20 February 2021
Jess Phoenix first came onto my radar when she ran for Congress in 2018. Since that time, and thanks to Twitter’s ability to connect geologists, Jess and I co-hosted a 2019 Pardee Symposium on geoscience communication at the GSA annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Jess stepped in at the last minute to cover for Iain Stewart, who was unable to be there due to a family emergency. Like Iain, Jess has been the face of geoscience on television programs, an advocate for for science-based policy and the excitement that a geology-infused perspective on the world brings to one’s life. In Ms. Adventure, her first book, Jess recounts the experiences that made her choose geology as a career, and formative lessons on volcanoes, research cruises, and television. It’s a fun read, more of a memoir than a geoscience text, but there are bite-sized explanations for volcanological phenomena here and there. Several standout sections detail the rationale for certain geoscientific practices. For instance, in a chapter about facing down a cartel to retrieve her beloved rock hammer, she writes, “To a field geologist, a good rock hammer is indispensable. Seeing the inside of rocks, the parts free from the ravages of weather and time, is how we discover their true nature. Since we don’t have x-ray vision, the rock hammer makes understanding the heart of the those very solid objects possible. I often joked that if I couldn’t fix a problem with my rock hammer, it couldn’t be fixed.” The book tracks Jess from Death Valley to Hawaii to Ecuador, Mexico, and the Explorers Club in New York City. I think this would be a great book to gift to an adventurous teen with an orientation toward nature. As she gets into and out of hot water, Jess explains her thinking and rationale. I think it would be a good guide for a young person keen to participated in the world and in need of role models to emulate. Though Jess didn’t win her political campaign, she’s still out there today, working hard to expand everyone’s access to understanding their home planet. This takes many forms: expeditions for student researchers via her nonprofit Blueprint Earth, her prominent advocacy on social media and in periodicals and journals, television appearances, and now: a book!