Dr. Nelia Dunbar Named NM Bureau of Geology Director

Dunbar first female director in Bureau history 


SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology President Dr. Stephen Wells has named Dr. Nelia Dunbar the Director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Dr. Dunbar is the first female director of the Bureau and 15th overall in its nearly 90-year history.

Dr. Dunbar officially began as Director at the Bureau today, but has been with the organization since 1992. She is a Geochemist who completed both her M.S. in Geology (1985) and Ph.D. (1989) in Geochemistry at New Mexico Tech, and still serves as an adjunct professor in the department. Dr. Dunbar succeeds Matthew Rhoades.

"It's such an honor to be offered this position," Dr. Dunbar said. "There are only a handful of other women in this position in other states around the country. I have a deep loyalty to our Bureau and will do my best to continue to advance the incredible work being performed there."

"We're excited to appoint Dr. Nelia Dunbar Director of the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources." Wells said. "She has done outstanding work for the Bureau for many years and her qualifications for the position are world class. As a fellow geologist, who is very familiar with what it takes to lead this effort, I'm looking forward to great things for the Bureau and Dr. Dunbar."

Dr. Dunbar sees strength in the Bureau’s diversity and the strong sense of collaboration and within of the Bureau’s staff. “We have a really wonderful staff of smart people working here, who are very creative and dedicated to understanding the geology of New Mexico,” Dr. Dunbar said. “Many of our staff are geologists, and we have many different fields of geology represented. The Bureau is a collaborative organization, and people in the Bureau work together well.” 

Dr. Dunbar also points to the Bureau's community outreach efforts, particularly with New Mexico's public schools, as both essential and critical to the Bureau's continued success.

"Working with the teachers, interacting with the public, having the museum and bookstore – all help our survey to serve the people of New Mexico," she said.

Dr. Dunbar sees developing new streams of funding and finding ways to preserve the Bureau's budget as its primary challenge.


“We have to work to find creative ways to increase our funding,” Dr. Dunbar said. “Both at the legislative level, which can be difficult in New Mexico’s current economic climate, and to develop other sources of funding. It’s really important when we seek other sources of funding that we stay within our mission. We are the New Mexico state survey and we need to focus on New Mexico.” 

Dr. Dunbar’s M.S. and Ph.D. work centered around explosive volcanism – understanding how volcanoes work. She has done fieldwork not only throughout New Mexico, but also around the world, including extensive work in New Zealand and Antarctica. She spent her formative years living around the world, including regions of Africa, but was drawn to New Mexico during a summer geology field camp during her undergraduate studies. The Land of Enchantment must have made quite an impression; she returned three years later and has been a resident ever since. She and her husband, Bill McIntosh, live on a 25 acre farm in Lemitar, just north of Socorro, where they have been since 1992. 


The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources has served as the state geological survey for nearly 90 years. It is a non-regulatory, research-oriented state agency and a division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Its focus is on fundamental geologic mapping and research in support of responsible resource development for the benefit of New Mexico’s citizens. 

The New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources (as it was first known) was established by legislative act on March 14, 1927, as a department of the New Mexico School of Mines (as New Mexico Tech was then known).


•  Dr. Dunbar’s Bio/Research/Publications 

• KNME Video Feature on Dr. Dunbar (2008)


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