Geology students launch Tufts Geological Society

Executive board members of the Tufts University Geological Society Fatima Niazy, Mattison Barickman, Jacob Marsh and Andrew Feder pose for a portrait outside the Campus Center on Oct. 14. (Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily)

A group of Tufts University geological sciences majors last month launched the Tufts University Geological Society (TUGS), the university’s newest official group associated with a science major.

Fatima NiazyMatt Barickman and Jacob Marsh, all seniors, co-founded the club with Andrew Feder, a junior. Niazy and Barickman said that they felt that a society could help expand the reach of what they consider an already thriving Tufts geology program.

The club aims to provide forum for geology-related events and activities that are not strictly academic, Barickman said. Such a platform did not previously exist.

“The professors do a great job of inviting speakers and providing activities for us, but it’s the same thing over and over again, and they sort of dictate the conversations that are being had,” Barickman said.

Feder said that the creation of TUGS could help harness the camaraderie already present in the geology community.

“We had been doing stuff with all the [geology] majors informally before, like watching movies and bondings,” he said. “We felt like we could do more things, like field trips and bringing in speakers through this.”

Barickman described TUGS as a natural evolution in Tufts’ earth and ocean sciences community. This department houses the geological sciences major, as well as the environmental geology major and the geoscience and geology minors.

TUGS has always been an idea: the majors in the [earth and ocean sciences] department were a tight knit group but never had a recognized club,” Barickman said. “We didn’t reach anyone who wasn’t a geology major.”

The students expressed hope that TUGS will increase geology’s accessibility for all Tufts students, even those not majoring in geology.  

The group also said there were practical reasons behind the decision to launch an official club. Barickman described it as a manner of funds.

“Doing what we do now, we could’ve continued without approval or funding, but one thing we really want to do is field trips, which require funding,” he said.

Barickman said that he hopes to conduct TUGS trips across Massachusetts, including to Western Massachusetts — known for its abundance of fossils and dinosaur tracks.

Niazy added that New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Cape Cod could be potential locations due to their glacial geology.

According to the Tufts Earth and Ocean Sciences Handbook, the department regularly travels to places like Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Death Valley, Calif. during winter and spring break. Niazy suggested these trips could be facilitated by TUGS instead of the department.

“The department has a 10-day trip they take somewhere in the country … and it would be really nice if that becomes established for TUGS… This would make it accessible to non-majors,” Niazy said.

Barickman noted that there is value in having more students engaged in geology field work.

“I think that’s one of the most attractive things about geology, is the field work,” Barickman said. “I really hope we can get a strong diversity of majors in [this] club.”

Feder said the club’s regular meetings will feature research reading groups, with the next meeting focusing on Phobos, a Martian moon

“We’ll have some more movie nights and maybe more events on grad school and careers in geology,” he said.

Some of the club founders have personal connections to geology. Niazy said that her interest in the field comes from her father, who was a geophysicist in Saudi Arabia.

“I grew up listening to ‘roadside geology’ whenever we were traveling and even did fossil collecting,” Niazy said.

She noted that she arrived at a major in geology despite having changed her decision several times.