A senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey who recently won an award for public service in his field says people enjoy the land more if they understand it.
To promote such understanding, scientist Donald Baars writes his own genre of "how-to" geology books for the general public, focusing primarily on the Colorado Plateau land at the corner of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Baars received the 1991 Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists' Distinguished Public Service to the Earth Sciences Award for his ability to make geology understandable to the public.
A former consultant in the oil business, Baars said he wrote for non-geologists because he found it more rewarding.
"PEOPLE JUST get so much more out of travel and vacations if they know what they're looking at," he said in a recent interview at his office on Kansas University's West Campus. "Things that are written for the specialists, no one else can understand."
He suggested an introductory geology class also would be helpful to people interested in learning more about the land.
Baars' favorite geographic area is the Colorado Plateau, which is home of the Grand Canyon, and most of his writings have been about it.
"The Colorado Plateau: A Geologic History," one of his books, was updated and revised in 1983 from the original 1972 "Red Rock Country."
Baars's newest book, "The American Alps: The San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado," is expected to be released for sale in May. The 192-page book is being published by the University of New Mexico Press.
BAARS CAME TO Lawrence in 1988 as a research associate with the Kansas Geological Survey. Previously, he had been an adjunct professor in the department of geology at Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colo.
He also has taught in the geology departments at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., and at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.
Most of Baars' professional experience, however, has been outside of academic settings. He has worked for various oil companies, including Shell Oil Co., Amoco Production Co., Mobil Oil Corp. and Gulf Oil Co. and as a consulting geologist for various firms.
Baars earned a bachelor's degree in geology in 1952 from the University of Utah at Salt Lake City and a doctorate in geology in 1965 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
He is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists and the Kansas Geological Society.
HE ALSO IS a fellow of the Geologic Society of America and an honorary life member and past president of the Four Corners Geological Society.
He has been recognized for authoring a number of professional papers as well, including Best Paper of the Year awards in 1964 and 1970 from the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists.
Baars currently is working with other geologists in re-photographing Grand Canyon sites originally documented during a 1923 survey. The purpose of the project is to show how the canyon has changed, he said, noting former Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden accompanied his work team on a trip to the canyon. Hayden now is assistant U.S. secretary of fish, wildlife and parks.
Baars, who grew up in western Oregon, also is studying geological faults in Kansas. "I'll be doing that as long as I'm here," he said, describing the project as a long-range endeavor.
Baars said geology first intrigued him as a boy during rock climbing excursions.
"I got interested in what I was climbing around on," he said, smiling. "It was my first major, and I stayed with it."