On Aug. 13, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins and U.S. Geological Survey Director James Reilly signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a partnership between the two institutions that will enable both to draw on the facilities and expertise of the other.
The five-year agreement provides a framework for collaboration that encompasses any of the USGS’ science mission areas and any earth science or natural science-related research at the U. These collaborations will provide tools and methods to advance knowledge in earth science. U. faculty members and students will be involved in these collaborations. It also provides for personnel from either institution to, as projects require, share research facilities with the other.
The agreement benefits projects such as an international collaboration project co-led by Michael Zhdanov, distinguished professor of geology and geophysics. Zhdanov is working on projects related to regional mineral assessments in the Middle East & Africa, including facilitating geophysical exploration and technical training for the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Mali. He and his department colleagues have a long history of research collaboration with the USGS, but for this project, Zhdanov recognized that the agency could offer expertise in this project that would complement that of the U.
“This is how the idea of the memorandum of understanding came up,” Zhdanov said, “to have a closer relationship with the USGS to provide an avenue and framework for collaboration both internationally and domestically.” Other possible collaborations may include scientists from the USGS delivering courses or lectures at the U, helping researchers from both institutions sharpen their theoretical and practical science. “The traffic goes two ways,” he said.
At the signing, Watkins and Reilly discussed shared research priorities, especially water research. “In so many of these communities,” Watkins said of her recent road trip tours around Utah, “the conversation about water comes up.” Through this collaboration, both leaders expressed, their respective capacities to address key environmental issues are strengthened.
Following the signing, Reilly and other USGS representatives met with U faculty, including Brenda Bowen, director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center, Sabine Klahr, Associate Chief Global Officer, Office for Global Engagement and Keith Koper, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. The meetings were fruitful and have led to ongoing discussions with the USGS, the agency indicated.
Zhdanov reported that Reilly, a former astronaut, recounted his view of earth from space. “When you’re out there at the sky, looking at the earth, you see there’s no boundaries, no different countries,” Reilly said. “It’s just one spaceship where we all live together.”