“It’s not real science if you’re not getting dirty!”
Katie in Egypt.
Whether she’s surveying for archaeological sites in the Egyptian desert, drilling soil cores in Louisiana, or hiking the Appalachian Trail, geoarchaeologist Katie Adelsberger covers a lot of ground.
Since she is a Beloit College graduate and now an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Knox College, important parts of Katie’s career path have had ACM connections.
Katie was drawn to Beloit by the college’s anthropology program. A semester on the ACM Tanzania Program in fall 2000 was pivotal in pointing Adelsberger toward her career.
Katie exploring Roman ruins in the Western Desert of Egypt.
Photo by Johanna Kieniewicz
“Going on the Tanzania program crystallized my interest in geology,” says Katie. She especially was interested in using the methods of geology to explore archaeological questions, such as how societies have reacted and adapted to environmental change.
Katie’s research project in Tanzania was to figure out whether the raw materials used by early humans to create stone tools at Laetoli – a prominent archaeological site where students on the ACM program have conducted research – came from the local area or were transported from a distant source. (Her answer: the residents traveled elsewhere to acquire some of the materials for making tools.)
The ACM program’s director that year, Macalester College geology professor Karl Wirth, advised Katie on the project, and since then they have collaborated on several projects related to that original research. “Karl and (geology professor) Carl Mendelson at Beloit have been very good mentors for me through the years,” says Adelsberger.
After graduating from Beloit, Katie stayed on campus for an honors term, cataloging paleontology collections at the college. Several months hiking the Appalachian Trail followed, and then she headed off to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis.
Katie coring the Lower Mississippi River Valley in Louisiana.
Photo by TR Kidder
Summers during graduate school were spent working in Louisiana taking soil cores to understand how flooding and shifting of the Mississippi River and its tributaries have affected settlement patterns over time. During winter breaks, Adelsberger worked on projects in Egypt. She notes, “As a field geologist I spend a lot of time digging holes and walking around in the desert; it’s not real science if you’re not getting dirty!”
Now that she’s back at an ACM college, as a member of the Knox faculty, some of Katie’s earlier connections have continued. This past fall, she served with Karl Wirth on a committee that completed an extensive review of the Tanzania Program, a regular process that ensures the academic quality of ACM programs.
During 2009, Katie will return to Egypt for some field work and will also be “getting dirty” closer to home. This spring, she’s teaching a class in soil science, which will include segments at Knox’s Green Oaks Biological Field Station. “There is interesting research to be done (at Green Oaks) in land use and landscape change,” says Adelsberger. “There might also be students interested in doing independent research there.”
And, perhaps, like Katie in Tanzania, another young scientist will begin to find the path to a career.
Go to: Katie’s home page
Katie took the photo below while in Egypt with her advisor, Jennifer Smith (shown in the photo). Katie wrote: “This one I took after our car broke down in the field in Kharga Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt – we were looking at a 40 km walk back to town but we managed to hitch a ride after the first few kilometers.”