Geology of the National Parks

Meet your summer instructor and the rest of the team


My name is Adam Benfield, I’m a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Geosciences. My research focuses on understanding the response of landscapes to climate changes during the Quaternary Period. I mainly use pollen grains from trees and other plants preserved in lake or bog sediments to reconstruct vegetation communities and how they change over time. So far I’ve worked on cores from the Colombian Andes, Mono Lake, California, and most recently a large lake in Indonesia. I previously completed a Master's degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lehigh University and did my undergrad here at Penn State.

Outside of work, I like to read, hike, garden, and do a plethora of other nerdy hobbies. I’m a big fan of traveling as I never got to travel much growing up but since majoring in Geosciences I’ve traveled to most of the US, Europe, Colombia, and, most recently, Oman. For those who are wondering, my favorite pollen grain is from the Giant Sequoia. 



Adam Benfield
Emily Schwans

…and summiting a 14er in Colorado

Dragon's Blood Tree
Dragon's Blood Tree in Dohfar, Oman.

While I am your instructor this semester, it was a team of individuals who developed and authored this online version of GEOSC 10. First and foremost, this course was prepared by Dr. Richard Alley and Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan, both are professors in the Department of Geosciences at Penn State. You will literally see and hear both of them throughout the course via audio and video clips.

Course Authors

Sridhar Anandakrishnan
Sridhar Anandakrishnan

Sridhar Anandakrishnan is a geophysicist and a Columbia University and Wisconsin (Go Bucky!) graduate, who has been at Penn State off and on since 1992. Dr. "A" splits his time between teaching (this intro class, geophysics classes, and some math and computer related classes for geoscientists), service (committees, panels, talks to the public), and research (what's under the glaciers and will they melt?). He has spent a good chunk of his time in Antarctica doing research on and about the glaciers there. Go to the US Antarctic Program's newsletter for a flavor of life and work in Antarctica. When not in work mode, Dr. A's attention goes to the family, cats, bicycles, and gardening. Here is a brief video biography, "Interview with the Iceman".

Richard Alley
Richard Alley

Richard Alley is a geologist, and an Ohio State and Wisconsin graduate, who has been at Penn State long enough that the fruit trees he planted in his side yard are getting big. He splits his time between teaching (introductory classes, the study of past climates for undergraduate majors, and mathematical modeling of the earth for graduate students), service (he's had breakfast with a U.S. Vice President, testified to various Congressional committees, was the color commentator for an educational trip to Greenland by 10% of the US Senate, and contributed to the Nobel Peace Prize work of the United Nations IPCC, as well as chatting with lots of elementary-school classes and scout troops), and research (will the ice sheets fall into the ocean and flood the coasts?). When not in work mode, his attention goes to wife Cindy (who is the Geovisionary of the Rock Videos you'll see soon), their two daughters (Janet, who graduated from Penn State in elementary education, and Karen at Colgate, also featured on the Rock Videos), the fruit trees, a bicycle, and some soccer cleats.

An instructional design team supported the development work for GEOSC 10 as well, including Cindy Alley, Eric Spielvogel, Jennifer Babb, and Ann Taylor.

Cindy Alley met Richard when they were both geology majors at Ohio State. Since she enjoys computer graphics and design layout, and she can speak "geology," she has helped with course design, editing photos (many of the parks photos in this class come from their honeymoon, over 20 years ago!) and designing figures. In GEOSC 10, she steps in to help wherever the others need a hand – photo editing, testing, making suggestions, whatever. When not playing with GEOSC 10, Cindy is a quilter, crafter, and chauffeur for their two children.

Jennifer Babb, Ann Taylor and Eric Spielvogel work for the Dutton e-Education Institute in the College of Earth and Minerals Sciences, supporting the development of courses like GEOSC 10! You may see them "pop in" from time to time, as they continue to assist with the course as we work out the bugs over time.

Many other people worked hard to make your "visit" to the national parks a memorable one. Click here to meet some of them.