Impacts of COVID-19 on the Geoscience Enterprise:
Permanent Will Academic Program and Workforce Changes Be?
The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the United States has led to a uniquely disruptive social,
economic, and educational situation. Since Spring 2020, colleges and universities had to adjust through waves of
campus closures and re-openings and a shift to online and hybrid teaching modalities, and students, faculty,
and geoscience programs needed to be agile. Likewise, the geoscience
profession, which spans many economic sectors and industries, was impacted by the changes in work
brought about by pandemic-related restrictions and impacts to business operations. Responses by
organizations varied from outright operational stoppages and layoffs to shifting to work-from-home
arrangements. In addition, varied state rulings and constraints on supply lines resulted in a myriad of impacts
across these industries. Like universities, many organizations needed to be agile in their response in order to weather the pandemic.
The structural persistence of pandemic-related impacts and innovative adaptations within the geoscience
enterprise has been widespread. As society moves into a post-pandemic landscape where regulatory
responses are being replaced by more localized and individualized responses to COVID-19, the persistence of
these changes and an overarching resiliency and flexibility within the profession is emerging. As society
is fully transitioning into a post-pandemic era, we are witnessing the lasting
imprint of the pandemic on geoscience academic programs, departments, employers, and the workforce as
a whole. We see pandemic-related methods of teaching, learning, and work becoming integrated into the day-to-day
workflows and operations. Research methods and opportunities have evolved in response to this crisis as well. The
pandemic has left a lasting imprint on the geosciences, but also has provided new opportunities for the geosciences
in support of society, shaping the future trajectory of the geosciences discipline.
The U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially at the state and local level, has provided a unique
opportunity to understand the short and long-term impacts of events that require rapid structural changes
to the workforce. Through this study we have documented the impacts to employers, workers, academia,
students, as well as the economic disruptions for material and energy supply chains, resilience to natural
hazards, and impacts on the environment. Such an understanding will enable us to better prepare for
future crises of similar nature so that our country and workforce are more resilient and able to adapt to
these structural disruptions.