Geology celebrates 100 years at OSU

People standing in hallway

Ph. D. student Susan Schnur talks about her research with OSU geology alum Robert Rosé during a celebration of Geology@100. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

For the last century, geologists at OSU have been delving into the farthest reaches of the Earth’s physical history, uncovering facts about everything from volcanoes to earthquakes. A celebration at the end of June marked the 100th anniversary of geology at OSU, bringing together current students, alums and faculty to share their love of all things geological.

The four-day event included an open house, mini-courses, poster presentations, and field trips. A reception and dinner even featured a specially-brewed Snow Peak Steinbrau, made by Corvallis-based Sky High using extremely hot rocks.

For alum Robert Rosé (Class of ’64 and ’66) the gathering was a chance to catch up on a department that has changed greatly since his time at OSU. In fact, geology is not a stand-alone department anymore. It combined with geography in 1989 to become geosciences, and more recently it was absorbed into the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Rosé followed in the footsteps of his grandmother, parents and older sister when he attended OSU, and at first wasn’t sure where his interest lay, other than in a career involving the outdoors. But a lifetime love of fossils, and a fascinating introductory geology class cemented the field as one he wanted to pursue.

“It was a good choice,” he said. In the mid 1960s, most of the geology classes took place in Quonset huts near what is now Joyce Furman Hall, and the campus was a much smaller place. Now when he returns, he sometimes gets turned around.

“It’s a real easy place to get lost in now,” he said with a laugh.

After graduation, Rosé got involved in geological research in the oil industry, which took him all over the world. Now retired and living near Sweet Home with his wife, Rosé still spends a lot of time in the OSU library and working with a few folks on campus pursuing his paleobotanical interests. His love of fossils, he said, has never died.

But he jumped at the chance to attend the 100-year celebration because he’s excited to see what current students are researching. During a poster session in Wilkinson Hall, he spent a long time talking to Ph. D. student Susan Schnur about her research on hotspot volcanism.

Schnur is in her third year in the program, and was originally part of oceanography before the merger. Her interest is marine geology, specifically seamounts, that is, mountains on the ocean floor that do not reach the water’s surface. Her work has been focused on an area off the coast of South Africa called the Walvis Ridge seamount trail.

“There are not a lot of places in the world where they do seamount research,” Schnur said, but OSU is one of them, and she’s been pleased with the interdisciplinary nature of the department. The centenary celebration allowed her to present on her research to a group of alums with a broad understanding of the big questions marine geologists are exploring.

“It’s nice to have people come up who are interested in the topic,” she said, and while the work she’s doing is relatively new, it gave her the chance to swap stories with other researchers.

When she graduates, Schnur hopes to work on sea floor mapping, a growing field of research.

“When people sit on the beach and watch the water, they don’t have an image of what the world under the waves is like,” Schnur said, but thanks to geology, someday they might.

~ Theresa Hogue

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