A Passion for Educational Outreach—Profile of USGS Geologist Carol Reiss
by Helen Gibbons and Carol Reiss
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologist Carol Reiss of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California, gave her 99th educational-outreach presentation to a group of local fourth graders on December 17, 2012. Carol took the students on "geology field trips" around the facility's large conference room, where they saw rocks and fossils that Carol had collected from sites around the world, including Hawai'i, California, Mount St. Helens, Mount Everest, and the Juan de Fuca spreading ridge at the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Highlights included a model of an erupting volcano, a replica skull of Smilodon californicus (sabertoothed cat, California's State fossil), a woolly mammoth tooth, a giant ammonite, and a trilobite. The visitors learned about numerous rocks and minerals through hands-on activities, such as floating a piece of pumice, holding foam cups that had been shrunken by exposure to deep-sea pressures, and piloting a life-size mock submersible before watching a video of deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
Carol's geology career started at the USGS in 1975 with the Branch of Pacific and Arctic Marine Geology (a precursor to the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) in Menlo Park, California. The branch began leasing the 180-foot-long research vessel Sea Sounder in 1976, and Carol soon became a participant on numerous research cruises. Working on a project with USGS geophysicist Jan Morton, she was a scientific observer on the deep-submergence vehicle (DSV) Turtle in 1992 and 1994 during dives to the Juan de Fuca Ridge offshore of Oregon.
Carol became interested in educational outreach while serving on the Ethnic Minority Advisory Committee (EMAC) from 1992 to 1996. During that time, she headed up the educational-outreach committee to promote science within local minority communities; the first group presentation was given in 1993. Since then, Carol has made presentations at numerous schools, fairs, and museums. She has organized USGS Open House displays and chaired USGS school-tour subcommittees (1997–2009). She organized the first USGS Earth Science Week celebration for school groups at the Menlo Park campus in 2001 and has been a major contributor to subsequent USGS Earth Science Days.
Carol has been invited to submit information about herself to the Extreme Science website (see Marine Geologist Carol Hirozawa-Reiss); to the "People in Science/Careers" section of the textbook McGraw-Hill Science 2002; to two kids' books about careers in science, titled What Do You Want to Be? Explore Earth Sciences (Sally Ride Science, 2005) and Cool Science Jobs (Scholastic, 2003); and to a TV show highlighting science (Dragonfly TV; 2006; PBS Kids—Real Scientists: Carol Reiss). She has been asked to attend numerous career days at local high schools and has given invited presentations to Earth science classes, to attendees at Sally Ride Science Festivals, and to members of the American Association of University Women. She helped her daughter—who shares Carol's excitement about education—set up a small science museum in her classroom in New Orleans.
In the past several years, Carol has been helping fellow scientists manage the data they collect, giving her new insights into natural processes affecting the coast and seafloor, including earthquakes and tsunamis, erosion, sediment movement, chemical interactions, nearshore ecology, and much more. With her enthusiasm and passion for science, she continually strives to share her knowledge and experiences with young minds, explaining scientific concepts and discoveries to capture the imagination and interest of potential future scientists.
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