College of Fellows Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker

Cathryn Manduca headshot

Cathryn Manduca
Carleton College
United States of America
Primary AffiliationEducation

Abstract Title: Toward a Successful, Sustainable, Just Future: The Role of Geoscience Education and Geoscience Education Research

Like medicine, geoscience education is a practice informed by research. Educators in formal and informal settings around the globe practice geoscience education by teaching individuals from early childhood through their lifespans about the Earth system and its history. This is one of the paths bringing Earth and Space research into use in society. Because this understanding of the Earth and Space system is critical to the development and management of resources, the mitigation of natural and human caused hazards, and the prediction of natural response to human activities, this knowledge is powerful.  Who has an opportunity to learn, as well as what, and how well they are taught makes a difference in the quality of life of individuals, communities and societies today and in the future.


Dr. Cathryn A Manduca has nearly two decades of experience leading national programs to improve geoscience education and undergraduate STEM education.  She established the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College in 2001 and was Director until 2021.  SERC supports communities of educators in improving education through peer learning and creation of on-line resources.   This collaborative work has generated more the than 30,000+ pages of website content that are visited by more than 5 million users per year and includes extensive examples of teaching with authentic geoscience data.  An important piece of the work from 2002 to 2018 was the NSF funded On the Cutting Edge Professional Development Program for Geoscience Faculty which established a mechanism for geoscience faculty to learn about advances in pedagogy and content and supported the development of a robust geoscience education research community in the United States.  The On the Cutting Edge Program is now sustained by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, an organization Manduca directed from 2007 to 2019.   

From 2011 to 2019,  Manduca served as the lead PI for the NSF funded InTeGrate STEP Center, which focused on advancing teaching about the Earth in the context of societal issues both within geoscience programs and across the curriculum.  Interinstitutional, interdisciplinary teams of faculty developed, tested and published 26 modules and 6 courses demonstrating this approach in geoscience, social science, humanities, engineering and business courses.  Departments, programs and interinstitutional collaborations developed and tested 16 different models for implementation at scales larger than an individual course.  A combination of face-to-face and virtual professional development opportunities and the project website supported the development of an expanding community supporting learning about the Earth in the context of societal issues.  At the close of the project, it had influenced more than 3000 courses in the United States with use and interest continuing to rise.  

 Dr. Manduca’s research focuses understanding faculty learning and the impact of professional networks on educational practice.  She has also written about the nature of geoscience expertise and the scope and purpose of geoscience education.  Her work has demonstrated the efficacy of discipline based professional development as well as the importance of a campus based culture of teaching and learning in supporting excellent education.  She collaborated on the development of the National Geoscience Faculty Survey in 2004 which has been administered repeatedly to understand the evolution of geoscience teaching and faculty learning since that time.  She established research teams composed of faculty from across the US to document geoscience teaching practices and  collect student learning data resulting in both scientific publications and increased geoscience education research capacity.  Currently her research interests include community-scale educational ecosystems and the role of education in creating resilient communities. 

Manduca served on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Board on Science Education from 2015 to 2021 and currently serves on the LabX Advisory Board.  She was a member of the American Geophysical Union Board of Directors and  President of the AAAS Education Section and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.  She is a Fellow of the AGU, the AAAS, and the Geological Society of America, and past recipient of the American Geophysical Union award for Excellence in Earth and Space Education. She received her B.A. in Geology from Williams College and her Ph.D. in Geology from the California Institute of Technology.