Geology students show off their hard work on the West Coast

Four students had the chance to travel to Seattle to meet with geologists from across the country


Lily Horsley

Washington and Lee students, professors and alumni gathered at the Geological Society of America (GSA) Conference in Seattle last week to celebrate student accomplishments in the field and meet with renowned geologists from across the country.

The GSA was founded in 1888 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of geosciences. It holds the conference every year for geoscience professionals and students to present work in this area of study.

Geology professor Elizabeth Knapp said Washington and Lee students have been attending the GSA summit for as long as she can remember.

This year, students Michael Cuilik, ‘18, Kameko Landry, ’19, Chantal Iosso, ’20, and Chris Messerich, ‘20, gave presentations on their research. Knapp, geology professor David Farris, department head Lisa Greer and several other geology majors accompanied the presenters to Seattle.

Cuilik, ‘18, presented his thesis work titled “Crystallographic preferred orientation and microstructural analyses across a strain gradient, Maggia Nappe, Switzerland.” Iosso, ‘20, exhibited her research on a “microstructural analysis of the Uppermost Unit of Crete, Greece,” analyzing the topography of the Mediterranean island. Messerich, ‘20, revealed his work on Yellow Cedar tree growth response to climatic shifts in Juneau, Alaska. Landry, ‘19, expanded upon a method of erosion known as plucking, when cracked bedrock is lifted into the flow of water and transported to another area of a river.

Landry said presenting at the conference was one of the most rewarding experiences she has had at W&L.

“W&L is unique because it gives undergraduate students the chance to work directly with professors to conduct research, and the geology department takes it one step further by supplying us with funding to attend one geology conference a year,” Landry said. “It was truly an invigorating feeling standing in front of my poster and sharing our results with other members who were intrigued with our work.”

Knapp said the presentations covered many areas of study in the geosciences, so students and other attendees could tailor their experience at the conference to their personal interests. She said it’s especially important for students to learn about the most recent advances in the sciences.

“It’s a great opportunity to find out what is brand new in the field,” Knapp said.

The Geology Department will attend another conference in December led by the American Geophysical Union.