Amy Weislogel is an Associate Professor of geology at West Virginia University where she teaches courses and advises graduate student projects in sedimentary geology. She graduated high school without any real knowledge of geology or particular interest in the sciences, and ended up with a B.S. from Allegheny College, that led to a M.S. from New Mexico State and finally a Ph.D. from Stanford University, all in Geology. Throughout her work in these degrees, her main interest was in the generation of sedimentary deposits through surficial processes, and reconstructing the stories those deposits preserve. In pursuit of these stories, it was the opportunities for field work that led from one stint as a student to the next. As an undergraduate, she studied rocks from Montana, using sediment composition to estimate the timing of Rocky Mountain uplift. In her Master’s, she looked at sites in using stratigraphic patterns to disentangle deformation due to evaporite diapir rise from uplift due to fold-thrust belt development. Her Ph.D. work brought her to western China, seeking the ultimate fate of sediment from a Mesozoic collisional orogen shed into 3 separate basins using bulk rock geochemistry, detrital geochronology and stable isotope geochemistry. Once the PhD was completed, there were still stories yet untold in sedimentary rocks, so the next logical step seemed to be joining an academic department as a faculty member. Her research goals were to continue to plumb the sedimentary record for insights into the fundamental processes that shape the landscape, climate and life of Planet Earth. She also wanted to mentor the next generation of earth scientists and specifically work to make the earth sciences an appealing career path for underrepresented minorities.
In beginning her academic career, Amy first joined the faculty at the University of Alabama, which at the time included just 2 other female faculty for a total of 3 out of 15. Her first child was born in her 6th semester on the job, with no access to parental leave. The only accommodation was a change from a large lecture introductory course to a smaller graduate student course. The other women faculty also had children while on the job, so she thought, this just must be the way it works. So, while prepping lectures, editing student work, writing proposals, nursing an infant, and recovering from a C-section, she applied to another faculty position at West Virginia University, located much closer to family support, and weeks later traveled to interview for the job while leaving her 3 month-old infant at home. Seven months later, she packed her family up to move to West Virginia, and while earning tenure there added another child to her family, becoming the first geology faculty to give birth while on the tenure-track there. Thankfully, the year her 2nd child was born was the year parental leave policies were established at WVU. If that hadn’t happened, this spotlight would most likely have never been written. In a similar stroke of “luck”, NSF also established a Work-Life Balance policy, which allowed Amy to pause one of her 2 NSF projects in China for 1 year. But the reality was a family that included 2 young children 2 years apart with a full-time working spouse, 2 NSF projects in China, 1 funded project in South Africa and 1 in North America meant Work-Life Balance was a long, long, LONG way off. Eventually it came, but Amy is constantly reminded that there are many women who became mothers and simply lacked the support they needed to stay in academia, especially in field-based sciences such as earth science.
As an Associate Professor, Amy is active as the lead of her department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee as one way of working to end exclusionary practices that continue to plague academia and earth science in particular. She is also currently chair of the Sedimentary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America, and plans to work to promote inclusion through that venue as well. There is much work to be done