News & Events

Please visit this page regularly for fund updates and to find out about new fund efforts.

Enjoy this conversation between GSA/ZEISS 2020 Research Award recipient Tshering Zangmu Lama Sherpa and GSA Foundation Trustee Dr. John (Jack) F. Shroder, Jr., Special Assistant to the Dean of International Studies and Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

David Syzmanski at the CapitolLike many organizations, GSA has been affected in this past year. Now more than ever, our Greatest Needs Fund is vital to sustain the very programs that define GSA and allow the Society to respond to those areas most impacted by changing circumstances. GSA leadership allocates the funds to increase student travel grants or research grant awards, for more On To the Future diversity awards, or to help fund the Congressional and Science Policy Fellows. Since GSA’s policy work remains a vital force for our science and our future, it is a program area that could benefit significantly from the Greatest Needs Fund.

Our policy staff take on a number of important items such as membership in working groups like Geopolicy and Climate Science; Geoscience Congressional Visit Days; and informing GSA members on current geoscience legislation. The policy office helps the community on a regular basis, such as facilitating our members’ support of bills that have been recently signed into law. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing stories from those who have been involved with GSA’s policy work as a part of our ongoing Community of Support series. We will post a new story every Thursday through the month of June. Bookmark this page and check back weekly.

Make an immediate impact today! Support the Greatest Needs Fund by clicking DONATE at the top right and help provide flexibility for GSA to strategically apply resources where they are critically needed.

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David W. Szymanski, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Geology at Bentley University and was the 2008–2009 GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow.

How would you describe your experience as a Congressional Science Fellow?

The Congressional Science Fellowship was life-changing. While I went into the fellowship aiming to use our science in “service to society,” learning the process and politics in decision-making first-hand was transformative. The cultural divide between scientists and policymakers is enormous. After my year on Capitol Hill, I knew I had to focus on science communication and science education for non-scientists in order to help the next generation of leaders address the wicked problems of sustainability. And that has been the core of my professional work ever since.

What inspired you to work in both politics and geology?

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I went on to graduate school for both geology and forensic science, applying the analytical skills of a chemist essential to both fields. I cut my teeth in science communication testifying as an expert witness in court—convincing lawyers, judges, and juries that geology had a lot to say about the chemical composition of glass as trace evidence. The challenge of using science for the public good revealed other connections between geoscience and society. I was inspired to “scale up” my work and try science communication on the front-end of the system and help make the laws.

What are you most proud of from your time as a Congressional Science Fellow?

What I am most proud of from my time on the Hill was my work supporting my “boss,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). I worked a portfolio of energy, climate, and environmental issues for the senator, and made sure he was prepared to walk into any meeting with the best scientific understanding of an issue—which could have been anything from forest fire appropriations to the efficiency of reactions in developing biofuels. At the same time, I learned the real value of science in policymaking, which is wrapped up in the competing interests of economics and public opinion. So, I’m also proud of how that time paid off for my students to this day. I’m preparing them to make a difference, armed with the same understanding.

Why should people support programs like the Congressional Science Fellow?

Programs like the Congressional Science Fellowship make such a difference; the dividends are orders of magnitude greater than the investment. By sending scientists to the Hill, we not only effect a positive change in the perception of scientists by lawmakers, but we also enable scientists to teach the two-way street of science policy to their colleagues and next generation of leaders.

What would you like to say to other people who give of their time and resources to GSA?

It’s easy to see giving back to GSA as a contribution to the profession. But it is so much more than that. Giving is the opportunity to inspire. It’s the opportunity to change a life and change the process at the same time—and with an understanding of time and scale that only the earth sciences can provide. “Service to society” isn’t just part of our mission. It’s at the heart of our role as explorers, as educators, and as stewards of the Earth. Giving time and resources to GSA is the ultimate act of paying it forward.

 

The GSA Foundation Board of Trustees is a group of volunteer leaders, prominent and dedicated geologists, who govern the Foundation. We are fortunate that their multi-year terms, often renewed for a second consecutive span, provide a stable continuum to ensure transparent, cost-effective operations, open communication with the Society, and prudent fund management. We would like to introduce you to our two newest Trustees who joined the board in the last year.

Lydia Fox is Associate Professor of Geological & Environmental Sciences at University of the Pacific and also the Director of Undergraduate Research. A recipient of Pacific’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the Spanos Distinguished Teaching Award, Lydia is passionate about teaching and connecting undergraduates to research opportunities. Lydia received her B.S.E. in geological engineering from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in geological sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara and initially worked as a field engineer for Schlumberger Well Services and then as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, before teaching at California State University, Northridge. While department chair at Pacific, Lydia facilitated the addition of a major in Environmental Sciences; she has been the Director of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program since 2004. Her research is in the area of Mesozoic granites and hydrothermal alteration. She remains deeply involved in her field: Lydia is an active member of the Council on Undergraduate Research, and she is currently the chair of the Field Camp Scholarship Committee for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and serves on the Executive Committee of the Education Section of the American Geophysical Union.

photo of Farouk El BazFarouk El-Baz returns to the Foundation board, on which he previously served from 1999–2009. He is seasoned in fundraising efforts on behalf of GSA, since he also served on the Second Century committee in the mid-nineties, including as campaign co-chair for two years. Many of you are aware of two awards he established with GSAF: The El-Baz Desert Research Award recognizes an outstanding body of work by a young scientist in warm desert research, and the El-Baz Research Grant supports desert studies by students either in the senior year of their undergraduate studies, or at the master’s or Ph.D. level. Years before his deep involvement with GSA, Farouk received a B.S. in chemistry and geology from Ain Shams University in Egypt. His M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are from University of Missouri and MIT, and he went on to work in Egypt’s oil industry before becoming secretary of lunar landing site selection in the Apollo program. From the early 1970s and into the 1980s, he established and directed the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, and served as Science Advisor to the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Farouk stepped into the corporate world for several years at Itek Optical Systems before moving on to a 30-year tenure at Boston University. His awards, honors, fellowships, and board memberships are numerous, reflecting an esteemed career across both the United States and Egypt, and not the least of which include eight honorary doctoral degrees, chairmanship of the U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences, and NASA’s Apollo Achievement Award.

Both of our new Trustees bring invaluable experience and expansive insight to the Foundation. We hope you will have the opportunity to meet and talk with them through various GSAF activities over the coming years.

We of the Foundation engage with you a great deal about field camp because (1) it remains a critical component for students pursuing geoscience and (2) it is an area in which we can provide substantial assistance. The cost of attending field camp can be prohibitive, particularly now when the COVID-19 pandemic has made already difficult financial situations that much worse. Many GSA student members have benefited from this support over the years, and you, our members, understand the need for, and value of, these scholarships.

We aim to raise funds to help at least 20 students to attend field camp—whether in person, or virtual—next summer. If you have not yet done so, will you make a gift to the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program by clicking the DONATE button at the top right? Your support will help students like Maria, Natalea, Quentin, Selena, Daniel, Lana, and Priscilla attend field camp to gain the skills and knowledge to pursue geoscience in a changing world.

 

Priscilla Martinez, 2020 Field Camp AwardeePriscilla Martinez learned a lot about both herself and geoscience while attending her virtual field camp course. She gained a newfound appreciation for remote learning and recognized the importance of making field camp accessible to all different types of geology students and instructors. She not only hopes that more field camps will offer both in-person and virtual field camps in the future–which will attract students from diverse backgrounds to seek careers in geology and foster a more inclusive and welcoming geoscience community–she also now feels equipped and excited to begin her master’s program at California State University, Northridge.

Where did you attend field camp?

This summer, I participated in the first-ever California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), Department of Geological Sciences virtual, four-week field camp course. Using various software tools, I mapped the Frying Pan Gulch and Block Mountain areas near Dillon, Montana, and the Quaternary geology of Owens Valley, California. During the last week of field camp, I worked independently to construct a detailed history of the depositional events that occurred while the Basin and Range province was forming in California.

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

As an undergraduate at CSUF, I looked forward to spending a month mapping in the field with my senior cohort. I couldn’t wait to spend time bonding with my friends over nightly bonfires, along with the feeling of accomplishment that followed a long day’s work. Despite the unprecedented circumstances brought forth by COVID-19, I had the opportunity to collect digital data and interpret geologic events in different field locations without having to physically visit the sites.

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

It is an honor to have received the 2020 J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Award, established through the generosity of Dr. David Lowell. After discovering the news of his passing in May 2020, I am even more honored to continue on his legacy, along with the other recipients of this award. GSA’s financial support allowed me to better understand dynamic geologic systems and gain invaluable mapping skills that could be applied both in and out of the field.

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

These four weeks of rigorous training have prepared me to perceptively approach geologic problems and work effectively to solve them, both collaboratively and independently. I learned how to design a field strategy and collect data using satellite imagery, aerial photography, three-point problems, and unit descriptions. Using the data collected from each site, I produced geologic maps, cross sections, and stratigraphic columns to better understand the depositional and regional tectonic history of the field sites. Above all, participating in field camp enabled me to grow more confident in my ability to map geologic features and present my findings in an articulate manner. After finishing field camp, I felt equipped and excited to begin my master’s program at California State University, Northridge.

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

Attending field camp allowed me to integrate many of the techniques, principles, and fundamental geologic knowledge from all my past courses to interpret data and form conclusions about the regional and local geology of our field sites. I had the opportunity to virtually explore and learn about the history of tectonism, magmatism, climate, and deposition in California beginning from the Neoproterozoic era to present day. I identified geologic relationships from satellite data and outcrop photos, conducted orthographic projection analysis, and determined slip rates from geochronological data—all from the safety and comfort of my home. I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that will allow me to excel in a new technologically driven era of the geoscience world.

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

After field camp, I gained a newfound appreciation for remote learning and recognized the importance of making field camp accessible to all different types of geology students and instructors. Although field-based science is an incredibly valuable branch of geology, it often excludes people with physical and developmental disabilities that find it difficult to navigate rough terrain and/or adapt to long, intense weeks of hiking and camping. Geoscience is a highly interdisciplinary field and thanks to recent advancements in technology and pedagogy, many conventional field camp activities, such as mapping and group work, can be done remotely. Offering a virtual field camp option could attract students from diverse backgrounds to seek careers in geology and foster a more inclusive and welcoming geoscience community. I hope that more programs offer both in-person and remote field camp options in the future.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is an important capstone course in the education of geologists all over the United States. As a first-generation college student and Latinx woman, I am a firm believer that students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds bring new perspectives that are necessary for solving scientific problems and advancing our understanding of geology. Funding their education and training through scholarships empowers students to explore their scientific interests and prepare for their future career, without having to worry about the financial burden of paying for field camp.

 

Lana Axelsen selfie with monitorLana Axelsen’s virtual field camp experience felt like the final test of their geology degree before entering the real world. It required them to reach deep into everything they’ve learned over the last four years and then apply it. Now they know that they are proficient in the skills that will be expected of them in a professional setting.

Where did you attend field camp?

I had to do a virtual field camp due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

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

The class was facilitated through Microsoft Teams where the students met with the instructors and the materials and assignments were posted on Canvas.

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

Being awarded the field camp scholarship was a major relief from the financial burden that can come from higher education.

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

The field camp experience is the culmination of what I have learned in the past four years and applying it. It is like the final test before you go out in the real world. The feeling that I am proficient in the field that I have studied for so long makes me feel accomplished, but then there are also moments where I doubt that I know enough. I have learned that the process of truly understanding any subject is to push the boundaries of my own understanding and limits. Field camp pushed me to reach deep into all I have learned and be able to apply it. I would have to say that knowing the basic concepts forms the building blocks to the most complex concepts. The future will always hold something positive as long as you persevere. I can say I know I am proficient in the skills that would be expected of me in a professional setting, such as map building, technical writing, and identifying geologic processes based on LiDAR and aerial photos, etc.

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

The assignments are built to simulate the types of assessments I would do in the actual profession, but with a lot more help. I could ask the instructor to refresh me on an aspect of some concepts that I would have to just figure out in a job because I could not tell my employer that I am fuzzy in an area I learned two years prior.

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

Field camp is imperative in applying what you learned in your degree hands-on, which can differ greatly from just reading about a technique in a textbook.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Geoscientists have a very hands-on career experience whether students are on site, writing technical reports, or synthesizing data. Field camp allows students to receive an understanding of the programs, fieldwork, and critical thinking that will be expected of them in employment, while providing guidance from their teachers.

 

Daniel Riddle doing virtual field campDaniel Riddle was a bit disappointed about not getting to go into the field this year, but his virtual field camp enabled him to gain confidence in his abilities as a geologist. After he completed the camp he felt like a real geologist.

Where did you attend field camp?

My field camp was online and conducted by Utah Valley University. We mapped and investigated areas in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.

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

The camp was supposed to be 5 weeks of camping and 1 week of finishing up reports, with each week having a different professor. Instead, the professors each took a week to assign online geology assignments. I used Adobe Illustrator every week of the course, so it was good to become familiar with that software.

Although I began field camp a bit disappointed that we would not be going into the field, I had a positive experience over the six weeks and certainly learned a lot. Each of the professors that taught the course took one week and would give us daily assignments Monday–Friday, with the final project usually being finished up over the weekend. Some of the topics that we studied included fault identification and mapping, engineering geology, mapping metamorphic core complexes, mapping sedimentary layers across Utah, and creating structural and stratigraphic cross sections. Most of the figures and maps that I made were completed using Adobe Illustrator and Google Earth, so I became much more comfortable with these types of software. Since everyone was online, we were able to get more frequent feedback on our maps than we would have in the field. My favorite part of the course was connecting all the things I had learned throughout my geology degree—I felt that I integrated that information and made new connections.

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

I was incredibly grateful to receive the scholarship! It allowed me to focus on the field camp without having to work evenings or weekends with a summer job. I felt honored that the GSA would give me this generous award.

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

I learned a lot about engineering geology, which I had never had the chance to take a course on during my undergraduate degree. Getting a taste of engineering geology, as well as hazard studies during another week helped me to get a glimpse of what that kind of work would be like for a career. My petrology, sedimentology, and structural geology professors each took a week to focus on their fields, and so I felt like I solidly grasped a lot of the information that I had learned in their courses. I also learned how much I do not know about geology, and how hard I needed to work in order to get my assignments done. I was spending 10–12 hours per day on the computer, and frequently needed advice from the professors when I got stuck.

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

Even though COVID-19 made my field camp very non-traditional, it was still extremely valuable. I felt like a real geologist by the end of the course, and that a lot of the courses during my undergraduate degree were finally relating to each other in my head.

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

I think that it is an important part of the experience. It enabled me to gain confidence in my abilities as a geologist. I think that in the future, a combination of the online course material and the traditional outside mapping would be the most useful capstone experience.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Knowing that generous supporters to the GSA helped fund my field experience makes me want to give back to the community someday when I am able. I think most students would want to pay it forward.

Quentin Burgess in the fieldQuentin Burgess, a student at University of Nevada, Reno, attended their virtual field camp, which challenged him to learn how to study geology while being unable to physically stand atop an outcrop or even leave home.

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

Like much of the world, the current COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way I go about my day-to-day life. Relationships for many individuals at all levels of interaction have been severed, and we have all had to adjust to this new style of living. As a student, some of these alterations have hit harder than most, with the cancellation of my college graduation, the inability to have proper goodbyes with friends and colleagues, and the reworking of my 2020 Summer Field Camp. In the face of adversity, my department devised a memorable field experience that challenged the traditional approach; instead of going into the field, the field was brought to us. Spanning four and a half weeks, my summer field was completely online via Zoom, texts, and emails. Every day I logged onto my computer and was greeted by my fellow field-mates and field director; together we explored our field areas, taking orientation measurements, making observations, and drafting contacts with the click of a mouse through Google Earth. Even though we were behind a screen, each day ran like a normal field camp; in the morning we discussed regional geology and goals of the day, and by the afternoon we were drafting our geologic maps and cross sections through ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator. At the day’s end, we huddled around the glow of our monitors like the glow of a campfire, comparing notes on assumptions, postulating subsurface structures, and creating plans for meetups once the world returns to normal. Overall, this virtual experience taught me the ability to better communicate with individuals that are not in the same room as you, it pushed my critical thinking skills in geology since I could not physically stand atop an outcrop, and most importantly showed me a new way to study the Earth without ever leaving your home. I do believe that the University of Nevada, Reno’s 2020 Summer Field Camp was comparable to anything that an undergrad could experience in the traditional setting, and I am thankful for the opportunity I was given and the support I received from my fellow classmates, professors, and GSA.

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

Receiving the 2020 GSA field scholarship was a great honor and humbling moment in the final few weeks of my college career. Being recognized by GSA for my academic achievements and love for geology is a great feeling that I carried throughout my summer field experience. Knowing that I had the support of those from GSA along with that of friends and family allowed me to truly focus on the goals ahead of me throughout the camp to meet them with the utmost success.

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

Field camp is the true “push-all” for any undergraduate aspiring to a career in geology; it opens up the world of geoscience and gives a glimpse into the hard work that it takes to make it in the field. The best way to learn geology is to see geology and summer field camps offer this opportunity to students. A hands-on approach to what my professors call “hard-rock geology” grounds what we learn in the classroom to the real world. Studying a thrust fault in a textbook is only one part of the puzzle; seeing such a structure in the field gives students the ability to understand the mechanisms of the system, take orientation measurements to determine movement, and see how it affects the terrain surrounding it. Field camp is a crucial part of a degree in geology and is something that should be taken by every undergrad when the chance arrives.

 

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?

 

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