Cathy Connor

Natural Sciences

University of Alaska Southeast

 I teach Earth Science courses at Univeristy Alaska Southeast in Juneau, Alaska with a focus on the local bedrock geology and glacier and coastal landscapes. My students and I take advantage of nearby uplifting shorelines, calving tidewater glaciers, expanding glacier lakes, local gold mines, and Quaternary volcanics for our field courses. Summers might find me studying deglaciation in Glacier Bay, nunatak geology across the Juneau Icefield, or exploring Pleistocene events recorded in ice age sediments across the state of Alaska and in the Yukon with our UAS Environmental Science and Physical Geography students. The small classes at UAS gives us the flexibility to take advantage of our local landscapes and resources with the seasons. My students have carried out their own undergraduate Earth Science research projects and have traveled far and wide to present their work at regional and national scientific meetings from Fairbanks to San Francisco to Denver and Minneapolis. Juneau is an exciting place to explore the workings of our planet’s surface and its dynamic processes.

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects

Activities (3)

Modeling Glacier Erosion Through Time part of Cutting Edge:Climate Change:Activities
This lab could be adapted for an introductory geology course, upper division geomorphology course, or a climate change course. This activity is borrowed from John Harbor's paper in the Journal of Geoscience Education 1995 and adapted for new research since that time.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
Learn more about this review process.

Evidence for Active Tectonics in local watersheds-Fluvial geomorph part of Cutting Edge:Geomorphology:Activities
In this lab, student analyze imagery from fieldtrip sites to identify fluvial geomorphic and tectonic processes.

Roadside and Engineering Geology of Auke Bay, Juneau Alaska part of Cutting Edge:Public Policy:Activities
Final lab for an Introductory Physical Geology class. Students apply a semester of learned geology skills toward evaluating house building sites near our campus. They encounter evidence of faulting, mass wasting, isostatic rebound, and ancient Alaskans as part of the exercise.


Geomorphology part of Cutting Edge:Course Design:Goals Database
Why Take a Course in Geomorphology? Human travelers from Tatshenshini Man, the 500 year old Alaska Native recovered from the Tatshenshini Glacier to Juneauites turning onto the UAS campus after passing Auke Lake, have utilized landforms as guides to get over passes to the next watershed, to follow river valleys to commercial trading centers, to cross deserts by using dune orientation or to navigate oriented tundra snow sasstrugi, and to locate oases or hunting sites. Mariners have found their coastal port cities by recognizing prominent headlands and bays from the sea. Ancient Hawaiians have left their footprints in lava flows as they crossed newly cooling landscapes while fleeing adversaries. The "Hunt for Osama bin Laden" has at times utilized the knowledge of cave geomorphologists to identify his possible hideouts in Afghanistan. Military campaigns have relied on landscape knowledge to surprise and overwhelm the enemy. The Jet Propulsion Lab rovers still ! operating on Mars, (Spirit and Opportunity), are remotely controlled from Pasadena, California by planetary geomorphologists, geologist, rocket scientists and engineers. Seventy five percent of our Earth is covered with liquid water. Solar energy drives the active hydrosphere on our "planet ocean" that allows for continuous resurfacing and landscape development in response to climate change through time. The Earth's geothermal energy drives vertical and horizontal crustal changes, renewing eroded landforms through tectonic uplift and creating depositional areas through subsidence. The timescales or process rates controlling landscape formation are inversely proportional to the size of the landform in question. Mountains are deformed over timescales of 1 to 30 million years. Glaciers and ice sheets wax and wane over time periods of tens, to hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands of years. Fault scarps are created by earthquakes, submarine landslides, terrestrial avalanches and mudflows. They can generate deadly tsunamis and are created in seconds to minutes. The Earth's geoid or equipotential gravity surface is equal to mean sea level and defines the ultimate base level for our planet's geomorphic processes. In this class we will also explore how landscapes have developed on other planetary bodies such as our moon, Mars, Venus, and Europa where internal planetary energy may be negligible and no liquid water exists on the surface. Humans are now a geomorphic force on this planet. We are directly causing an increase in the rate and extent of landscape resurfacing by our activities of land disturbance through agriculture, mining, road building, paving of urban areas, and logging. Our fossil fuel burning is changing the climate, diminishing surface ice and generating landscape and ecological responses as Earth's albedo changes in polar regions, as plant communities change their geographic distribution, as increased weathering and stream erosion redistributes topsoils, and sea level rises to drown low-lying coastal areas. The discipline of geomorphology will provide you with the tools to quantitatively understand these processes and the changes they create in order to live wisely with the realities of flowing water under the force of gravity on our dynamic planetary surface.

Other Contribution

Uplift Follows Deglaciation in Northern Southeast Alaska part of Vignettes:Vignette Collection
Cathy Connor University Alaska Southeast Location Continent: North America Country: United States of America State/Province: Alaska Region: Alexander Archipelago (southeastern Alaska) UTM coordinates and datum: ...

Events and Communities

Hazards Webinar November 2011

2006 AGU Heads and Chairs Workshop Participants

Geomorphology Workshop 2008 Participants

Climate Change

Teaching About Energy in Geoscience Courses: Current Research and Pedagogy

Strategic Persuasion 08 Participants

Public Policy Workshop Participants

Teaching Environmental Geology 2012

Cutting Edge 2013 Assessment Journal Club