GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 79-6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


CORBETT, Lee B. and BIERMAN, Paul R., Department of Geology, University of Vermont, Delehanty Hall, 180 Colchester Ave, Burlington, VT 05405

Isotope geoscience is a rapidly growing field with a promising and exciting future. Yet, many isotopic techniques involve complex sample preparation methods, require specialized facilities, are high-hazard, and have high monetary costs for both sample preparation and analysis. Accordingly, isotope laboratories, including those focusing on cosmogenic nuclides, tend to exist only at well-funded, large, graduate-focused institutions. All of these factors cause isotope techniques to be available to only a small subset of the student and faculty population.

As the NSF-funded community laboratory for cosmogenic nuclide sample preparation, one of our primary goals is to increase access to cosmogenic nuclide techniques. During our first year under NSF funding, we hosted 36 individual users and several group tours. Visitors came for weeks to months at a time to process their own samples and learn laboratory methods. Our visitors included 12 faculty members, 3 professionals, 13 graduate students, and 8 undergraduate students; they represented 27 different institutions across 16 American states and 4 other countries. We have sought to optimize safety and laboratory training procedures, enabling us to host visitors regardless of their previous experience working in a laboratory setting. We work with visitors collaboratively and are involved in their projects from inception to publication, thereby including researchers who have had no experience with isotopes, laboratory science, or geochronology. Overall, we have hosted a population that is more diverse than the overall Geoscience population by numerous metrics.

However, challenges to fostering a diverse community still exist. Although all training and mentoring costs are covered by NSF, visitors to the Community Cosmogenic Facility pay a per-sample fee to cover consumables, pay for AMS analyses, and cover their own travel, all of which restrict access. Certain interested users come from countries for which obtaining a US visa is challenging or impossible; similarly, users may not be able to travel to Vermont for financial or personal reasons. We aim to explore additional possibilities for awarding our own internal grants in order to be more inclusive, and also seek to develop robust online content so that collaborators can learn from afar. Increasing diversity, inclusivity, and access in isotopic techniques is a work in progress, which we will continue address in the coming years.