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Alumni Insights

Tom Scott on Field Courses, Experience and Mentoring

I have heard so many geologists say how important and fun their field camp was! I've always been a bit envious of their experiences--I did not get the chance to attend a field camp when I was an undergraduate at USF. At the time, USF Geology only offered a BA and did not have a field camp or the requirement to attend one. I thought about attending a field camp on my own but Vietnam was raging, I thought I was going to get drafted, and so could not make plans to attend. Well, I got a deferment and Dr. Ed O'Donnell (my undergraduate mentor) suggested I go to Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) to pursue an MS in Geology. Two USF students were already there, two arrived at the same time I started, and two more came the following year. EKU was a perfect fit--there were seven professors, all involved in the USGS-funded state-wide mapping program. The grad students accompanied the professors and helped with their mapping, and taught me a lot. At EKU, my mentor, Dr. Harry Hoge, recommended I take the field methods course, which helped me understand the geologic concepts that are presented in a traditional field camp.

Upon graduating from EKU, I was fortunate to be hired by the Florida Geological Survey (FGS). There, I advanced my mapping skills by going in the field with quite a number of geologic experts who took me under their wing as mentors. I didn't know then how lucky I was, but I sure do now. The concepts learned through mapping in Kentucky and guidance from many established geologists was instrumental in my enjoyment of geology and success in my career.

Mentors play a very important role in most geologists' careers. I was fortunate enough to have two mentors while in school. I didn't choose them and they didn't choose me, it just seemed to happen--a natural fit. Drs. Ed O'Donnell and Harry Hoge were there to offer advice and suggest the right direction I might want to take. After becoming employed by the FGS, Muriel Hunter (paleontologist), Joe Banks (petroleum geologist) and Jim Cathcart (USGS, doctor phosphate of the world) mentored me further. Some years later, I was inspired by another geologist to reach out to my mentors and thank them. I tracked down Ed and Harry at a national meeting of GSA, took them to dinner, and expressed my gratitude for all they gave me! In doing so, they told me how they had benefited from mentoring myself and others. They each took great pride in the successes of the young geologists they mentored. I can now appreciate that myself after having the opportunity to mentor a number of geologists at FGS. As before, I didn't consciously choose to be their mentor, nor did they choose me. But it was a good fit, and while I was helping them grow as geologists, they were helping me!

The take-away messages I have discovered from a 40+ year geologic career are:

1. Maintain your love of geology;

2. Never stop learning;

3. Mentor others and learn from them;

4. Pay it forward – your mentors invested in you. You owe it to them and yourself to mentor the next generation of geologists. The next generation of geologists owes it to their mentors to pass it on along!

-- Tom Scott, Fall, 2016

A new generation of geologists taking Scott's words to heart. --2016 Volcano Mapping, Yellowstone NP.