Environmental Science with Professor David Schmidt

Professor David Schmidt, PhD, says he feels like the luckiest person in the world, thanks to a career that allows him to pursue his passions of paleontology, geology, and teaching. Schmidt joined the Westminster faculty in the fall of 2014, adding to the College’s environmental studies offering for students. See below for a list of research projects Schmidt has undertaken with students.

“Environmental science is a growing field as we have become faced with more environmental issues on a daily basis,” Schmidt says. “Humans have had a profound impact on the world, and we have to deal with the consequences.”

He points out that the environmental science is not just about “hard rocks.”

“There’s been a shift over the past 10 to 15 years,” he says, pointing out that students have made the field a more environmentally conscious program of study.

Schmidt points out a wide variety of careers available for those interested in environmental science, from working with the Environmental Protection Agency to local jobs with the Department of Natural Resources. Private firms also hire environmental science majors for environmental assessment and remediation.

Schmidt holds a PhD in Geology from Texas Tech University, plus a M.S. in Geology from Fort Hays State University and a B.S. in Geology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Before joining Westminster College, Schmidt taught at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, TX.

He focused his graduate work on paleo-climate studies. His greatest interests in the field lie in environmental geology and paleontology. The release of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth┬ácoincided with this paleo-climate studies in the early 2000s.

“The perception is that these processes (that impact the earth and climate) take thousands of years,” Schmidt says. “But a lot takes place more quickly, especially if something (human impact) facilitates it.”

Raised in a family with a long line of teachers, including his father, Schmidt is originally from Leavenworth, KS. He was teaching in west Texas when he had the opportunity with his wife to move to Missouri and join Westminster.

“I love this area,” Schmidt says. “It offers a lot in terms of geology.”

Among his favorite Missouri spots: Johnson Shut-Ins and Taum Sauk.

“They have a very unique geologic history and incredible aesthetic quality,” he says. “I really enjoy sharing them with students.”

Westminster Physical Geology Class Schmidt

Schmidt’s Physical Geology class visited the St. Francois Mountains in the fall 2013 semester. Here, they stand atop Hughes Mountain at the Hughes Mountain Natural Area.

List of Schmidt’s current, ongoing undergraduate research with students:

  • Sedimentological investigation of fluvial fossil-bearing unit within Blackwater Draw Formation.
  • Invertebrate faunal abundances of laterally sampled Pleistocene fossil-bearing fluvial deposits within Blackwater Draw Formation.
  • Modern and fossil gastropod isotopic geochemical and XRD compositions and their relationship to shell precipitation and climate (designed for class project).
  • Taxonomic description of titanotherium fossils collected from Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota (Author: Hunter Green).
  • Identification of oreodont skull, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota (Garrett Williamson).
  • Taxonomic description and paleoecology of fossil tortoise from Indian Creek, South Dakota (Author: Meredith Bolen).
  • Sedimentary and diatom analysis of Stinson Creek, central Missouri (Author: Heather Martin).
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