GSA Medals & Awards

GSA Public Service Award

Julia A. Jackson
Julia A. Jackson
GeoWorks and
American Geological Institute

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Presented to Julia A. Jackson

 Citation by Samuel S. Adams

The GSA Public Service Award was established in 1998, in honor of Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker, to honor persons "who have advanced the earth sciences in public interest." Recipients have included Stephen J. Gould, Orrin Pilkey, Brent Dalrymple, and Eugenie Scott, and last year, John McPhee. This year, GSA honors Julia A. Jackson in recognition of her success promoting public interest in the earth sciences. That success reflects her extraordinary collaboration with thousands of scientists and non-scientists alike. Julie's story is one of productive relationships built upon the highest level of professionalism, respect and friendship, all for everyone's clearer understanding of the Earth around us.

Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula and then southwestern Michigan, Julie earned a geology degree from Wayne State University. Her contributions to awareness of earth science began as a docent at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. In 1975 Julie commenced an association with the American Geological Institute that continues today, serving at various times as employee, contractor, consultant, and advisor. Starting as a publication indexer, she went on to become editor of Geotimes and to play leadership roles in the Glossary of Geology, AGI's Environmental Awareness Series and Earth Science Week.

Julie's name first became well-known through her co-editorship of three editions of AGI's Glossary of Geology with Bob Bates. In 1997, she was the editor of yet the 4th edition of that fundamental reference work, which environmental lawyer Victor Yannacone has likened to the Rosetta Stone. Not only does the Glossary prevent our language from degenerating into babel, to paraphrase Ian Campbell's preface to the first edition, but the authority of the work rests on hundreds of geoscientists who reviewed definitions, added new terms, and cited references. These volunteers did not simply show up on AGI's doorstep Monday morning ready for work. They had to be found, cultivated, coached, and made to feel that they were "giving blood" for something worthwhile and that they were enjoying it. Thus we begin to see the magic that Julie spins in her relationships with people, all in the interest of making earth science transparent and joyful for anyone.

I must tell you a bit more about Julie's "people magic," because it plays such a role in all her achievements. People who have worked with Julie describe her as a beautiful person under all conditions. She neither offends nor takes offence. She is quiet, genuine, sincere, open-minded, and caring. In pursuit of her passion for helping people discover the joy of earth science, she is energetic, tireless, and persistent. As if that isn't enough, she once told me that she loves the challenge of doing a lot with a little, which was why starting Earth Science Week without a budget was so much fun for her! Now you begin to get the picture: a loveable, irresistible force with whom you want to share a task and take a journey.

Julie went on to edit and oversee publication of AGI's Environmental Awareness Series, in collaboration with Philip Lamoreaux and Travis Hudson. These colorful, non-technical booklets, with titles such as "Water in the Environment" and "Sustaining Our Soils and Society," are accessible and engaging to students, teachers, policymakers, and other lay readers. Julie's "people magic" was critical to working with the diverse contributors and anticipating the needs of the diverse readership.

It is, however, Julie's successful launching of Earth Science Week in 1998 that will probably become her greatest legacy. As chair of the AGI's 50th anniversary celebration that hatched the notion of Earth Science Week, I can testify to how little she was given to work with and how hard we prayed that she would be successful. In her inimitable style, she engaged people from every position and across the country to pitch in and share the excitement of earth science. She established a Web site for exchange of ideas and successes as well as Earth Science Week kits with posters, bookmarks, and activity booklets to promote participation. With significant support from the U.S. Geological Survey, GSA, and other organizations, Earth Science Week has gone on to generate activities in every state and many countries overseas. The success of this public awareness achievement for the earth sciences is due in large measure to the "people magic" of Julie Jackson.

Julie's acceptance of this award today, one year after John McPhee was similarly honored by GSA, continues a curious pattern. Julie similarly followed McPhee as recipient of the American Institute of Professional Geologists' 1999 Outstanding Achievement Award and again followed the distinguished writer as recipient of the Association of Earth Science Editors' 2002 Award for Outstanding Editorial or Publishing Contributions. There is nothing in the world like good company!

President Burchfiel, it is with the greatest possible admiration and joy that I introduce Julia A. Jackson as the 2003 recipient of the GSA Public Service Award.

 top 2003 GSA Public Service Award - Response by Julia A. Jackson

Thank you, Sam, and thank you, GSA, for giving me this opportunity to express my appreciation and to applaud your public outreach efforts. My interest in observing and understanding earth processes started young, and I am grateful to the family members, friends, and teachers who encouraged me.

My family moved from the iron country of the Upper Peninsula to southwestern Michigan when I was nine. While planting the garden, we found an unusual lumpy, tan rock about the size of my dad's fist. Could it a meteorite? I hoped so! We took the mystery rock to the curator of the Kingman Museum in Battle Creek, and I can still feel the excitement of watching him carefully examine this "treasure." Imagine my shock and wonder at learning that we had found a piece of fossil coral — evidence of an ancient inland sea that once covered the area!

My rock collection grew much faster than my knowledge, because, in those days, there wasn't much information available for kids interested in rocks. Fortunately for me, seventh grade science included geology. Mr. Caldwell, the school principal who taught the course, even took us on field trips. That experience increased my interest in geology, but I still couldn't find much about the earth sciences that I could understand. Then, I discovered The Rock Book and other publications by nature writer Carroll Lane Fenton and his wife, geologist Mildred Adams Fenton. Their books gave me what I needed. Without their shining example, I doubt that I would be here today.

By the time I arrived at Wayne State University, I couldn't foresee whether geology would become my vocation or my avocation, much less envision a career at the American Geological Institute (AGI). I was simply pursuing my interests. I was and am still convinced that learning about the Earth and how it works is a good foundation for life and for any career path.

In the course of my work for AGI and with the member societies, I've enlisted hundreds of geoscientists — including many of you — to review and propose definitions for the Glossary of Geology, write articles for Geotimes, or organize Earth Science Week events. You generously continue to donate you expertise and time for the greater good of our geoscience community and society. Your willingness to help and give back never fails to impress me. You are the ones doing public service through your teaching, research, applied geology, and public outreach, and these efforts have never been more important.

Although geology is much more accessible today through books, television, and the World Wide Web than it was 50 years ago, the natural world has become less accessible — especially in urban areas. As geologists, we are uniquely qualified to help youngsters and adults grasp the relevance of the earth sciences and become stewards of the Earth. This job can't be done in classrooms alone.

Public outreach and informal education complement formal education and extend its reach. Rocks and fossils fascinate children. We should seize every opportunity to develop their innate interest in the Earth. I am privileged to have worked with AGI and with many geoscientists who share my conviction that outreach is a critical component of geoscience education. GSA's recognition of the importance of public outreach through programs such as GeoCorps, participation in Earth Science Week, and this award affirms your commitment. I applaud that commitment and encourage you, GSA, and your members to increase your public outreach efforts. Don't let the difficulties in measuring the effectiveness of geoscience outreach deter you. I know firsthand that experiences like finding a fossil or talking to a geologist can turn a child's eyes toward the Earth and the stars. Thank you.