Public Release: 

Geological Society of America announces 2018 Fellows for Science Policy and Communication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, CO, USA: GSA has announced three 2018-2019 Fellows who will assist with efforts to increase efficacy in serving society through science.

The 33rd GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow (CSF), Caitlin Keating-Bitonti, will spend a year, beginning this fall, working as a staff member for a Member of Congress or congressional committee. Caitlin is excited to have this opportunity.

"Recognizing that the geosciences are of vital public concern but are rarely included in a typical high school curriculum, I became committed to geoscience education and outreach," said Keating-Bitonti.

During her graduate career, she mentored more than 10 high school students and teamed with two other graduate students to develop and teach a climate change science course at a preparatory school in Palo Alto, California. After receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University, Caitlin joined the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, where she continued her research and also participated in museum outreach.

"My time in D.C. solidified my desire to be involved in the policy-making process, and to advocate that our practices and policies be informed by scientific knowledge," she said.

Keating-Bitonti's area of expertise is paleontology. Her research integrates paleontology, geology, oceanography, physiology, and statistical models to examine how ancient marine organisms responded to past environmental perturbations and how these climate shifts shaped their evolutionary history.

Laura Szymanski is excited to serve as the 2018-2019 GSA Science Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C. As such, Szymanski will serve as the "in-house" fellow, working with GSA's Director for Geoscience Policy to bring science and scientists into the policy process. This position acts as a science policy liaison, keeping GSA members informed, involved, and represented in national policy, including research funding, energy and natural resource assessments, climate change policy, and natural hazard mitigation and response. The fellow also works closely with GSA's Geology and Public Policy Committee on geoscience initiatives, including developing Society-wide position statements on national issues.

Concurrently, Szymanski is a Ph.D. candidate in the Geography Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studies the potential of carbon in buried soils to contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide with land disturbance and changes in climate. Her research will help determine how sensitive the carbon in deep, buried soils is to two potential climate change scenarios. Szymanski has extensive expertise in the field of geoscience and was previously an instructor and taught Earth system science courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Szymanski completed a Master of Science in Geography, where she studied the effects of alternative biofuel cropping systems on soil carbon dynamics to contribute to assessing the sustainability of renewable fuels and products.

Sarah Derouin is on board to serve as the 2018-2019 GSA Science Communication Fellow, and eager to practice her skills as a science translator working within GSA. Sarah is passionate about communicating the value of geoscience to society and showcasing the awesome research that geoscientists do every day. She lives in San Jose, California, and is active in the Northern California Science Writers Association, the National Association of Science Writers, and the Earth Science Women's Network.

Derouin earned her Ph.D. in geology from the University of Cincinnati. She spent six years working as a geologist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation identifying and assessing geologic hazards in the western U.S. and Puerto Rico and has experience working as a consulting geologist, an instructor, a GIS contractor, and as a Geoscientists-in-the-Parks program participant.

Sarah is also a graduate of the University of California-Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz) Science Communication program, where she honed her writing and multimedia skills. As an intern at the Stanford News office, and later as a contractor for the Stanford Woods Institute, she wrote press releases on a range of topics from flexible electronics, to soil health after fires, to investigating how close domestic water supplies are to natural gas wells. Since graduating from the UC Santa Cruz program, Sarah has worked as a freelance science writer and editor with a number of publications and news outlets, including Eos, Scientific American and Science. Her writing formats have included news, features and longer-form informational pieces, as well as profiles. Most recently, Sarah served as an acting associate editor at EARTH Magazine.


The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

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