Logo POLITICAL SCENE October 1997

Interns Find Washington Eye-opening

Three current or recently graduated geoscience majors spent this past summer covering congressional hearings, researching policy issues, and visiting with policy-makers as interns for the American Geological Institute. In the process, they learned how Washington works, seeing firsthand the strong passions and tangled interests evoked by environmental and resource issues -- passions and interests that often overshadow science and scientists.
For the second year, two interns -- Jenna Minicucci and Catherine Runden -- were jointly funded by AGI and the American Institute of Professional Geologists Foundation. A third intern -- Stephanie Barrett -- was funded jointly by AGI's Government Affairs and Education programs.

Science Education Policy

Barrett focused on expanding AGI's coverage of science-education policy. One issue she followed was the fate of the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, which provides funds for science teachers to receive additional training. The House of Representatives proposed eliminating the program last year, and AGI has worked with other scientific societies to urge President Clinton and Congress to continue funding the program.
In addition to bills reauthorizing the National Environmental Education Act and targeting technology in the classroom, Barrett also produced hearing summaries and updates on a variety of environmental and resource-related issues. "I've been surprised by the strong emotions and opinions expressed at some congressional hearings," she said. "Ranchers and environmentalists, for example, have not shied away from locking horns over the issue of designating land for 'cultural, historical, or environmental purposes' -- provisions within the American Land Sovereignty Act being considered by the House Resources Committee."
Barrett, who has an undergraduate degree in geology from Furman University (S.C.), returned to Indiana University to complete a master's degree in public affairs, with a focus on environmental policy.

Geoscience At NASA

Following up on an AGI member society request, Jenna Minicucci reviewed the geoscience components of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a long-term program to study Earth's system on a global scale and the effects of human-induced changes on the environment. Minicucci delved into the legislative history of the program, attended hearings, and updated earlier analyses about the program's direction and effectiveness. She determined that the program's emphasis has shifted away from land-based research, such as tectonics and stratigraphy, to climate-change and atmospheric research.
Among other projects, Minicucci also completed similar reviews of the geoscience role in the International Space Station and the Global Seismographic Network. She is a senior at Wesleyan University (Conn.), where she is double-majoring in geology and government.

Nuclear Waste Disposal

In the process of following nuclear waste disposal issues, Catherine Runden witnessed an acrimonious confrontation between opposing interests when she attended a hearing on the Ward Valley Low-Level Nuclear Waste Disposal Site in July. Back in 1991, Ward Valley -- located in California's Mojave Desert -- was selected by the state as a suitable storage site for low-level nuclear waste. After six years of environmental studies and court battles, construction of the site remains stalled. Plans cannot go forward until the land, which is federal property, is transferred to the state of California. Legislation to make that transfer has been bottled up by California's senators, and the hearing was an effort to move the process forward.
"It was particularly valuable to watch how decisions made here in Washington affect geologists across the country," observed Runden, who also investigated the research and decision-making process at the Environmental Protection Agency. A 1997 graduate of the University of Iowa, Runden worked for the Iowa Geological Survey during her last two years in school. She is seeking a position with an environmental consulting firm or a nonprofit scientific society.

Serving the science

AGI's government affairs internships address one of the most vexing issues confronting our community -- how to develop a corps of policy-savvy geoscientists and scientifically savvy policy- makers. The program has already begun to make a dent: one of last year's interns is now on the majority staff of the Senate Labor and Human Services Committee, handling science education and other issues. In the spring, AGI will expand the program to include a semester-long internship for which students can obtain college credit.
Reports documenting the work of this summer's interns are available on the Government Affairs page of AGI's web site, which itself was thoroughly redesigned by another AGI intern, David Hays. A geology major from Franklin & Marshall College, Hays is now using his talents to reverse the fortunes of Apple Computer.

David Applegate and Janice O. Childress

American Geological Institute

For more information on this and other science policy issues, visit the AGI Government Affairs home page.

AGI announces spring semester internship AGI seeks outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a full-time spring semester internship in geoscience and public policy. The internship provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the federal government by working in the office of AGI's Government Affairs Program. Activities include monitoring legislation, researching current issues, updating the web site, and attending congressional hearings and executive agency briefings. Stipends are provided, and AGI will work with students to obtain academic credit for the internship. For additional information, visit
Applications should include an official copy of college transcripts, a resume with contact information for two references, and a cover letter stating your interests in science policy and what you feel you can contribute to the program. All application materials must be postmarked by Oct. 20, 1997, and sent to: Dr. David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs, American Geological Institute, 4220 King St., Alexandria, Va. 22302-1502. Inquiries only to EOE

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program

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