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Faculty Profile

Ben Edwards

(he/him/his)Professor of Geosciences; Moraine Chair in Arctic Studies (2002)

Contact Information

Kaufman Hall Room 142


His research foci are interactions between volcanoes and glaciers (glaciovolcanism), Arctic and Alpine climate change (including directing the Dickinson College Arctic and Alpine Climate Change Research Experience AACCRE), UAV (a.k.a. drones) science, and the impacts of volcanic ash on plants. Volcano studies include the formation of pillow lava and cooling joints, large-scale lava-ice experiments at the Syracuse Lava Lab (, petrological imaging of lithospheric stratigraphy (using xenoliths from Neogene to Recent volcanoes in the North American Cordillera), applications of theoretical models for understanding the formation of cooling fractures in lavas, and the formation of deposits during volcano-ice interactions. His other interests include soil-forming processes, mineralogy, environmental hazards, the history of science, the history of Arctic exploration, and the influence of plate tectonics on almost everything. His current research involves taking students to places like Alaska (Gates of the Arctic), Iceland (2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption), Greenland, the Canadian Arctic (Nunavut), British Columbia, Chile (2015 Villarrica eruption) and Peru to study volcanic stratigraphy, glaciers and climate change.

Curriculum Vitae


  • B.A., Carleton College, 1989
  • M.S., University of Wyoming, 1993
  • Ph.D., University of British Columbia, 1997

2023-2024 Academic Year

Fall 2023

GEOS 305 Earth Materials
This gives students a basic understanding of the tools and techniques used in modern science to identify and characterize solid earth materials at the macroscopic (hand samples), microscopic (polarized light), and sub-microscopic (X-ray diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy) levels. Emphasis in the first part of the course will be on minerals, while the second part of the course will introduce students to characterization techniques of other solid earth materials (soils and rocks) and their conditions of formation. This course is required for the Earth Sciences major, and will be useful to students interested in agricultural science, archeology, environmental science, forensic science, planetary science, and solid state chemistry and physics. Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisites: 151 or permission of instructor. Completion of both 305 and 309 fulfills the WID graduation requirement. Offered every other year.

Spring 2024

GEOS 151 Foundations of Earth Sciences
How do mountains and oceans form? Why do the positions of continents shift? Can rocks bend or flow? What is the history of life on our planet? This course explores the materials that make up the Earth and the processes that shape it, both at and below the surface. Students will take field trips around the Carlisle area as well as complete analytical and computer laboratory activities in order to acquire basic field, laboratory, and computer modelling skills. This course serves as a gateway to the Earth Sciences major, but is also appropriate for non-majors. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week.

GEOS 250 Introduction to Arctic Studies
This course is designed to give a broad introduction to the physical/social geography, geology and ecology of the Arctic region of earth particularly through the lens of global climate change. Students will use a variety of media (lectures, readings, videos, blogs) to build knowledge about this critical region of earth to serve as a basis for individual and group projects on a specific Arctic region (e.g., Siberia, Svalbard, Greenland, Iceland, Nunavut, Alaska) and topic (e.g., climate change, Arctic tourism, Arctic flora/fauna species, Arctic archeology, Arctic exploration). Learning goals include: i) exposure to spatial analysis and Geographic Information Systems, ii) foundational knowledge of the Arctic cryosphere and its response to climate change, geological history, human geography and ecological systems, and iii) mastery of Arctic geography. Course meetings will include student presentations, fieldtrips and basic GIS instruction.

GEOS 500 Independent Study