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Katherine Adelsberger

The Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair in Earth Science

At Knox Since: 2008


A Pennsylvania native, Katherine Adelsberger was drawn to archaeology
and exposed to earth science as an undergraduate.

"But my study abroad experience in Tanzania was really the turning point," she says. The opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary research as an undergraduate led to a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an interest in African geoarchaeology, in particular.

Adelsberger continued her passion for exploration and geosciences, which led her to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Sudan during her graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. As a graduate student, she also served as a teacher’s assistant and helped with the Women in Science program.

"I’ve always had an interest in teaching," Adelsberger says. "I really enjoy watching students figure things out, and it makes you feel good to watch them go through the process. It’s very satisfying."

Katherine Adelsberger and a Knox student in JordanSince joining Knox in 2008, Adelsberger has been impressed with the students' interest in interdisciplinary work and undergraduate research, and she was happy to find a place where faculty have a nice balance between teaching and research. That means adequate time to help students with their research projects, as well as pursuing her research endeavors.

As a co-director of the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project in Jordan, Adelsberger’s primary research interest is connecting human activity and environmental change in the Middle East.

"Right now one of my students is working with snails that I brought back from Jordan," Adelsberger says. "She’s taking a look at what they can tell us about Jordan's landscape and environment."

Knox students regularly participate in the field school led by Adelsberger and her colleagues in Jordan during the summer. Student research projects have also examined soil development and slope formation at the site. Supriya Kasaju '12 will be presenting some of their collaborative research at the 2011 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis. Katherine Adelsberger in a kiva

In addition to studying hydrology and the environmental aspects of Jordan, Adelsberger also has examined water and agriculturally-related issues in North Africa. "My work in the Western Desert of Egypt examines the relationship between landscapes and archaeological sites -- from 100,000-year-old desert pavements and spring deposits to Roman-era agricultural sediments."

She and research colleagues from New York University were just beginning a field season in Egypt when the January 2011 uprising began. They, along with students who accompanied them, were quickly evacuated to Dubai.

Back at Knox, Adelsberger appreciates the flexibility faculty are provided.Katherine Adelsberger in the Western Desert of Egypt

"I was able to develop a field course that would allow students to participate in spring break or December break field trips for credit," Adelsberger says. "During the spring break of 2011 we examined the geology of the Four Corners region by visiting national parks in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. I think it’s important to get out of the classroom and experience the things we would otherwise only read about."

Adelsberger has also developed two half-credit courses in geographic information systems, or GIS, providing students with a workshop environment for the development of computer mapping skills. The half-credit courses provide more flexibility for student schedules as well as her own teaching.

In today’s world, Adelsberger says knowledge in more than one field is necessary. Many of her students are interested in a combination of environmental studies, biology, and anthropology and sociology.

"I encourage interdisciplinarity," she says. "When students are unsure about which path to choose, I tell them to embrace the questions they have, and do what they want to do -- whether that means double major or pursue research projects in a variety of
disciplines. They'll be better equipped for the questions they want to explore in the future."