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SD School of Mines Paleontologist Researches Diversity in the Geosciences

  A South Dakota paleontologist is receiving a 400 thousand dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. Darrin Pangac is an associate professor of Geology and Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He and his team of researchers are working to increase diversity in geological field work.

Pagnac is leading a group of 9 researchers from different institutions across the country in a project that will examine how field research is conducted. Next fall, those findings will lead to a workshop on making geology more inclusive of groups who are underrepresented in the geo-sciences.

Pagnac says those barriers include the threat of sexual harassment for women in the field, as well as limited access for researchers with physical disabilities or limited financial resources. He says it’s important to remove these barriers to field work because no textbook can truly compare to experiencing geology in person.

“So not only is this important to help provide this experience for a wider variety of participants, but this now ups our chances of finding another geological genius," Pagnac says. "One who may have been put off because of the threat of sexual harassment, or because of the limitations of equipment and travel. So the more we involve a wider variety of individuals in the field, the more viewpoints we experience, the next big genius that contributes the next big breakthrough we may find.”

Pangac points out this project is driven by the diversity of the research team itself. 
“We have a wonderful array of diversity, we have female participants, we have racial and ethnic minorities—including African women, Native American women. I represent the physically handicapped side of things. I have Oculocutaneous albinism so I’m legally blind. So it’s coming from a place of diversity.”

Pagnac says the team will present their findings during a field institute in early October next year.