Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Landscape Comes To Life

By Rebecca Rose

A new book, detailing the landscape of New Mexico is surprise hit for the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and  Mineral Resources.
The Geology Of Northern New Mexico’s Parks, Monuments and Public Lands celebrates the beauty of the landscape and the science that helped created it. The book, a collaboration five years in the making, involving dozens of scientific experts, photographers, cartographers, graphic designers and more, was released earlier this year, as part of NMBGMR’s publication’s program.
But what has the halls of Tech buzzing, is not the outstanding academic effort the team has achieved. It’s how the general public has taken an interest in their book. Sales  have climbed, providing  pleasant surprise for the staff in the halls of the NMBGMR’s office at Tech.
One who is not surprised is the book’s editor, Greer Price.
“I think a lot of the people who are buying it have never had a geology class in their life.” Price said, in an interview with Mountain Mial. “ It was written for the non-geologist, the person who has a love of the landscape and how it came to be. They’re just people who see it and think it’s pretty neat.” 
The book was an important project for both Price and Peter Schol, head of the Bureau, located at Tech.  “Outreach has always been part of our mission. A big part of that s our publishing program.”
At his artifact filled office at Tech, Price’s love of geology and the landscape that it shapes is evident, as is his passion for translating that love to a science-weary public.
For Price and the publications department, geology is less about the science of rocks and more about an understanding of the nuanced relationship between landscape and society.
“If you love the landscape, then an understanding of how that landscape came to be is very natural. That’s what we tried to do with this book. People already come to New Mexico because they love the land, they love the scenery, they love the way it looks. I think it’s a natural next step for them to have a curiosity about it.”
Price guided the collaboration and overall direction, working with some of the top researchers in the field. In all, over 15 scientists and researchers contributed for chapters on various regions of Northern New Mexico.  Each chapter details a specific regional setting:  Colorado Plateau, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande Rift, Jemez Mountains and Valles Caldera, and the Great Plains.
The final outcome represents a unique accomplishment for such complex material:  A book that can double as a text book and a layman’s guide, written in a subtle technical language that embraces a scientist’s keen eye for detail and a backpacker’s wide-eyed gaze.
  Price has a keen knack for understanding how to make complex scientific material more tangible to a modern day audience .  In a world where information downloads to the palm of a hand faster than the blink of an eye, it’s hard to imagine how to keep an audience interested in something as finite as geology, a science quite literally rooted in an understanding of processes that take billions of years.  But rather than being daunted by the spectre of modern technology, Price was inspired.
“Audiences are more sophisticated than they used to be. The things that we could get away with in the 50s and 60s just don’t fly.”  he said. “You’ve really got to engage them.  They demand more sophisticated graphics, they demand a more sophisiticated look and design and accessibility.”
That attention to the detail of aesthetic is immediately apparent in the look and feel of the book.   Coming in at just under 400 pages, the book is filled with striking photorgraphs, taken by some of the world’s most renowed photographers.  Adriel Heisey, George Huey, William Stone and Laurence Parent and many more all contributed shots to the work.
“We used photographs to illustrate to people what they’re actually seeing, so that if you  go to the parks, this book will help you and give you a feel for it.  And if you’ve never been, this book, we hope, will attract you to those places.”
“The best part is that everything is so accessible,” he said. “You don’t even have to leave paved road.”

“The Geology Of Northern New Mexico’s Parks, Monuments and Public Lands” is available online at,  by calling 575-835-5490 or at the Bureau of Geology Publications Store, located on the New Mexico Tech campus.


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