AAPG meeting, San Francisco, California


Response by Peter D. Rowley

I was overwhelmed when Art Spaulding called in latest March to let me know that I would receive this award, although I initially felt skepticism because of the nearness to April Fools' Day. Today I was especially honored to meet Tom Dibblee, one of the greatest mappers, and I thank him for the inspiration that led to this award. I am grateful to Art and the Dibblee Foundation for this honor and also for this opportunity to give personal thanks to those people who have made me, even though I have already been adequately rewarded just by having worked with dozens of geologists far more deserving than I. Among those to thank are John and Linda Anderson, who provided 32 years of support, friendship, and tutelage, and who nominated me for this award. And on top of everything, I thank my parents, Art and Barbara, son Scott, daughter Jill, and nephew Chris, who are my five greatest heroes and my most loyal friends. Geologic mapping has always been difficult to sell to non-geologists and especially to politicians, who nowadays control science. Today there is little glory in science, even less in geology, and virtually none in geologic mapping. Even geologists increasingly fail to realize that geologic maps are basic to the proper evaluation of all mineral, water, and land resources, the sanitary disposal of wastes, and the analysis of geologic hazards. Even basic geologic data cannot be adequately appraised without competently prepared geologic maps. Geologic maps thus are data bases for the country's geologic framework, and only with the broad view that this framework provides can the country quickly identify local geologic hazards and environmental problems and successfully find resources. From my foreign work, I am convinced that Americans and Canadians are the World's best mappers, and the USGS, our State surveys, and the Canadian Survey are the greatest practicioners. Americans today lead most sciences. They also lead geology because of its firm base in field geology and mapping. Most of the credit for this lead is owed to a diminished number of college and university geology departments, who buck a tide of de- emphasized mapping by other geology departments, the National Science Foundation, and most other funding agencies. A prime example of a department that stresses field geology is Carleton College in Minnesota, where I got my bachelors degree in 1964. Carleton's field emphasis derives from its excellent professors, who now include Shelby Boardman, Ed Buchwald, Mary Savina, Clem Shearer, Dave Bice, and Tim Vick. My early geologic education came from only two professors, Duncan Stewart and Eiler Henrickson, aided by part-time instruction from the famous Antarctic geologist and college president Larry Gould. These scholars offered inspiration far beyond geology, notably for their high ethics and love of science. Outide the classroom, we spent weekends and most vacations looking at rocks in and outside Minnesota. Eiler's infectious enthusiasm and supportive nature particularly propelled my love of field work. Eiler now chairs the geology department at Colorado College, and he continues to mentor and befriend other people. I still remain close to Carleton's professors and students, and I am convinced that they belong to the best undergraduate geology department in the country. Many Carleton students have worked for the USGS, and all of them are solidly field based and truly exceptional workers. During my junior year, John Anderson, an earlier Carleton graduate back from Antarctica, stopped by the campus looking for a field assistant, and Dunc hoodwinked him into taking me. John was mapping a part of the southern Marysvale volcanic field in southwestern Utah for a Ph.D. program under the direction of Professor J.Hoover Mackin of the University of Texas. My work with John was a wonderful experience right up to the time he booted me out when he found his future wife, Linda, working a summer job in a drug store in Cedar City. Next summer, between graduation from Carleton in June and enrollment at Texas in September, Hoover funded me for mapping in the next range to the east. Hoover, the only certain genius I ever met and the consummate field geologist, brought me to a new level with his patience, standards, and devotion to science. His charismatic personality included a legendary and endearing absentmindedness--such as sometimes wearing two hats when leaving the geology building or losing rental cars because he forgot where he had parked them. The department at Texas at that time was largely field based. I worked also with Dan Barker, Bob Boyer, and Bill Muehlberger, each complimenting Hoover in their high values, extreme competence, and infinite patience with the likes of me. All Hoover's students became field geologists, and most worked with the USGS, and I naturally followed them there after two years of college teaching beyond the Ph.D. in 1968. One of those former students, Paul Williams, hired me to join him in reconnaissance mapping in Antarctica, of all the blind luck in the last large area of unexplored ranges left on Earth! Surely this was one of the best jobs in the World, and I spent five field seasons at it.

With Paul, I joined the Branch of Central Regional Geology in Denver and have been there ever since. We are a field Branch and, when not off to Antarctica, I mapped in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and other places such as Mount St. Helens. In Denver, I was in the midst of great field geologists and I worked in joint projects with as many of them as I could. These included especially Paul Williams, Tom Steven, and Wally Hansen, as well as other stars such as Jack Harrison, Steve Oriel, Dwight Schmidt, Pete Lipman, Fred Cater, Dave Love, Ed Ruppel, George Snyder, Irv Witkind, Bob Scott, Ken Pierce, Bruce Bryant, Warren Hobbs, Jack Reed, Marith Reheis, Karl Kellogg, Mel Kuntz, and Chet Wallace. I also worked with excellent mappers from other branches, notably Ernie Anderson and Bart Ekren, as well as Skip Cunningham, Art Ford, Doug Morton, Gary Dixon, Dick Blank, and Willy Nelson, and with professors John Anderson, Myron Best, Walt Vennum, Tom Laudon, and even Lehi Hintze (last years' Dibblee recipient). I am in awe of these persons, then and now, and they patiently inspired and spoon-fed me and brought me along. Field geologists who map rocks rather than concepts became the geologists I respect the most. One particular philosophy offered hope that I might eventually understand geology: Hoover Mackin told me in 1967 that "No geologist is any damned good until he or she reaches the age of, well, how old am I, anyway." So I waited around hoping that the wisdom of advancing years would answer my questions about geology. They haven't, but not long ago I learned the reason why from Ernie Anderson's observation that "Sometimes the more geology I see, the more confused I get." Combine the two philosophies and you have me--a graying field geologist increasingly aware of what he doesn't know.

Geologic mapping nowadays is changing rapidly. Exploring poorly known areas and pursuing mineral and energy resources are giving way to surficial mapping in population centers to identify and mitigate hazards of many types, to evaluate foundation conditions and urban mineral deposits such as gravel, sand, and other construction materials, and to find and protect water supplies. Although purists may not like these changes, this general trend is for the best, and mapping will prove, even more than before, its extreme relevance to the needs of society. Currently I am working in the Las Vegas urban corridor, and surficial and bedrock geologic maps are the things most in demand by land-use and developmental agencies, provided that these organizations are fully involved in planning and funding. But along the way, the USGS and the geologic profession cannot forget what made them important to the Public, namely cutting-edge science based on field work. To use a quote attributed to G.K. Gilbert, "There can be no applied science unless there is science to apply." I am deeply honored.

Thank you.

Photos by Mike Diggles

Date created: 05/24/1995
Last modified: 01/30/2003
Created by: Mike Diggles, Vice President, PGS.
c/o U.S. Geological Survey, MS-951, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 329-5404 email to Mike

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