Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tragedy in Michigan

I wanted to take a brief moment to call your attention to a situation brewing at Michigan State University - the powers-that-be are on the verge of closing down their Geological Sciences program.

Geoscientists impact our lives in more ways than most of us realize. Did you drink a glass of clean water this morning? Geologists and hydrologists help to keep our water supply clean and safe. Did you fill your car with gas this week? A petroleum geologist helped locate the oil deposits and coordinate their extraction. Do you use a cell phone or laptop? The cobalt in the batteries (and nearly all of the other raw materials) was mined from deposits located by geologists. Did your local roads not wash away during the last major rainstorm? A geologist likely had a role in that too. Not to mention all of the paleontologists, planetary geologists, sedimentologists, mining engineers, and the like who have significant training in geology departments around the world.

Surveys find that we are facing a severe shortage of trained geoscientists in the coming decades, as the older generations retire. Our need for geoscientists is not going away, and closing geology departments is not a way to rectify this.

What can you do? Check out these two posts by Chris Noto (guesting at ReBecca's Hunt's Dinochick Blogs) for more information. Don't let the MSU geology department go extinct!


Anonymous said...

I get the impression that Geology is not the only department that is being dissolved at Michigan State I hear they're losing a Classics program as well. What this means is that those remaining professors will be shuffled around to teach only survey courses and the teaching of upper-level coursework will not continue. This has been the standard for a lot of large schools which are focusing on increased enrollment in money-making fields at the expense of less-well-funded departments. It is kind of surprising that a geology department would be poorly funded (I suppose they don't have any sequence stratigraphers or hard-rock geologists there) but this is really not a huge surprise. If this follows other departmental closures, the university will retain enough geology professors in the future to keep Rocks for Jocks 101 on the books, and that'll be it.

Sucks, but what can you do? If the faculty and graduate student employees are unable to collectively stand up to the university administration, the administration will continue to make choices like this that maximize revenue.

robert d said...

There is not an Evolutionary Biologist today that would sign a document as follows -

"I believe that the 615,968 base changes necessary to distinguish a homo sapien from a chimpanzee occurred solely by random mutation and took only 6 million years."


Andy said...

Umm. . .ok. . .please let's keep comments on topic!

Wynn said...

That actually gave me a good example of what geologists do. We've always been making fun of them because we never had a clue what they actually did. Thanks!

Marcia L. Neil said...

Images of ancient planetary terrain preserved within a mucousal oracle-bead chronicle will be a challenge for geologists when that artifact is ultimately contained and housed in a museum, but hardly reason why MI State should lose their Geology department now or anytime in the future. Most people never think about historical images preserved within mucous forged in the nose and nasal cavities so as to become a rare oracle-bead artifact.