, South Island, New Zealand.

In recent years, many have cited a major concern that U.S. is not producing enough STEM graduates to fit the forecasted economic need. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that underrepresented minorities are becoming a growing portion of the population, and people in these groups enter STEM careers at rates much smaller than their proportion of the populations. Among the STEM disciplines the Geosciences are the worst at attracting young people from underrepresented minorities. This Dissertation reports on results the Pathways program at the University of Texas at El Paso Pathways which sought to create a geoscience recruitment and training network in El Paso, Texas to increase the number of Hispanic Americans students to attain higher degrees and increase the awareness of the geosciences from 2002-2012. Two elements of the program were a summer program for high school students and an undergraduate research program conducted during the academic year, called PREP. Data collected from pre- and post-surveys from the summer program showed statistically significant positive changes in attitudes towards the geosciences. Longitudinal data shows a strong positive correlation of the program with retention of participants in the geoscience pipeline.

Results from the undergraduate research program show that it produced far more women and minority geoscience professionals than national norms. Combination of the institutional data, focus groups results, and career outcomes strongly suggest the program cultivated an environment in which not only were students expected to enter graduate school, but they were successful in pursuing a graduate degree and entering the geoscience workforce. The third study was a critical incident study conducted to develop a taxonomy for geoscience recruitment at the more pre-college age. Analysis of 20 interviews with undergraduate geoscience majors produce an independent taxonomy with many similarities to a previous study garnered from interviews with geoscience professionals. Use of the taxonomy in program design will enhance the effectiveness of the recruitment of underrepresented minorities to major in the geosciences and enter careers in the geosciences.

New Zealand is one the most seismically active places in the world. July 15th, 2009 Dusky Sound, South Island, New Zealand encountered a Mw 7.8 earthquake. In order to gain insight into partitioning of the slip on the subduction zone, a relocation study from the 2009 events was performed. Using the software program hypoDD, events were relocated and formed 4 major clusters. Results from the relocation indicate that 1) the events are all located above the subduction interface; 2) the events appear to have occurred in a transitional zone between the Australian and Pacific plates; and 3) the northernmost cluster appears to have partially filled a seismic gap between the 2009 Dusky Sound event and a previous event in 2003.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

140 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Tina Louise Carrick