Your Window on AGI Perspectives and Activities July/August 1998

AGI sends a scientist to Capitol Hill

David R. Wunsch, a geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey, grew up with daily discussions of politics around the dinner table. But his interest in politics never overpowered his love for science, and now he will combine the two as AGI's 1998-1999 Congressional Science Fellow.

"It gives me an opportunity to contribute to better government," Wunsch says of the fellowship, which is supported by the AGI Foundation and is the first AGI has offered since 1982. Combining his expertise in hydrogeology and geochemistry with his experience working in state government, he will serve as a science advisor for one year in the office of a representative or senator or to a Congressional committee. "A lot of what [scientists] do that seems esoteric to legislators is important to society," he says. "Part of our job, or my job, is to help ... [policy-makers] understand that no money invested in science is wasted."

Wunsch joins over 30 other fellows supported by 28 other science and engineering organizations (AGI member societies include the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America). The American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) administers the program for all the fellows.

AGI President Susan Landon says the blend of geological and political experience Wunsch has acquired by working for a state survey made him a top candidate. "He's going to Washington with a very realistic view of what his role can be," she says. "We were impressed with his enthusiasm for providing earth-science input to Congress."

The fellows will attend a September orientation run by AAAS on the legislative process before joining Congressional offices. Wunsch will most likely work with legislators interested in water and energy. "Probably one of the most chronic issues facing the United States is water supply," he says. His own research has focused on developing a conceptual model that explains the chemical evolution of groundwater in the Appalachian Plateau. He also studies post-mining land uses and the resources they offer to growing populations, as well as using remote sensing to find high-yielding water wells. Last year he helped research the possible relationship between contaminated water and a high rate of coronary heart disease in the Ohio River valley.

Wunsch earned his Ph.D. in hydrogeology from the University of Kentucky in 1992. He has worked with the Kentucky Geological Survey since 1985 and became an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky in 1997. Working with the Federal Facilities Oversight Unit, he provides technical support for the cleanup and monitoring of the Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. He is also a member of the Federal Office of Surface Mining steering committee that is creating a technical guidance document for preventing hydraulic blowouts and landslides related to coal mining. As a scientist with the Kentucky Geological Survey, he has gained experience with the legislative process by working with the State Water Management Task Force and the Kentucky River Basin Steering Committee.

Real-time monitoring of natural hazards

AGI joined the American Geophysical Union and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) June 30 in sponsoring the seventh of a series of forums on reducing losses caused by natural disasters. Public Private Partnership 2000 (PPP 2000), which brings together the 19 federal agencies of the White House Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction (SNDR), started the series last September as a cooperative endeavor between federal, state, and local government agencies and private-sector organizations.

Over 100 people attended the June 30 forum, called "Real Time Monitoring and Warning for Natural Hazards" and which addressed policies for communicating real-time natural hazards data. Held at the AGU building in Washington, D.C, the forum included panel discussions on real-time monitoring of atmospheric, hydrologic, seismic, and volcanic hazards. Bob Ryan, chief meteorologist of WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., delivered a keynote address on the opportunities and challenges of real-time weather warnings. Panelists and topics included the Air Line Pilots Association on volcanic ash hazards for aviation, U.S. Geological Survey Chief Hydrologist Bob Hirsch on real-time capabilities of flood monitoring, Director of the National Weather Service John J. Kelly on monitoring and warning of atmospheric hazards, and Walt Disney Company's Manager of Crisis Management William Michael on prevention and mitigation strategies at the corporate level.

Studying the Participation of Women in Science

Anne P. Cavazos*

On May 14, The House Science Committee passed the Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act, which would establish a commission to study the barriers women face in science, engineering, and technology careers. The 18- member commission would includes the Secretary of Energy and his peers and would conduct a study to develop statistics on the participation and preparedness of American women scientists and on employer practices for recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the sciences. The commission would prepare a status report on the findings no later than one year after its formation.

I appreciate this goal, but I think that just studying the problem is too narrow a task. The only way to accomplish change is to develop and implement recommendations. Plenty of information already exists explaining the barriers women face in science careers. We already know what can be done to break these barriers down.

The Barriers
Working as a geologist for 13 years and actively volunteering with the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG), I have heard personal accounts from women scientists and can summarize three types of barriers to women pursuing science:

First, the presence of women in science and technology fields is still relatively new. When I began working as an environmental geologist seven years ago, I was surprised and pleased to find many practicing women scientists and engineers - not at all typical for a scientific industry. The rapid growth of the environmental industry in the 1980s created a demand for environmental scientists directly out of school. Graduating women were hired at the same rate as graduating men. Today, the environmental field contains a higher percentage of women scientists than older geological fields, which tend to function under established hierarchies consisting mostly of men. It takes time for hierarchies to evolve and for women to become established in them.

Second, both men and women consciously and unconsciously build barriers to women entering and working in science fields. Educators are responsible for encouraging children and are at fault for not nurturing the curious minds of girls. Many women scientists say they succeeded because they persevered despite the barriers others tried to put in front of them. Once a woman does earn a science degree and find employment, she may find she is the only woman or one of only a few women on a staff. She can feel isolated. When a support system of mentors or of organizations like AWG is not available, women can find it difficult to sustain their goals and careers as scientists.

Third, a perception exists that a woman must choose between motherhood and a career. This can be true if a woman does not receive support in raising her children. Women who want to start families may choose not to go into a science career or may leave a science career because developing it requires time and a high level of education.

What Can Be Done?
One of the profound changes in my own vision of my career occurred when I joined AWG. I discovered, as many others had, that knowing I could communicate with other women like me gave me needed support to continue my science career. Although I was encouraged by my parents and most instructors to enter the science field, several experiences left me feeling isolated and made me wonder if I had chosen my correct path. Joining AWG changed that. It boosted my morale and gave me opportunities to serve as a mentor and role model for girls and young women. Mentor programs and professional organizations like AWG already exist but rely on volunteers. Supplemental funding could boost participation in mentor programs and women's technical organizations nationwide.

Both women and men need flexibility in the work place because they share childcare responsibilities. Although some institutions are broad minded enough to provide flexible hours and quality on-site childcare, most are not. The commission should develop incentives for employers to provide this type of support.

The commission proposed by the Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act should use the existing abundance of information on women's participation in science and technology fields. Instead of focusing energy and funding to study what the barriers are, the commission should make recommendations for implementing changes feasible for government, private industries, and academic institutions.

*Anne P. Cavazos is a California State Registered Geologist, a Senior Geologist at ICF Kaiser in Oakland, Calif., and President of the Association for Women Geoscientists

For an overview of this bill and links to web sites with the text and committee proceedings, visit the AGI web site at

Geoscience careers video finished

This fall, AGI will release "Careers for Geoscientists," a video for high-school seniors and college undergraduates who are still researching career paths. The video is part of the Professional Careers Pathways in the Geosciences project, which started in 1995 and includes some AGI member societies. The project is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Career Cornerstone Series (, designed to provide knowledge about career opportunities and alternatives to young scientists and engineers. Ten other science societies representing mathematics, physics, materials science, and mechanical engineering are developing similar career guides for the Cornerstone Series.

The video features interviews with and profiles of geoscientists. It will be available from AGI and through college and university geoscience departments. More information on AGI's Career Pathways project is at

Saving geoscience data

Many U.S. oil and gas companies are focusing their attentions on overseas investment opportunities, and as a result billions of dollars worth of domestic geological and geophysical data could be lost or destroyed. With support from the Department of Energy (DOE), AGI has created a National Geosciences Data Repository System (NGDRS) that provides access information to these valuable geoscience data.

The NGDRS has been in development since 1994 and provides information about the holdings, quality, quantity, and location of geoscience data, as well as a way to order more information about a given core or well log from a company or state survey. The data is available through AGI's GeoTrek, a Geographic Information Systems-based browser that went on-line in May and can be accessed through the AGI home page or at

Private companies (such as A2D Technologies Inc. and Fairfield Industries Inc.), state surveys (such as the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology), and government and research organizations (such as the Minerals Management Service) have joined the NGDRS and included their geoscience data holdings in GeoTrek. AGI is working to secure more datasets, making the data repository a diverse collection of geoscience data.

Looking Ahead

See an extensive multiyear calendar in Geotimes.

AGI reorganizes to answer growth

The services, activities, and programs AGI offers have expanded in scope and increased in number, calling for a reorganization of AGI's structure, says Executive Director Marcus E. Milling. Beginning July 1, the education component of the Education and Human Resources Department merged with curriculum development projects to become the Department of Education. Michael J. Smith, who joined AGI as Director of Curriculum Development in May, is now Director of Education. Marilyn Suiter, who was Director of the former Department of Education and Human Resources since 1992, will now serve as Director of Human Resources and Career Development. This new department advances human resources, scholarships, and careers in the geosciences.

Sharon Tahirkheli is now Director of AGI's Information Systems Department. Tahirkheli has been with AGI since 1978 and took over GeoRef after former Director John Mulvihill retired in February.

In Brief

EarthComm reviewers needed
The text of AGI's high-school earth-science curriculum project, Earth System Science in the Community - Understanding Our Environment (EarthComm), is ready for review. AGI seeks earth-science experts to review the EarthComm chapters for accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. For information, call Michael Smith, AGI's Director of Education, at (703) 379- 2480, or send an e-mail to . Information about EarthComm is at

AGI compiles directory for 50th anniversary
As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, AGI is compiling a directory of the members of its member societies. Harris Publishing, which produces over 600 directories annually, will publish the comprehensive directory, which will make it easy to locate people in one book by their names or by their society memberships. The directory will only be marketed to members of AGI member societies and to geoscience educational institutions. The members of participating societies will receive questionnaires from Harris Publishing. Only those members who return the questionnaires will be listed in the directory. For more information, call Leigh Sutherland, assistant to the executive director, (703) 379-2480, or send e-mail to

Glossary of Hydrology available
The American Geological Institute has released the Glossary of Hydrology, a list of terms commonly used by professional hydrologists and students of hydrology. AGI's Environmental Geoscience Advisory Committee (EGAC) originated the glossary as part of its mission to identify the needs of environmental scientists. To order this and other AGI publications, call (301) 953-1744, fax to (301) 206-9789, or send e-mail to

Geoscience video wins Telly Award
"Women Who Walk Through Time," an educational video on geoscience careers funded by the National Science Foundation and supported by AGI and by the Association for Women Geoscientists, won a 1998 Telly Award in the High School Education category. The Telly Awards are a national competition recognizing non-network and non-broadcast film and video productions. Created by the University of Utah, the video features interviews with and profiles of women geoscientists.

AGI rewards high-school scientists
During the 49th annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Fort Worth, Texas, May 10-16, AGI gave awards to seven high-school students: Jessica Lane Debusk of Northwood High School in Dublin, Va. (first), Cristina Beno of Mast Academy in Key Biscayne, Fla. (second), and Gerald Alexander Larue IV of the California Academy of Math & Science in Carson, Calif. (third). Honorable mentions went to Rehan Julian Ali of Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va., Peter Willem Alderks of Midland High School in Midland, Texas, and Taylor Parks Edenfield and Jeb Stuart Cameron of Swainsboro High School in Swainsboro, Ga. Also, the Association of Women Geoscientists gave an award to Tavia Lee Clark of Memorial Senior High School in Tulsa, Okla.; and the Association of Engineering Geologists gave an award to Richard Dianos Catungal of James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.

1998 AGI Executive Committee
President Susan M. Landon
President-Elect David A. Stephenson
Secretary M. Charles Gilbert
Treasurer William A. Thomas
Member-at-Large Suzanne B. O'Connell
Member-at-Large Russell G. Slayback
Member-at-Large Steven M. Stanley
Past President Edward C. Roy Jr.
Chairman, Foundation
Board of Trustees
Thomas M. Hamilton
Executive Director Marcus E. Milling

Please send any comments or questions about Geospectrum to Kristina Bartlett, editor,

Last updated July 6, 1998.

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