Hot Topics Chair
Richard Berg

Hot Topics

Join your colleagues at lunchtime for spirited discussion and debate on the following burning issues! Chili and beer will be available for purchase outside the meeting room. These informal sessions will meet 12:15-1:15 p.m. in the Convention Center (room to be announced).

Sunday, October 28
International Year of Planet EarthGeology, Google Earth-style!

The web revolution has made us hungry to have all information at our fingertips. The question before us is how far this can go in the world of geology. How quickly can geological survey agencies and research centers reformat their information for this style of web query? Can we assemble consistent information world-wide? Can we 'go underground' in a Google Earth-style web interface? What business models will cause needed web interfaces to be supported? The keys to success will be understandability, accessibility, and shareability of geological information, so this session will be a lively discussion on future scenarios for what we need to do to make these three key ingredients happen. This includes the web-based subsurface visualization, needed digital protocols, and global web accessibility for regional, national, and global geoscience information management and delivery called OneGeology - an ambitious plan to ensure that humankind will be properly equipped for good decision-making in the fields of research, hazards, energy, minerals, water, and climate change.

Harvey Thorleifson, Director, Minnesota Geological Survey – The vision
Lee Allison, Director, Arizona Geological Survey – Infrastructure to make it happen
Ian Jackson, Director of Information, British Geological Survey – OneGeology concept

Monday, October 29
International Year of Planet EarthImportance of Earth Sciences in Decision Making and Infrastructure (Personnel) Problems

This topic is basic to our discipline and important to its continuance. Major energy and environmental issues and even the future of international relations (e.g., global warming and potential water wars) are better understood via geology. Many societally important decisions rest on geologic information, but the ranks of geoscientists are shrinking due to retirement of the baby boom generation, the difficulty in finding qualified geologists, and the ability to hold on to them. The panel will discuss the emergence (or possibly re-emergence) of the crucial role that earth sciences play in decision making, and the challenges to meaningful dialogue between geoscientists and decision makers.

Bill Shilts, Chief, Illinois State Geological Survey – Recent challenges and staffing issues
Hal Miller, Sr. VP of Operations, Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC. – Industry perspective of shortage of qualified geo-scientists
Rob Young, Prof., Dept. of Geosciences and Natural Resources Management, W. Carolina Univ. – Failure of geology to change coastal management policy in the U.S.: Katrina example
Lucy Jones, USGS Multi-hazards Coordinator for southern CA – Disaster scenarios and how successful partnerships have worked

Tuesday, October 30
Diversity in the Geosciences: Beyond Ethnicity, Gender, and Disability

There is complex global movement of students for higher education. As the face of the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics student population and workforce change, there are many issues that academic leaders must explore if they are to manage these global shifts to the benefit of all.

The United States remains the predominant destination for foreign students, accounting for 40% of internationally mobile students in 2004. The number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate students on temporary visas more than doubled between 1983 and 2003, rising from 19% to 27% of all graduate students in those disciplines over that period (NSF, 2006). Historically, half or more of students on temporary visas have stayed in the United States immediately after degree conferral; however, this percentage has risen in recent years.

This Hot Topic session will provide data on the trends in numbers and demographics of students in the geosciences and on the pattern of their U.S. activity (how many stay to work here, and if so, where?). Presenters will discuss the development of institutional policies and practices addressing foreign students. In light of anecdotal reports indicating marginalization of some foreign graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, there will be discussion of the quality of the academic experiences for international graduate students.

Most importantly, this Hot Topic will address What are the implications for the geosciences?

Judith L. Hannah, Professor, Department of Geosciences, Colorado State University
Murray Hitzman, Head, Dept. of Geology & Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines
Dallas Rhodes, Chair, Dept. of Geology & Geography, Georgia Southern University

Wednesday, October 31
What's all the Flap about Feathered Dinosaurs?

Perhaps the hottest of the Hot Topics - scientifically it is VERY controversial - revolves around the bird-dinosaur link. This is based on evidence from many "alleged" new "feathered" dinosaurs from China and other bird-like dinosaurs. Recently, a study from some preserved collagen in a T-rex leg bone with preserved amino acids/proteins shows similarities to that found in the collagen of chickens. Opponents state that "protofeathers" are the remains of structural fibers that only provide toughness. The fibers show a striking similarity to the structure of dermal collagen, and they dismiss the proposal that these fibers are feather-like.

Scott Hartman, Science Director, WY Dinosaur Center – Pro feathered dinosaurs
John Ruben, Chair, Zoology Dept., OR State University – Con feathered dinosaurs


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