Professor of Geology and Department Chair
San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences San Francisco, CA 94132
University Of California, Santa Cruz: Ph.D., Earth Sciences, 1989;
San Francisco State University: B.A., Geology, 1984
Neogene diatom biostratigraphy and Miocene paleoceanography; stratigraphy and sedimentology of diatomaceous and related siliceous rocks around the Pacific Rim.
American Geophysical Union, California Academy of Sciences (Fellow), Geological Society of America, Society for Sedimentary Geology (National and Pacific Sections), National Association for Black Geologists and Geophysicists
I have been a faculty member at San Francisco State University since 1990 and I graduated from this same institution (as did my parents in the 1950’s) with a B.A. in geology in 1984. I earned a Ph.D. in Earth science from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1989. As a native San Franciscan who had a rather typical urban upbringing in San Francisco, I did not become interested in the geosciences until I was an undergraduate student. My interests in high school, and in the initial years of college, were the arts, especially photography and music. Although I found science interesting during high school, I received very little encouragement from teachers and had few role model scientists. Consequently, I was more concerned with the interests of my peers and in keeping up with current and popular trends in San Francisco in the 1970's.
While I was attending San Francisco State University as an undergraduate, a combination of excellent geology teachers and a summer internship at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) led me to change my major to geology in my junior year. With the guidance of mentors at the USGS, my fascination with geological research began, particularly with microfossils and their application to paleoceanography, climate change, and evolution. The tremendous amount of practical experience that I gained at the USGS by assisting in research mapping projects in Alaska and the southwestern U.S. transformed me personally and gave me a competitive edge in applying to graduate school. I applied to graduate schools that had faculty specialties in my area of interest.
In graduate school at U.C. Santa Cruz I began to specialize in diatom microfossils (single-celled algae with a silica shell) and the stratigraphy and depositional environment of siliceous rocks. My research focuses on the age and paleoceanographic setting of diatomaceous and related biosiliceous rocks (mostly from around the Pacific Rim), particularly from the Miocene epoch. This research has taken me to many countries of the world including Egypt, Israel, Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia, and Costa Rica. The study of ancient and modern analogues to these unique organic-rich marine sedimentary rocks had led me to both land and sea excursions, as I have twice participated as a shipboard scientist for the international Ocean Drilling Program. Studies involving siliceous sediments are significant because it helps scientists better understand climate change, including such phenomenon as ice ages, global warming, and El Niño. Such research also has practical applications because siliceous rocks are organic-rich and are often the source and reservoir rocks for petroleum.
What I enjoy most about my profession is the interdisciplinary nature of the geosciences and all of the potential applications of the degree. In the variety of classes that I teach at San Francisco State University: oceanography, paleontology, and the history of life, I stress the importance of knowledge of the history of our planet in evaluating current environmental, energy, and climate issues. I am especially concerned with exposing more African American, Latino, and American Indian students to the geosciences, as we are disproportionate affected by unfavorable environmental policy. Finally, being a geoscientist also appeals to my sense of adventure and love of travel, in addition to the appeal of solving mysteries with small clues!