A Paleontology Student on Capitol Hill
As a young girl who grew up in rural Ohio and loved history and government, I never imagined I would have the chance to walk through the impeccable halls of the Capitol building and offices of the government of the free world. However, I had this honor on September 11, 2019 through Geoscience Congressional Visit Days hosted by the American Geosciences Institute. GeoCVD is an annual event that brings geoscientists from varying disciplines, institutions, and backgrounds to Washington D.C for a day of advocating the importance of geoscience education and research.
Through the generous funds provided by the Paleontological Society I was able to fly to Washington D.C. to participate in this annual event. On the 10th of September, before plunging into the world of American politics, the Paleontological Society arranged for me to meet with Margaret Fraiser at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Fraiser led me through the innerworkings of the National Science Foundation, and the many opportunities for students and faculty alike. It was an honor to spend the morning with her.
After my NSF meeting, I traveled back to D.C and spent the day networking with geoscientists and preparing for the following day. The training was set up by the American Geosciences Institute in the newly renovated American Geophysical Union building and it prepared us for the following day. The participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves before beginning. We listened to various speakers who touched on the legislative process, the GeoCVD ask “Congress should invest in geoscience education, research, technology, and workforce development,” and how to conduct an effective legislative visit.
The next morning, we began bright and early. Our day was filled with eight congressional visits with the staff of Senator Gary Peters, Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Representative Haley Stevens, Representative Warren Davidson, and Representative Bob Latta, Representative Joyce Beatty, Representative Marcy Kaptur. I was grouped with two other students from Michigan and a professor from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Together we approached each congressional meeting with confidence and professionalism while each advocating for a different bill. I specifically vocalized my support for Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36, S. 1067) and STEM Opportunities Act of 2019, because I believe in the positive difference these bills will make in geoscience research, education, and outreach by providing an encouraging and welcoming atmosphere for all participants.
I was amazed at the attention we received from each legislative staff member we met with, as they were truly excited and happy to speak with us. I was able to share my story. I was also humbled hearing the stories of the colleagues I traveled with — stories of overcoming adversity, and years of research in their respective areas.
Through this experience, I learned better communication skills, and a deeper understanding of the innerworkings of the federal government of the United States. I now feel very comfortable communicating my research, and the importance of geoscience research and education to government officials and their staff members. The connections made here will not end with the conclusion of this year’s GeoCVD but will continue into the future, as a working partnership with the government will only be beneficial for both sides. Personally, I will continue to keep in contact with the Senator and Representatives from Ohio, and work towards a partnership with The Ohio State University School of Earth Sciences, the Orton Geological Museum, and our efforts toward public science education and outreach.
I wish to expression my sincere gratitude to the members of the Paleontological Society for affording me this experience.
Molly Elizabeth Hunt
Interested in learning more about Geoscience Congressional Visit Days (GeoCVD)? Applications are available each summer by late June, through the American Geosciences Institute. Want to know how you can help your Society engage in policy discourse? Take a look at our congressional blog posts for more information!