Lunchtime Lectures

12:15–1:15, Sunday through Wednesday;
Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 101DE

The GSA Lunchtime Lecture series offers four one-hour presentations (one for each day of the meeting) by high-profile speakers on broad topics relevant to geoscience and society.

Sunday  |  Monday  |  Tuesday  |  Wednesday

Bring your lunch.
Prepare to be challenged and inspired!

Sunday, 9 Oct.

The Anthropocene: A Geological Perspective
Jonathan Foley
Jonathan Foley
is the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Dept. of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. He also leads the IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative.

Panel Discussion

Over the past decade, the term “Anthropocene” has moved from a catch phrase for the scientific community to a cover story in the popular press. While both the scientific community and the public continue to recognize evidence of human-driven changes to Earth’s systems, the International Committee on Stratigraphy is grappling with what it would mean to officially recognize the Anthropocene as a geologic time period. What does this mean for us as geologists? How can we, with our unique spatial and temporal perspective, contribute to the dialog and the events we see happening around us?


  • Dorothy Merritts
  • Stanley Finney
  • Emlyn Koster
  • Richard J. Nevle
  • Paul Hoffman

Dorothy MerrittsDorothy Merritts, Franklin and Marshall College, Dept. of Earth and Environment
Geologist Dorothy Merritts (B.Sc. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, M.Sc. Stanford University, Ph.D. University of Arizona) has expertise in streams, rivers, and other landforms, as well as the impact of humans and geologic hazards on landscape evolution. Her primary research is in the Appalachian Piedmont, particularly southeastern Pennsylvania, where she is investigating the role of human activities in transforming the woodland and wetland forests of Eastern North America to a predominantly agricultural and mixed-industrial/urban landscape since European settlement.

Stanley FinneyStanley Finney, California State University, Long Beach, Geological Sciences
Stanley Finney currently serves as Chair of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (2000–2008) and previously served as Chair of the ICS Subcommission on Ordovician Stratigraphy (1996–2004).

Emlyn KosterEmlyn Koster, President Emeritus, Liberty Science Center; Past President, Geological Association of Canada
Emlyn Koster (B.Sc. University of Sheffield, UK; Ph.D. University of Ottawa, Canada) is retired from his positions as chief executive at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and Ontario Science Centre in Canada and Liberty Science Center in the USA. His publications and presentations focus on relevancy-driven leadership of museums and draw upon his experiences in cultures and landscapes worldwide. He is a former president of the Geological Association of Canada, the Giant Screen Theater Association, and the Institute for Learning Innovation. Koster’s current board and advisory roles are with the Visitor Studies Association, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers University, and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance for the New York–New Jersey Harbor.

Richard J. NevleRichard J. Nevle, Stanford University, School of Earth Sciences
Richard J. Nevle is the undegraduate program director in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. in Geological and Environmental Sciences in 1995. Nevle employs geological techniques to investigate prehistoric human-landscape interactions and to explore how these interactions have affected Earth system processes.

Paul HoffmanPaul Hoffman, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology Emeritus, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University and Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Paul Hoffman is a sedimentary and tectonic field geologist whose recent research focuses on the most extreme climates and climate changes in Earth’s history—the Snowball Earth episodes of the Neoproterozoic era and their hyper-greenhouse aftermaths. Isotopic and geochemical records of ancient seawater in carbonate rocks reveal large perturbations in atmospheric CO2 content centered on Snowball Earth terminations. As a Snowball Earth absorbs little solar radiation, its termination confirms the potent warming effect of atmospheric CO2.


John F.H. Thompson
Monday, 10 Oct.

Mineral Resources—21st Century Challenges for Earth Scientists

2011 Michel T. Halbouty Distinguished Lecturer
John F.H. Thompson
Vice President Technology and Development, Teck Resources Limited

John Thompson obtained his B.A. from Oxford University and then moved to Canada, where he completed his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Toronto, working on magmatic sulfides deposits in the Caledonides and Appalachians. In 1982, he joined the BP Minerals group in Australia to work in mineral exploration, subsequently moving to an international exploration role with the group, based in UK. In 1988, he moved to Salt Lake City initially with BP Minerals and later with Kennecott–Rio Tinto. In 1991, Thompson became director of the Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU) at the University of British Columbia, managing exploration-related research for more than 20 companies. In 1998, he joined Teck Corporation as chief geoscientist and in late 2005 was appointed vice president of technology and development for Teck Resources Limited. In this role, he manages R&D and evaluation activities related to corporate development, operations, and new projects.


Orrin H. Pilkey
Tuesday, 11 Oct.

Mathematical Modeling is Damaging our Science

Orrin H. Pilkey
James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Orrin Pilkey is a marine/coastal geologist currently concerned with the global view of barrier island evolution and the impact of sea-level rise on coastal civilizations. He has received a number of awards, including the Shepard Medal for excellence in marine geology and the GSA Public Service Award. He has co-authored numerous books, including Useless Arithmetic, a critical review of mathematical modeling in the earth sciences; The Rising Sea; and The World’s Beaches.

Lecture synopsis: Mathematical modeling requires the development of simplifying assumptions in order to make a very complex natural world simple enough to model. Unfortunately, these simplifications have in some instances become accepted real-world principles, trapping our science in an “expected universe,” where field work is structured to verify the reality of the “model world” rather than exploring the uncertainty and variability in the “real world.” This is a precarious approach to science, and those who study natural processes in the field must take care to avoid following a path guided entirely by questions framed by modelers.


Harvey Thorleifson
Wednesday, 12 Oct.

The Role of Geoscience in our Society

Harvey Thorleifson
This year’s annual meeting chair; State Geologist of Minnesota; Director, Minnesota Geological Survey; Professor, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota; President Elect, the Association of American State Geologists; and former president of both the Geological Association of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado.

Lecture synopsis: This year’s meeting theme captures the breadth and importance of what we as geologists do. We grasp the entire scope, in space and time, of our planet and its evolution. We explain earth materials, processes, and history; we outline the history of life; and we provide for human needs with respect to water, energy, materials, and security. The role we play as scientists, educators, consultants, and industry leaders is of escalating importance for human well-being and biodiversity maintenance worldwide. We therefore have a duty to optimize our efficiency and effectiveness, to maximize the benefits we bring to society.