2020 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell

Presented to James M. Robertson

James M. Robertson

James M. Robertson
University of Wisconsin–Madison


Citation by Berry H. (Nick) Tew, Jr., State Geologist of Alabama

Dr. James M. Robertson is a most deserving recipient of the 2020 American Geosciences Institute Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell for Superlative Service to the Geosciences. The Medal’s namesake, Dr. Ian Campbell, was a remarkable man with numerous accomplishments and widespread influence in the geosciences; and in his career as a geoscientist, educator, administrator, and public servant, he was noted for his candor and integrity. Dr. Robertson, known as Jamie to his many friends and colleagues, has had a long and very distinguished career in the geosciences, encompassing research, teaching, and extensive public service in many capacities and has exhibited the traits exemplified by Dr. Campbell.

After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, Jamie took a position at the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, where he steadily rose through the ranks to the position of Associate Director and Senior Economic Geologist. In 1993, he was appointed State Geologist and Director of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and Professor at the University of Wisconsin, positions he held until his retirement in 2015. Under Jamie’s able leadership, the Wisconsin Survey flourished, providing the state’s leaders and citizens with top-notch science and service through sometimes difficult political and budgetary climates. Among his most notable accomplishments as State Geologist, and one of which he is very proud, was the acquisition and development of Wisconsin’s modern, well-organized repository and research facility for geological cores and samples, formally called the Mount Horeb Research and Education Center. When Jamie arrived at the Wisconsin Survey, samples were largely inaccessible, stored in a remote facility that was totally inadequate for scientific research purposes. Today, the samples and cores are well-organized and accessible in a modern facility near the Survey’s offices in Madison. The repository boasts over 660,000 feet of rock core, thousands of well cutting sets, and irreplaceable hand samples and contains layout, laboratory, and meeting facilities, often hosting visiting students, professors, and consultants who wish to study the collections. The Mount Horeb facility is a testament to Jamie’s vision and leadership.

Jamie has given freely of his time and talents in service to the geosciences and society and a common theme in his professional life has been fostering the successful communication of geoscience to non-geoscientists in all levels of government, the private sector, NGOs, and engaged citizen groups. He remains committed to communicating critically needed geoscience information clearly and respectfully in an increasingly polarized environment.

He has served in numerous leadership capacities with many professional organizations, including the New Mexico Geological Society (Honorary Member), the Association of American State Geologists (Secretary, President), the American Geosciences Institute (Treasurer), the Geological Society of America (Fellow), the Society of Economic Geologists (Fellow), and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine--Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, among others. In all of these activities, Jamie is known and respected for his wisdom and knowledge; his insightful and, when needed, outspoken perspectives on matters of importance; his down-to-earth approach to issues and problem solving; his keen sense of humor; and his friendly, outgoing demeanor. Regardless of the matter or task at hand, Jamie Robertson always contributes at a very high level, provides leadership and direction, and is just fun to work with. He is well known for keeping colleagues and discussions focused on what is really important, and where the geosciences can make a difference, by asking the critical questions--“So what?” or “Who cares?”--questions we should always ask ourselves as we strive to make the outcomes of our work relevant and the products we produce useful to decision makers and society.

Jamie has always placed a very high priority on the development of the next generations of geoscientists and has been active in mentoring geology undergraduate and graduate students at regional and national GSA meetings and in other venues, providing sound advice and strong encouragement to young people looking to successfully make their way in our profession.

Dr. Ian Campbell was noted for his outstanding contributions as a geoscientist, educator, administrator, and public servant and, while recognizing all of these contributions, the AGI Medal named in his honor is given in recognition of singular performance in and contribution to the geoscience profession, with emphasis on service to the geosciences. Dr. Jamie Robertson exemplifies the model of service to the geosciences provided by Dr. Campbell and this is a very appropriate honor to recognize his outstanding record of achievement and his long-time, impactful contributions as Wisconsin State Geologist, educator, mentor, and leader in the geoscience profession and, thus, he is a most deserving recipient of the 2020 American Geosciences Institute Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell for Superlative Service to the Geosciences.


Response by James M. Robertson

I am honored and humbled to have been chosen the 2020 Ian Campbell Medalist. I certainly didn’t earn it by myself.

There are numerous colleagues who have helped me develop the friendships, skills, and confidence to function as a successful geoscientist and state survey director. My most special thanks go to Frank Kottlowski, former Director of the New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources, who first gave me the opportunity to become acquainted with an incredible organization called the Association of American State Geologists. The members of that group became my mentors, confidantes, and personal network whose collective wisdom, outlook and style showed me how it could be done. I have also enjoyed a number of long-standing professional and productive relationships with colleagues at the national level in geological societies, advisory committees, and the U. S. Geological Survey. Finally, I gratefully acknowledge the University of Wisconsin Extension Service to whom the WGNHS was administratively attached. That organization has a fundamental commitment to build and nurture what they call ‘capacity’ of individual citizens, local groups, county boards and commissions, and entire communities. By ‘capacity,’ they mean the ability to recognize, and effectively and responsibly deal with local issues and problems. It became obvious to me that successful state surveys should have a similar capacity-building commitment albeit with a relevant geological component. Communicating clearly and respectfully with all survey customers is an essential element in capacity building, and I have emphasized this throughout my career.

All of these individuals and organizations have helped shape who I am and what I have tried to accomplish.