GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 218-2
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM


CORBETT, Lee1, BIERMAN, Paul R.1, SEMKEN, Steven2 and WHITTAKER, Joseph A.3, (1)Department of Geology, University of Vermont, Delehanty Hall, 180 Colchester Ave, Burlington, VT 05405, (2)Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, POB 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (3)Office of the Vice-President, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS 39217

Since 2018, we have used National Science Foundation support to develop, test, and refine a model for a community laboratory facility. An important goal of community laboratories is to increase access and diversity in geoscience by making important analytical techniques more widely available. Geochronology and geochemistry are critical tools in geoscience research and research training, but students at most institutions have little or no access to the specialized facilities needed for sample preparation and analysis. Although the community facility we describe here focuses on cosmogenic nuclides, the model we present is transferable across the geosciences.

The community laboratory model addresses access limitations by opening laboratories to visiting researchers from around the country and world. Visitors to the Community Cosmogenic Facility at University of Vermont include people from a wide range of institutions, backgrounds, geographic regions, and areas of study. In our first three years, we hosted 17 undergraduate students, 31 graduate students, 13 research professionals, and 20 faculty members, for a total of 81 laboratory users. Laboratory visitors came from 24 US states and 9 countries outside of the US; 17 came from institutions that grant only BA/BS degrees, 10 from institutions that grant a MS as the highest degree in the relevant program, and 47 from institutions that grant a PhD; the remaining 7 visitors came from non-academic research institutions. Laboratory users report a wide range of outcomes, which we quantified using an anonymous survey. Almost all visitors (93.5%) reported that visiting the laboratory heightened their sense of community in the geosciences. Visitors also reported that they learned new technical skills, worked collaboratively, learned about other visitors’ projects, and will use their data for future presentations, publications, and proposals.

However, challenges to fostering a diverse community still exist; the cost of supplies, isotopic analysis, and travel to the community facility are roadblocks to diversification. Our experience suggests that supporting more community laboratory facilities in the United States is an important and efficient way to further diversify the geosciences, both in terms of the people involved and the types of research performed.