DOI’s Highest Award Given to Susan Russell-Robinson, Former Associate Program Coordinator for Coastal and Marine Geology

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On October 3, 2017, Susan L. Russell-Robinson was presented with the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award.

This article is part of the January 2018 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter.  

A woman on the left smiled for the camera holding a certificate, and a man on the right talks to her holding an award metal.

Susan Russell-Robinson receives the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award from John Haines, Acting Associate Director of the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area. John and Susan worked closely together as coordinator and associate coordinator, respectively, of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program.

On October 3, 2017, Susan L. Russell-Robinson was presented with the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award at a small ceremony organized by her former colleagues in the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area.

John Haines, Acting Associate Director, Natural Hazards Mission Area, gave Susan her gold pin and gold coin along with the Distinguished Service Award certificate and citation. John said, “Susan was unfailing as a ‘force for good,’ exemplifying the guiding principles of the Survey and federal service. She consistently provided sage counsel and demanded the highest standards from all her colleagues, while exhibiting care, compassion, and concern in every interaction she had. Susan remains my model for thoughtful, committed, and effective leadership.”

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor that can be granted to a career employee in the Department of the Interior. Susan was cited for her great effectiveness as a research scientist, program staff scientist, and manager. As Associate Program Coordinator for Coastal and Marine Geology, she oversaw budget planning and execution to advance Department and Bureau priorities while ensuring fiscal accountability. Her efforts to ensure the success of field surveys to establish the limits of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf, to create effective partnerships to advance the National Ocean Policy, and to build effective regional councils in the Northeast demonstrate her ability to open dialogue and to facilitate collaboration on the federal, state, and international scene.

Susan retired from the USGS in July 2016 after 42 years of service (see “Forty-Two Years of Service to the USGS: Susan Russell-Robinson”). She has undertaken a volunteer project with the National Park Service to help identify and define the scope of collections for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, headquartered in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. “This effort has brought my career full circle, as my first research project with the USGS was based in the Jemez Mountains. I am the last ‘Pajarito Plateau Pumice Picker,’ and it is an honor to preserve the records and volcanic legacy of my USGS mentor Robert Leland Smith.” Smith, who died in 2016, was a world authority on ash-flow tuffs, silicic volcanism, and caldera structures.

A man and a woman smile for the camera and they each have an arm around the other.

Susan Russell-Robinson (right) with her mentor Robert (Bob) Leland Smith at a celebration of his Department of the Interior Distinguished Service Award in 1992.

Susan’s many coworkers admire her contributions. Ann Tihansky, physical scientist and communications specialist for the Coastal and Marine Geology Program, said, “An important part of Susan’s vision was recognizing the value of communications for garnering public support of our science. No matter where she worked at the USGS, her approach always included long-term investments in communication staff and related assets that continue to serve the USGS today.” Gail Wendt, a former colleague in the USGS Public Affairs Office, wrote: “Susan was one of those special public servants who served the USGS, the Department, and the citizens of this country in a myriad of capacities with spirit, grace, intelligence, and style.”

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