Montana Western Regents Professor Nominated for High Plains Book Award

Dr. Robert Thomas is a Regents Professor of Geology in the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Montana Western and co-author of “Roadside Geology of Montana.” The publication was recently nominated for the 2021 High Plains Book Award in the Medicine & Science category.


According to the High Plains website, “the High Plains Book Awards recognize regional authors and/or literary works which examine and reflect life on the High Plains. The High Plains region includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.”

The “Roadside Geology of Montana” book is a complete guide to the geological history of Montana designed to be utilized from the state’s many roadways. Whether a professional or a curious traveler, this book is intended to be used by anyone fascinated by the geology of the Big Sky state.


The publication is a revised second edition of the original “Roadside Geology of Montana” authored by Don Hyndman and Dave Alt in 1986. Hyndman is a recently retired Professor of Geology at the University of Montana and taught Thomas when he earned his master’s degree in the late ’80s. Hyndman approached Thomas about being a co-author for the updated second edition.

“It was a great honor to be asked to be the co-author of this book, especially given the high profile of the book with the general public and the fact that I was replacing Dave Alt, one of the most well-known geologists in the profession in Montana,” Thomas said. Thomas worked on the publication for five years, traveling to almost every corner of the state gathering data, taking photos, and creating many of the illustrations used throughout the book. Thomas’s focus was on his backyard of southwest Montana, but he has traveled from the Yaak in the northwest to Alzada in the southeast, filling in new road guides and any other gaps in the book. Thomas says that even though it is technically a second edition, everything is new and is an entirely different book.


The Roadside Geology series originated in 1972 with “Roadside Geology of the Northern Rockies.” Now, nearly every state and one Canadian province have a book. According to Thomas, no other Roadside Geology book in the series has been nominated for a literary award like the High Plains award.

Winners for all Book Awards will be announced at an Awards Banquet held in conjunction with the High Plains BookFest in September 2021 in Billings, Montana, circumstances permitting. To view the complete list of 2021 High Plains Book Awards Finalists, visit highplainsbookawards.org.

Thomas hopes to tour the book this fall at local bookstores for signing events and presentations on Montana geology.



For more information, please contact Robert Thomas at Rob.Thomas@umwestern.edu. To purchase a copy of the “Roadside Geology of Montana,” call The Bookstore in Dillon, Mont., at 406-683-6807 or visit mountain-press.com.

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