Structural geologist Michelle Markley likes to study mountains, specifically how they were formed. "I study how rocks get 'mushed,' " she says. "I look at rock deformation, at their folds and faults and how they get their texture, or fabric." Her classes make full use of the region around Mount Holyoke, going out to see rock formations at the Quabbin Reservoir, on Skinner Mountain, and in Whately and Cummington. "This is a good area for field work at all levels," says Markley.
During graduate school, Markley studied the tectonic evolution of the western Swiss Alps. She also earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study geology in New Zealand. Currently her primary research focus is the Appalachian mountain belt. It arose from the collision of the North American and African continents, she explains, and is of great interest to geologists who map patterns of rocks in the field.
With a colleague at Franklin and Marshall College, Markley has received funding from the National Science Foundation for a three-year project to study two plutons (magma that solidifies underground) in coastal Maine, on Mount Desert and Vinalhaven Islands.
Markley teaches Physical Geology, Structural Geology and Orogenesis, Plate Tectonics, and a seminar in Appalachian Geology and has published numerous scholarly articles.