BS, Geology, Wesleyan University, 1997
MS, Geology, Michigan Tech, 1999
Current position: Geologist, US Geological Survey (USGS)
Gari Mayberry’s master’s research at Michigan Tech focused on using satellite imagery to investigate the evolution of a volcanic ash cloud generated from the Dec. 26, 1997 Boxing Day eruption of Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat. At the time, relatively new satellite data were available with high temporal resolution, so my goal was to see if I could find anything interesting by comparing the new data with data from other satellites.
The most challenging aspect? “Finishing. Sitting down and tying all the various types of data together to form a conclusion proved to be difficult. It was pretty easy to come up with various theories, but to focus on one and paint a complete picture was challenging.” The experience helped Mayberry to be independent and to solve problems. “Enhancing those skills helped to ready me for the work force.”
Mayberry spent a quarter (Michigan Tech was on the quarter system back then) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “For most of the quarter I didn't have much success,” she recalls. “I was working on running a wind trajectory model, which was new to me, and my results weren't making much sense. About two weeks before my stay was over I began to get results that made sense and ended up enhancing my research. Ultimately, I felt like I really accomplished something during my brief time at NASA.”
Now an employee of the US Geological Survey (USGS), Mayberry is stationed at the US Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) headquarters in Washington DC. She serves as the liaison between USGS and USAID/OFDA, and advises USAID/OFDA on issues related to geohazards. “OFDA’s mandate is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and reduce the social and economic impact of disasters, and they respond to disasters internationally and support disaster risk reduction activities, so my duties cover issues related to geohazards around the world. I help evaluate the potential risks from geohazards, which makes possible more effective planning, engagement with local authorities and communities on risk mitigation measures, and rapid response when necessary.” Mayberry also manages USAID/OFDA-supported projects that are led by USGS scientists, such as the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program and the Earthquake Disaster Assistance team.
“While at Michigan Tech I had the opportunity to work with different volcano observatories, agencies, and universities and that experience exposed me to several different facets of volcanology. The contacts I made and the experiences I had helped me to get hired for my first position with USGS and serve me to this day.
Her advice to a student considering the geosciences? If you like geology, then study it. I was interested in geology as an undergrad and then really fell in love with volcanology. I was hesitant to get a Master's degree focused on volcanology because I was told there weren't any jobs in it. Luckily, I went ahead and did and was fortunate to get a great position. Even if I did not get my position, I feel that I would have been able to apply what I had learned in another interesting position.”