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Craig Cooper
Craig Cooper — 21st GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow. Craig worked in the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) from September 2006 through August 2007.

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Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper was named the 2006–2007 GSA-U.S. Geological Survey Congressional Science Fellow. Cooper's research examines how biogeochemical cycles impact metal geochemistry in environmental systems. His publications include articles on metal sulfide geochemistry in shallow marine sediments, the impact of microbial iron reduction on metal geochemistry, linkages between the iron and nitrogen cycles in anaerobic systems, and radionuclide fate and transport in the environment. Cooper believes that research into the geosciences can help society to more efficiently utilize natural resources in ways that minimize the impacts of human industry on the environment, thereby helping to improve our quality of life.

Cooper studied chemistry at Clemson University, working as a student intern at Tennessee Eastman Corporation and later as a research assistant in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Science. After earning his B.S. in 1991, he completed a Ph.D. in oceanography at Texas A&M University (1998). While at Texas A&M, Cooper received a Texas Research Foundation Fellowship and studied the Fe and S cycle in sea grass beds and cold seep communities in addition to his Ph.D. work. He performed postdoctoral work at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and taught chemistry as a visiting assistant professor in the chemistry department at Indiana University before joining the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in 2000. Since joining the INL, Cooper has supported a range of projects, including investigations of how vadose zone biogeochemical processes impact 14C, 3H, and uranium transport, the impact of ionic strength cycling on metal and radionuclide sorption to soil minerals, and radionuclide decontamination of building material surfaces.

Cooper believes that his broad, diverse scientific background provides unique insight into the dependence of human society and its economic underpinnings on the sustainable use of natural resources. "As geoscientists, we don't often think about how our research impacts people—but it does. Developing natural resources generates wealth, but hasty decisions that sacrifice long-term sustainability for short-term profits threaten to leave our children with a poorer life … The future of the geosciences, and our society, requires that we communicate this message more effectively," said Cooper. Science has become overly politicized, Cooper believes, and he relishes the opportunity to work closely with lawmakers to use science to inform all decisions rather than to advocate a particular policy.

"Energy, water, land use, national security, and climate are all interrelated. We are going to be forced to deal with these issues soon, and the negotiations are going to be contentious. I hope that my experience as a congressional fellow will help strengthen the informative power of the geosciences and enable me to serve society by working at the nexus between science and policy in the years to come." Cooper considers it a great honor and responsibility to participate in the fellowship program, and plans to return to the Idaho National Laboratory after his fellowship experience.