GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 96-2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


DUNBAR, Nelia W., New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801

In New Mexico, geology and human activity, past and present, are closely intertwined. The Jemez Mountain Volcanic Field hosts soft ignimbrite rock that provided dwellings for pre-Puebloan peoples, and pumice from explosive volcanism made local soil farmable. Obsidian from the same area was traded across the west. Turquoise, silver, gold, and copper have long been the focus of human activity in New Mexico. Many iconic landscapes that bring people to our state today have a directly geological origin, so visitors are coming to New Mexico because of geology, whether they realize it, or not. A particular subset of New Mexico’s geology, related to young volcanism, is particularly appealing. Volcanoes are everywhere in New Mexico. The black, barren, lunar-landscape rocks around Grants and Carrizozo and the black flat-topped mesas around Albuquerque are lava flows. Mount Taylor, and Capulin Mountain are volcanoes; Los Alamos is built on the flank of a huge supervolcano, the Valles Caldera. Tsé Bitʼaʼí (“Rock with Wings”, aka Shiprock) is the remnant of a volcano, as is Cabezon Peak.

State geological surveys play a vital role in translating geological origins of features into terms that non-scientists can understand, through a variety of means. Traditionally, state surveys relied on educating the public through printed matter, and preparation of scientifically accurate information for visitors to public lands. Now, however, electronic content, distributed though web sites and social media, add a reach that was previously unavailable, and is being used effectively by many state surveys. In New Mexico, in addition to a significant and growing electronic presence, printed material supporting geological education, including books about geology of public lands, and scenic geo-focused tours, are geared towards residents and visitors alike. And, given the abundant, high-quality, geological descriptions and illustrations available in our print publications, development of mobile-phone based outreach is one of our goals. Growing awareness within our organization of the power of the “Geoheritage” approach to geological education has provided us with a pathway to increasing awareness of, and ability to promote, the links between geology and human history, and we look forward to increasing our reach and relevance through this new direction.