Geology Matters

Dave Gosselin portrait

David (Dave) C. Gosselin, Ph.D.

Environmental Studies
Area of Interest:
Geoscience and Groundwater Chemistry
Current Sustainability Efforts:
Reducing waste, water, energy use at home

A geologist by training, Dave first joined UNL as a part of the Nebraska Geological Survey as a hydrogeologist. With expertise in geochemistry, Dave worked in a research - service position, which evolved into interdisciplinary education and research. Before becoming the Environmental Studies director, he served as the associate director of the School of Natural Resources. As the current director of the Environmental Studies program, Dave administer the program by implementing courses, assessing the program, recruiting and retaining students, and teaching courses.

How is your work (research and academics) related to sustainability?

I currently would characterize what I do as interdisciplinary education research. One project, InTeGrate, a $10M NSF STEP Center, incorporates sustainability into geoscience education. The goal is to integrate teaching about the Earth for a sustainable future. I also participate in the EMBeRS – Employing Model Based Reasoning for Synthesis project – supported by the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. This project focuses on developing educational approaches to help people to collaborate and work on Interdisciplinary teams. I am also on the Executive Committee of Council of Environmental Deans and Directors.

What motivated you to be a professional in this field?

Before earning bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in geology, my first experience with geology was in 7th grade earth science class. I had no intention of continuing onto a science career after high school. I enrolled in a geology course to fulfill undergraduate requirements. My interest was quickly renewed and almost 40 years later the evolution continues.

What is one memory in your field/areas of interest that you would want others to know?

I was motivated to enter the education field after hearing the phrase “Earth Science was dead in Nebraska.” Now it’s rewarding to see students going out and making a difference, and at the same time having fun and enjoying what they do.

How are you preparing students to be a professional in your field?

I enjoy what I do: bringing students together and helping them see the world differently. One of my goals for my students is to guide them toward awareness, and hopefully development of, skill sets beyond the standard curriculum required to get a job and be successful. For example, my courses highlight teamwork, collaboration, adapting to situations and tools to communicate with others who have different ways of thinking and knowing.

How does your research/teaching solve some of our contemporary environmental problems?

I prepare my students to be in the mode of solving problems and effectively collaborating. In the classroom we model the skills needed to be successful in the workforce.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability itself is a complex idea, seen differently in different contexts and conceptualized in multiple ways by different people. The notions of systems and connections, environment, economy, equality, time, and scale all must be considered when talking about maintaining the long-term use our environment and natural resource systems.

Why should UNL care about sustainability?

As Nebraska’s flagship research university, we should model behaviors and philosophies that maximize the use of resources and do what we can to reduce the impact the university has on the environment and reduce our use of natural resources.

How do you practice sustainability?

I don't just teach concepts in sustainability. I try to practice them at home, too; I am working toward reducing our waste stream, composting yard waste, and reducing energy and water use.

What is your suggestion to the campus community on how to be sustainable?

UNL should look long term and be leaders and a part of the group that leads progress. Universities are agents of change and can be a big factor, and we can do things differently and better.

Dave sharing insights with students from a ENVR 499A meeting
Dave sharing insights with students from a ENVR 499A meeting