October 20, 2020 at 8:27 pm

Chair’s Message | ‘Geologists are Natural Problem Solvers’

selfie of Alycia Stigall with the OsloFjord in the background

Dr. Stigall with ordovician rocks, containing brachiopods, at the Oslo Fjord, Norway

Hello Alumni and Friends,

Fall is in the air here in Athens, but this is a fall like none before. 2020 has certainly been an interesting year in the Geological Sciences Department, but geologists are natural problem solvers, and we are always ready for a challenge.

Retirements and New Programs: Last spring, Dr. Greg Nadon elected to retire, and Dr. Dina López will retire at the end of this fall. We will miss their contributions to our students immensely. Nevertheless, our department continues to expand our programs for students. This fall, the department launched a new minor in Environmental Geoscience and our new online M.S. degree, which is already exceeding enrollment expectations.

Adapting in the Classroom: During this time of online learning, our faculty and students have adapted by innovating in our courses and labs to take advantage of technology in new ways. We are all becoming proficient at video conferencing and digital communication. Mineralogy students are exploring 3D models of minerals and crystallographic structures. Students in Stratigraphy & Sedimentology are using Gigapan photos to explore virtual field sites around the world from the outcrop to grain scale. Dr. Xizhen “Jenny” Schenk is offering our department’s first data analysis course using GIS software. A landmark recent software donation by Schlumberger Technology Corp. will also bolster our technological training opportunities. We dearly miss having our students in our classrooms, but we are also excited about the expanded technological skills they are developing this term.

Continuing to Explore: From our labs in Clippinger and our home offices, our faculty and students continue to engage in our research mission to push back the frontiers of science. Our graduate and undergraduate researchers are pursuing questions about the evolution of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, what unique metamorphic assemblages can tell us about early plate tectonics, formation of cave systems, surface and groundwater pollution and remediation and more. Faculty continue to work with colleagues globally, including recently co-leading an online virtual conference. Dr. Lopez was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to share her immense knowledge with students in Argentina. Dr. Katherine Fornash received a prestigious Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award to support her research on metamorphic processes.

Together again Soon: We are all looking forward to a return to field work, field trips, and gathering in-person in 2021. I hope that you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe during this time. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of our faculty. We always love to hear from you.

With my best wishes. Go Bobcats!

Dr. Alycia Stigall
Chair of Geological Sciences

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