Astrogeology Science Center

USGS New Director Visits Flagstaff Science Center

19 June 2018

USGS employees at the Flagstaff Science Center met their new leader, USGS director James Reilly II, in an All Hands meeting, today, at 2:00 pm.  President Donald Trump nominated Reilly and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by Voice Vote on April 9, 2018. Although some employees had met him prior to today’s meeting, for others it was the very first time meeting him.

Reilly told the USGS group, “You get your shot at the director today.”

USGS Director

New USGS director engaging with USGS campus employees.


Getting to know the director:

Reilly is the 17th director of the USGS. His deep-rooted dream since childhood was to be an astronaut. Astrogeology, part of the USGS, was heavily involved in astronaut training during the Apollo era, and the director is likewise a previous NASA astronaut who flew on three Space Shuttle missions: on the STS-89, STS-104 and STS-117. He spent 853 hours in space, 31 hours on space walks (5 in all) and voyaged 14 million miles in space. Additionally, he worked on the ISS and Mir space stations.

From space, Reilly said you have a different perspective. When you look at the Earth, you see a lot of water and then more water. You might say ‘Land ho’ when you finally see land. You can see stars more clearly from space than we do from Earth. If you picture the sky without a lot of moon light, multiply that by a thousand and that is what the sky looks like from space. Stars do not really twinkle and they are not white. They are a wide spectrum of different hues, mostly green and blue but also violet and red. And of course the color is also determined by the Doppler shift of the spectrum as stars recede or approach our planet. From space, the sun is not yellow, but it is a blinding white light in space.

Director Reilly has multiple degrees in geoscience, including a PhD from the University of Texas in Dallas. He holds a rich geologic background. He also worked as a petrogeologist for Enserch Exploration in Dallas, where he helped to apply new imaging technology in deep-water engineering projects and geological research, and there is much more in his wide and varied background than can be described here.

What he will do for the USGS:

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the scientific activities it conducts and that are conducted on its behalf and Reilly stated he is committed to the principles of Scientific Integrity. "If someone were to come to me and say, 'I want you to change this because it's the politically right thing to do,' I would politely decline," Reilly said in the past. Today, he re-emphasized, "I'm fully committed to Scientific Integrity." The director also plans to be a buffer between politics and science, and to keep things running smoothly at the USGS.

Highlight of more discussions:

The director warned about  “rumor intelligence” where you believe whatever comes by your office. He warns against it and expounded on several avenues in which ‘employees’ can communicate with him about their concerns.

He also noted that people love their jobs at the USGS, and they stay on the job a long time. In retrospect, such longevity on the job has caused a gap between senior and junior employees. Although we need senior employees, this gap must be mended by recruiting younger individuals.

The overarching concern from younger individuals at the meeting is that you must have a PhD in hand before getting the opportunity to apply to some of the existing science opportunities. In addition, job resources in Flagstaff may not accommodate spouses with different disciplines. The director said sometimes you have to go after opportunities and be willing to go where the jobs are.

Director James Reilly II admired the USGS location in Flagstaff, calling it premium, but had more work on his list to do and a plane to catch. It was an honor to have the director drop by and talk with the USGS campus team.

By Janet Richie