Faculty Bio

Kirsten Menking

Professor of Earth Science

A.B., Geology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, California, 1990.
Ph.D., Earth Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1995.

Kirsten Menking conducts research on past climate change, on landscape evolution due to climatic and tectonic processes, and on the impacts of urbanization on streams. For her dissertation she took part in a U.S. Geological Survey Project to study sediments from Owens Lake in eastern California where she reconstructed cycles of glaciation and lake level change over the last 800,000 years. More recently she has worked on the climate record contained within Lake Estancia in central New Mexico and on the late glacial and Holocene history of southeastern New York. The latter work has taken her to lakes in the Shawangunk Mts. and to Lozier Pond, a small lake from which the Hyde Park mastodon was unearthed in 2000.  With colleagues in Geography, Biology, Chemistry, and Urban Studies, she also carries out investigations on road salt and nutrient contamination of streams in Dutchess County, New York. 

After obtaining her Ph.D., Kirsten worked as a visiting assistant professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA where she co-authored an environmental Geology textbook with colleagues Dorothy Merritts and Andrew DeWet, currently in revision for a second edition to be published in 2014. Kirsten joined the faculty at Vassar in the fall of 1997. She teaches courses in introductory environmental geoscience (Earth, Environment, and Humanity), introductory environmental science (Essentials of Environmental Science), surface processes and the evolution of landforms (Geomorphology),  groundwater flow and contamination (Water), deformation of rocks (Structural Geology), and Earth's history of climatic change (Paleoclimatology).  She has also taught a number of fieldtrip courses through the Environmental Studies program, taking students on excursions to the Pacific Northwest, Bahamas, and Louisiana to study a range of environmental phenomena and problems.  In teaching, she enjoys relating the material to students' everyday experiences and using hands-on experiments to illustrate Earth and environmental science principles.

Selected publications:

Books and book chapters: