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2024 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
State Senator Peter Wirth
2023 ESAA Award recipient: Kent Condie with Nelia Dunbar
From left to right:: J. Michael Timmons - Director and State Geologist, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, John Fleck - Writer in Residence, Utton Transboundary Resources Center, University of New Mexico School of Law (2013 award recipient), Dylan Fuge - Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Senator Peter Wirth - Senate Majority Leader (2024 Award recipient), Senator Mimi Stewart - Senate Pro Tempore, Gary King - NM Attorney General - 2007-2015, former State Representative (1987-1998) (2010 award recipient), Conci Bokum - Water Advocate, Water Policy Specialist, (2006 award recipient), Peggy Barroll - Office of the State Engineer, Retired - Water Specialist (2020 award recipient)

A public servant who advanced the role of earth science in public policy was recognized at the New Mexico State Capitol on Feb. 5, 2024. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, in cooperation with the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), presented the 2024 Earth Science Achievement Award for Public Service and Public Policy to State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth during a ceremony in the Roundhouse Rotunda in conjunction with Earth Science/New Mexico Tech Day.

Senator Wirth graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and Spanish in 1984. He later earned his juris doctor from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1990. After completing his law degree, Senator Wirth was a law clerk for the Honorable Oliver Seth, a federal judge with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1992, Senator Wirth began his civil law work, which continues to this day, specializing in mediation and dispute resolution. Some of his earliest service to New Mexico communities began before his service in the Legislature, serving on boards for local charity organizations, including the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, and the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

Senator Wirth’s public service to New Mexico shifted more firmly to state policy with his move to the state Legislature. He has been a member of the New Mexico Legislature for 20 years, serving both as a state representative and a senator. He was appointed to the House of Representatives in 2004 and was subsequently elected to that position, where he completed two terms. In 2008, he successfully ran for the state Senate, where he is currently serving his fourth term. Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, Senator Wirth has been a strong leader and advocate for environmental legislation. Of the many natural resource issues facing the state, his interest in the sustainable use and management of water resources stands out.

Over his years of service as a legislator, he has served as chair of the Senate Conservation Committee and the interim Water and Natural Resources Committee and as a member of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In these roles, and now as Senate majority leader since 2017, Senator Wirth has played an integral role in a number of environmental and regulatory reform measures to protect and better manage the state’s critical natural resources, especially water. Key pieces of legislation that he has sponsored and co-sponsored include a number of environmental and conservation bills that became law, including the Local Government Air Quality Act (“Stringency"), the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act, the Renewable Energy Financial District Act, the Sustainable Building Act Tax Credits, the Regional Water System Resiliency Act, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, and reforms to the Interstate Stream Commission membership. 

Research & Education

2023 ESAA Award recipient: Kent Condie with Nelia Dunbar
Dr. William Seager (right) and his wife, D.D.
2023 ESAA Award recipient: Kent Condie with Nelia Dunbar
Dr. Shari Kelley (left) and Dr. William Seager.

William Seager, an emeritus professor from New Mexico State University who spent his career investigating the complex geology of southern New Mexico, is the recipient of the 2024 Earth Science Achievement Award for research and education, presented by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions in advancing earth sciences in areas of applied sciences and education in New Mexico. It will be presented during the New Mexico Geological Society annual spring meeting on April 19 at Macey Center on the New Mexico Tech campus. The Bureau of Geology is a research and service division of New Mexico Tech.

“Dr. Seager’s contributions to better understanding the geologic history of the lower Rio Grande corridor and adjacent rift-flank uplifts through geological mapping and field studies are legendary,” said Dr. J. Michael Timmons, director of the bureau and state geologist. “His insights into the rich geologic history of the region have informed generations of geoscientists interested in the geology of the state and the patchwork of geologic processes that produce our enchanted landscapes.”

Perhaps Dr. Seager’s finest achievement is his geologic map of the Organ and southern San Andres mountains, east of Las Cruces, said Dr. Shari Kelley, field geologist and geophysicist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. The accompanying report contains beautiful illustrations, including one showing the Ancestral Rio Grande spilling into the Hueco basin through the Fillmore Gap just south of the Organ Mountains. That illustration helped shape conceptual models of the aquifer beneath El Paso.

Dr. Seager’s series of journal articles in the mid-1980s defined large, northwest-striking Laramide uplifts and basins and changed how geoscientists think about that deformation in southern New Mexico. During this stage in his career, he worked with Dr. Greg Mack, mapping in the Caballo and East Potrillo mountains. Dr. Seager’s insights into the geologic evolution of southern New Mexico—gained through decades of field studies—were recently published in a review paper in the journal New Mexico Geology.

As a professor, Dr. Seager had high expectations of his students, and he pushed them hard to succeed.

Dr. Kelley, a former student, said, “Dr. Seager had a profound influence on my career. He provided my husband and me, as undergraduate students, opportunities to go out in the field with him while he was mapping in the San Andres Mountains in the late 1970s. During those outings, he took the time to explain to us what he was seeing and thinking. We learned a lot about the thought processes involved in making an accurate geologic map.”

Dr. Seager graduated with a BS degree in geology from Syracuse University, where he almost became an artist. He later earned his MS degree under Vincent Kelley at the University of New Mexico; his thesis involved making a geologic map of the Jicarilla Mountains in south-central New Mexico. He mapped in the Virgin Mountains in Nevada as part of his PhD from the University of Arizona.

In 1966, Dr. Seager became the second faculty member to join the nascent geology program within the Department of Earth Sciences at NMSU. He taught structural geology, tectonics, and field geology, and his research focused on field studies in southern New Mexico. He retired from the department in 1998 after 33 years of service.

In retirement, Dr. Seager has returned to art, painting the landscapes of southern New Mexico and the western United States. Several of his paintings adorn the covers of New Mexico Geological Society publications. In addition, he still maps mountains, and he recently completed an update to the geologic map of the Doña Ana Mountains north of Las Cruces.

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

- See past award recipients -