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EES faculty, students present at Geological Society of America meeting

Published on April 04, 2023

EES faculty, students present at Geological Society of America meeting

Reston, VA
The Eastern group visited Great Falls of the Potomac River while traveling for the GSA conference. 

Four Eastern Connecticut State University students and three faculty members from the Environmental Earth Science Department recently attended the Geological Society of America (GSA) Conference in Reston, VA.

Professors of Environmental Earth Science Bryan Oakley, James (Drew) Hyatt and Peter Drzewiecki accompanied students Jonathan Lepire, Cameron Soulagnet, Emma Bean and Olivia Gentile to present and participate in the conference, which combined the Northeast and Southeast sections of the GSA.

To present at the conference, students and faculty were asked to submit abstracts explaining their research. Once accepted, posters and presentations were prepared to be shown to academic peers. Students Lepire and Soulagnet both presented research developed in their independent studies, while Bean and Gentile attended to become familiar with the academic conference experience. This was the first professional conference for all four students.

Professors Brian Oakley, Drew Hyatt and Peter Drzewiecki of environmental earth science accompanied students Jonathan Lepire, Cameron Soulagnet, Emma Bean and Olivia Gentile attended the trip.

One of several presentations by Eastern students at the GSA Conference

Lepire, who presented his research, “Evolution of a dynamic backbarrier coastal lagoon,” found the experience to be very impactful. “I was given the chance to talk to professionals who work in the field of geology and gain additional insight on what they thought of my project. This allowed me to reflect on my project and has given me new ideas on what to explore going forward in the project going into my senior year.” He also found the presentations and talks given by others at the conference, “gave me knowledge and opened my eyes to other topics within my major that I had never considered before.”

Soulagnet’s research, “Persistence of sorted bedform migration on the Napatree Point,” was only made stronger by the conference, he said. “Presenting my work was a great educational impact of the trip because it not only reinforced my knowledge of my own project, but it helped me learn about what work other researchers are doing when they asked me about my poster. I gained a lot of knowledge of sorted bedforms, which was the focus of my study, from others who were involved in similar research projects as mine.”

The GSA Conference was the first professional academic conference for all Eastern students who attended.

Like Lepire, Soulagnet found presenting at the conference was a positive experience. “Normally I do not like presenting assignments in front of the class, but at GSA when I presented my poster it just felt like a conversation, and I wasn't nervous at all. I thoroughly enjoyed explaining my work to others and hearing their experiences as well, and hopefully this is something I can transfer to presenting assignments for classes.”

Both research projects were supported by Oakley, who submitted research of his own along with colleagues Hyatt and Drzewiecki. Oakley’s research, titled, “Benthic geologic habitat characterization and mapping of four subsections of Acadia National Park,” was presented to peers and students alike. Hyatt presented his research titled, “Dinosauars to coastlines to class: Transitioning SFM point cloud research to an undergraduate geoscience class.” Drzewiecki presented two projects, the first titled “46-4 – Influence of early Jurassic post-extinction microbial communities on the preservation of dinosaur tracks,” and the second, “Testing the role of camp volcanic winters as a main driver of Triassic-Jurassic continental ecosystem change with the proposal Dinodrill project.”

While students Bean and Gentile did not present at this conference, they found the experience to be beneficial, as it prepared them for future professional endeavors. Both students have collaborated with Hyatt on research that will be presented at this year’s CREATE conference at Eastern. “This (the GSA conference) was a good one to go to,” said Hyatt. “It was a joint Northeast and Southeast meeting, so it was larger than normal, with a number of opportunities, meetings and lunches for students attending the conference.” Those interested in the Geological Society of America (GSA) can visit: Geological Society of America (

Written by Molly Boucher