Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences


Kent Kirkby

Office: 

385-16 Tate Hall

Phone: 
612-624-1392
Email: 
kirkby

Associate Professor/Teaching
PhD, 1994, University of Wisconsin - Madison

 

Research Interests

While a carbonate stratigrapher and sedimentologist in a previous life, my present activities at the University of Minnesota fall in the realm of educational research – exploring new and better ways to convey our knowledge of our Earth.  In particular, I am fascinated by the intersection of earth processes and human society, how earth processes have affected human history and how human activities continue to dramatically affect our world.  As earth scientists, we have a responsibility to more effectively convey our understanding of the Earth, especially in a world where many of the most pressing issues affecting future generations are related to earth processes.  

Consequently, my research explores ways to more effectively teach earth science. Working with Paul Morin, our departmental visualization expert, we have created suites of color anaglyph maps that convey the Earth’s landscape as a three-dimensional surface. Together with the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago, we have also developed GeoWall, a low cost stereo-projection system that allows students to interactively investigate geologic data in three-dimensions, and the Rain Table which will allows students to explore water flow across the Earth’s surface. Currently, I am exploring whether we can use bar code scanning technology to more effectively teach pattern recognition of mineral and rock samples. Other research simply explores better ways to identify, challenge and replace common earth science misconceptions.

At the opposite end of the technology spectrum, I rely heavily on some very traditional methods of instruction. For millennium, our ancestors gathered in smoke-filled lodges, huddled around campfires, or sat in the shade of a tree to hear stories. Story telling remains among the most effective, though frequently overlooked, modes of instruction. Distinct from lecture, storytelling is the art of weaving narratives that integrate course concepts with historical events. One of my courses always begins with a story illustrating the geology behind the Oracle of Delphi. We finish the semester with a retelling of western history from the perspective of climate change and a cautionary tale from Easter Island showing what can happen when a society underestimates its environmental impact. 

 

Teaching Evaluations

 

Courses Taught

  • Earth and Its Environments
  • Dinosaur Evolution, Ecology & Extinction
  • Introduction to Geology
  • Introduction to Earth History

and in past semesters:

  • Earth History
  • Oceanography
  • Geology & Cinema
  • Geochronology


Selected Publications

  • Rapp, David N.; Culpepper, Steven A.; Kirkby, Kent; and Morin, Paul, Fostering Students’ Comprehension of Topographic Maps, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 55, n. 5, 2007

 

Recent Research Support

  • 2008 - 2011, NSF-CCLI, Transforming Museums & Colleges into an Effective Earth Science Partnership
  • 2003 - 2008, Dept. of Education - FIPSE, Transforming Undergraduate Earth Science: The Social Significance of Earth Processes

 

Recent Honors and Awards

  • 2010, Horace T. Morse-Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education