Fieldwork will be a vital part of your studies: You may find yourself working with other students and faculty members in Tasmania or the Pacific Northwest. You regularly will get out into the field in Central New York. You will be encouraged to collaborate with professors on projects.

Aubrey Coon '16 in Tasmania.
Aubrey Coon '16 in Tasmania.

A student’s growth: embracing the unexpected

Aubrey Coon ’16 intends to declare a major in geosciences as soon as she is eligible. She entered Hamilton College eager to consume all the science and math she could but found herself in some courses outside her comfort zone. To her surprise, that proved to be a good thing.

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Coon took a drawing class and learned drawing is a great skill for the geologist in the field. In a history class about oil in the Americas, her geo background provided context. Courses that at first seemed random grew meaningful.

Field experiences came earlier than she expected. The summer after her first year Coon traveled to Tasmania through a program subsidized by a College professorship. There she was, snorkeling and examining a coral reef.

The same summer, through a geosciences department fund, Coon landed a research job working on issues of sediment, erosion and beach nourishment at nearby Oneida Lake.

  “I was really lucky to have a chance to do research and go on the trip, but I also had to learn to put myself out there many times. The opportunities I was given only reached their potential when I had the courage to take them,” she says.

Caitlin Livsey
Caitlin Livsey '12 in the Galapagos standing in front of spatter cones.

A graduate’s progress: pushing toward a doctorate

Caitlin Livsey ’12, who is working on a master’s degree in geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, plans to go for a doctorate in the subject she discovered at Hamilton College. “The thing I love most about geology is that it ties together so many different areas of study. 

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Geoscience classes include biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and environmental science,” Livsey says. “There are trips into the field, work in the microscope lab, handling and learning species names of fossils, mapping geological structures using Google maps, calculating radiogenic isotopes, memorizing chemical formulas of minerals and much more.”

The passion began when her advisor at Hamilton, Professor Dave Bailey, convinced her to take his forensic and medical geology course her first year.

“Many of the upper-level geoscience classes had field trips incorporated into them. For many classes, these field trips tied everything together. On these field trips we would drive around in jitneys and stop at all sorts of outcrops. At these, we put to work all of the skills we learned in the classroom. Seeing the rocks and structures in the field and being able to identify them is what geology is all about,” Livsey says.