NAGT/USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program

published Jun 11, 2010 4:42pm

By Robert Ridkey, USGS

Soon to enter its fifth decade, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Cooperative Summer Field Training Program is the longest continuously running internship program in the earth sciences. Over the past forty-five years, more than 2000 students have participated in this program with an impressive number of these individuals becoming full-time employees of the USGS.

The cooperative program was launched at the Geological Society of America meeting in Kansas City in early fall of 1965 when William "Bill" Pecora, then the newly appointed Director of the USGS, held a meeting with a small group of distinguished professors and officers of the NAGT. Pecora felt strongly that the USGS needed to be more engaged in geological education. He wanted to get the professors' reactions to an initiative that would provide better linkage to academia while providing better summer field assistants for the USGS. Pecora suggested that the USGS would provide support by way of internships for outstanding undergraduate geosciences majors, while NAGT would advertise the program to faculty and students, and solicit outstanding student nominations from the directors of the nation's geosciences field camps. (Field camp is a tradition in the education of a geoscientist. It is an intensive course that applies classroom and laboratory training to solving field-based geoscience problems.) Needless to say, 'Pecora's Plan,' as it became known, met with instant approval.

Although some modifications have been made over the years, the NAGT-USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program operates today much as it did from the beginning. With active participation from the highest levels of both organizations (including the Director of the USGS), a joint committee oversees the program. The program "year" begins in September with all field camp directors being provided information about the program and the opportunity to nominate up to three students, based on total camp enrollment. Nominated students apply by sending a resume, letter of interest, and transcripts to the USGS Education Office. At the same time, USGS scientists interested in working with an intern send information about proposed field, laboratory, or office-related scientific projects to the Education Office. Candidates are then matched by their course work, skill and interest with up to five projects. The listing of candidates and accompanying academic information are sent to USGS scientists for review, interviews, selection or possible further discussion. The USGS scientist with whom the intern will work makes the final intern selection. As interdisciplinary system science is a cornerstone of USGS science, all science disciplines are encouraged, and do take advantage of this program. Students hired through this program have continually received outstanding reviews from our managers.

Over the years, NAGT has succeeded in identifying top-flight students for the program, and the USGS has succeeded in garnering the interest of competent and enthusiastic supervising mentors. The NAGT-USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program continues Pecora's vision of greater educational involvement and provides a first rate professional experience to students early in their careers. It is a wonderful partnership that influences the career paths of future scientists in positive and exciting ways.