In Class News

June 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

Geological Sciences Prof ‘Blown Away’ By Students’ Fieldwork

Dr. Alycia Stigall

Dr. Alycia Stigall

When she teaches, Associate Professor of Paleontology Dr. Alycia Stigall waits for that “aha!” moment when her students begin to connect the lectures with their work in the field.

“In geology, there is no substitute for field experience,”said Stigall, who teaches in the Department of Geological Sciences in Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences. “Concepts that seem esoteric to students in the classroom often become crystal clear the instant they are presented with real-world rocks.”

This experience is best exemplified in the carbonate geology course she teaches on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. “It is not a simple course, and it is definitely not the vacation that our friends at home joke about!” The group studies how limestone rocks formed during the Pleistocene and visit environments in which these sediments accumulate today. Because these sediments comprise the skeletal remains of organisms, students learn to identify both living creatures and rock fragments as they work.

Her first group of students astounded her: They were not only up to the task, but they were always the first to leave and last to return to the field station each day.

“One night in the social area, I found some of my students engaged in a heated discussion with members of a biology class from another university. When I walked over, my students explained that these biologists simply were refusing to accept that they had been misidentifying Halimeda, a type of green algae,” she said. “My students were correct, of course.” So dedicated were her students, they were more successful at biological identification than students whose sole purpose it was to study biology that week: “I was completely blown away by the knowledge they accumulated and the burning desire to learn more.”

Read more interviews by Mary Reed, Elizabeth Dickson, Kaitrin McCoy, Lindsey Burrows, published in Ohio Today, Ohio University’s alumni magazine.

Read more on Dr. Stigall’s research program.

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