Rock Doctor Brings His Students to the Woods for Field Experience

FLUSHIN, NY, October 18, 2013 — In the deep woods of downeast Maine, enduring fierce heat and swarms of insects, seven geology students pored over the folds, the faults, the bedrock outcrops. Guiding their weeklong field trip in July was their Queens College professor, Allan Ludman (Earth & Environmental Sciences). Residents of Topsfield (population 200) call him “the rock doctor” because he has been studying this terrain for 38 years. “People will go a mile here to help you,” observes Ludman, who is responsible for mapping about 3,000 square miles of this part of Maine.

Using jeweler’s loops, compasses, and geologist’s hammers, the six majors and one graduate student pieced together “a complex geologic history,” Ludman says. On one day, they hiked in a state park as far east as you can go in the United States: West Quoddy Head, with its lighthouse and spectacular ocean views.

At their camp, there was no WiFi and only spotty cell service. At night the students played board games, bonded over their fascination with the natural world, and viewed “The Walking Dead” on DVDs. “They had never been in such a rural environment,” Ludman says. “It was as much a cultural experience as a geological one.” He played sous-chef to his wife, Elaine, to cook them dinners. “No air conditioning in the 93-degree weather,” he recalls, “but we did have ‘lake conditioning.’”

The camp borders East Musquash Lake, two-thirds of it preserved from development in a Land Trust conservancy. The Ludmans stayed in the rustic cabin they have rented here during 33 years of his research. The owner, Homer Clough, a retired guide, charged only $50 per student, welcomed them into his log home, and showed them a moose horn. Five female students shared a cabin, and the two males the third one.

Graduate student Amanda Bastas-Hernandez ’02, ’12 had begged Ludman to take them to Maine since EES no longer requires a five-week summer field study. “We really got to practice what we had been learning,” to appreciate geologic forms and “not just see them in the textbook or view rock samples under the microscope,” she notes. After earning her first degree in English, Bastas-Hernandez worked for several years before returning to QC to master the math and science she needed to become a geologist. In January she heads further afield: to Bangladesh for her thesis research.

In a hard place as EES chair for three-and-a-half years, Ludman willingly taught geology last spring and now resumes his study of rocks. At QC since 1975, he is on sabbatical this year, researching, mapping, completing a lab manual, and continuing as director of the GLOBE training center he established at QC. In this program spanning 111 countries, K–12 students collect data for global climate researchers. “There’s nothing more rewarding,” says Ludman, “than advancing the science.”

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Contact: Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services