MADISON – Badgers are natural burrowers, tunnel diggers and inherently Earth-minded creatures. With Mark D. Myers’ recent nomination by President George W. Bush as director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it seems that University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni are no exception.
Myers, an expert on sedimentary and petroleum geology, received his bachelor’s degree in 1976 and a master of science from UW-Madison in 1981 before completing his doctorate in geology from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1994. He also served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1977-2003.
Acting Department of Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett, acknowledging Myers’ nomination, said, “Mark is known not only for his accomplishments as a geologist and state survey manager, but also for the consensus building approach he has emphasized throughout his career. He brings more than 22 years of wide-ranging experience in geological science and strong leadership skills to the USGS.”
The survey’s mission is to provide information to describe and understand the Earth, minimize the damage caused by natural disasters, manage natural resources such as water and oil, and to enhance and protect the United States’ quality of life. It has an annual budget of more than $1 billion and a staff of nearly 10,000 scientists, technicians and support personnel spread across 400 offices in every state and in several foreign countries.
Myers worked closely with UW-Madison geology and geophysics professors Charles Byers and Robert Dott on his master’s thesis, studying a type of sandstone in western Wisconsin from the Cambrian era (roughly 500 million years ago).
“You could really count on him,” Byers says. “That was his most outstanding characteristic.”
Myers served as Alaska’s state geologist and was director of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Division as well as its Geological and Geophysical Survey Division.
“Mark has a capability of being able to clearly define goals and objectives and follow through on them for himself and his organization,” says UW-Madison alumnus and fellow Alaskan geologist David Hite. “He’s not afraid of facing the big issues and tackling them head-on.”
“He did a remarkable job in the Division of Oil and Gas,” Hite says. “He kept politics out of it.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Myer’s would be the second UW-Madison alumnus to be director of the USGS after Vincent McKelvey, who earned his Ph.D. in 1947, was director from 1971-78.
“It’s a tribute to us. We’ve had a strong geology program for many years,” Dott says. “But its the students’ talents that really count in the long run – we can’t take too much credit.”