• Dr. Julie Stein gives a seminar talk

    Dr. Julie Stein, an alumna, Executive Director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, gives a talk for the department's seminar series, which hosts over 25 speakers a year.

  • Dan Rogers, Director of Environmental Affairs at Amsted Industries, Inc., presents his research to a large crowd of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and industry members as part of the department's annual seminar series.

  • Movie night in dinosaur park

    The department and the Campus Activities Board hosted a movie night featuring Jurassic World - Fallen Kingdom. Attendees came face-to-face with a life-sized Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and a Utahraptor all while enjoying an outdoor movie experience!

The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Western Michigan University sponsors a Seminar Series, student proposal sessions and thesis and dissertation defenses. On this page, you will find details about department events like Advisory Council meetings, Seminar Series, thesis and dissertation proposals and defenses and other recurring and non-recurring events. See the information provided below for a list of dates, topics and descriptions. Check back frequently for updates!


Mark your calendar and save the date! On Oct. 16-18, the WMU Geological and Environmental Sciences Advisory Council is hosting a free virtual event for alumni and friends. Join us for a weekend of reconnecting, learning, and fun from wherever you are! This year’s virtual event will feature guest speakers, student/alumni interactions, happy hours, trivia night, virtual field trips, and other activities. This is a great way to learn about changes in the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department, meet the faculty, and get back in touch with your WMU friends. You can log in for any part or all the event which will benefit student scholarships. Details on how to attend and the current schedule of events can be found on our alumni page.  We hope to see you there!


Monday, Sept. 21Derek Elsworth, professor in the Departments of Energy and Mineral Engineering and of Geosciences and the Center for Geomechanics, Geofluids, and Geohazards at Penn State, will present “Seismicity-Permeability Coupling in the Breaching and Sealing of Reservoirs and Caprocks”. Dr. Elsworth’s research interests are in the areas of computational mechanics, rock mechanics, and in the mechanical and transport characteristics of fractured rocks, with application to geothermal energy, the deep geological sequestration of radioactive wastes and of CO2, unconventional hydrocarbons including coal-gas, tight-gas-shales and hydrates, and instability and eruption dynamics of volcanoes.

Monday, Sept. 28Melinda C. Higley, assistant professor at Calvin College Department of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies will present “Adventures in geochronology and paleoclimate on a tropical Pacific atoll”. Dr. Higley worked as a wetland geologist for the Illinois State Geological Survey, Prairie Research Institute, from 2009 to 2014. She completed her PhD at the University of Illinois in 2018, then served briefly in the geologic mapping group at the Ohio Geological Survey. She joined the GEO department at Calvin in 2019.  Her academic interests include glacial and quaternary geology, paleoclimatology, geographic information systems, remote sensing, geologic mapping and science and religion. 

Abstract:  Sedimentary archives from tropical Pacific islands can provide information on past changes to the tropical hydroclimate and test island landscape sensitivity to changes in the hydrologic cycle.  However, such observations are temporally and spatially limited, reducing our ability to understand past atmospheric moisture balance over long timescales. For small tropical islands, insight into past and present hydroclimate variability is important, given the strong influence of the tropical pacific climate on freshwater resources and hazards like flooding and drought. A lake sediment record from Kiritimati Island, in the central tropical Pacific, improves the spatiotemporal coverage of hydroclimate archives for the past millennium in the tropical Pacific, helping to test key hypotheses regarding mechanisms of tropical Pacific climate variability. To assess a potential non-lacustrine paleoenvironmental record of Pacific climate variability and test island landscape sensitivity in response to climate and anthropogenic disturbance, I utilized sedimentological data and stratigraphic observations associated with paired organic–inorganic radiocarbon dates from coastal aeolian deposits on Kiritimati. Based on this nascent chronology, dune systems on Kiritimati appear sensitive to landscape disturbance, yet prior to the mid-20th century military operations, may reflect predominantly large-scale shifts in central tropical Pacific atmospheric moisture, and therefore represent a useful terrestrial archive of regional climate.  

Monday, Oct. 5 - Mark Weiss, director of Western Michigan University Department of Environmental Health and Safety will present "Right to Know".  This is required safety training for students, faculty and staff.

Monday, Oct. 12No seminar. Please participate in the Alumni Council activities Oct. 16-18.

Monday, Oct. 19 - Stephen Pekar, professor of paleoceangraphy, paleoclimatology, and Antarctic glacial history at Queens College in New York will present “Ice-Volume Changes During Times of Elevated Atmospheric CO2: Looking Back to our Future(?)”. Dr. Pekar is a Queens native, growing up in the Rockaways and attending Queens College, first as a 20th century music composition major before receiving a BA in Education. He received his Ph.D. in Geology from Rutgers University and was a research post-doctoral scientist at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University for three years, before becoming a professor at Queens College.  He thinks of scientists as detectives, trying to collect clues to unravel mysteries and puzzles about our planet. For him, geologists are also like time travelers; detectives who go back in time to recreate distant long-lost worlds that are so different from our modern world that they would rival any sci-fi thriller in terms of their uniqueness and are unfamiliar to what we know today.  In addition, he tries to decipher time intervals when greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide) were higher than today. He is enthralled with exploring and learning about new places and ideas.  Dr. Pekar has traveled to nearly 60 countries in all “eight” continents, working in six countries—ranging from archaeology in France, grape picking in Germany, movie extra in China, to house pianist in a restaurant in Israel.

Monday, Oct. 26 - No seminar; GSA conference week

Monday, Nov. 2Basil Tikoff, professor of structural geology and tectonics at UW-Madison, and Tim Shipley, professor at the Department of Psychology at Temple University, will present “the future of drone-based research in the geosciences”. Dr. Tikoff is a quantitative field geologist who enjoys working on how deformation occurs on a variety of different levels within the Earth’s tectonic plates.  Consequently, he tends to work a lot on shear zones.  His research group uses a variety of tools to address questions associated with structural geology and tectonics: Geological field mapping, kinematic modeling, microstructural analysis, geomagnetism (paleomagnetism and AMS), statistics, and gravity surveys. Dr Shipley’s research broadly focuses on spatial cognition and learning. He applies formal methods from his previous research on object and event perception to understand the perceptual and cognitive processes subserving navigation and visualization. His recent work, perception and learning in spatial visualization, is part of a project that aims to support undergraduate geology education with a longer-term goal of understanding the cognitive processes that are critical for spatial reasoning and thus support STEM education in general for both K-12 and undergraduate students.

Monday, Nov. 9 - A seminar on lake sediments and paleoclimate is being scheduled. Check back for more details to come soon.  The presenter is a friend of Mine Dogan from Turkey.  We are waiting on a title and name.  She will make the presentation from Turkey, so questions will experience a time delay.

Monday, Nov. 16Julie Brigham-Grette, professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will present “The Impact of Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia, on our Knowledge of Polar Climate: This changes everything”. Dr. Brigham-Grette’s research interests are focused on the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and chronology of geologic systems that record the climate evolution and sea level history of the Arctic since the mid-Pliocene. Most of her research program is aimed at documenting the global context of paleoenvironmental change across “Beringia”, i.e., the Bering Land Bridge, stretching across the western Arctic from Alaska and the Yukon into NE Russia including the adjacent marginal seas. Starting 3 decades ago with fieldwork on the sea level history and glacial stratigraphy of vast Arctic coastal plains and coastal environments in comparison with regional alpine glaciation, she is now focused on the integration of records from marine and lacustrine systems. Since 1991, her group has participated in nine field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia, and she was co-chief scientist in 2002 of an expedition on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, taking sediment cores from the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Dr. Brigham-Grette is the US Chief Scientist of the El’gygytgyn Lake Scientific Drilling project, a $10M multinational field program leading to the first unprecedented recovery in 2009 of a 3.6 Myr record of paleoclimate from the terrestrial Arctic. Julie grew up in this part of Michigan.

Monday, Nov. 30 – Alan Kehew, professor of geosciences at Western Michigan University will present a semi-technical seminar featuring some of his best photos of the last 50 years. Al served as chair of this department, head of the Michigan Geological Survey, and has been at WMU since 1986. He previously worked at the U. North Dakota and the North Dakota Geological Survey.

Our virtual fall seminars will typically take place on Mondays from 4-5 pm. Please contact Kathy Wright if you need the invitation to the seminar link.