For the last eight years, the American Geosciences Institute has organized Geoscience Congressional Visits Days, during which geoscientists who represent the multitude of geosocieties gather in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of congress with the collective goal of increasing federal investments in the geosciences. This year I was given the opportunity to represent the Geological Society of America and the state of New Mexico in this event, along with 59 other geoscientists from across the country.
I was joined by UNM alumna Claudia Mora, and two other GSA representatives to meet with staff from the offices of Senators Heinrich and Udall, Representatives Lujan, Lujan Grisham, and Pearce, and members of the House subcommittee on energy and mineral resources. I shared my personal experiences working with the NSF-funded EPSCoR program, conducting analyses in NSF-supported labs, and being dependent on resources provided by the USGS to learn more about the Earth and its ability to sustain life. Without past and current federal investments in geoscience research I would not be able to complete my Masters degree in Geology and I would not have had all the wonderful learning opportunities these experiences offered.
It was encouraging to hear that the New Mexico congressmen are supportive of geoscience research, and hopefully my positive experiences with federally-funded programs have shown them how strong and sustained federal investments in the geosciences can increase our national security, enhance our energy economy, and provide a safe environment for the people of this country to live.
Additionally, I was able to form a strong connection with the office of Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham who is very interested in geoscience research being conducted in New Mexico, particularly the work being done by the EPSCoR program and studies of the impacts of the Gold King Mine discharge on the Animas River. I offered to serve as a resource to Representative Lujan Grisham’s office for geoscience issues, and I emphasized the capacity of the UNM EPS department to conduct critical geoscience research and to provide relevant data and important information to the congresswoman.
I am excited about all the new connections that were created between congress and participating geoscientists, and I am sure that our actions on Capitol Hill will have a positive impact on the federal funding appropriated for geoscience research in the future.
P.S. This experience showed me how powerful the collective voice is, and it reminded me how impactful an educated electorate can be. Get the facts and get out and vote!