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Jeeban Panthi working in the field

Jeeban Panthi, graduate research assistant at University of Rhode Island, Department of Geosciences, takes a break from hydrogeophysical modeling to share how he received important guidance on his career path during his On To the Future (OTF) experience.

Pre–GSA 2019 Questions

What are your expectations for the annual meeting and OTF?

My expectation for the annual meeting is to present my research among the geoscience community, learn about others’ work, and establish a good relationship with the hydrogeology community members. I’m expecting to make connections with other OTF students so that we can share our research activities in the future and potentially collaborate on research projects.

What do you want to get out of the program?

I would like to get constructive comments on my research project and connect with experts in my field (at least one expert each day, five experts from the conference).

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to the early career events. The most interesting to me will be the job-related workshop organized to support OTF students.

What would you like your mentor to help with during the meeting?

I would like my mentor to make comments on my poster (my presenting style, poster design, and technical presentation), review my research statement, and my CV. I would also like to hear their personal story about job hunting and their ideas for me about how to find a postdoc position after I graduate from my university.

Post–GSA 2019 Questions

Did OTF meet your expectations?

Yes. OTF provided me with knowledge, networking, and fun.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was a career event organized for young researchers and OTF students. I enjoyed learning the basic skills of writing a cover letter and résumé for internships and how to fill out job and fellowship applications.

What do you remember most from the annual meeting?

The thing I remember most from the annual meeting is my networking opportunities. I met about ten professors and experts from the hydrogeology sector and I’m still in close contact with them. They could be my potential employers in the future.

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

I got constructive comments on my poster and career pathways from my mentors. My mentors are also offering their help throughout my career pathway, like job hunting, applying, and interviewing. Yes, I’ll be happy to transfer my mentorship experience as a mentor in the future.

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

It is motivating to me. OTF not only supports students financially but also helps for career development and networking. I will never forget my experience as an OTF student.

Jazzy Graham-DavisThere are many recipients of GSA’s Community of Support. You recently read several stories from recipients of GSA’s Field Camp scholarship. To kick off the New Year, we will be sharing stories from participants of GSA’s On To the Future (OTF) program. We had the opportunity to interview five OTF participants about their expectations before GSA 2019 and then how their experience compared with those expectations. We hope these stories take you back to your experiences as a first-time GSA Annual Meeting attendee.


Jazzy Graham-Davis (they/them/theirs), graduate, Portland State University, recently relocated to Sacramento and is looking to start their career in industry. They are currently working as a “mad scientist” teaching young children the foundations of science. Jazzy shares how OTF exceeded their expectations—providing mentorship and networking opportunities, which are essential for students and early career professionals.

Pre–GSA 2019 Questions

What are your expectations for the annual meeting and OTF?

I am going in to the experience with an open mind and not expecting too much, except to be somewhat overwhelmed by all the different presentations, people, and events that will be going on. This also excites me and will push me beyond my comfort zone.

What do you want to get out of the program?

I hope to meet other people who don’t represent the traditional geologist and to learn about their backgrounds. I would love if we were to navigate the meeting as a group rather than just by myself. I also hope to meet people that I will be able to work with in the future to promote diversity within geology, as this is one of my long term professional goals.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the atmosphere of being at the meeting. It amazes me to be around so many smart and talented people who all appreciate geology and want to further the field. Even better would be to appreciate this all with a diverse group of people with goals similar to my own as I mentioned above.

How do you see OTF helping you in the future?

I hope that OTF connects me to people now and in the future that I can look to for advice should I encounter any issues, and who will support me as a geologist regardless of who I am. It is so important to find people who support you for being you, and I hope that I can provide that support to others as well, and find a community of people similar to me.  I would love to support OTF in the future as a professional to help up-and-coming geologists find their place within the field.

Post–GSA 2019 Questions

Did OTF meet your expectations?

OTF exceeded my expectations! I wasn’t sure how useful all of the speakers and events would be for me since I am a recent graduate. Even if some of the information I got isn’t something I need right now, it will all be very helpful when I pursue graduate school.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

It was amazing to hear from lifelong members of GSA that people like us OTF scholars are the future of GSA. It made a huge impact on my goals for future GSA meetings and the ways that I would like to be involved. I definitely will be active in GSA throughout my career and would like to do what I can to further improve diversity at these events.

What do you remember most from the annual meeting?

I remember how inclusive and receptive everyone in OTF was. Just seeing the people around me and the different backgrounds that we all came from was very comforting. I instantly felt safe sharing my own struggles within geology and GSA meetings and discussing how we as a community can improve.

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

I was able to get feedback about my résumé, cover letter, and career path from many mentors. I can’t tell you how much the mentoring helped my writing and confidence when applying to jobs. It is important to me to make sure that I am on track to have the type of career that I want, and it was so helpful to talk to people who have taken many different paths to where they are today. I would love to come back and serve as a mentor in the future. I think mentoring is key for students and early career professionals to network and make lasting connections.

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

I will use my connections to OTF and the people I met through the program to make nontraditional geologists feel welcome at GSA meetings. One idea that I already have talked to some about is a transgender/nonbinary genders social. I would also like to see more work done on making geology accessible to people with disabilities and providing a community for those people.


Dominic Aluia in the fieldDominic Aluia’s field camp experience changed his life, reaffirming his interest in environmental consulting and leading to his first job in the industry.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended field camp in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the Western Michigan University Hydrogeological Field Camp.

What did receiving the field camp scholarship mean to you?

I am honored to be one of the recipients of the GSA Field Camp Award. Receiving this prestigious award meant a great deal to me. When I was in a lecture and completing field demonstrations, I was able to focus on mastering the content instead of worrying about how to finance the experience.

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

My biggest takeaway from this program is that there is a real need for talented geoscientists who are ready to join teams that promote environmental stewardship and who have a solid understanding of Earth’s interacting systems.

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

This camp affirmed my interest in environmental consulting, and I am happy to say I secured my first job in the industry by highlighting my groundwater field camp experiences. This camp provided me with hands-on experience using equipment and software most commonly used in the environmental consulting field that I was not exposed to in my undergraduate program.

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

Field camp is a must for geology students. Not only for the knowledge and skills learned but also for the tremendous networking opportunities with faculty and industry professionals, in addition to other future geologists and environmental scientists. It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many other students that shared my passion for groundwater sustainability and environmental health.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Benefactors of this scholarship should know that their donations are helping to connect some of the brightest and most promising geology students to fantastic resources that will ensure that the next generation of geologists and geoscientists is equipped with the necessary skills and open-mindedness to lead our discipline to new heights.


Keith at field camp in AlaskaCody Keith’s field camp experience in Alaska was a valuable opportunity for his geoscience career. He shares how it served as the capstone for his geology studies—solidifying the geoscience he was learning in the classroom and increasing his confidence in understanding geologic principles.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended field camp in Alaska. We spent one week mapping near Healy, two weeks mapping in Denali National Park, and three weeks mapping in the Talkeetna Mountains.

What did receiving the field camp scholarship mean to you?

Receiving the field camp scholarship was very valuable in helping me “stay afloat” with college expenses. Our 8-week field course was quite expensive in and of itself, and since the course was a full-time commitment for the summer, it was difficult to obtain employment over the summer to help pay for other college semesters. The field camp scholarship helped to bridge this gap, allowing me to enjoy the field camp experience with less economic stress. It was also very meaningful to be recognized by GSA for this award.

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

Field camp served as a capstone experience for my geology studies. It is one thing to learn about a geologic phenomenon in the classroom, but actually having to identify it in the field is an exercise that solidifies concepts. I feel much more confident in my understanding of geologic principles, such as identifying which structures may be related to similar stress regimes or how the characteristics of sedimentary packages can be used to interpret depositional environments. Not only do I leave field camp more confident in my technical abilities, but I also leave with a feeling of greater independence. There is something about spending a total of six weeks in a tent in the Alaskan wilderness that puts into perspective “essentials” versus “comfort items.”

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

Field camp gave me the opportunity to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness for longer amounts of time. In Healy, we visited the Usibelli Coal Mine as part of our mapping effort, gaining a pretty in-depth tour of the mining operation. We got to spend two whole weeks in Denali National Park, one of the most pristine and dramatic landscapes in the world, and we were even able to see some of the dinosaur tracks in the Cantwell Formation. We were flown into the Talkeetna Mountain study area on small aircraft and lived for three weeks out in the Alaskan bush with occasional deliveries from the aircraft.

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

Field camp is absolutely essential to a well-rounded geoscience education. It serves as a capstone experience, giving students the opportunity to apply years of classroom study to real-world geologic scenarios. Field camp especially helps develop skills in creating and interpreting geologic maps, fundamental exercises for many branches of the geosciences.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is an important component in achieving an education in geology. The experience reinforces classroom learning, develops interpretation skills, and cultivates a greater sense of independence. The economic commitment for the student is daunting but worthwhile, and support from outside individuals and organizations can help make this valuable opportunity possible for students.

Paige Voss in the fieldPaige Voss, a recipient of one of this year’s GSA Field Camp Scholarships, attended field camp in Nepal, where she experienced how important it is for geologists to have knowledge of and connection with the people and environments they are studying to better perform and communicate their work.

Where did you attend field camp?

This summer I attended the “Nepal: Geoscience in the Himalaya” program run by the School for International Training in Kathmandu and the Annapurna region of Nepal.

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

While I have had some field experience in the past, all of the equipment I was trained on and the skills I learned this summer were new experiences to me. I had the opportunity to experience how geoscience is taught in Nepal by studying under local Nepali professors. I also learned that I really am most passionate about the portions of earth systems that also overlap and interact with human systems, and thus that I want that to become part of my future career.

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

As a student double majoring in mathematics and geology, it was not possible for me to attend a conventional semester-long study abroad program. Additionally, since I attend a small liberal arts college, we do not have our own associated field camp. Thus, attending this field camp gave me not only the opportunity to intensively learn critical field skills and apply my classroom skills in the field, but also allowed me to do so alongside geoscience students from another country and culture.

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

In any scientific discipline, there is a tendency to become distanced from the subject of study when spending much of one’s time in a lab. This dangerous reality only goes to further the gap between academia and society, which has done so much harm to our country. It is important for geologists to have knowledge of and connection with the people and environments they are studying, so as to better perform and communicate about their work. For these reasons, it is incredibly important for all geoscience students to have the opportunity to complete extended fieldwork. While the individual field skills learned are important, the overall value is even greater than that.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Attending a summer field camp can be a financial burden to students as equipment and tuition are often expensive, and it takes away summer weeks that many students would otherwise spend working. However, it is a crucial learning experience for young geologists that should not only be accessible to the lucky few. Thus, the actions of institutions and larger organizations like GSA to help support students in the pursuit of field camp opportunities are very significant.


Holly Olivarez in the fieldOver the next several weeks, we will be sharing stories from those who have been beneficiaries of GSA’s community of support. The first group you will hear from are recipients of GSA’s field camp opportunities scholarship. Thanks to your generosity, several students like Holly, who you’ll meet below, received scholarships to use at the field camp of their choice.

Please click the DONATE button at the top right and make a gift to the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Fund to make more stories like these possible.


Holly Olivarez attended the University of New Mexico’s field geology course and shares how receiving GSA’s field camp scholarship helped her feel invested in by GSA and that she has what it takes to join GSA’s ranks as an extremely qualified and experienced geologist.

Where did you attend field camp?

The University of New Mexico’s field geology course took us first to Gutierrez Canyon (20 km east of Albuquerque, Mexico) for an introduction to topographic map use, field-mapping procedures, route-finding, and GPS use. We then spent six days in San Ysidro (also known as White Mesa and Tierra Amarilla, located 50 km northwest of Albuquerque), where we learned the fundamental practices of topographic, geographic, and geologic principles, as well as had an introduction to the sedimentary deposits in a location where the Colorado Plateau, Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Rio Grande Rift come together (which is a must-see!). Our third mapping project took place 100 km south of Albuquerque on private land near Abo Pass, where we camped and produced and interpreted a geologic map of a structurally complex area that included Paleozoic stratigraphy, complex Laramide deformation, and Quaternary fluvial and geology. Our final mapping project included us camping in the northern San Pedro Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest. We mapped and interpreted a geologic map of Neogene volcanics in the Valles Caldera and Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.

What did receiving the field camp scholarship mean to you?

I feel so honored to have received the GSA Field Camp Scholarship! GSA is a top-notch organization of extremely qualified and experienced geologists. By GSA investing in my field camp experience, I feel they have invested in me and believe I have what it takes to one day be one of those extremely qualified and experienced geologists.

Receiving the GSA Field Camp Scholarship allowed me to not only pay to attend field camp, but also to give it my complete focus with the tools and supplies I needed for a successful and rewarding experience. I was able to purchase a tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping cot. I also purchased hiking boots, clothes made for the field, a field hat, and a proper belt to hold my Brunton, GPS unit, and field pouch. Lastly, I purchased proper writing tools for map-making.

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

Field camp changed my life in many ways! First, my appreciation for fieldwork and instruments has grown exponentially. To be able to interpret what the rock, geomorphology, structural features, fossils, vegetation, and more are telling us is a skill I will never forget. I especially appreciated using the Brunton I was awarded at my graduation ceremony by the Earth & Planetary Sciences Department at the University of New Mexico! My perspective on observational data has become a rich one and I will always remember and acknowledge those who go into the field to collect the data the rest of us earth scientists could not do without. Second, the team that led my field camp helped us understand the value of looking at things on a grand scale in order to find relationships, and also narrowing in to learn more when needed. Third, the value of teamwork in the field cannot be overstated. Finding colleagues who are a match can make for a much more productive day. Finally, I did not know I had it in me to trek in the wild for ten hours a day and then work for a couple more once back at camp. I recognize the value of hard work, eating and sleeping well, as well as planning ahead for productivity.

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

Field camp is the only course in my undergraduate studies that really allowed me to understand working in the field. Data collection and information are one thing, but learning how to know and understand what the geology is telling us is a skill not learned in a structured classroom. The work, the team effort, and the perspective gained during field camp are invaluable to my future.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

I hope individuals will support field camp opportunities because of the direct impact those donations make on students. Because of the GSA Field Camp Scholarship, from day one I approached field camp knowing I had the support of GSA behind me! I was inspired and motivated to invest in myself during field camp because of this. Even now, after field camp has ended, I feel invested in, supported, and very confident in my future endeavors because of the GSA Field Camp Scholarship. Thank you to the individuals who have donated in the past, as well as those who will donate now and in the future, for sending me and others like me to field camp!



Claudia Mora by waterfallClaudia Mora, past–GSA President, former GSA Councilor, former member of GSA’s Diversity in the Geosciences Committee, current On To the Future mentor, and Deputy Division Leader, Chemistry Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, shares how serving as a mentor helps her see the future of our profession through the eyes of a different generation.

What attracted you to serve as a mentor for the On To the Future program? How would you describe your experience?

My first GSA meeting (1981!) had a tremendous impact on my desire to be a professional and my understanding about what that life might look like. I grew up in a household where women weren’t expected to work outside the home, and I didn’t have many role models to help me imagine what a professional career might look like. Sitting in the classroom, as one of four women in a cohort of 45 geology students didn’t help much, either. Nothing captures the buzz of a professional community quite like a large professional meeting. The GSA Annual Meetings deepened my understanding of what professionals do, how they interact, and how opportunities could be found or created. Seeing myself as part of that community was tremendously empowering and influential. When I interact with OTF students, I see the same cloud of uncertainty lifting, the same bright light of so much possibility shine on their future.

How has being an OTF mentor impacted your engagement with the geosciences?

I have been coming to GSA meetings for almost 40 years, and still find them a gratifying combination of new ideas and familiar faces. Serving as a mentor helps me to see the meeting—and the future of our profession—through the eyes of a different generation. I love to learn what scientific and societal challenges motivate their hard work and what they hope to achieve. These students are the future of our science and they will bring different experiences and ways of conceptualizing information to our society. GSA has always grown and evolved with its membership. Serving as an OTF mentor gives me a glimpse of that change as it is happening.

How has it deepened your experience of GSA as a community?

GSA is exceptional in its balance between the “professional” and the “society.” GSA continues to be a society that offers opportunities across the career and geoscience spectrum, from student to retiree and from applied science to basic research. More than that, it creates opportunities, like OTF, for members to be involved across disciplines and generations. I love the fact that OTF grew from a grassroots effort. It really drives home the fact that the ultimate engine of GSA is its members. Working together, there is much we can do for our science and each other.

What would you say to someone considering supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?

Just do it! Each of us, at some time and at some level, has greatly benefitted from community support. It may have come from an individual (as time or money), alumni, as corporate sponsorship, or as federal research and educational funding. That support helped us achieve our goals, to gain and excel in our profession, to be able to support ourselves and our families. So, I strongly believe it is incumbent on us to pay it forward, generously and personally. There is no downside to supporting OTF, as a mentor or a donor. Everyone wins!


Larry DavisLarry Davis, long-time GSA member and professor emeritus at University of New Haven, shares how an early mentor and role model inspired him to become an OTF mentor to share his enthusiasm and excitement with new and future geologists.

1. What attracted you to serve as a mentor for the On To the Future program? 

As an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was fortunate to have Dorothy Echols as a mentor and role model. She encouraged me to attend my first GSA Annual Meeting (it was in Miami Beach), and she saw to it that I was introduced to all the “big” names of the time. I was amazed that they not only talked to me, but that most seemed interested in what I was doing, offered help and advice, and basically accepted me into the fellowship of geologists. I was appreciative of their help, but most of all I was fired up by their enthusiasm for the subject and their willingness to share it with me. Now that I am late in a career where I have had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm and excitement with my own students, I felt that it was time to expand my reach and share these things with other students, especially ones that were new to the field, to academia, to research, and to science. So many times during my career, I’ve been in some incredible place and had to pinch myself—someone was paying me to be there and look at all this cool stuff. It felt almost unfair. I want others to be able to share that feeling and to love what they do for a living as much as I do. On To the Future provided me with a perfect opportunity to meet new/future geologists and to share my experience with them by telling them my story and by listening to theirs.

2. How would you describe your experience?

I personally enjoyed it tremendously. It was fun to connect with the students, to hear about how they came to the field, to serve as a resource for them, to answer their questions, and much, much more. Their own enthusiasm was contagious and I really felt that I was honoring the memory of Dorothy Echols and all of my other mentors, by giving back and mentoring the next generation.

3. How has being an OTF mentor impacted your engagement with the geosciences?

It has made me think about what I learned from my own mentors and what impact it had on me. It helped me to crystallize my thinking about why I love what I do (which includes the teaching part, too). I retired from university teaching at the end of August 2018, but I am now working with younger kids to fire their enthusiasm for the field. Working with OTF helped me realize what mentoring really was, and I hope to continue not only as a mentor for that program, but also as a mentor for budding rock-hounds, cavers, or kids wondering why the pebbles in their driveways are so varied. This is especially important in retirement as it both keeps me young and keeps me connected to the field.

4. How has it deepened your experience of GSA as a community?

In some ways, I think my answers to the previous questions also address this one. I feel that as I was brought into the community by my mentors so long ago, I am now helping to bring a new, diverse group of future practitioners into the field. We need new blood and we especially need diversity. Not because it is “politically correct,” but because we need new ideas. Who knows what part of a person’s background and life experience leads to these new ideas? The more diverse the participants, the more diverse the ideas we’ll get.

5. What would you say to someone considering supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?

This is the future of our science—support it! I cannot stress enough the importance of diversity (see my answer to question 4) and how OTF is supporting diversity. I urge you to share your experience with these eager students and early career professionals, answer their questions, and introduce them to people in your network. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with the mentees, then at least support the program financially, although doing both would be best.


Continuing our Halloween tradition, the GSA Foundation staff gets into the holiday spirit again this year with “Star Wars”–themed costumes, following up on last year’s “Wizard of Oz” theme. Trick or treat and may the GSA Foundation force be with you.


GSAF staff as Wizard of Oz characters - 2018GSAF staff as yellow brick road - 2018 GSAF staff as Star Wars characters 2 - 2019GSAF staff as Star Wars characters 1 - 2019


Captions (left to right): traditional “Wizard of Oz” characters; yellow brick road; close-up of “Star Wars” characters; “Star Wars” characters.

Jenny Nakai, a 2013 On to the Future participant, and later both an OTF mentor and member of GSA’s Diversity in the Geosciences Committee, talks about how she first discovered the OTF program, and how her participation in the program as a volunteer has informed and broadened her commitment to mentorship.

What attracted you to the On To the Future program?

I heard about the On to the Future program through another program that encouraged diversity in the earth sciences. I applied to experience the GSA Annual Meeting and to see how the geology and geophysics community interacted at a geology-focused meeting.

What impact has your participation in the program had on your career in the geosciences?

The primary benefit was meeting new people and enjoying the scientific talks and posters. My interaction with the community eventually led to me sitting on the Diversity in the Geosciences Committee for GSA, which was a rewarding experience. Another benefit of attending a GSA meeting was learning about the interaction between geology and geophysics, and I strengthened my understanding of the connected nature of the two disciplines.

As an OTF participant, how important was the community aspect of your experience?

I think seeing that a group of minority (in many different aspects) students exists at a major scientific meeting is helpful for both the students and other attendees, who can grow accustomed to seeing these students in their professional circles.

How has your experience of the GSA and OTF communities changed or deepened since serving as a mentor?

I tried my best as a mentor to set my mentee up with scientific mentors that I knew personally, and I am grateful to the community for sharing their time with OTF participants. I talked with my mentee about what I did, my experience in grad school, and offered any part of my perspective that I thought could be helpful while projecting a positive outlook. I put a lot of effort into being a mentor, and I think it will help my mentee decide if she would like to pursue the geosciences now that she has more information. I am grateful for my mentors that put the same work into helping me. I think the OTF program is a great way to develop mentor/mentee relationships between scientists and students.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?

The OTF program is focused on providing first-time attendees funding to participate in GSA Annual Meetings. This is an important mechanism for introducing students to the geoscience community, who may not have the opportunity to travel to many scientific meetings. It also helps students in related fields to pursue interdisciplinary opportunities that tie different disciplines together. I know several people who have obtained funding from the OTF program, and they are all engaged and active in the scientific community.

Serving as a mentor is an extremely rewarding experience, and I have pursued other mentorship opportunities as a result of my experience as an OTF mentor.

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