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Natalea Cohen in the fieldNatalea Cohen’s virtual field camp through Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, challenged her to apply all of the geologic knowledge she’s learned in the last three years as she and her classmates remotely mapped the nearby geologic features.

Where did you attend field camp?

This summer I went through four weeks of virtual field camp where I used Google Earth, digital images, LIDAR, and Stereonet to explore and analyze field areas including the Henry Mountains, Utah; Merrimac Butte, Utah; Molas Pass, Colorado; a section south of Ouray, Colorado; and Coal Creek/Golden Gate, Colorado.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

COVID-19 had a huge impact on my field camp experience. Rather than camping, hiking, and experiencing the geology in person, I had to draw maps using virtual tools and maps/images mailed to me by my professors. I was disappointed and sad I couldn’t have the opportunity to be with my classmates in person, but I am still thankful for my amazing and persistent teachers who did everything possible to still make it a knowledgeable and fun experience.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Receiving the field camp scholarship meant so much to me because it helped aid me in paying the tuition and other field camp fees for supplies. Since field camp was so time intensive and because of the effects of COVID-19, it was not possible to have a separate job. Receiving this award enabled me to relax and not stress about other fees and put all of my focus and energy into having a positive field camp experience.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

Virtual field camp taught me how important and valuable it is to complete remote mapping with satellite imagery and topographic maps before doing in-person exploration of the field site. After week 1 of field camp, my professor explained that the mapping accuracy and coverage from our week of remote work covered more area, more accurately than they ever have from in-person mapping.

This experience also taught me to remain positive and persistent in everything I do despite difficult circumstances and to focus on the factors you can control.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Field camp gave me the opportunity to apply the geologic knowledge I’ve learned in the past three years. It challenged me to think and problem solve in ways that were difficult and new. It also provided me with opportunities to practice my mapping skills (reading, creating, and analyzing maps).

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

In my opinion field camp is extremely important for geoscience students. It provides them with important skills and the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a more realistic setting. It also gives them the experience to feel what it’s like to experience the time, energy, and focus that field work requires, whether it’s virtual or in person.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

The support of field camp opportunities for students is extremely important and often the only way a student can afford to attend field camp. Field camp is a required class to graduate with a geology degree and it can be quite expensive. Many students are responsible for paying their own tuition and academic fees, while also trying to afford personal living expenses such as food and housing. This is all while trying to focus on school and have a successful academic experience. Field camp opportunities are the very thing that make field camp more affordable and for some, possible.

 

Maria Solis discovereMaria Solis in the fieldd the interesting and diverse geology in her home state of Texas when her field camp decided to stay local instead of going to Montana.

Where did you attend field camp?

I did field camp at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Most of my field camp studies took place in East and South Texas.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

The pandemic affected the field camp trip plans in such a way that instead of traveling to Montana as a group, we actually rode in our own vehicles to more local places to study those outcrops. We had to social distance in the field, which is easier than wearing our masks out there (it got extra hot with our masks on). We only went out to the field a day or two per week to minimize contact with other people.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Continuing my education is highly important to me, but it’s not free. Getting this scholarship meant that I could forget about worrying if I had enough money to go where the instructor needed us to go with the right equipment for the study. In the time of COVID-19, when things are harder economically, I had the blessing of receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship to help me with the one resource that I have the least of.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

A lot of the work for field camp was done at home using a long list of different resources due to COVID-19. I learned that being out in the field is more necessary than I thought when it comes to studying an area, because studying an area virtually is limited. In order to understand an area, it’s important to use both, virtual resources and field study. I learned that I am in the right field when it comes to my career, because I absolutely fell in love with geologic features and rocks. Out there, I felt I was in my element, and my curiosity spiked while looking at new rocks and minerals and formations I had never seen before, or things I had seen only in class.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Texas has been my home all my life, but I hardly ever went out exploring it. If it wasn’t for this field camp experience, I wouldn’t know how diverse and interesting Texas geology really is.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

There’s no substitute for going out to the field to get the hard facts in geologic studies. It’s a science, and hard, scientific facts are indispensable.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is expensive, regardless of where it is, and most students that study the geologic sciences need the one resource necessary for success in the field, money to get the right clothes/shoes, the right equipment and scientific instruments, the right sustainment, etc. Funding helps students prepare to become the experts they need to be for the benefit of the geosciences and society as a whole. If a student keeps worrying about what they don’t have, how can they worry about the geologic problem at hand?

 

Selena Kimball in the fieldMany students hoping to complete their field camp requirement in the summer of 2020, had their plans derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were faced with the difficult choice of postponing or venturing into the unknown and attending field camp by the glow of a laptop rather than a campfire.

To help navigate this unprecedented decision, recipients of GSA’s 2020 J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarships were given the option to defer their awards or use them to attend a virtual field camp.

Several chose the virtual option. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing their experiences as they learned to apply their geoscience training in a virtual environment and developed new skills to help them thrive in an increasingly digital world—all the while navigating a difficult and ever-changing situation.

Thank you for your past and continued support of students’ field camp experiences. We realize these are uncertain times for many, but if you would like to make a gift to the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program to help students attend field camp, please click DONATE at the top right.

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Selena Kimball attended the University of South Florida’s (USF) virtual field camp, an experience she called the “capstone” of her geology degree. She now feels prepared to continue her academic and professional career.

Where did you attend field camp? 
I attended field camp at the University of South Florida, which was converted into a virtual data analysis field camp. The virtual program consisted of six courses that were each one week in length and explored different geologic topics: hydrology, mapping of volcanology, structural mapping, coastal geology, geophysics, and geospatial mapping.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?
Because of COVID-19 the geoscience department and the university had all summer classes converted to an online format. The geoscience department at USF made the switch as smooth and accessible as possible to every student by providing laptop computers and the necessary software when needed. Throughout the experience, it was apparent that the switch was necessary to reduce exposure to the virus and maintain a status of safety. Because of the remoteness of the online program, and unfortunately not from the remoteness of the outdoors, meetings on Microsoft Teams were frequent and extensive, allowing for an interactive group setting that would have been provided in non-virtual field camps. Even though my colleagues and I were not in the field for field camps, the online format was organized and completed to the best of everyone’s abilities given the circumstances.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?
Receiving the field camp scholarship meant that I could support myself financially during the six weeks that the full-time field camps occurred. Although a majority of the scholarship went to the cost of tuition, the remaining amount allowed me to focus on my studies. The scholarship gave me the opportunity to produce my best work and truly show everything I have learned throughout my education.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?
The virtual field camp experience taught me the importance of using technology as a tool for analyzing, collecting, and organizing data. Additionally, the experience showed me how to use software, such as ArcGIS AppStudio, as a visual aid for communicating scientific data with the general public. The virtual field camp left me feeling more confident in my computer skills, such as coding and figuring out software I’ve never used before. My curiosity for the earth around me and its origins are what led me to a degree in geology. Experiencing field camps, even online, solidified my academic and career choice because it encompasses everything that defines geology as a disciple.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
The most valuable opportunity I received was learning from an amazing group of professors/TAs from each subdiscipline of the geoscience department and being introduced to valuable data analysis software. For example, computer applications such as ArcGIS Pro, MATLAB, R, and ResIPy were introduced as data analysis tools for geologic and environmental solutions. Google Earth satellite imagery was used to create geologic maps in UTM coordinates and cross sections of folds/faults in Idaho that would have been visited in-field. LiDAR and geophysical topics such as magnetics, seismology, and ground penetrating radar were made familiar. The virtual field camp allowed me to dip my hands into the many subdisciplines of geology and learn the necessary skills and tools needed to perform the job as a professional. Whether it is hydrology, geologic and structural mapping, or geophysics, I now know what would be expected of me in the workforce or when I continue my education in graduate school.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students? Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?
As a geoscientist, being in-field is as important as analyzing data and investigating the world around you. The field camp experience at University of South Florida provided an alternative experience that was as immersive and intense as an in-field experience, while maintaining a focus on field observations, data analysis, and data/sample collection tools. The field experience, even though unfortunately virtual, was the most enriching and educational experience of completing my degree that will prepare me for furthering my career professionally and academically. Individuals should support field camp opportunities for students because the enrichment and transformation that occurs are just something that a classroom setting cannot provide. Without the support of the GSA scholarship, I would have missed the capstone experience of my geology degree.

Laura Serpa, retired Professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Texas at El Paso, encourages everyone to get involved in making the world a better place.

How did you first get involved in GSA?

I first got involved in GSA as a graduate student about 40 years ago. I regularly attended GSA meetings—particularly sectional meetings, but also some of the annual meetings—and read articles in GSA journals, so it was logical to join. Also, it was one of the most affordable professional organizations for students at that time. Over the years, I have served on committees and presented talks at GSA meetings, so it became a great place to see old friends and catch up on the latest geoscience.

What inspired you to give to GSA CARES?

I strongly support student involvement in GSA and think students should be encouraged to stay in school and earn degrees in geoscience. I would not have any college degree if it were not for financial help along the way.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

Try to avoid getting sick yourselves and stay in school, if possible, even if it is online. This is a great time to go hiking and camping in the wilderness, where rocks may be one of the best things to look at.

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

There are a lot of bad things going on in the world right now, and that is not going to change unless we all try to help. Donations, mentoring, and voting for change are only a few of the things that everyone should be doing now to make things better.

 

Cal and Melanie Barnes, longtime GSA members, encourage students not to give up and remind others that the next generation of scientists needs all the help we can provide.

How did you first get involved in GSA?

Cal joined GSA in 1975 thanks to encouragement from faculty and low student dues. Melanie joined in 1976. Cal joined the GSA South-Central (SC) Section Meeting management board in about 1996 and was the SC chair from 2000–2001. Since then, his activities have been mainly in the Cordilleran Section. Melanie was on the Geology and Public Policy Committee as the SC representative for about 6 years.

What inspired you to give to GSA CARES?

Both of us work in the academic world, so we have a front-row seat concerning the disruption students have to deal with in the transition to the virtual classroom.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

  1. Be flexible. We know that each teacher has a ‘style’ in the classroom. It’s also true when teaching virtually.
  2. Don’t slack off. Getting behind is a bad idea no matter what the classroom looks like.
  3. Explore the wide range of professional opportunities in the earth sciences.
  4. Don’t give up. When we emerge from the coronavirus we will still need enthusiastic earth scientists.

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

The costs of education will continue to increase, and with federal and state budgets under strain, the next generation of scientists needs all the help we can provide.

 

Camala GarzioneCamala Garzione, Professor and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs at Rochester Institute of Technology, wants students to know that she is pulling for them and feels an urgent need to help as they struggle with the disruption to their livelihood and education.

How did you first get involved in GSA?

My first experience with GSA was attending a GSA Section Meeting as a master’s student. I presented my first research talk. The community was warm and welcoming and provided great feedback on my master’s research.

What inspired you to give to GSA CARES?

I’ve seen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and financial stability of our students at Rochester Institute of Technology. Every bit of support has helped to keep students connected and progressing in their educational goals. We discussed this opportunity to support students in the geosciences at the spring GSA Council meeting. Many Council members and I felt an urgency to help get this support out to students who were struggling with the disruption in their livelihood and education. We stepped up to help define a process for applying, make donations, and support the processing of applications.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

We are all pulling for you. I know it is a very difficult time, but things will get better. Please stay connected with the GSA community, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from our community members. Like all crises, this will pass, and you will be stronger and more resilient from having gone through this.

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

Think back to your time as a student, whether it was an easy time or full of challenges. Imagine what it would be like to go through that time under the current circumstances. Donating to student support efforts will help ensure that the next generation can reach their educational goals and succeed. Their future is GSA’s future as an organization.

 

photo of Jeff RubinJeff Rubin, GSA Councilor, semi-retired emergency manager, and consultant, shares how it was a relief to be able to provide tangible assistance to students he knows are struggling and offers a reminder to dig in for the long haul.

How did you first get involved in GSA?

I joined after starting grad school (Early Holocene) to get more involved in the profession. I retained my membership even long after I stopped working as a practicing geologist. I was able to apply my geology background to public safety, valued GSA as a way to maintain a link, and I was always able to find a place in the organization. I started to get involved in GSA service in field safety and science policy, which fit segments of my career path. It stuck.

What inspired you to give to GSA CARES?

I’ve been working on our state’s COVID-19 response for a few months; although Oregon had somewhat of a glancing blow at first, the overall effects across the U.S. and the world have been brutal, and it’s not going away soon. Being able to jump into something offering tangible assistance was almost a relief. I was fortunate to have people take an interest in me during and after grad school, and I’ve tried to do the same with students over the years, so it wasn’t even a question for me.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

I’ll skip the “hang in there,” #__Strong, and other platitudes. It’s hard enough being a student or recent graduate without a pandemic, relying on an internship, summer job, or TA position just to make ends meet, much less carry on research. I don’t think anyone could read the applications for assistance and not be affected—even for those who don’t get sick this is clearly an existential event. GSA CARES is a lifeline, not a lifeboat, but it’s a tangible demonstration of how important this is to the Foundation, GSA, and its members. We went way beyond what we projected in donations and thus what we were able to provide to student members—that matters.

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

Do what you can: time, money, and just not adding to the problem. Limit your gatherings, wear a mask when you’re out among others, and dig in for the long haul. Look out for your students, support staff, and everyone else.

 

close-up of Joan Fryxell boating

Dr. Joan E. Fryxell, Professor of Geology, California State University, San Bernardino, shares how her students are tough and dedicated, but with the added burden of COVID-19 she knew it was her duty to help them.

How did you first get involved in GSA?

I joined GSA in 1977, when I graduated from college, to keep in contact with the geological community while I pursued a master’s degree in another field, and because it seemed like the professional thing to do. I got involved with GSA through the Cordilleran Section, as a local organizing committee member, and from there GSA started asking me to participate in other activities.

What inspired you to give to GSA CARES?

I teach at a regional comprehensive university whose students are overwhelmingly first-generation students working their way through college. I see their struggles to accomplish their goal of a college degree when the economy is “good” or at least the way it has been, juggling school, work, and home commitments, and I applaud the lengths they go to. Adding quarantine is a serious burden, and anything I can do to help is my duty to them.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. We all need to get used to this mode until an effective vaccine is widely available, so hang in there. I am looking forward to the day when I can hug my students at a commencement ceremony!

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

I am fortunate to be able to work at home, so my income is stable. If you are in a similar position, please consider contributing to a program that supports students. Our students are tough and dedicated, but they need our support.

photo of Steve WellsWhy I Give: GSA CARES

During an unprecedented time, the GSA Foundation Board of Trustees and the GSA Council undertook an unprecedented measure: the conception of GSA CARES, the GSA COVID-19 Assistance and Relief Effort for Students.

In response, GSA members and donors rallied together in the true sense of community that is GSA and showed our students how much we care about them and their wellbeing, their futures, and their vital role as our next generation of geoscientists.

Over the next few weeks, we will share testimonials from some of the many donors who were inspired to give of their resources to help students negatively impacted by COVID-19.

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Steve Wells, GSA Foundation Trustee and President of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, shares how his lifelong work with students inspired him to suggest the idea for GSA CARES.

What inspired you to suggest the idea for GSA CARES?

The idea for GSA CARES came from a fundraising effort developed at our university, New Mexico Tech, by our Office for Advancement and Alumni Relations. It was established as our university was witnessing an increase in giving to help people during this crisis.

As an academician for 40 years and a GSA member for more than 40 years, I care for students in our profession, I want to see them succeed, and I want our Society to support students as much as possible. Knowing that the students at our university were negatively impacted by the pandemic, it was obvious that the students in our Society were feeling the same pressures and challenges. As a Society and a profession, these students are our future.

What would you like to say to students affected by COVID-19?

As fellow geologists, time is so important in all we consider. Given this unique point in time that appears to have so much uncertainty, I think I would offer a view of time through the words of Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and philosopher:

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

This pandemic will be swept away, primarily through the implementation of science, medicine, and working collaboratively as a global community. This pandemic challenge will pass, and all of you will be stronger and more resilient because you have endured the challenge.

What would you like to say to others who want to help during this time?

The opportunity that each of us has during this crisis is not only to show we care for the future but we are willing to step up and invest in the future. Our future is our students.

 

 

All of us at the GSA Foundation sincerely hope that you and your families remain healthy and well during this unprecedented time. In awareness of the current and evolving situation, we also wish to sustain the hope of days ahead and the promise of developing careers and livelihoods, including those in the ever-vital geosciences. During this time, we would like to help our geoscience community continue to prepare geoscientists of the future, and we offer a positive way to invest in the future of our field.

We have a meaningful opportunity to double the impact of your support. A longtime GSA Foundation donor is issuing a matching gift challenge. Between now and 30 June, the donor will match 1:1 gifts made to GSA’s diversity initiative, On To the Future (OTF), for a total of up to $11,000.

The goal of OTF is to help students from traditionally underrepresented groups become part of the geoscientists of the future. Recipients of OTF scholarships are provided a year’s membership to GSA along with full meeting registration and travel support to attend their first GSA Annual Meeting.* They are also paired with a mentor who helps them navigate the meeting, make decisions about future education opportunities, and prepare for their future geoscience careers.

Click the “DONATE” button above and make a gift today to On To the Future and double your impact on the geoscientists of the future.

*Keeping in mind the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, gifts made to the OTF fund at this time will be applied to the OTF Program based on the status of GSA programming over the coming months. Your gift may help provide registration and mentorship for in-person or virtual GSA meetings, or expand the fund so that future student participants can be supported at a greater level.

OTF group at GSA 2020

 

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