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UC Geology Department's Walter H. Bucher Funds Fruitful Faculty Field Forays

The Walter H. Bucher Fund, the largest endowed fund in the Geology Department, provides travel money to graduate geology students to attend meetings. It also provides money for faculty to conduct international research during the summer.

Date: 4/12/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826

UC ingot   Professors Attila Kilinc and Warren Huff both used Bucher funds this past summer of 2004. Some money was also used for the contingent of 18 from UC who went to November’s Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in Colorado. The Geology Department was also well represented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco in December 2004. UC has fielded a considerable contingent to the GSA meeting and our attendance at AGU has been increasing over the years, as well. Much of this travel has been courtesy of Walter H. Bucher.

1916 Shakespeare celebration.
In 1916, on the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, UC students honored the bard with a months-long celebration in Burnet Woods. Walter Bucher is the third dancer from the left.

Walter Hermann Bucher was born in 1888 in Akron, Ohio, to Swiss-German parents. He grew up in Germany and received his PhD from the University of Heidelberg in 1911, concentrating on paleontology and geology. Bucher then returned to the United States in 1911, and attended UC, where he became a lecturer, assistant professor (1915), associate professor (1920), professor (1924), research professor and chairman of the geology department. In 1940, Bucher became professor of geology at Columbia University with a specialty in structural geology.

His publications reflect this dichotomy of interests: those before 1920 focus on paleontology; those after 1920 until the year of his death, in 1965, focus on structural geology, especially of the Earth’s crust. Bucher retired from Columbia in 1956.

Besides his teaching appointments, Bucher also held many positions within the prominent organizations of geology: he was elected president of the Ohio Academy of Sciences in 1935; he was chairman of the Division of Geology and Geography of the National Research Council from 1940 to 1943; in 1946, he was elected president of the New York Academy of Sciences; and he served as president of the AGU from 1950 to 1953.

David Meyer.
David Meyer prepares students for GSA meeting. Photo by Dottie Stover.

Many national honors are bestowed in Bucher’s name, such as the Walter H. Bucher Medal, which is given by the AGU to recognize original contributions to the study of the Earth’s crust.

Bucher’s name is also important to the members of the faculty at UC's Geology Department. The Walter H. Bucher Fund provides funds to faculty and students for traveling to meetings and for research opportunities. The Bucher Fund has enabled geology faculty to see the world — literally. Geology’s David Meyer appreciates the assistance the fund has provided.

“Especially in this day of the shrinking travel budget,” says Meyer. “That’s a wonderful legacy for Walter Bucher.”

Dr. Huff with students at GSA meeting in 2004.
Warren Huff with students at 2004 GSA meeting.

Recent Past Recipients of Bucher Funds
2003–04 Warren Huff and Attila Kilinc
2002–03 Tom Algeo and Craig Dietsch
2001–02 Carlton Brett and Arnie Miller
2000–01 Carlton Brett and Attila Kilinc
1999–2000 Warren Huff and J. Barry Maynard

Warren Huff: “The Bucher Fund travel grant enabled me to go to Turkey last August where I rendezvoused with one of my PhD students and several Turkish colleagues and spent a week doing field study along the Black Sea coast as part of her doctoral research.  She continued by herself after that and I went on to Florence, Italy, to participate in the 32nd International Geological Congress.  I made a presentation on my current research and discussed future collaborative research plans and publications with colleagues from different countries.  That collaborative work is continuing today.  My student returned from Turkey a few weeks later with an extremely useful suite of samples and we are hard at work on them now.”

Attila Kilinc: Kilinc also attended the 32nd International Geological Congress in Florence. At the time, he was working on selecting just the right speaker for the inaugural George Rieveschl Geo Lecture. “I saw a session on medical geology. I thought, ‘This is very interesting. I’d better attend to this.’ The room was filled with hundreds of people; it was standing room only in the large auditorium.” Thanks to his trip to Florence, Italy, Kilinc met Robert Finkelman, who indeed became the first speaker for the Annual George Rieveschl Geo Lecture.

Craig Dietsch: Dietsch went to the department of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, to collaborate with colleagues there on in situ electron microprobe U-Pb dating of the mineral monazite. “This technique — electron probe dating — allows us to determine the absolute age of individual mineral grains, and even, where possible, small areas within individual grains. I was able to analyze about 15 monazites from three rock samples. We have discovered previously unknown older ages.”

As with other faculty members, Dietsch’s distant research was then presented to a broader audience of international geologists and will be published in upcoming academic journals. The results of the research then help obtain additional funding.

“I presented my results last month at the meeting of the northeastern section of the Geological Society of America. With additional results, we hope to publish an article in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Science, and use the data to pursue funding from the NSF.”

White Heron in Japan.
White Heron in Japan

Tom Algeo: "My most recent trip with Bucher funds was to Japan in September 2003 to attend the V.I. Goldschmidt conference on geochemistry of the Earth.  I gave a presentation at this meeting, which was useful in allowing me to meet many international colleagues with whom I would otherwise rarely come in contact.”

Miller and Ferguson airlifting in the Virgin Islands.
Miller and Ferguson airlifting in the Virgin Islands.

Arnie Miller:
“The Bucher fund provided partial support for a one-week trip that four of my graduate students and I took to the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands during the summer of 2002. There, we worked as a group to collect a set of samples for an MS thesis conducted by one of the students, Chad Ferguson.

“The thesis has also resulted in a couple of GSA talks, and we are currently finalizing a manuscript for submission to 'Geology.'”

The work involved an intensive resampling of live and dead molluscs along a transect that Miller had sampled during his own MS work, some two decades earlier. The purpose of the resampling was to determine whether the environmental transitions diagnosed during Miller’s earlier work on the basis of the species compositions of the mollusc samples were maintained, given the passage of time. In the end, the group got more than they bargained for. While the nature of the environmental gradient (seagrass to sand transition) and the associated molluscan transitions remained more or less intact, there was a study-area-wide change in the abundances of two key snail species, indicating that there had been some sort of environmental change that affected the entire area. So far, Miller’s group doesn’t know what the change was (temperature, salinity, etc.), but the entire study speaks to the potential value of monitoring changes to the compositions of so-called subfossil remains (e.g., dead clam and snail shells, which are far more plentiful than live ones ) as a means of diagnosing present-day, human-induced environmental changes in coastal settings. This “applied paleontology” angle will be emphasized in the Geology paper.

Geology department chair Arnie Miller coaches students before GSA presentations.
Geology department chair Arnie Miller coaches students before GSA presentations. Photo by Dottie Stover.

“The Bucher fund was instrumental in permitting this research excursion to take place, which was of obvious benefit to Chad [Ferguson] (who is building on this work in his ongoing PhD dissertation) and to my broad research interests. My other graduate students also benefited from the experience gained during the extensive, on-site, underwater (with SCUBA) sampling and censusing. This was quite an intensive week, and they came back with a practical understanding of important aspects of working underwater, and with an intellectual appreciation of present-day tropical seagrass beds, which are major harbors of marine biodiversity. In this particular case, the work also serves broader societal interests because of the applied aspect of the research.”

Carlton Brett: “I spent a month in Australia organizing and chairing three sessions, as well as presenting a talk, at the 1st International Paleontological Congress in Sydney (July 5–11, 2002). I also attended a pre-meeting field conference run in part by one of my new PhD students, Austin Hendy, on the north island of New Zealand. With graduate student Alex Bartholomew (who also presented a talk), we participated on field trips in the Broken River area (Queensland) and Canning Basin (Western Australia) regions of Australia to compare sequences and depositional environments with those in the Appalachian Basin and North American mid-continent. I gratefully acknowledge support from the UC Geology Department’s Walter Bucher Fund for this travel.”

Walter Hermann Bucher traveled the world. Thanks to the endowment in his honor, geologists at his alma mater are traveling the world, examining the earth and communicating with colleagues on an international level. His legacy lives on.