Fresh Faculty: Martin Medina Elizalde
Issue   |   Wed, 04/23/2014 - 02:32

Professor Martin A. Medina Elizalde is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology. He holds a B.S. from the Univ. from Southern Baja California, a M.S. in Center of Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico and a Ph.D from the Univ. of California, Santa Barbara.

Q: How did you begin studying your subject and what made you decide to pursue it?
A: When I was 15 years old, I read a book by Isaac Asimov about ice ages and using isotopes to infer changes in ice volume and sea level. I became very interested in learning more about this subject after reading that. Then when I was about to graduate with my master’s degree, I came across a paper on the ice ages by David Lea, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. That’s when I decided that this is what I want to work on and study further, so I contacted him and got to do my Ph.D. with him!

Q: Why did you decide to teach at Amherst?
A: I came to give a talk on my research last year, and I got to meet whom I really liked. I felt like I connected with the Department of Geology on a personal level. They are all doing interesting research, so I think that Amherst College offers a very stimulating scientific environment. I was always interested in teaching, and Amherst felt like an ideal teaching platform where students are committed to acquiring broad knowledge on many different topics. Also, I have some research collaborators at UMass, so it is really a perfect location to develop my own science as well.

Q: What is your research on and what made you interested in it?
A: Currently, I am working on reconstructing past climates of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. I became interested in this region after living there for several years, and it’s a fascinating area because one of the most ancient civilizations developed there — the Mayan civilization. It is an amazing place geologically and geographically with a very interesting history. So I have both a personal connection and a scientific interest in this region. Right now I am using and examining corals and stalagmites that are abundant there to reconstruct past climates.

Q: Are you currently working on publishing anything and what have you published before?
A: I am working on publishing a study investigating the role tropical cyclones played in controlling climate variability at the end of the Mayan civilization. This is in collaboration with Raymond Bradley and Steven Burns at UMass. In the past, I have published a series of papers looking at sea level changes, climate sensitivity, and the role of climate during the collapse of the Mayan civilization in journals like Science, Nature, and Earth Planetary Science Letters.

Q: What classes are you teaching this semester and planning to teach next semester? What are they about?
A: I am teaching a course called ‘Climate Change, Global Warming, and Natural Resources’ in which we talk about the scientific aspects surrounding the theory of global warming — everything from the physics to the climate impacts of global warming. We also discuss other relevant issues like energy, energy usage, mitigation strategies, and environmental politics throughout the course. I will teach the same course next semester, and I will also teach a new course on paleoclimatology. In that course, we are going to talk about Earth’s climate history, the different archives we use to construct past climate changes, and what the records are telling us for the future.

Q: What do you hope to contribute to Amherst?
A: I hope I can spread as much knowledge about climate change as possible. I think I am one of the leaders in my field, and I hope I can continue to generate new information and provide the latest, most developed ideas about my subject area.

Q: Why do you think climate change is important?
A: I think climate change is one of the most important challenges our civilization faces today. I would say that we are in a climate crisis right now. Depending on how we act today, it might be an issue that will affect generations to come. It will certainly put constraints on critical aspects of human life that currently sustain our civilization.

Q: Could you describe the recent field trip that your class went on?
A: We went to a dairy farm whose energy is entirely generated by solar panels. We learned how solar panels can be implemented on a small scale and how they could possibly be used to support an entire city. Students had the opportunity to ask technical questions about solar energy to Lawrence Cook, the Project Manager of Energy Systems and Installations and an expert on solar energy. The owner of the farm also gave us his perspective and talked about the benefits and challenges of installing and using solar energy compared to traditional forms of electricity. I think students were also happy to interact with the many livestock there too.

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Comments
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Sun, 04/17/2016 - 14:43

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