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From Geography and Earth Systems at Mason to the United States Geological Survey

Whether they are tracking tropical storms, predicting earthquakes and landslides, stopping the contamination of water, helping endangered species, or plotting maps of the world's terrain, employees of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) work around the clock and around the world, to provide reliable scientific information about Earth.

The changing nature of the natural and physical world is the primary driving force and motivation behind all of the work USGS does in biology, geology, mapping, and water research. Research done by USGS employees is used to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

The USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia, is only 10 miles from George Mason's Fairfax Campus, making the survey a top resource for Mason students.

"USGS has been a wonderful resource for our geology and geography programs. Many highly qualified USGS scientists are adjunct faculty in our department," said Rick Diecchio, chair of the Department of Geography and Earth Science.

Ann Fraizer, M.S. '94, always thought a career with NASA was the job of her dreams. But after earning her master's in space technology from Johns Hopkins University and spending several years with her eye on the sky, she realized she was more interested in the earth sciences.

Soon after she enrolled at Mason to work on a certificate in environmental management.

"Once I got into the program I learned I could get a master's in something I was interested in," Frazier said, adding she left Mason with a master's in geographic and cartographic sciences, which focused on techniques of collection, analysis, and display of spatial data.

After completing her master's work, Fraizer joined Reston's USGS office full time as a geographic researcher. When a position opened in the USGS mapping center in Denver, Colorado, Fraizer decided she belonged out west. She now spends her days researching and planning projects and budgets for her mapping team of 10 people, who work on land management and resource issues.

Jean Self-Trail

For three years Jean Self-Trail, B.S. '88, had one monstrous commute. She lived near her part-time job at the USGS office in Reston but spent half her week in Delaware pursuing an M.S. in geology at the University of Delaware.

"USGS was very lenient about me having to leave for half the week," Self-Trail said. Each semester she scheduled her classes to fall in the beginning or end of the week. "I just made sure my classes were all covered during two or three days," Self-Trail said. so students can make a connection before they graduate," Clark-Talley said.

USGS provides many internship and part-time job opportunities for Mason students, many of which have continued in career paths with the Survey, according to Diecchio. "In fact, it is hard for me to walk down a hallway at the Reston office without bumping into one of our current or former students," he says.

Terry Councell

The 10-mile commute between campus and USGS also made it easy for Terry Councell, B.S. '91, to work with USGS employees on his senior research thesis. During his last semester at Mason, Councell did research with USGS. "They liked my work as an intern and hired me after graduation," Councell said.

As a hydrologist, Councell studies water, soil, and rocks from all over the world. "Most of my work is in the lab, but I occasionally get into the field," he said. USGS employees often have opportunities to do field research all over the world. On one trip abroad, Councell went to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East where he analyzed the country's oil wells.

Field research also allows USGS employees a chance to work with scientists from other institutions and museums. Jean Self-Trail spent two months off the coast of South Carolina aboard a ship as part of the Ocean Drilling Program. On the trip she met scientists from Oxford University and the Smithsonian Institution who she still collaborates with on research about sub-surface geology.

After completing her master's work, Self-Trail took course work toward her doctoral degree at the University of Delaware and later transferred the credit to the University of Nebraska, where she is currently working on her dissertation in micro-paleontology--an area that USGS needs experts in. Every couple of months, Self-Trail flies out west to meet with her dissertation committee.

Self-Trail's dissertation research and findings benefit her and USGS, as she is becoming one of few micro-paleontology experts at the agency. "Now when I go to Nebraska I'm actually working for USGS by learning and researching about 65-million-year-old marine algae," she said. Self-Trail plans to graduate with a Ph.D. in geology in May of 2000.

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