More than 20,000 geologists came to Washington, DC, for the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). This extraordinary gathering, the largest conference of Earth scientists on the planet, usually takes place each December in San Francisco. However, the past two years the venue changed due to construction and renovation of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center. Last year, the AGU Fall Meeting was in New Orleans; this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of AGU’s founding, the conference took place in the nation’s capital.
In anticipation of this unusual circumstance, EARTH magazine asked NOVA geology professors, Ken Rasmussen and Callan Bentley, to write an article introducing AGU meeting attendees to the geological setting of the capital city. Both geologists have led hundreds of field trips to sites of interest in the area and were selected as two of the most knowledgeable local experts who could translate the complex story into language the magazine’s general readership could understand.
Their collaboration was featured as the cover story of the December issue of EARTH magazine, “Travels in Geology: Touring the Capital Geology of Washington, DC“. The article covers the “Fall Zone” along which most major east coast cities are located, the boundary between two fundamentally different geologic domains: the Piedmont Province to the west, and the Coastal Plain to the east. Detailed histories of these geologic provinces are outlined in the piece, and the unexpected Earth history museum hidden in the building stones of the city’s many monuments and museums. (Rasmussen’s popular field studies course on the building stones of the National Mall served as vital source material for this section.)
The two geologists were also the main sources for another piece, the short “Self-Guided Tour of the Geology in DC Buildings” by Lily Strelich that was published on December 6 in EOS, AGU’s weekly newsmagazine.
EARTH magazine is published by the American Geosciences Insitute, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., and reaches over 28,000 subscribers per month (both institutional and individual).
Rasmussen and Bentley are both recipients of SCHEV’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Rasmussen also holds the John Moss Award for outstanding college teaching from the eastern section of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Bentley is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and writes the “Mountain Beltway” blog for the AGU Blogosphere.