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Bureau of Geology Presents Annual Earth Science Achievement Awards

By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., Jan. 15, 2009 – The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources will award the annual New Mexico Earth Science Achievement Awards to two outstanding individuals January 29 in Santa Fe.

This year’s winners are water policy expert Ron Gardiner of Questa and geothermal researcher James C. Witcher of Las Cruces. Gardiner receives the award for outstanding contributions advancing the role of earth science in areas of public service and public policy in New Mexico. Witcher receives the award for outstanding contributions advancing the role of earth science in areas of applied science and education in New Mexico.

The presentation will be in the rotunda of the State Capitol building at noon Thursday, Jan. 29, during the legislative session in conjunction with Earth Science Day. Several agencies will be staffing tables in the west wing of the Roundhouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on that day. The presentations will be made by Joanna Prukop, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and Dr. Paul Bauer, associate director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. The public is invited to visit the Roundhouse throughout the day and to attend the ceremony.

Gardiner’s wide-ranging career in water policy includes watershed planning and management. He has worked as a federal field technician in watershed monitoring and management for more than a decade. As a water and natural resources consultant, Gardiner has worked at every level of community water and watershed planning in the Taos region, serving as a public advocate through consulting, writing, and public presentations.

As a staff member at the New Mexico State Legislature, Gardiner’s experience on critical water and energy resource committees has been key in helping to support policy-making decisions. For the past decade Ron has persuasively argued for more independent science and technology to support the policy and administration of water and natural resources in New Mexico.

Witcher is widely recognized as the pre-eminent researcher on geothermal energy in New Mexico. He has 30 years of professional experience in geothermal exploration and development. He is particularly well known for his work on practical applications of geothermal energy, in particular the low-temperature geothermal resources that offer some promise in New Mexico. He is also known for his understanding of the limitations of geothermal development in a state where water resources are scarce. For most of the last two decades he was on the staff of the Southwest Technology Development Institute at New Mexico State University. Since 2003 he has worked throughout the state as a private consultant, specializing in the exploration and development of geothermal energy and ground water.

These awards are co-sponsored by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, a division of New Mexico Tech in Socorro, and the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department in Santa Fe. The awards were initiated in 2003 to honor those often unrecognized champions of earth science issues vital to the future of New Mexico. Selections were made following a statewide nomination process.

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is a non-regulatory research and service division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. For 82 years the bureau has served as the geological survey for the state of New Mexico. EMNRD provides resource protection, recreation, and resource development services to the public and other state agencies. Nominations for next year’s awards are welcome from the general public and may be made directly to Peter Scholle, state geologist and director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

-NMT-