skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

2023 Earth Science Achievement Awards

Created in 2003, the Earth Science Achievement Awards generally honor two recipients, one for “outstanding contributions advancing the role of earth science in areas of public service and public policy” and the other for “outstanding contributions in advancing earth science and education.” Nominations for these awards are welcome from the general public and may be made directly to the director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

Public Policy & Service

2023 ESAA Award recipient: Dennis McQuillan
photo: Katie Bauer
2023 ESAA Award recipient: Dennis McQuillan with Nelia Dunbar
photo: Katie Bauer
Dennis McQuillan and Nelia Dunbar

A public servant who advanced the role of earth science in public policy was recognized at the New Mexico State Capitol Jan. 23. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, in cooperation with the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, presented the Earth Science Achievement Award for 2023 to Dennis McQuillan during a noon ceremony in the Roundhouse Rotunda in conjunction with Earth Science/New Mexico Tech Day. NMT academic and research divisions and earth science-focused state, federal, and private sector groups staffed tables, and the public was invited to visit the Roundhouse and attend the awards ceremony.

McQuillan graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in geology, minoring in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Early in his career with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), mentors Maxine Goad and John Hawley (two previous Earth Science Achievement Award recipients), trained McQuillan to be an expert witness, a skill that he used in administrative, legislative, and adjudicatory proceedings. As he became involved with the fields of public health, civil and sanitary engineering, public relations, and microbiology, Hawley helped to keep McQuillan firmly grounded in geology, which strongly influences the migration, transformation, and cleanup of groundwater pollution.

At NMED, McQuillan developed new regulatory frameworks and programs aimed at advancing the health and safety of all New Mexicans through citizen engagement and education. Following recognition that private domestic well users were not protected by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, McQuillan created the “Water Fair” program in 1982, using portable field instruments to provide free screening of private domestic well water. McQuillan was instrumental in assembling a team of industry, citizen, and local government organizations to draft comprehensive regulations for the prevention and abatement of water pollution to replace the practice of negotiating legally binding cleanup agreements on a case-by-case basis. Most recently, he played a central role in the emergency response to the Gold King Mine (GKM) spill, which impacted communities along the Animas and San Juan rivers. He recruited top experts among state agencies and universities to develop and implement a long-term program to monitor the effects of the spill. After retiring from NMED in 2020, McQuillan continued to serve as New Mexico’s expert in the GKM litigation, which resulted in $48 million in settlements for the state.


Dennis McQuillan passed away on April 11, 2023 (see his obituary). A memorial celebration will take place on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 at the Santa Fe Women's Club from 5:00-7:00 PM.

Research & Education

2023 ESAA Award recipient: Kent Condie with Nelia Dunbar
Dr. Nelia Dunbar presenting the 2023 Earth Science Achievement Award to Dr. Kent Condie.
2023 ESAA Award recipient: Kent Condie with Nelia Dunbar
Dr. Kent Condie accepting the award

Dr. Kent Condie received the 2023 Earth Science Achievement Award for “outstanding contributions advancing the role of earth science in areas of research and education” during the New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting held at Macey Center on the campus of New Mexico Tech on April 21, 2023. The award was presented by Dr. Nelia Dunbar, director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

Kent Condie began his academic career at New Mexico Tech in 1970. He retired in 2014, but only from teaching. As an emeritus faculty member with the Earth and Environmental Science Department, his research remains strong. During his time in New Mexico, he has studied geology not only within our state but also around the world. He focuses on better understanding of the first 2 to 3 billion years of earth’s history. Kent’s research prowess is well recognized. He is the top-ranked scholar at New Mexico Tech based on H-index and citations. He also received the 2018 Penrose Medal, the Geological Society of America’s top honor, in recognition of his research accomplishments. The citation for the Penrose Medal provides a wonderful summary of Kent’s research contributions.

The Earth Science Achievement Award focuses not only on research but also on the nominee’s impact on geoscience education in New Mexico. During his time in New Mexico, Kent taught upper-level and graduate geology courses to a huge cohort of geoscientists, a number of whom have spent their careers in New Mexico, contributing to geoscience research in our state. Kent also advised seven PhD and many MS students, and, beyond that, served on many thesis committees. Kent’s classes, and the projects done by his students, tended to be notably field-oriented, and Kent’s geo-river raft trips were legendary.

Kent’s former students highlight how his classes and associated field trips, as well as his appreciation for science and the natural world, inspired them as students and in their professional careers. Things mentioned by former students include rough terrain, scorching heat, death marches, and cactus spines, but also patience, mapping skills, the excitement of new discoveries, dedication, support of individual students’ particular needs, and kindness and thoughtfulness.

Nominations for next year's awards are welcome from the general public.

- See past award recipients -