University of Vermont

Burkins Appointed Chair of U.S. National Committee for International Geoscience

Melody Burkins
Melody Brown Burkins will serve a three-year term as chair of the U.S. National Committee for International Geoscience. (Photo: Sally McCay)

Melody Brown Burkins, senior director for research and strategic initiatives and director of the Vermont Advanced Computing Core at the University of Vermont, has been appointed to a three-year term as chair of the U.S. National Committee to the International Union for Geological Sciences (USNC-IUGS). One of 23 national committees led by the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the National Academies, the USNC-IUGS serves as a focal point in the U.S. for discussions of international geological science issues and represents U.S. geoscience interests in international scientific meetings as well as global initiatives in sustainability, environmental change and science policy. 

“Dr. Burkins is both talented and hard-working,” said Tom Sullivan, University of Vermont president. “It’s no surprise to us that her leadership ability has been recognized by this important and prestigious group. Based on the exemplary work she has done at the University of Vermont, we are certain she’ll make a significant contribution.”

“I am honored to begin serving as chair of the U.S. National Committee for the Geological Sciences,” said Burkins. “The science of earth systems plays a major role in almost all global challenges facing society, including sustainability, energy security, climate change, natural disaster prediction, access to clean water and environmental health. I look forward to working with my committee colleagues and with the National Academies to continue fostering U.S. participation in international science programs, strengthening communication between the U.S. and international scientific communities, and, importantly, supporting a new generation of U.S. scientists with even greater global perspective, multidisciplinary collaboration and international connections than the generation before.”

The role of the USNC-IUGS – and of all the National Academies’ national committees – is to serve as a connector and bridge between national and international science interests. During her tenure, Burkins hopes to continue developing the USNC-IUGS impact and visibility in priority areas that have been developed by the committee, including the support of science diplomacy initiatives, the UNESCO Global Geopark Network program and studies of critical mineral supplies.

In addition, and in partnership with the National Academies, she looks forward to fostering new levels of collaboration with other USNC leaders and increasing the visibility, especially through social media, of the USNC network. She would also like to see U.S. geoscience voices play a larger role in transdisciplinary international sustainability initiatives, such as Future Earth, being developed and led by the International Council for Science, the International Social Science Council, UNESCO and the Belmont Forum, among others.

Burkins’ experience includes more than 15 years of science, technology, and policy leadership, strategic partnership development, advocacy for the integration of liberal arts into science and engineering education, and support of high-visibility initiatives led by academia, industry and government. She earned her bachelor's degree in geology from Yale University and received both a master’s and doctorate in earth systems science from Dartmouth College, focusing her doctoral work on studies of life in extreme environments with a multidisciplinary team in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Awarded the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship sponsored by the Geological Society of America and U.S. Geological Survey in 1999, Burkins transitioned her scientific work into policy and management as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington, D.C. for three years before returning to Vermont. Burkins was appointed to the USNC-IUGS committee in 2008, named vice chair in 2009, and served as one of eight formal U.S. delegates to the thirty-fourth International Geological Congress in Brisbane, Australia in 2012. In addition to her leadership of the USNC-IUGS, Burkins serves on the State of Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee, the Governing Board of the Science Policy Exchange and the Board of Vermont’s Energy Action Network.