Alan Werner

Professor of Geology

Specialization
Environmental geology; climate change; surface processes; quaternary geology

"The answers are in the mud!" says Alan Werner. "As a kid I was told 'not to play in the mud,' and now I make a living doing just that." Werner is referring to his fieldwork, which he and his students conduct in remote locations—from Alaska to the Canadian Arctic to Spitsbergen, an island in the Arctic Sea—bringing recovered sediment cores back to the laboratory for analysis. "Lakes, in many ways, are ideal repositories of past environmental change," says Werner. "They preserve long and continuous records, and organic material in the lake mud can be dated using the radiocarbon dating method."

A specialist in glacial geology, environmental geology, and climate change, as well as a groundwater geologist, Werner is former chair of the College's environmental studies program and the Department of Earth and Environment. He continues to teach a course in environmental geology that explores the impact of natural events, such as floods and earthquakes, and of human mismanagement, such as acid rain and the greenhouse effect, on the environment.

Werner's research focuses on past environmental change. "Although we tend to think that planet Earth is stable and unchanging, in fact, the geologic record indicates that profound changes have taken place on a variety of timescales," says Werner. He studies records of climate change to document the nature and timing of climate events in various locations in the Arctic.

Werner is a frequent contributor to scientific publications and is the principal investigator of a $507,000 grant (pending) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study climate change in the high Arctic. Along with several Mount Holyoke colleagues, Werner received a $57,000 grant from the NSF for a project integrating stable isotope geochemistry into the geoscience curriculum.

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