2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


TURNER, Christine and PETERSON, Fred, U. S. Geol Survey, Federal Center M.S. 939, Box 25046, Denver, CO 80225, cturner@usgs.gov

The opportunity to work as USGS geologists with the National Park Service (NPS) has been a rewarding experience, and not without its challenges. Through our experiences over almost a decade of project work that took us to numerous NPS units in the intermountain region, we have found ways to introduce geologic concepts to NPS biologists. In an organization of about 900 biologists and about 60 geologists, geologists need to find ways to gain traction in an overwhelming biological organization. Through informal talks, working with interpretive staff, leading field trips, and being willing to act as a “resource”, we had opportunities to share a range of geologic concepts. Staying in an NPS unit for extended periods of time also allowed us the kind of daily interaction with Park Service staff.

Geology is often viewed as abstract and abstruse to those not trained in geologic concepts. It is not as tangible as biology. When asked to observe an outcrop, a biologist may notice lichen or surface weathering, whereas a geologist bypasses these to observe sedimentary structures. As Sarah Andrews, geologist-author, has stated, “Geologists peer into rocks and see entire worlds”. We take this ability for granted and fail to realize that observing geologic features can be intimidating to the uninitiated. By telling geologic “stories” from our observations, we were able to spark interest in geology. Another challenge is that geology is viewed by some resource managers as a “static resource” in that it doesn't need to be managed. Although this may seem curious or quaint to geologists, understanding the biological perspective can help in the communication of concepts. We were able to successfully engage biologists by using the concept of ecosystems to explain the geologic past.