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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.

photo of Joseph NolanJoseph Nolan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, shares with us his experiences as a participant and mentor for On To the Future, and how the program has deepened his commitment to the geosciences and to GSA.

What attracted you to the On To the Future program?

Originally, I was introduced to the On To the Future (OTF) program by a professor who wanted me to be involved in GSA and to experience a conference first hand. Like many undergraduates, I was unable to afford travel to a conference on my own. OTF allowed me the opportunity to travel to a conference and begin networking into my career.

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

I have always been passionate about seeing more representation of other backgrounds and lifestyles in STEM fields. During my application and acceptance process, I was expecting a one-and-done grant. I was blown away that I was committing to an entire community of extraordinary individuals. This experience was so rewarding and invigorating that I contacted Tahlia Bear almost immediately upon returning home to be a mentor.

Not only have I had the privilege of meeting so many great people, I have learned so much about being a mentor for all sorts of individuals, especially those different from myself. I have not taken these lessons lightly. Since starting with OTF, I have met so many wonderful students from across America, and last year had the opportunity to meet an entire group from Puerto Rico.

I was able to hear firsthand the paths and trials these wonderful people went through in order to earn their degrees. We did a story-board diagram, which detailed many of these paths from the past up through their long-term goals. These students had so many things in common—born in a similar area, of similar socioeconomic status, etc.—yet they all had very different pasts and goals. That experience really showed me that a mentor needs to look beyond the obvious similarities of students and look for the differences in order to help them individually. OTF has prepared me to be a better support system, not just my students, but also my family and friends interested in getting back into college.

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

The community aspect was the most important part of my experience. It is great coming back conference after conference to hear how students have grown, as well as to meet new students with new challenges. It creates a feeling that we are not alone in our struggles. Tahlia and her team have been supportive and passionate about every student they work with. I am not someone who really participates in large communal activities—it’s just not my thing—but I feel like OTF is a second family. We all learn from each other, support each other, and now communicate semi-regularly through the OTF forums.

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

Professorship has been a lifelong goal; I love teaching and mentoring. I never feel more fulfilled as a person, both career-wise and emotionally, as I do when I see a student succeed in reaching their personal goals. OTF has provided a place and source of knowledge I can use to hone those mentoring and guidance skills. Despite my own goals and passions, I have always been uncomfortable when starting a mentoring relationship with anyone. Now I look forward to it.

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

There is simply a plethora of groups out there who claim and tout all the merits and positive effects of their programs; many fail to produce, and many more underproduce. However, OTF has built a remarkable and successful program developed around inclusivity, education, and support. When something works it works, but unfortunately even the most successful programs in the world need a little help. OTF teaches students and mentors how to be successful, which in turn helps us teach others to also be successful. This amazing group of people are touching lives and creating lasting effects in our communities. Please considering helping any way you can so we can keep paying these lessons forward.


The Geological Society of America Foundation is pleased to announce the creation of the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program Endowment, made possible through the generosity of Dr. David Lowell, renowned field-based mineral exploration geologist.

The $500,000 contribution establishes an umbrella under which GSA’s existing field camp scholarship programs will reside, as well as creates structure for new named field camp scholarships. Read the full press release here.


photo of Margaret EggersThere are many communities of support in GSA. Recently, you read the stories and inspirations that drive the GSA Foundation’s trustees to give back to their science and the Society as volunteers and donors.

Over the next weeks, we look forward to sharing with you the testimonials of members who give back to the Society as mentors. GSA mentors provide critical aid to the Society’s student members, offering their wisdom and experience, and giving feedback and career advice. Whether as an OTF mentor or participant in the Women in Geology Career Pathways Reception at the annual meeting, or at one of our drop-in or résumé mentor sessions, these individuals forge relationships that support emerging geoscientists.


For Margaret Eggers, GSA’s Councilor, past–GSAF Trustee and Board Chair, and principal at Eggers Environmental Inc., serving as an OTF mentor has been rewarding, allowing her to share her experience and perspective, while learning more about the challenges that are facing students and early career geoscientists.

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

The enthusiasm of the first group of mentors was infectious. I wasn’t sure I had the right experience to be a mentor, but was encouraged by the experiences of colleagues who jumped at the chance to mentor the first OTF students. I have now mentored at least one student for the last several OTF cohorts. Each student seems to connect with different parts of my work history. Different discussions and perspectives resonate with each individual student, and seem to be helpful to them in figuring out which path is best for them. It’s been a surprisingly enjoyable experience for me personally—the best volunteer activities seem to unexpectedly have their own reward.

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

It’s made me more conscious of the challenges today’s students and early career geoscientists face, and to really focus on what can we do to make sure this career, that so many of us have enjoyed over the decades, is available and viable to those just starting out.

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

It’s been really touching to see seasoned geologists with long careers reaching out to our next generation of geologists. The combination of providing the benefits of experience of a long career, with the unexpected benefit of being taken back in time to when we were all in the shoes of these young scientists today, is a win-win for everyone. By talking with and listening to new geologists, and giving tips and advice that we wish we could have had at that stage, there’s lots that build community across the entire age range of GSA membership. You really see a community connecting senior members who possess a whole range of career experience with early career folks who may not have access to senior career professionals.

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

Just DO IT! As a donor, it’s a wonderful way to jump-start a student into a career we love. As a mentor, you don’t realize how much your experience can provide perspective to someone just starting out. Yes your experience is different; everyone’s is. But talking about choices you made—the good, the bad, the confusing—shows that there are options that a student might not have thought of, or considered.


photo of Tom HolzerTom Holzer, GSA Foundation Trustee and Board Treasurer, as well as a Consulting Professor in both the Departments of Geological and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, shares with us what inspires his gifts of time and resources to the Foundation.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?
I am paying back a debt that accumulated while I was building my career. I appreciate now more than ever the time that senior colleagues devoted to GSA and the Foundation that guaranteed a smoothly running organization that provided valuable support to me and other members.

What motivates you to give to GSA?
A significant part of the GSA budget goes to support student research, professional development, and contributes to rational public policy. All of these are important to the future health of the geosciences.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?
Think about what matters to you professionally and whether those interests align with those of GSA. If you are unable to give now, think about a bequest.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?
Thank you. I am impressed by your generosity of both time and money. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and working with you to support the Society.


Jack Shroder, GSAF Trustee, Research Coordinator at the Center for Afghanistan Studies, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Nebraska Omaha, shares how his desire to see the geosciences prosper inspires his service to the Foundation.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

The flip answer is that being able to schmooze with people who can give scholarship and other monies to GSA to help students is right up my alley. A more measured response would be that I enjoy being able to hear what is going on in the discipline as a whole. This fulfills a certain hunger to see that the discipline that I started to learn when I was so young (picking up quartz crystals in outcrops and outwash in Vermont in my childhood, Boy Scout merit badges) prospers; the fact that my beloved discipline actually appears to have a good future pleases me.

What motivates you to give to GSA?

It seems to have started back in early graduate school, when I could foresee that I wanted eventually to be able to have enough financial wherewithal to donate to the discipline after I retired, even if retirement was going to be after a fairly low-paying salary as a college faculty member. One possible way to do this, I thought, might be to purchase antiquarian geology materials if they were cheap enough and I had a little extra money to pay for them. This enabled me to haunt old bookstores in whatever city I was traveling in all over the world on my many geology field trips in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In short order, in fact, I started to find real antiquarian treasures, so that eventually I worked my way up to the likes of Lyell, Hutton, Smith, and lots of other names we all know. I sold that collection recently for enough monies to fund the Shroder Mass Movement Award.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

You could give your money in a variety of ways or to a lot of different organizations, but your donation to GSA can be followed from donation, through student application, to recipient, so that you can see where it goes or what it is being used for.

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

Donations of time or money to GSA seem to give you more “geo-bang” for your buck than elsewhere. After all, where else can you see your hard-earned dollar go so directly to students in need?



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