GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 166-8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


PITLICK, John, Geography Department, University of Colorado, Box 260, Boulder, CO 80309,

Ah yes, singing songs around the campfire! It’s a simple but meaningful form of entertainment that almost anyone can enjoy (except maybe the campers next door). As a young student at the University of Washington, I was introduced to the concept of geosongs by Randy Gresens1, a young-at-heart professor in the UW Geology Department, who often brought his guitar along on field trips. After the day’s fieldwork was done, we would gather around the campfire and Randy would sing/play songs that were popular in the 70s, plus some quirky songs he had written or borrowed from others. One of those songs was Call Me Doctor, a clever tune about a USGS scientist who insisted everyone, including PhD colleagues, call him “Doctor”. Randy’s influence triggered an immediate response from me and my guitar-playing classmate, David Sussman, and we soon penned several songs, including Glacier B. Goode, a song about glaciers inspired by a Chuck Berry classic. In this poster session I will present this song, plus a few others written to expand the content of undergraduate courses I teach at the University of Colorado. This list of geosongs (and the artists who deserve the musical credit) includes: Dino Killer (Talking Heads), Crust is Not (Sublime), Clay Loam (The Kinks), and Fluvial Angst (Cracker). Other songs, such as Grand Coulee Dam (Woody Guthrie) and Six Feet of Snow (Little Feat), are presented with the original lyrics. Of course, no campfires are allowed in classrooms, and a three-minute song in a lecture hall is hardly a substitute for a field trip, but it’s safe to say that students get significant enjoyment out of these types of extracurricular activities. So, I am hopeful that geoscientists who are so inclined can add to this collection, and extend the tradition of singing and storytelling far into the future.

1. Randy Gresens died in 1982 as a result of a plane crash. I am grateful to him and many other mentors/educators who found what I think is the right balance between work and play.