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… Wild, vast, Denali National Park, to be exact. We stood at the abrupt end of a gravel road, a chilling wind rolling up over its brink, staring across a tumbling mountainside a hundred yards to another precipitous edge where the road re-started. My mind needed time to make sense of the visual chaos in front of us before recognizing that the crumbled earth some forty feet below was, indeed, the missing stretch of roadway.

Park geologist Denny Capps and three of Denali National Park and Preserve’s interns were explaining the Pretty Rocks Landslide, its long history, and substantially increasing movement over the past eight years. In fact, the recent displacement has been severe enough to close the park road at its midpoint while extensive two-year plans are implemented to reestablish a safe road across the slide area.

Nicole Benshoff is focused on this and other landslides throughout the park during her internship, and Samantha Hilburn is working in science communications. Both are part of the Scientists in Parks (SIP) program—a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Geological Society of America, the Stewards Individual Placement Program, and the Ecological Society of America. The program offers unique opportunities to work on current scientific needs in national parks, build professional experience, and foster the next generation of diverse natural resource stewards. Angela Fiorito is an intern in the NPS’s Mosaics in Science Diversity Program, a GIS assistant documenting historical aerial photos. With first-hand experience that positions are highly sought after and competitive, all three value the exceptional opportunities to apply their geology backgrounds to real-world, science-based work in Denali.

Nicole said, “So far my time at Denali National Park and Preserve has served as a foundational experience for government work and how geology would be incorporated. The hands-on experience with geohazards, monitoring, and communication is invaluable and will bolster my graduate student skillset. I look forward to every new day as it always brings something exciting.”

GSA and the NPS have partnered on work experience programs since 1997, and Nicole’s geology assistant position is fully funded by donors who have been supporting these efforts through the GSA Foundation for sixteen years. Sally and Bob Newcomb are committed to facilitating important scientific work on challenging, current issues, noting, “The most fun Bob and I have all year is reading the letters from the interns about their experiences, the reports of their activities, and sometimes their publications. A few of the areas addressed by interns in Denali include glaciation, hazard mitigation, river morphology, novel fossils, monitoring fossil access, and visitor education,” and now, the tremendously important work on increasing landslide implications in the park. The Newcombs enjoy keeping up with the interns by attending talks and posters at GSA and reading their reports, and after ten years of consistent funding, they visited Denali to interact with the interns and park staff, explore deep into the park, and learn about the science being done.

Among hundreds of annual participants in SIP and GeoCorps™ America—a similar program partnering with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service—dozens have gone on to full-time federal employment over the years. If you are passionate about encouraging aspiring geoscientists to conduct important scientific work on America’s public lands, please contact Debbie Marcinkowski at dmarcinkowski@geosociety.org or +1-303-357-1047. General contributions of all sizes make a difference.

Standing at the dramatic edge of the Pretty Rocks Landslide, I watched Nicole’s eyes light up as she described for me in layman’s terms how the rhyolite in the Teklanika Formation contributes to the problematic instability throughout the park, as weathering results in the clay that slides. It was strikingly clear as we stood in this majestic expanse, what compels the Newcombs’ continued commitment, the immense need for scientific work in public lands, and just how much is supported through GSA’s work experience partnerships.

Debbie Marcinkoswki, GSA Foundation Executive Director

Pretty Rocks Landslide, Denali National Park braided rivers, Denali National Park and Preserve drainage to a new landslide, Denali National Park and Preserve Nicole Benshoff at Denali National Park and Preserve

Caption: From left: Park geologist and 2022 science interns at the edge of the Pretty Rocks Landslide and the temporary end of the park road. Braided rivers characterize the landscape of Denali National Park and Preserve. Hiking up a drainage to a new landslide representative of many appearing along the park road. Nicole Benshoff explaining the geology of this kind of slide.

 

GSA Foundation Rendezvous in the Mountains of Saint Francis trip leaders Sandro Montanari and Frank Pazzaglia at our home base of Abbazia di Sant’Urbano, Monte San Vicino in the distance, preparing our group for the first day in the field.

Looking toward Monte San Vicino (Italy) Sandro Montanari and Frank Pazzaglia at Abbazia di Sant'Urbano

Camaraderie over happy hour after dusty days in the field, friendships forged under the hot desert sun, new personal and professional connections: Although these things may not be what lured attendees to the GSA Foundation’s first-ever Death Valley Rendezvous in 2019, they are the kinds of experiences and connections that 25 participants left with after our six-day trip together based in Shoshone, California, USA.

GSAF decided to pilot this type of trip because we wanted a meaningful way to show appreciation for those who support GSA and its programs through donations to the Foundation. Offering unique field experiences for donors and their guests proved to be an ideal avenue, and when one of our committee members suggested we call the trips “rendezvous,” all agreed it was the perfect reference for the fellowship we hoped to foster.

Some attendees were longtime friends of the Foundation, and some we were meeting for the first time; some were students, some current professional geologists across disciplines, others retired from long careers, and some were family members of geologists attending. The trip held interest for all: Death Valley and the surrounding area offer a fascinating spectrum of geology to ponder, from the towering walls of Titus Canyon to the Amargosa River Valley. Trip leader Darrel Cowan (University of Washington) led lively, rich discussions at each site. In addition, we spent time talking about the ecology of the area with a local Nature Conservancy naturalist: from pupfish once thought to be extinct to the curious migration of the Phainopepla. One of the students—a Wright-Troxel Research Grant recipient—gave an evening presentation on his research focused on a nearby site. And Shoshone Village was a welcoming homebase conducive for us to gather, relax, share ideas and reflections on the days over meals, and explore on foot between scheduled activities.

After two seasons on hold due to the pandemic, our second Death Valley Rendezvous this past spring was another grand Stops during GSAF’s 2022 Death Valley Rendezvous excursion. Feedback from participants has been so positive, and the slots filled so quickly, that we have a third trip to Death Valley coming in the spring of 2023.

This September, we will travel internationally with a Rendezvous in the Mountains of Saint Francis. Our trip leaders are Alessandro Montanari and Paula Metallo (Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco), Frank Pazzaglia (Lehigh University), and Jan Smit (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), each with extensive experience in the Apennines and the Marche region of Italy. We are eager to bring together another group of geology-minded friends for a rich experience exploring the area’s geologic wonders and cultural history over six field days, from a medieval landslide on the coast to a walk up the Bottaccione Gorge and the original K-T boundary outcrop, with geoarchaeologic museums, caves, Jurassic ammonoid collections in a Renaissance castle, historic villages, and, of course, food of the region to round out the trip.

GSAF will continue offering one to two Rendezvous each year for our donors, and we have a growing list of potential trip sites as you have responded with such interest in continued opportunities. Please watch for 2023 trip announcements, and feel free to contact Debbie Marcinkowski at +1-303-357-1047 or dmarcinkowski@ geosociety.org if you would like information.

Corporate partners and sponsors generate unique opportunities at GSA. The various mechanisms for company participation are each important to the Society’s programming in distinctive ways.

Meeting sponsorship can be tailored and more expansive than it might first sound. After exhibiting at GSA’s annual meeting over the years, Bruker Nano Analytics opted for greater participation in 2022. In fact, if you attended any of GSA’s section meetings this past spring, you probably picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer that Bruker provided to enhance the Society’s health and safety measures during some of our first in-person gatherings since the start of the pandemic. Bruker also sponsored each section meeting, and their participation in GSA Connects 2022 (9–12 October, Denver, Colorado) includes lead sponsorship of GEO.SCI, the tech demo area you will experience in the exhibit hall; an expanded exhibit booth; and badge lanyards for all attendees.

What compels a company like Bruker to choose GSA as a partner? Jonathan Knapp, Ph.D., Geosciences Market Segment Manager, explains the strategic reasoning: “Our partnership with GSA has been hugely beneficial to us. We have found the personal contact with members of the community at the regional shows to be extremely important. We get more out of the annual meeting by being at each of the regional meetings—it lets us have more intimate conversations and set up dedicated time at the annual meeting. We also enjoy the ability to have detailed conversations with students at their posters.

“GSA has been a great partner to work through innovative ideas with. We think that the ability to showcase new technologies and provide more hands-on and experiential exhibit halls benefits our goals. We aim to expand awareness and adoption of methods, not just our products.

“Our partnership with the Geological Society of America has been part of our overall engagement plan to build more informal connections with the scientific community. It has been a resounding success. It’s particularly important for us to engage with discussions about the development of new methods and technology. Such discussions take time, and attending multiple meetings a year helps us have multiple touch points with important partners.”

Other companies find paths of engagement that meet their needs, as well. Chevron is a steadfast example of a returning program sponsor, actively participating in GSA’s GeoCareers program for many years. This year, they are also supporting GSA’s Expanding Representation in the Geosciences Scholarships, an ideal avenue to demonstrate our mutual priority of broadening participation in the field. We are grateful to companies like Brunton who choose to be an organizational partner, providing exclusive member discounts for their products, meeting sponsorship, unique opportunities like demo fleets for GSA field trips, and the tremendous contribution of personalized, engraved Transits for GSA’s J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship recipients. And, longtime GSA vendor Image AV partners as an in-kind sponsor by including extensive audio/visual equipment throughout GSA Connects, outside of GSA’s contracted services.

To discuss how your company or organization can find valuable engagement through these kinds of partnerships, please contact Debbie Marcinkowski at +1-303-357-1047 or dmarcinkowski@geosociety.org.
Bruker sign at 2022 GSA Section Meeting Bruker hand sanitizer at 2022 GSA Section Meeting Bruker booth at 2022 GSA Section Meeting

A Bruker representative was at each GSA Section meeting this spring, along with bottles of hand sanitizer contributed by the company to help promote health & safety measures

More than most, geologists know the value of considering a longer timescale. Often, donations are made to meet an immediate need, but a legacy gift can ensure support far beyond current needs and usually, on a larger scale.

GSA has served geologists at all stages of their careers for nearly 135 years, thanks in large part to generous donors who have included the Society in their estate plans. Even as needs change and technology becomes more advanced, geoscience remains relevant and essential for addressing many of the challenges facing us around the world.

A legacy gift allows you to make a lasting difference for the Society, the programs you are passionate about, and geoscience as a whole. There are no costs or fees to set up a planned gift and you may be able to give more through your estate than during your lifetime, which allows you to make a larger impact over time and leave a legacy that reflects your values.

If you are interested in including GSA in your estate plans, you can find more information here or by contacting Cliff Cullen at +1 303-357-1007 or ccullen@geosociety.org.

Walter Keller and University of Missouri Branson Field Laboratory students on top of Wind River Peak in 1935Students/TAs from the University of Missouri Branson Field Laboratory on top of Wind River Peak in 2018

Spanning the years:
(Left) Walter Keller and students from the University of Missouri Branson Field Laboratory, the longest continuously running field camp in the U.S., on top of Wind River Peak in 1935. (Right) Students/TAs from the University of Missouri Branson Field Laboratory on top of Wind River Peak in 2018.

Mikelia Heberer sitting on a stone fenceMikelia Heberer is a first-generation college student and was very thankful to be a part of OTF during GSA Connects and have a mentor guide them through their first conference.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was meeting new people at the conference and at the OTF-hosted dinner. Being a part of OTF meant I was matched with a mentor. My mentor gave me valuable advice and offered words of wisdom regarding the navigation of conferences, which I greatly appreciated. My second impactful aspect of meeting new people occurred during the OTF dinner at the hotel. While at the dinner, I had the opportunity to listen to words of wisdom from speakers that told stories of their own perseverance and resilience. Their stories were very inspiring and eye opening. I really appreciated their courage in sharing these experiences with us and inspiring the future generation of scientists.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

The most memorable experience that I have from GSA 2021 is the moment after I gave my first professional presentation and received a round of applause from the audience. I enjoyed the experience of answering questions after my presentation and having the opportunity to enhance my presenter skills.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

When looking for a mentor, I wanted someone who had taken a similar career path to what I am currently on. I was paired with a mentor who I enjoyed. She was very supportive and offered valuable advice on navigating the science world. Because of my positive experience with my OTF mentor, I would consider returning as a mentor in the future.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

Having such a positive, first experience at a conference, partly because of OTF, has really boosted my confidence in attending professional meetings. Being super nervous when I first got to the meeting, scheduled meetings with my mentor helped me balance my time and thoughts. I believe my mentor did a great job in giving me advice and sharing her wisdom of her career path. I hope to be a mentor for OTF in the future.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

OTF is a great program that opens the door for people who usually don’t have the opportunity to go to conferences like GSA. Being a first-generation college student myself, I was very thankful to be a part of OTF during GSA and have a mentor that guided me through my first conference. As a result, my opinion of professional conferences is very high, just because my experience with OTF during GSA went so well.

 

Anahi Carrera in the fieldAnahi Carrera’s passion for geoscience was reignited after attending and presenting at GSA Connects 2021 as an OTF scholar. 

What was your OTF experience?

Thanks to support from On To the Future, I attended and presented for the first time at a GSA national conference as a graduate student. My presentation was titled “First-Generation College Students Underrepresented in US Geoscience Programs.” I have been interested in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outreach and education since I was an undergraduate student. As a low-income, first-generation Latina pursuing higher education, I have faced many obstacles during my academic career. As an undergraduate student, I quickly realized that my geosciences classes were less diverse than most other classes and there was virtually no representation of non-White professors. I found DEI efforts to be extremely necessary and fulfilling, but as I was thinking about graduate school, I believed that DEI could not form a significant part of my work if I wanted to be considered a “serious graduate student.” I thought to myself, “It’s okay if I have to pause DEI work as a graduate student to make progress in my career because most professors will not care about it, and they may think it’s a ‘waste of my time’ and a harmful distraction from my research. My impact is minimal anyway, but once I, hopefully, become a faculty member, I could ramp up those efforts in a more influential way.” I think this exemplifies the effect of historically negative attitudes toward DEI work in the geosciences, the lack of incentives or recognition for this work, and perhaps why many remain completely uninvolved, especially those not from historically marginalized backgrounds.

Thankfully, I met my now Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Emily Cooperdock, who views DEI as an integral part of her work and purposely recruits students who are also interested in these efforts. She has always encouraged me to pursue DEI efforts and is a great role model and example of someone actively working to make the geosciences more inclusive and equitable while also excelling as a scientist. She taught the first-ever DEI seminar in the earth sciences department at the University of Southern California, from which I gained so much knowledge, awareness, and perspective. My final project for the seminar was complementary to the work of another student, Thom Luckie. Emily encouraged and facilitated collaboration between us, which resulted in the work I presented at GSA and we are currently working on a publication. Emily gave us the time and support to do this work since she recognizes the value in it. She motivated me to give an oral presentation at GSA, despite my fear of public speaking, and I am so glad she did.

Attending and presenting at GSA Connects 2021 as an OTF scholar was an incredible experience that has reignited my passion for the geosciences. It helped me realize that so many people are doing incredible DEI work all over the country and are genuinely interested in pivoting the field toward a more inclusive and equitable future. It was also evident to me that GSA does care and does give DEI initiatives and research the importance and respect they deserve. I also had the pleasure of meeting a Latina geoscientist faculty for the first time, Dr. Elena Miranda, who I respect and admire. Her impactful talk was titled “The Leaky Pipeline Playbook: A Critical Look at Gatekeeping Methods That Perpetuate the Disenfranchisement of Women and People of Color in the Geosciences and Some Strategies for Interrupting the Effectiveness of the Playbook Moves.” It was invigorating to witness her strength as she shared the discrimination and barriers she experienced as a graduate student and faculty member in such a raw, non-bureaucratic way. She also outlined tangible strategies to create real change at the institutional level that target the cause, not the symptoms.

At a time when the amount of progress to be done feels insurmountable and change seems to move at glacial speed, these experiences at GSA were encouraging. They gave me hope and made me realize that thanks to advocacy from people like Dr. Miranda, my advisor, and many others, I may not have to suffer as much discrimination and trauma if I pursue an academic career in the geosciences as many people from historically excluded groups before me have. I left the GSA conference feeling more empowered to become an agent of change. Thank you, GSA, OTF organizers, and everyone doing their part to create a more equitable future for the geosciences. Even if you feel like your work is undermined or undervalued in your department or organization, please do not give up!

 

Rene Castillo at GSA 2021OTF showed Rene Castillo that there is a community of scientists who are like them and are doing amazing things. They are inspired to continue their educational and scientific goals to solve the problems in the world around them with science.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was the OTF dinner at GSA. I got to meet everyone in person from our preconference Zoom meeting. I met the president of GSA and many other students and professors and had some really great discussions. By getting to see in person that there is a population of students like me who struggle with the same things and come from the same background, I felt like science was something I could continue to pursue. Meeting all those people, especially the professors and industry professionals showed me that there is a support network of people who want to mentor and invest in the future of geoscience. I made connections I never would have gotten if I hadn’t attended GSA’s annual meeting or been a part of OTF. It gave me hope that one day, there will be more scientists just like me.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

What I remember most from GSA was all the good conversations and advice I got from not just my GSA mentor but the other OTF mentors. I was so scared to go to the conference because I have been intimidated by talking to professors. But everyone I spoke with was so excited to interact with students and speak about not just the really cool science that they do, but to speak about experiences and opportunities and genuinely connect with students. My mentor for OTF wasn’t necessarily in the career field I am interested in, but she made it a point to get to know what I was interested in and then find me connections at the conference and help start a conversation with people who do the science I want to do. I will never forget the passion my mentor and the other GSA attendees, students, professionals, and academics alike had.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

At first, I was worried about my mentor because I was intimidated by the virtual introduction through email. But after getting to meet Mrs. Amber Steele, I was inspired. She was so passionate about everything and walked me through the conference as I have never been to GSA before. She truly did want to help me succeed, whatever that looked like for me, either in a job or continuing my education, and made a point to help me find connections. I am so thankful to get to know her and have her in my network, and I hope to be a mentor like her in the future, because she refueled my passion for what I do and got me excited to go home and work towards my education goals.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

Before OTF, I wasn’t sure I wanted to complete my Master’s or continue in geoscience in general after the pandemic and experiences I had in higher education. But after all the people I met and the hydrogeology and geophysics sessions I attended, I was reminded why I love science. OTF showed me there’s a community of scientists who are like me and who do amazing things. I am inspired to continue my educational and scientific goals to solve the problems I see in the world around me with science.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

OTF is an experience that allows students who normally wouldn’t have such an opportunity to experience science in a new way. Getting to be a part of OTF can literally change students’ lives. I was going to most likely quit after one semester of graduate school, but by participating in OTF I found a community and network to support me to continue to pursue my passion for science and believe that the work I do is important. I promise that it means the world to students who are accepted as OTF participants and they are forever grateful for the opportunity and your support.

 

Kyle Merandi in the fieldKyle Merandi found a deep sense of community while attending GSA Connects thanks to OTF, which helped them immerse themselves in the broader GSA community.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was the sense of community that I found while attending the conference. Between the guidance provided by my mentor and the conversations with the peers I met during the various events, I feel more immersed in the GSA community and geosciences at large than I ever have. Having worked my entire way through college, I feel this experience helped make up for the networking and conference opportunities I missed out on throughout my undergraduate pursuits.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

The single most memorable moment from GSA 2021 was the welcome message that was read out at the LGBTQIA+ event from a member who could not attend this year. Hearing them recount events past—one year, the event consisted of two members meeting at a bar after the conference events ended for the day—and looking around at the amazing turnout at an official, sanctioned social event, gave me immense appreciation for how far we have come.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

My mentor was an excellent resource during my time at the conference. He really took the time to hear my story, and used my goals and previous experiences to steer me in the right direction for sessions to attend and people to speak with. This being my first time attending a conference, I’d imagine I would have been slightly overwhelmed without the framework that OTF provided for the experience. I absolutely would consider returning the favor and mentoring others in the future.

After your OTF experience, how do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

The connections I made through the OTF program have been so rewarding. I hope to keep in contact with the friends I made and watch them grow in their careers and various pursuits. Getting the opportunity to talk with so many different people and share our experiences and knowledge is something that I hope to bring forward in the rest of my career.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

Getting this opportunity was invaluable. I don’t know that I would have had a chance to attend GSA 2021 otherwise, let alone gain so much from it. If you believe our field can benefit immensely from bringing a more diverse group of people into the fold, putting your support behind programs like this is an excellent way to do so.

 

Emily True, GSA President Barb Dutrow, and Lisa Manlick at GSA Connects 2021Before OTF and GSA Connects, Lucy Manlick had impostor syndrome regarding their place in the geosciences. Since then, their confidence in geology has exponentially increased and they feel more confident in their abilities and coursework, and feel even more prepared for graduate school.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

There were two parts of the On To the Future program that I feel were the most impactful for me. Firstly, OTF paired me with a mentor who talked with me about my graduate school plans. She helped to advise me on my applications and potential career path, and connecting with her helped to acclimatize me to the conference. This leads me to the second most valuable part of this experience for me: attending the conference itself. Without OTF funding, I would not have been able to attend the GSA Connects 2021 conference. I had never been to a professional conference before this, and as an undergraduate senior, attending in-person had many benefits for me. The networking, résumé help, professional talks, and academic growth I gained by attending GSA Connects 2021 will go a long way in helping me on my academic journey.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

My mentorship experience was very valuable, both through my OTF mentor and through the GeoCareers mentorship center at the conference. My OTF mentor helped me to better picture what graduate school will be like, and advised me on my personal statement and CV for applications. The mentor I connected with during the drop-in résumé workshop has also been incredibly valuable: she helped to edit my CV at the conference, and has continued to be a source of advice and support as I work on the other components of my graduate school applications.

I definitely think that I’d like to return as a mentor someday in the future. To ensure that I could have the greatest impact on my mentee, I would only volunteer after I have made more advancements on my academic and career paths. As a mentor, I’d like to be able to help my mentee network, and I’d like to help advise them on any academic goals. Because it will take time for me to gain this experience myself, I expect it will be a while before I feel prepared to volunteer as a mentor and give the best advice I can.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

My OTF experience has had a significant impact on me, and I expect that it will continue to do so. OTF provided me with the means to attend my first professional conference: as an undergraduate student, this not only introduced me to cutting-edge scientific research, but also helped me in developing my network and my ability to develop poster presentations or presentations for my own future research. Before attending the conference, I don’t think I could have put together a research poster. After attending the conference, I feel that I could not only present a poster, but I could also give a presentation. This sort of professional development, combined with networking at the conference, will stay with me for a long time: professional skills and networking will benefit me greatly as I make my first steps into the graduate and early professional stages of my career.

The direct impact on my future is not the only influence that OTF has had on me. The significance that donors and GSA put in the time and effort to not only support me monetarily, but also with a mentorship, makes me feel welcome in the geoscience community. Before OTF and GSA Connects, I had impostor syndrome regarding my place in the geosciences. Since OTF and the conference, my confidence in geology has exponentially increased; I feel more confident in my abilities and coursework, and feel even more prepared for graduate school. This is probably the most lasting impact that OTF will have on me and my future: it made me feel like this is where I belong for my future career. This confidence and security that OTF fostered will have a lasting impact on me as I forge my way into a future in geoscience.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

OTF was an invaluable experience for me to make my first steps out of my undergraduate experience into the professional environment. Without the funding and mentorship that OTF provided me, I would not have been able to attend. OTF helps students like myself to work on our professional development and prepare for the next stages in our careers: if you want to support the next generation of geoscientists, and promote GSA’s mission in diversifying the geosciences, OTF is an amazing program worth your support!

Caption: Emily True (left) and Lucy Manlick (right), OTF Scholars, with GSA President Barb Dutrow (center).

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