GeoSpectrum is the free electronic newsletter of the geosciences. Originally launched as a newsletter for the American Geosciences Institute in 1995, GeoSpectrum has been reborn as the go-to source of information on AGI's 49 Member Societies. The American Geosciences Institute coordinates and edits the publication, but it is the result of contributed materials from societies, geoscience organizations and others in the community.

To access PDF versions of GeoSpectrum or for more information about submitting to geospectrum, please visit

Geospectrum focuses on Geoscience and Public Policy

Geospectrum focuses on Geoscience and Public Policy

In honor of Geo-CVD (Geosicences Congressional Visits Day), happening over the next two days, I'll post about geoscience and public policy. 

First of all, Geo-CVD is a great opportunity for geoscientists to meet with their legislators in Washington, D.C.  Here is information on it from AGI, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the Seismological Society of America. Participants are spending their first afternoon at a workshop honing their communication skills. They learn how Congress works, how to conduct congressional visits, and about relevant legislation, federal agencies, and programs. By the end of the workshop, participants are given time to craft and practice their message one-on-one with geoscience policy staff. A constructive visit from citizen geoscientists about the importance and value of geoscience, and geoscience-related engineering, research and education is the most effective way to inform and impact federal science policy!

The American Association of Petroleum Geology  (AAPG) shared a truly unique story with Geospectrum, which is that of a geoscientist (and former AAPG member) turned Colorado State Governor, John Hickenlooper, on coming to the table with different sectors and regulators; and working together to create a solution to a problem in the form of legislation. You can read the full story here

As a former AGI Public Policy Intern, and I cannot stress what a tremendous experience it was to be involved with the legislative process. There are plenty of ways for geoscientists to get involved at all stages of their career. There are public policy internships available from AGI and AGU. The AGI internships are supported by AAPG and the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG). 

There are also Congressional Science Fellowships for those more advanced in their academic or professional career from: AGI, AGU, GSA, SME, and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). 
Let us know how you've been involved by emailing and we may feature your experience on the blog!

#TBT - September 1983 Geotimes

The September 1983 issue of Geotimes (now EARTH Magazine) featured a cover with an image celebrating when the Smithsonian Institution put its collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale on display for the first time at the National Museum of Natural History. The caption reads as follows:

"This year for the first time, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History has put on display specimens from its unequaled collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale (British Columbia). At the entrance to Dinosaur Hall, a diorama, shown in part of the cover of this issue, recreates the muddy bottom where those creatures lived at the base of an algal reef. A clutch of arthropods (Canadaspis perfecta) crawls up the slope on the right where mud has slumped from the terrace, the fatal weakness that will bury—and preserve—an entire population of Middle Cambrian shallow marine fauna. Sponges cling to the reef face. (photo by Chip Clark, the Smithsonian Institution)"

I wonder if EARTH Magazine can do a cover story when the Smithsonian's Dinosaur Hall reopens in 2019?

In other news from this issue:

The late Robert C. Haney was also the managing editor, who we lost last year. His rememberance can be found in GeoSpectrum:

SEPM Student Opportunity - Due 9/5/2014

AGI member organization SEPM (The Society for Sedimentary Geology) is seeking a new Student Councilor. The first SEPM Student Councilor Dawn Jobe’s term will end in May, 2015 and SEPM is looking for her replacement on the Council.

The Student Councilor position is filled from a pool of applicants and have a 2-year term (2015-2017).  Any student member that fills the requirements is invited to send in an application.  Requirements are that the student must be in a graduate geoscience degree program and of course a SEPM member in good standing.  The application should include a resume and a short (~300 words) statement about why they are applying to be the SEPM Student Councilor.  The SEPM Nominating Committee will select the student councilor from the applicants.

The general responsibilities of the Student Councilor are to represent to Council the input from SEPM student members and geoscience students in general.  He or she will also chair a Student Committee whose main charge is to discuss student issues and make recommendations to SEPM Council. The Student Councilor will receive travel support to attend SEPM Council meetings, usually held at the AAPG ACE in the spring and the GSA Annual Meeting in the fall.

Please send questions and applications to Howard Harper, SEPM Executive Director ( applications are due by September 5, 2014.


- M. Moses

Dark Horse Comics does Geoscience! - HECK YES!

I was scrolling through twitter today when I saw that Dark Horse Comics (they're kind of a big deal) had teamed up with the Oregon Office of Emergency Managment (they're also big deal) to release the free comic book "Without Warning!" a comic book aimed at teaching earthquake preparedness. It's not every day that the geosciences get a comic book from such an esteemed publisher! The book follows the story Angie, a teen in coastal Oregon, who experiences a large magnitude earthquake and tsunami. She navigates through a day in a disaster zone, and takes some of the information she's absorbed over the years, as well as an emergency preparedness kit (initially intended for use in a zombie apocalypse). 

Coming from a geoscientist, I thought it was a very fun read, and it was told in the only a comic book can. Spoiler alert: at the end, they even touch on some of the science of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and what can be done to be prepared. 

Definitely head over and download your free copy from Dark Horse Comics:

or download a free PDF at the OEM website:

- M. Moses

AESE: Annual Meeting October 7-10, 2014

Earth Science communication, U.S. history and Kentucky in the fall? Sounds like this is going to be an awesome meeting!

Association of Earth Science Editors 48th Annual Meeting, October 7-10, 2014, Lexington, KY

The 48th annual meeting of the Association of Earth Science Editors (AESE) will be in Lexington, Kentucky, and hosted by Meg Smath of the Kentucky Geological Survey. Technical talks will take place at the Survey and field trips include an examination of the stratigraphy of Camp Nelson, a Civil War depot, and how the geology of the area influenced the war; as well as a tour of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Accommodations for the meeting have been reserved at the Spring Hill Suites, located near the Survey's offices on the University of Kentucky campus. For more information about registration, program details and Kentucky, please visit

AESE is a group of individuals involved in selection, editing, and publication of manuscripts, books, journals, reports, and maps pertaining to the earth sciences. AESE provides a forum for the interchange of ideas that will lead to more effective dissemination of earth science information to the scientific community, educators and students, and the public.

The annual meeting is open to AESE members and non-members, anyone interested in earth science editing and communication.  

#TBT - GeoTimes and the XXI International Geological Congress

For today's #TBT I found the old Geotimes (now EARTH Magazine) cover I picked coincided with the XXIst International Geological Congress, from the 1960 July/August issue. The meeting was held in Copenhagen, and to celebrate this, the Geotimes staff picked an illustration of Niels Stensen, often called by the Latinized form of his name: Nicolaus Steno, (1638-1686). He was born in Copenhagen and is credited for three major concepts in stratigraphy: 1) The Law of Superposition, 2) The Principal of Original Horizontality, and 3) the principal of Lateral Continuity among many other contributions to the geological sciences.

The opening page of this issue of Geotimes reads as follows:


Geologists gathered in Copenhagen for the XXIst International Geological Congress will be assessing the desirability of greater unity of scientists engaged in the study of the geology, the science of the earth. As the oldest of the scientific congresses, the IGC is viewed by geologists with pride because it has stood the test of time without formal organization. In recent years, however, the effectiveness of the informal union, so well-suited to the desires of many strongly individualistic geologists in serving the needs of the geological sciences, has been challenged. The burgeoning demands to attack global problems of geology and of geologists can scarcely be met without the sustained coordination and support of a permanent organization. The [19]60's cannot be the "Decade of International Geological Research" (DIGR), nor can 1965 be the "Geological Research Achievement Year" (GRAY), without world unity of geologists.

Unity of geologists must be two-dimensional. Obviously there is a great need for global unity of geologists, since geological phenomena have no respect for political boundaries. There is a great need, however, for unity in still another dimension–that of specific specialization. The normal trend is for greater and greater scientific specialization in geology and the fragmentation of geological scientists into smaller and smaller groups. The intense concentration which a specialist brings to his particular area of geological research is unquestionably important to the advancement of geological knowledge. However, geology is a body of interrelated phenomena, so that when the specialist loses his geologic perspective through overspecialization, his effectiveness as a scientist is adversely affected. 

Paleontologists, seismologists, geochemists, stratigraphers, volcanologists and all others who form the specialstic groups, on one hand, and the geologists of the many countries of the globe on the other hand, would do well to reflect of the famous quotation from Aesop's The Four Oxen and the Lion. "UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL." 

Geoscientists must achieve unity today if they are to retain their identity tomorrow.


Fifty-four years after this article was written, we still experience that the value of geoscience can be masked by our individual scientific passions. We launched the "I'm a Geoscientist" campaign to encourage geoscientists in all of our organizations to first introduce themselves as a geoscientist, and then share their individual scientific passions and expertise to ensure visibility with decision makers and the general public. Plus, when I was interviewing people, asking why they were geoscientists, I found the vast majority of us–regardless of specialization or industry–are passionate and curious about the planet we live on. The call to action for geo-unity is still valid, for it should be every geoscientist's mission to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resilience to natural hazards and interaction with the environment. 

- M. Moses

Drones and Geoscience - The Challenges of Regulation

Ever since the 2013 drone article in EARTH Magazine, I’ve been interested in seeing how this topic would develop in the geosciences. Drones have brought geoscientists and enthusiasts even closer to erupting volcanoes and breathtaking views of the world’s most impressive landscapes (when it was still legal-ish). While stunning visuals and abient music are great, the potential to use drones/UAVs to gather data for the geosciences is great. This summer AGI Member Organization the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society (EEGS) published an article in their Newsletter FastTIMES, about how the FAA regulations on drone use presents challenges to doing geoscience research. There are more articles on the subject in that issue, so definitely read it through. This is consistent with a story released today by NATURE on how drone regulation has impeded geographical research. 

Regulations may not be completely unwarranted though, last week a drone crash landed into Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring, potentially damaging a delicate hydrothermal system. 

Have a great weekend!

- M. Moses

GeoSpectrum: Community Building in Organizations

GeoSpectrum: Community Building in Organizations

While doing the research for GeoSpectrum, and gathering information about organizations I’ve run across many different types of community building in geoscience member societies. It's important that each society, based on size and culture find activites that work for them. The most visible examples of creating a community within a society are the annual meeting events of AGI member organizations, such as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG): Annual Convention and Exposition which was recapped in GeoSpectrum. The "10th North American Paleontological Convention" was also covered in this issue of GeoSpectrum. This paleontological conference was hosted by many entities including two AGI Member Organziations,The Paleontological Society and The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. The Paleontological society was kind enough to share their post-conference report with AGI. In April 2014, the Association of American Geographers meeting was held Tampa and was also shared in this issue of GeoSpectrum.

While meeting participation is one of the best parts of growing and maintaining a career in geoscience, sometimes forming relationships within your member organization in unconventional ways are the most memorable! Recently, the Geological Society of London, hosted the Great #GeoBakeOff! Starting organically in hallway conversations, inspired by British Television and using twitter, support from society staff and the generous artistry of their members, dozens of GSL members submitted pictures of their geoscience-themed cakes. They all looked yummy!

The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) generously shared a piece submitted to their newsletter “L&O Bulletin” on Improv Training for Scientists. Penned by an actor Brian Palermo in Los Angeles argues that at its core, improv is about creating something completely new, and the ability to work with others using the improv technique “Yes, and…” (see video: ). Palermo argues that this fundamental improv skill could shift scientists’ fundamental thinking and encourage them to engage differently in collaborations. It’s definitely food for thought!

There are so many clever ways to create a community in an organization. AAPG has recently launched a wiki as a way to “engage a broad cross-section of geoscience experts and augment its traditional publishing.” I definitely can’t wait to hear this goes, and if the member engagement is positive, both in experience and for growth of the profession. Read more information here:

-M. Moses

Geo Career MaPS - new opportunity from the AGI Workforce Program!

What was your experience graduating from a geoscience program and entering the workforce like? I definitely related to Jamie's experience. AGI seeks your voice in a new opportunity to understand this transition! - Maureen Moses

I graduated from college in 2009 and upon entering the workforce I realized I had a problem. I was working as an Environmental Consultant and I became aware that much of the content knowledge I learned was not pertinent to my job. While I could identify minerals through an optical microscope or create geologic maps, my employer didn’t need this.  However, I was expected to know: how to determine if a site qualified as environmentally sensitive; which contaminants to sample for; and how to collect water and soil according to government regulations.  The problem was: I didn’t know these things.  While not all of my collegiate experience was irrelevant, I do wonder how I could have been better prepared.   

AGI Workforce Development researchers are looking into just that by working with the Association of American Geographers (AAG) on an NSF-funded project (grant #1202707) called Geoscience Career Master's Preparation Survey (Geo Career MaPS).  There are three groups of people who are being surveyed. The first group consists of current Master’s students, the second are alumni from Master’s programs, and the third are faculty from geology and geography departments where the highest degree offered is a Master’s. 

Based on the online surveys from master’s students and alumni, the AGI Workforce Program will compare what students say they have learned in their graduate studies to what alumni say are most important in their field of employment.  We hope to identify any knowledge gaps that exist between the two cohorts.  We will also compare what faculty say has been taught to what students say they’ve learned to determine if faculty are already trying to communicate a certain skill, but students just simply aren’t getting it.   

The workforce program will then develop online materials that address any identified needs.These resources will be free and open. By utilizing these, students will be able to identify what skills and competencies are relevant to their desired fields of employment and advisors can point students to resources that will bolster important expertise.  Faculty members can look into alternative ways to teach a crucial skill and departments can evaluate how they can better serve their students to improve their employability. 

To create exemplary resources, we need participation in our surveys.  If you’re interested, or know someone who might be, please contact the Principal Investigator, Heather Houlton, at or researcher, Jamie Ricci at  We will be happy to send you the appropriate survey link.  We look forward to hearing from you! - J.R.

Thoughts on the latest AGI "Status of the Geoscience Workforce Report"

I sat down with AGI Workforce Department analyst Carolyn Wilson. She is one of the key players in publishing products from AGI's workforce program including the Directory of Geoscience Departments and the Geoscience Student Exit Survey. She recently completed the newest Status of the Geoscience Workforce Report. It demonstrates that jobs requiring training in the geosciences continue to be lucrative and in-demand but even with increased enrollment and graduation rates from geoscience programs, the data still project a shortage of around 135,000 geoscientists needed in the workforce by the end of the decade.


“Industry has recognized, and is mitigating the upcoming shortage of skilled geoscientists in their employ, but the federal geoscience workforce is still shrinking” Wilson said, noting that the federal geoscience workforce decreased in all sectors except meteorology; this includes geoscientists skilled in the energy, mining/minerals and hydrology fields. But there are challenges that come with assembling a report that requires data from so many sectors, including acquiring the data from major players in industry - industries that may not even collect relevant data on their workforce. Also challenging is identifying the nuanced metrics that demonstrate a student graduating with one of the many geoscience degrees available (geology, geophysics, geography, paleontology, mining geology and meteorology to name a few) is competent and skilled for the U.S. workforce. The greatest challenge, Wilson noted, is trying to interpret the many different definitions placed on different federal data sources. Combined with continued unevenness is the workforce readiness of many geoscience graduates and a regionally hot job markets, the geosciences are a dynamic component of the U.S. economy. 


Two graphs from the latest Status of the Geoscience Workforce Report showing federal geologists have a higher median age versus federal meteorologists.

Employers do have appreciably skilled geoscientists to choose from too. The numbers of graduating geoscience majors who started their degrees at a two-year colleges have increased. I have met many fine scientists who found that enrolling at a two-year college was an economic way to get a degree. Also exciting, is that numbers of students participating in a field camp experiences have increased. In geology, field camp is one of the most important aspects of a student's learning experience. Field camp is where students can test their ability to interpret the landforms; these critical skills are used to determine where energy or water resources exist, as well as interpreting locations susceptible to hazards like flooding or landslides. Time spent in the field can also create life-long friendships with colleagues, and it nurtures a sense of "place in the universe" that most geoscientists treasure.  

While these experiences are life-changing the report again focuses on the growing concern from employers over whether these students are graduating with enough quantitative experience to be completely apt for a career in the geosciences. The report identified that most students graduating from a geoscience degree program have taken math courses up to a calculus-II level. Discussions have been ongoing about how to ensure that students are leaving their degree programs adequately prepared. Employers underscore the necessity of having enough skilled grads to meet vacancies that will exist in the geoscience sector in the upcoming decades.

“There is incredible potential for institutions to recruit from the diverse talent pools arising at two year institutions, and many career opportunities available to students enrolled in geoscience programs, and early-career geoscientists entering the workforce,” Wilson said. “Plus, this is the first time we have seen a major shift in employment patterns in over a generation, with increasing number of bachelor recipients securing geoscience positions, and newly minted Master’s finding themselves in high demand.”

Read the report yourself, and let us know what you think. It is available for download from the following link: