Beloved geologist given special honor by his grad students

Dr. Jon C. Boothroyd
Dr. Jon C. Boothroyd

Just about everyone can recall a favorite teacher from the past but Scott Rasmussen, a graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, did not have to go that far back in his memory bank to honor his favorite mentor.

Recently Research Professor Emeritus Jon C. Boothroyd was surprised with a special presentation that was paid for and installed by his appreciative grad students—installed near the Charlestown shoreline is a special elevation bench mark with the professor’s initials engraved on it.

“I am his last graduate student,” remarked Rasmussen, “and decided to commemorate his service to URI and the community by erecting an elevation bench mark with his initials, JCB.”

Rasmussen says he contacted as many of Boothroyd’s 44 former graduate students as he could to get them involved and many contributed money to the cause. The mark cost $60 and the concrete base about the same amount.

A ruse was created to get Boothroyd to the Charlestown Beach Road site recently (across from the Kayak Center). He was told he had to meet some local officials to discuss the beach, explained Rasmussen. “When he drove past the mark, we were standing in a group waiting for him,” said Rasmussen who said he received donations from 18 of Boothroyd’s past graduate students of whom 12 were able to attend. “I said a few words, pictures were taken and we adjourned for lunch. He was surprised and pleased.”

 GPS geodetic control mark
GPS geodetic control mark

The bench mark, explained Rasmussen, not only commemorates Dr. Boothroyd who retired from teaching in 2009 (he is still around URI’s campus and is still the RI State Geologist) but also to signify some of the important research Boothroyd has done in the crucial field  of the consequences of sea level rise and storm surges on Rhode Island’s vulnerable coastline.

“This is the first and currently only new GPS geodetic control mark on the state’s south shore published in the National Geodetic Survey/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NGS/NOAA) Online Positioning User Service (OPUS) data base,” said Rasmussen. “Having his mark with accurate geospatial information will aid in measuring the heights of houses, roads, and other built infrastructures in response to sea level rise and to serve the community by evaluating coastal vulnerability.”

“First and foremost this was done for Jon. In a close second, geospatial infrastructure is needed along Rhode Island’s south shore,” Rasmussen continued. “My hope is that this is the first of many such marks

and measurements along the Rhode Island coast bringing important geospatial information to local coastal communities, supporting planning and decision making, and ultimately enhancing resilience to future coastal hazards. Now ‘JCB’ will continue to be a reference point to researchers, local and state planners and workers.”
Scott Rasumussen
Scott Rasumussen

Say Rasmussen who is studying coastal geology under the MESM program, “Jon has high standards of scientific rigor. If you stand your ground and demonstrate determination, assertiveness, and an intelligent scientific argument, he’ll show you respect.

“He’s been generous to students with grants and research opportunities throughout his career. If you ask him to comment about retiring from teaching, he’d say he misses the interaction with the students. Although he no longer teaches, Jon is still the State’s Geologist and continues to be an active member in the community.”

Boothroyd may be retired from teaching but he’s gathering no moss. He has plenty of research activities ahead of him (as a research professor emeritus, he can still receive grants and have graduate students) especially with  a project called Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan. Money is coming in to upgrade the research vessel Gilbert (part of the so-called “CELS Navy”) with a new engine and also high resolution side-scan sonar which will help collect data on what kind of sand supply lies off the state’s coasts, a project that is especially important since last fall’s Hurricane Sandy which devastated so much of the Northeastern shoreline.

One shoreline that will be part of the study will be off Block Island. That has never been done before, says Boothroyd, mainly because they did not know how to scan the area off the island’s steep bluffs.

One way it could be done is with aircraft flown by the Army Corps of Engineers who use a Light Detection and Ranging instrument. That device shoots down a laser beam and then receives and records the reflection. The device has limitations in that it does not work well if there is an algae bloom, so for Rhode Island the work has to be done in early spring.

Boothroyd said he is proud of his last graduate student Rasmussen because he is fully supported by a federal geothermal data collection grant which is overseen by the University of Arizona. Also working on that is another former graduate student, Brian Oakley, who just accepted a tenured position at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Boothroyd also has an active speaking agenda on shoreline issues in and out of state. Recovering from a broken hip surgery (he slipped on the deck at his home late last year) he recently returned from giving two talks in New Hampshire and says he has no desire to slow down.

The link to the Boothroyd bench mark is: