GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 108-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


HOFFER, Ron N, World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433

A traditional geologist career path wasn’t very likely when I graduated with an MS degree in 1973. The oil business was in a slump, and I wasn’t drawn to the few mining geologist jobs in that declining sector. The growing environmental geosciences field seemed more interesting and promising despite the sneers of many peers. So, jump on I did, and over the decades I found jobs which took me from the outcrops of my native New York City to projects across the globe.

I found that geoscience fundamentals, thought processes and people skills combined to serve as a clear North Star in helping me navigate technical, policy and administrative challenges throughout my career. Trying to piece together the Pleistocene geomorphology of New England had a direct bearing on my first job as a hydrogeologist with the State of Connecticut, assessing possible flow paths of contaminated groundwater from improper waste disposal sites. Thirty years later, the same basic skill for reading landscapes helped me shape a World Bank development assistance program for Tajikistan on climate resilience. Logistical and team-building skills gained in field camp in Arizona, and MS and post-MS projects in California, Milwaukee and Spitsbergen served me well even last year, as I helped plan field audits of problematic water resource projects in Zambia. I learned how carefully composed photographs can transcends text – be they Kodachrome slides from a Pentax, or JPGs from a digital mirrorless camera.

The geosciences encourage us to take pieces of data –-from a Brunton compass reading, an old boring log, the memories of long-term residents in a community, bits of remotely sensed information – to draw interim conclusions on origins, prospects and steps for further analysis. So many similarities between a good multi-disciplinary research project here in the U.S., and a multi-sector sustainable development program half a world away. Our first days in the field teaches us to keep our eyes wide open, field books at the ready, and brains churning away at alternative theories. Not a project goes by without that guidance still holding true.