EDMAP: Training the Next Generation of Geoscientists
Geologic maps record the distribution of rock and soil materials at Earth's surface and help decision makers identify and protect valuable resources, avoid risks from natural hazards, and make wise land use choices.
Randy Orndorff, Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, talks about the grant for the academic component of the USGS NCGMP called EDMAP. He explains the importance of the EDMAP program, describes some of the benefits for involved university students and professors, and describes how to apply for the grant.
Danielle Eganhouse: Hello and welcome to the USGS Corecasts. I'm Danielle Eganhouse. Today we will be discussing the EDMAP program. And here to enlighten us is Randy Orndorff, the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. Welcome, Randy, and thanks for joining us.
Randy Orndorff: Thank you, Danielle, and I'm happy to be here.
Danielle Eganhouse: So, Randy, what exactly is the EDMAP program?
Randy Orndorff: EDMAP is the USGS grant program that funds university geoscience departments across the nation to train the next-generation of geologic mappers. Congress recognized back in the early 1990s that geologic maps were critical to our nation's well-being, including locating and assessing mineral, energy and water resources and aiding in the mitigation of hazards like earthquakes and landslides. So, it's important that we have a workforce in this country trained in producing these important map products.
The unique aspect of EDMAP is that a university professor can receive funds to mentor from one to four students in field techniques that are important for geologists to know. Each student is expected to produce a high-quality geologic map of an area determined to be of appropriate size based on the complexity of the geology and the terrain. So, a person interested in geology and making maps will be well-suited for this program.
Danielle Eganhouse: That sounds great. So, what exactly are some of the EDMAP projects that university students get to participate in?
Randy Orndorff: Well, since 1996 we've funded nearly 525 projects from 140 universities. This has been nearly 800 students that have participated. Over that time span, we've had projects in nearly every state of the union and in Puerto Rico. Alaska is an interesting one, that new frontier. We've had several EDMAP projects where the professor and the students spend time in the wilderness of Alaska, and that's always an exciting area in the frontier of geology. We've had many projects in the Rocky Mountains associated with various field camps out there, again, an area that's of interest to geologists.
Also, we've had many projects in glacier trail such as the upper Midwest and the Northeast where the glaciers had once covered the US and the students can see how the geology affects the water resources and things like that in those deposits.
The other cool thing about is students get to use the latest technologies. Global positioning satellites, GPS, LIDAR, looking at very detailed topographic maps and handheld digital mapping instruments. In some cases they also get to use drilling equipments so they can look at the subsurface and we can see what the third dimension is under our feet.
Danielle Eganhouse: OK. So, as a scientist, what do you think are the most interesting or important aspects of the program?
Randy Orndorff: I would say the most interesting aspects are the most important, and that is the mentoring the students receive, one on one with professional geologists. Almost all geology students take a field camp where they learn some field methods for geologic mapping. But it's usually in a setting with 20 to 40 other students. With that map, they're working hand in hand with the professor to learn the trade.
An added benefit is that they also will have support and spend time in the field with geologists from state geological surveys in the USGS.
Danielle Eganhouse: That's really cool. EDMAP sounds like such a unique program. So, since this is a national program, how does it help or affect the nation?
Randy Orndorff: Well, a short answer is workforce. We have a declining and aging geology workforce in this nation. We found that well-trained geologists and field methods and geologic mappers are highly regarded in business, academia and government. During a recent survey of our EDMAP students, we found that 95% have either received jobs in the geosciences or gone on to further degrees.
This is a great success for the program. Basically, the program is supplying a young workforce that will contribute to the well being of the nation for many years to come.
Danielle Eganhouse: So, what exactly are some of the responses that you've gotten? It sounds like it has been a positive thing.
Randy Orndorff: Yeah, we have received really nothing but positive responses to this program. University professors like the avenue of working one on one with very capable students that they identify. The industry has found that EDMAP students have specialized training for their needs. I'd like to add here that we're not looking at EDMAP to train only geologic mappers but we're giving them specialized training that they can use in any geoscience. Many geologists need to use geologic maps, and these EDMAP students have the skills to use them more effectively in their jobs.
Also, the state geologic surveys and the USGS have found that they can integrate the work of EDMAP into their ongoing projects to enhance their work, and obviously this enhances the experience for the student. And also, these geologists get the gratitude of working with and mentoring students at the same time.
And most importantly, we found that the students love the program and that they get a project that they can call their own while basically learning on the job. Many of the responses we get from former students are how the knowledge that they gained from an EDMAP project have helped them in their careers, in some cases not necessarily directly related to geology
For instance, one of our former EDMAP students was called up in the Army reserves to serve in Iraq a couple of years ago. And when the Army found out that he has mapping experience, they gave him a specialized job in using and producing maps for his unit.
Danielle Eganhouse: This sounds like such an amazing opportunity for students interested in this field. So, how exactly can students and universities find out more about the EDMAP program?
Randy Orndorff: The best way to learn about the program is to visit ncgmp.usgs.gov on the Web. You'll see a link to EDMAP there and that's where you can find out more information on how to apply to the program, information on past projects and products. Also, in mid September there'll be a call for proposals for 2010 and this will be posted at grants.gov. The program announcement that will be posted on grants.gov has a lot of valuable information.
Danielle Eganhouse: Great. And is there anything that I forgot to ask you that you would like to add, Randy?
Randy Orndorff: Yeah, a couple of things. EDMAP is for graduate students and upper level undergraduates who have had the basic courses in geology and it's helpful if they've had some field training courses, too. Funding levels are $17,500 for a graduate student and $10,000 for an undergraduate. I think one of the successes of the program is that these funds are leveraged by the university dollar for dollar. And this is usually done by using the professor's salary time as that match. It's also important to note that the proposals must be submitted by the university professor.
Let me just end by saying that the USGS is very proud of the EDMAP program and there is no other program in the nation quite like this that funds geologic mapping. As I stated earlier, it has been a great success in formulating our workforce and adds to our knowledge of geology and geologic maps for the nation.
Danielle Eganhouse: Well, thanks, Randy, for joining us. That was really informative.
Randy Orndorff: Thank you, Danielle.
Danielle Eganhouse: And thanks again for joining us at the USGS CoreCasts. CoreCasts is a product of the US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.