Taxonomy term


Down to Earth With: Eric Riggs

Eric Riggs says he often tells students the story of how he got into geoscience as a cautionary tale. That may seem ironic given his current position as assistant dean for diversity and graduate student recruitment and development in Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences. But before returning to school to earn a doctorate in mineral physics and, eventually, settling into geoscience education research, Riggs made forays into English literature, marketing and the printing business. “Don’t do it this way!” he says with a laugh. “It worked out well for me, but it was a long, twisted path.”

09 Feb 2014

Down to Earth With: Kirk Johnson

In 1967, at a family picnic in Casper, Wyo., 6-year-old Kirk Johnson stumbled across a fossil that looked to him like an ancient rattlesnake tail (it turned out to be a brachiopod). Not long after, while hiking in his home state of Washington, he accidentally knocked over a piece of shale, fortuitously discovering a fossil leaf. The ensuing epiphany that he had a knack for finding fossil treasures led to what he now calls his “paleo obsession.”

16 Oct 2013

Geologic Column: Assessing energy and mining workforce needs

In his 1971 book, “Encounters with the Archdruid,” John McPhee quoted Charles Park, an economic geologist who worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and then Stanford University, who said, “People seldom stop to think that all these things — planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups — once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy — our way of doing things, most of what we have, even our culture — rests on these things.” Although McPhee’s emphasis was on the balance between environmental protection and our societal need for raw materials, the book highlighted the fundamental importance of energy exploration and mining, an idea that implies still another significant message: Our society needs scientists, engineers and skilled laborers who can locate and extract raw materials and energy sources from the rocks beneath our feet in order to power our economy and our way of life.

16 Aug 2013

Core skills in the geosciences: The geoblogosphere chimes in on what students need to know

Last April, I had a discussion with some of my fellow graduate students in the geology department at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (SUNY Buffalo) about teaching. One topic raised by those of us working with senior undergraduates was the skills our students would need to have by the time they left the department.

13 Aug 2013

Blogging on EARTH: A letter from field camp

Bryce Mitsunaga, a recent graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., is currently attending field camp at the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association camp located in the Beartooth Mountain Range outside of Red Lodge, Mont. In honor of EARTH's August feature on field camps, Bryce wrote in with some reflections on his experiences so far.

24 Jul 2013

Home sweet home for field campers

With a few exceptions — including available meal choices and entertainment options for when students have limited free time — accommodations at today’s field camps haven’t changed all that much, at least in the last few decades. Depending on the camp, however, lodging ranges from log cabins to college dorms to motels to the occasional traveling camps that still live and work out of “tent cities.”

22 Jul 2013

Location, Location, Location

Although field camps based east of the Mississippi River do exist, and a handful of American schools run camps abroad in places like Ireland, Italy and parts of Africa, the vast majority of camps in the U.S. are still  conducted out West. From the Black Hills and the Great Plains, across the Rockies and other mountain ranges, to the Desert Southwest, the western U.S. offers much in the way of beautifully exposed outcrops, distinctive landscapes and transects through long stretches of geologic time.

22 Jul 2013

Spotlight on UCORE projects

The National Science Foundation-funded Undergraduate Catalytic Outreach and Research Experience (UCORE) program ran from 2007 to 2012 and involved 132 students from six different community colleges in Oregon. During the five years of the UCORE program, groups of three to six community college students from each campus spent 10 weeks in the summer on the University of Oregon campus, working on projects alongside graduate students and faculty in chemistry, geological sciences and physics research groups. Listed below are some of the projects in which the students were involved.

31 Mar 2013

Do–it–yourself lava flows: Science, art and education in the Syracuse University Lava Project

Picture this: You’re walking across the tree-lined quad of Syracuse University, amid brick and stone buildings, when you happen upon a crowd of people. Crowds on the quad aren’t unusual, but this crowd is unusually diverse — students, professors and even parents with kids. You move a little closer and smell something odd: a blend of sulfur and marshmallows. Then you see it — molten lava pouring down the slope of a parking lot.

20 Aug 2012

The Syracuse University lava experiments

Pouring Lava

Melting a batch of the ancient basalt takes about four hours, but we hold the lava above its melting point for much longer to ensure that it is completely melted and to remove unwanted volatiles such as water. The lava is then poured at temperatures of 1,100 to 1,350 degrees Celsius, comparable to eruption temperatures of natural lava. We monitor it with a spot calorimeter and a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera, the same instrument conventionally used at lava flows in the field.

20 Aug 2012