Geology & Geophysics GeoFIZZ

Love and Eos Make the World Go Round

A scientist tells the story of how Eos brought her and her husband together.

By Deborah Imel Nelson

After 15 years of teaching environmental science, health, and safety at the College of Engineering, University of Oklahoma (not far from the Holocene Meers Fault), it was time for a change. I took a deep breath, gave up a tenured faculty position, and moved to Boulder, Colo., to work for a well-known geological society, where my office looked out on steep slabs of Pennsylvanian sandstone at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Seven months later, I realized there was a new neighbor next door—literally on the other side of the wall of my condo.

Remembering my Oklahoma manners, I went next door to welcome the new neighbor. Alan Nelson answered the door and was momentarily speechless when I introduced myself as Deborah Nelson. He quickly recovered and invited me in. We began one of those halting conversations that proceeded until I spied a copy of Eos on the coffee table. “You must be a geologist!” I proudly exclaimed, since I knew that Eos is the weekly publication of AGU. Once again, Alan, who is indeed a geologist, was at a loss for words—but with this happy discovery, the conversation was off and running.

We soon learned that we had common interests in science, international travel, outdoor sports, local food and good wine, and attempting foreign languages. We had both been brought up in similar families, pursued advanced degrees, each raised two children, and traveled internationally for work. As we learned more about each other, our love blossomed.

In 2006 we traveled to Italy with my family and stayed in a villa near Gubbio, famous as the site of the discovery of the iridium layer at the K-T boundary. It was near there, in the Chiesa di San Damiano chapel in the Roman ruins of Carsulae, that Alan proposed on bended knee as we took refuge from a thunderstorm. We were married the following June in the traditional log chapel in Cuchara, Colo. This relatively unknown village offers hiking, fishing, climbing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in a setting of geological splendor, including glaciated valleys and stone walls (dikes), which radiate out for miles from West Spanish Peak (an eroded volcano).

As I look back on my life and the lives of family and friends, I often wonder about the role played by watershed moments: decisions on what college to attend, which field to pursue, which job to accept, which condominium to buy. A different decision on any of these and I would not have found myself next door to a geologist. And if Alan had not casually tossed that copy of Eos on his coffee table, I probably would not be married to him. So it is clear to both of us that we owe a hearty thanks to Eos and its staff and volunteers. In our case, love and Eos do make the world go round!

Deborah Imel Nelson is a certified industrial hygienist and serves as the national safety, health and environmental manager for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training. Alan Nelson is a paleoseismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. 

Deborah Imel Nelson, Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, Environmental Protection Agency, Denver, Colo.; E-mail: nelson​[email protected]

Citation: Nelson, D. I. (2012), Love and Eos make the world go round, Eos Trans. AGU, 93(07), 70,

© 2012. American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.