New marine science professor studies ecology through fossils – News

Her initial dream was to be an architect who dabbled in geosciences. She attended Cornell College—fully expecting to go on to graduate school for architecture. But her first geology class dramatically changed her trajectory. She took many immersive geology field trips around the Midwest and eventually took trips abroad to Curaçao and New Zealand.

After graduating with a B.A. in geology and another in studio art, Korpanty headed to the University of North Carolina Wilmington to see where the geosciences would take her. She dug even deeper into the marine invertebrate fossils by doing her master’s-degree study in shallow systems of mollusks and seagrasses, both living and dead assemblages, to view the change to the environment over time. When she was ready to earn her Ph.D., she headed toward one of the world’s most famous coral environments to study at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Korpanty completed her doctorate in four years and headed to the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen in Germany to conduct postdoctoral research. But her desire had been to return to the U.S. to teach—preferably at a small college—ever since she taught her first course at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

This semester Korpanty also teaches Earth Systems History, an upper-level course that considers the planet’s 4.6 billion years through fossils, map making, tectonic theory and more. She’s even planning to have future class sections travel to Florida quarries so they themselves might search for marine fossils—in the same way that set her on the path to becoming their instructor.

“The assemblages of marine species have changed a lot over geologic time as the global climate and local environments have changed,” she explains. “The fossil record provides us the opportunity to look at these changes—to understand the stories of why, how and where marine communities are assembled the way they are today. Figuring out these stories fascinates me.”

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