Benjamin Laabs Laabs
Geological Sciences
SUNY Geneseo
1 College Circle
Geneseo, NY 14454
585.245.5116 (fax)

I am an assistant professor at SUNY Geneseo (a predominantly undergraduate, four-year institution) working in a department that offers a wide range of introductory- and upper-level courses. My background is in glacial geology/geomorphology. Most of my courses cover the topic of global climate change over a variety of timescales, but I have limited experience teaching about hurricanes and historical climate change. My interest in the workshop stems from teaching an intermediate-level course in Environmental Geology, in which these two topics are covered. The topics are of great interest to students in the class, but my limited knowledge has kept me from raising important questions such as, "Has 20th-century warming of the Atlantic affected the frequency of hurricanes?", and "Should we expect a greater frequency of hurricanes in the future?". The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Ike have students thinking about these questions, and I am hopeful that this workshop will improve my ability to effectively answer them.

In the course, students use ArcView GIS (v. 3.x) to analyze tracks of historical hurricanes (especially those that have impacted large cities and New York State). The GIS data and the exercise are available on the web, at The exercise is great; students love it, but it needs modification to be effectively used at the 200 level. During the workshop, I plan to modify the exercise (if I'm really good, I'll modify it for use in ArcGIS 9.x) and post it on the SERC website.

Overall, I believe (like most geoscience instructors) that climate change is one of the most important topics to cover in our classes, and that geology students need increased exposure to the topic throughout their degree programs. At my institution, the vast majority of students in my classes are non-science majors taking a required, introductory-level course. For these students, my only shot at enhancing their knowledge of the Earth climate system takes place in a big lecture hall and a two-hour lab; I am hopeful that this workshop will help me improve my ability to teach about hurricanes and climate change in this setting.

Activity: Analyzing Hurricanes