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Career Profiles

Lauret E. Savoy

Geology Professor and Photographer

Lauret has felt a deep regard for the land since her childhood, when her family made several cross-country trips by automobile. This tie has revealed itself in hobbies such as landscape photography, writing, hiking and backpacking. After initially pursuing studio art and American historical geography, Lauret chose geology as her major at Princeton University because she wanted to understand how the land/Earth developed. She had great fun doing independent research with a mentor from the U.S. Geological Survey on sedimentary rocks and fossils in the Appalachian Mountains. She worked on coastal sedimentology and the geological hazards of development along the California coast for her master's research at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and sedimentology/paleoceanography of ancient oceans for her Ph.D at Syracuse University. Lauret is now an assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College.

Lauret examines sedimentary rocks in the Rocky Mountains that formed in ancient oceans hundreds of millions of years ago. Many environments that were common in Earth history no longer exist today. Lauret uses all of the clues in the rock record, including microfossils, to reconstruct what environments were like in the geologic past. Fieldwork involves hiking in mountains and examining and sampling rocks exposed in the mountains. In the laboratory she examines rocks and fossils under the microscope and conducts geochemical analyses.

Lauret also considers earth science in a broader social or cultural context. The experiences of all humans are tied to the Earth, its processes and materials, and an understanding of the relationship is critical to the ability of individuals and society to make informed decisions about environmental issues. Lauret is beginning interdisciplinary research to review and analyze aspects of the interaction between humans and the environment in North America from a geologic perspective. For example, she would like to consider the connections between the geology/landscape of the American West and the lifeways (including mythology) of the inhabitants. This involves working at libraries and museums as well as in the field. She also wants to continue her passion in landscape photography.

Being a geologist and teacher is exciting because she travels and works outdoors in wild and beautiful places. She enjoys introducing students to geology, and helping them discover the wonders of the Earth in the field as well as the classroom and lab. She believes that knowing the geology of a region is like reading the land's biography - it puts you in a more intimate relationship with the land. Doing geology involves solving puzzles about the Earth and its past, and she loves being a detective.

She encourages you to take courses in math and science as well as the humanities and arts. These will help you develop skills in critical thinking and effective communication. Ask questions, be inquisitive. Observe the world around you and enjoy what you are doing. Balancing a career and personal life can be a challenge. Lauret and her husband, a geologist, enjoy travelling and exploring wild country together on foot or by bicycle, canoe or kayak.