Best Student Paper Award

2011 Awardees

by Suzanne OConnell, Wesleyan University

Gary Lavanchy, a graduate student at the University of Denver
"Geoscience and the Confluence of Human-Environmental Interaction in Peri-Urban Dakar"

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As a child and young man, Gary Lavanchy spent a lot of time playing outdoors and developed an appreciation and sense of wonder for the natural world. This developed into an enthusiasm for earth science through the inspiration of a high school ecology teacher.

Prior to graduate school he spent almost eight years in West Africa leading and organizing student research and service learning trips. These experiences inspired his MA thesis on the urbanization of Dakar, Senegal. According to Gary, Dakar is geographically unique — a tombolo that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the westernmost point on the continent of Africa with a fascinating societal history.

Gary is currently pursing doctoral research on the impacts of tourism development on groundwater in southwestern Nicaragua. He hopes to complete his doctoral studies in 2014 and pursue a faculty appointment that allows him to combine geology and society in both teaching and student research.

Gregory Ruetenik, an undergraduate at Michigan State University
"Analyzing Visual Representations of Climate Change "

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Gregory Ruetenik took a geoscience focused environmental science course in high school. He loved the field experiences and the interdisciplinary focus of earth science. In college, he became interested in GIS research, and had the good fortune to work with Julie Libarkin. She was using eye tracking to study how people engage with and understand scientific visuals, but decided that better analytical tools were needed. GIS has these tools. Greg taught himself to program in Python and this enabled him to integrate eye tracking with GIS. Now this is standard process in Libarkin’s lab protocol. Together they used this new resource to investigate how people view climate change information.

According to Dr. Libarkin, Greg is a self-motivated and independent thinker, as well as an award winning juggler. He is currently pursuing a PhD at Syracuse University.

2010 Awardees

The 2010 Annual Meeting in Denver saw two fine young scientists rewarded for their innovative application of geoscience in the service of society. This year’s best student paper competition saw an eon-finish that not even the world’s most advanced geoscientific equipment could discriminate! The best we could resolve is a superposition between two winning papers with opposite spin.

Congratulations to Christopher Atkinson and Jimmy Randolph!

  • Chris earned his degree from The Ohio State University, and received honors for his presentation entitled, “Geoscience field experiences and the inclusion of students with mobility impairments.” Dr. Atkinson is now on the faculty of Georgia State University in Atlanta.
  • Jimmy has been pursing his degree the University of Minnesota, and received honors for his paper, “Using CO2 sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery to enhance geothermal resources.” The process developed by Mr. Randolph and his advisor, Prof. Martin Saar, which uses sequestered CO2 as a medium for efficiently extracting geothermal heat from the rocks in which it is sequestered, shows great commercial promise.

2009 Awardees

by Craig Cooper

Please envision a geologist, in full field kit, standing at a remote field site with snow-capped mountains soaring behind, with a large brass band behind him/her, calling for a canyon-splitting drum-roll … and the 2009 winners are … Kate Mickelson and Luke Bowman!

  • Kate hales from Portland State University and is receiving honors for her presentation titled Landslide Differential, Inventory, and Susceptibility Mapping using LIDAR Imagery for the Panther Creek Watershed in Yamhill County, Oregon.
  • Luke is pursuing his degree at Michigan Technological University, and is receiving honors for his presentation titled Community Hazard Perceptions and Disaster Preparedness before and after the 2005 Eruption of Santa Ana (llamatepec) Volcano, El Salvador

Both students earned this award for their presentations at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland (a tie!); you can read more about their work in the Sept.2009 issue of our Division newsletter as well.

You can also congratulate them in person and raise a toast to their excellent work at this year's 2010 G&S Division Annual Membership Meeting on Tuesday, 2 November (see Division Events at Annual Meeting for location, time, etc.).

Award Info

The annual student paper competition is one of the G&S Division’s premier events. It’s a chance for students from around the world to showcase their research and their understanding of how their work helps provide service to society. This award helps recognize our students, and encouraged them to pursue careers where societal service is an important part of their professional endeavors.

Requirements — The only requirement for entry is that the student gives a presentation in a session sponsored or cosponsored by the G&S Division. G&S Division Officers arrange for each of the oral presentations to be graded by a panel of anonymous judges, with the final score representing a balance between technical excellence, quality of communication, and awareness of the societal impact of their work. The judges are given score sheets for each presentation they agree to judge and careful instructions on how to grade the presentation according to the criteria in the score sheet. The student papers cover a wide range of geoscientific topics, and we recruit technical experts in each of the subdivisions to judge papers within their realm of expertise. The wide array of topics and the diversity of criteria make for challenging judging, and we take special precautions to ensure that all technical topics receive fair and balanced consideration. One thing that helps tremendously is having plenty of judges!

Volunteer to Help Judge

We have a special request for our members. We need judges, lots of judges. We need enough judges to make a brass band big enough to produce the epochal, earth-shaking drum roll you gave to Kate and Luke. Please volunteer. It's fun, rewarding, and helps to inspire the next generation of geologists. You can learn more about how to help with this event by contacting either myself, Craig Cooper or Larry Davis. Please drop us a line, and we look forward to seeing you at GSA.