In the 2020 newsletter the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences had gone through a tremendous amount of change, and 2021 is no different except that the changes have been in a decidedly more positive direction.
The Bloomington campus relaxed its pandemic restrictions in two phases, with a mixture of in-person and online teaching in the Spring 2021 semester, followed by fully in-person teaching in Fall 2021.
Both campus and county have mask mandates that are likely to continue at least through this academic year, and the campus has a vaccine mandate.
While severe illness has been thankfully rare among department faculty, staff, and students, the pandemic has nevertheless been hard on everyone. Many members lost loved ones, cared for ill relatives, taught kids at home, or lived in near isolation for a long time. Faculty and students adjusted to on-line teaching and are still coping with disruption caused by frequent student absences. Staff struggled with stringent and sometimes confusing changes to policies on everything from travel to purchasing, exacerbated by a year-long hiring freeze that left many administrative offices severely understaffed.
While everyone suffered, I want to give special thanks to the department staff who made herculean efforts to keep the department moving despite facing challenges at the university and home. Research travel was postponed, often delaying completion of graduate degrees. Happily, these hardships are being peeled away month by month and we will start 2022 on firmer ground.
The department also moved back into a newly renovated Geological Sciences Building in phases. As you will see on the following pages, the new facilities are a great improvement. The building is brighter, has better climate control, has gathering places that it previously lacked, has purpose-built restrooms on all floors, and has increased capacity for research lab infrastructure.
Faculty, staff, and students moved into renovated offices in December 2020, followed by phased re-entry into research labs over the subsequent eight months. Two research labs were closed for nearly two years in total. A small amount of work remains to be done, ranging from minor touchup to a major electrical switchover.
The department owes a deep debt of gratitude to John Hettle, our building manager, who worked almost literally around the clock for two years keeping track of details and moving mountains, both figurative and literal, to ensure the renovation met as many needs as possible.
We welcomed two new faculty, Elizabeth Kenderes (Lecturer with expertise in igneous petrography) and Shelby Rader (Assistant Professor with expertise in trace metal geochemistry and mineralogy). At the time of writing, we are searching for an assistant professor in geophysics.
One faculty member, Bruce Douglas, retired since our last newsletter.
The IU Geological Field Station courses were taught in Montana as usual last year, thanks to the hard work of Jim Handschy and the instructional team. Mike Rygel of SUNY Potsdam, a long-term instructor, stepped in as Academic Director when Bruce Douglas retired. The group of IU Bloomington faculty teaching in Montana is growing, with Erika Elswick and Jim Handschy being joined by Brian Yanites, and Shelby Rader last summer.
The incoming graduate students from August 2020 made it through their first year with almost no in-person contact with the department, and were joined by a new cohort in 2021 as we moved back into the building.
Since the last newsletter, the graduate students have instituted EAGSA (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Graduate Student Association) for communication, organizing activities, and interacting with the faculty. They have a five-member leadership council, each with a portfolio of activities. Many thanks to the leaders who served so far.
December 8, 2021