Dinosaurs. Natural disasters. The Eagle Crater outcrop on Mars. Been there; done that.
So says Christine Witkowski, who cites these as just a few of the “normal” parts of her exciting and varied environmental past – a journey which has led her to her current role as assistant professor and Environmental Science program coordinator at MxCC.
Before joining MxCC in August 2010, she did indeed work with dinosaurs at the Dinosaur State Park and Museum in Rocky Hill, Conn. As the on-staff park naturalist, Christine developed and conducted educational programs on Connecticut geology, palaeontology, evolution and botany. During this time she co-wrote “Window into the Jurassic World: Reconstructing ancient environments with fossils, tracks and traces at Dinosaur State Park” for the Geological Society of Connecticut Field Trip Guidebook (2010).
And before the dinosaurs, she developed and taught compelling courses on natural disasters (and other earth science classes) at Eastern Connecticut State University, the “other” Middlesex Community College (in Bedford, Mass.), and at Manchester Community College. In fact, the new natural disasters science course she created for Manchester helped generate renewed excitement in the overall study of earth sciences – with enrolment increasing dramatically in those programs.
And before the natural disasters, Christine was indeed researching the structural mapping of the Eagle Crater outcrop on Mars. She co-wrote a virtual paper on the subject (with the intriguing title of “New Challenges for the Extraterrestrial Field Geologist”) for the Journal of the Virtual Explorer in 2004.
In between these exciting adventures, Christine found herself in Western Ireland assisting students in daily outdoor field mapping exercises, use of GPS, data analysis, and creation of geologic maps using ArcInfo; and in Sweden conducting field work on nappe emplacement. She also served as a graduate teaching fellow at Boston University’s Department of Earth Sciences, and as graduate teaching assistant at the UCONN Department of Geology and Geophysics.
At MxCC, she has been given the robust task of more fully developing the entire environmental science associate’s degree program so it better meets the demands of this popular career field.
Christine believes the best environmental programs include time outside in the environment. Many of the assignments include opportunities for students to gain hands-on field experience by testing and monitoring the environment, water sources, and other resources. The outdoors time is balanced with meaningful use of education technology in the classroom, including tools such as “clicker” technology to enhance student learning on campus, and Blackboard Academic Suite to rev up her online courses.
Christine has attended and participated in countless geological, environmental, and teaching conferences and events hosted by groups including the Geological Society of America and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. She is actively involved in these groups as well as in the Geological Society of Connecticut, the Association of Women Geoscientists, and the Connecticut Science Olympiad at UCONN.
She enjoys leading geology walks and hikes for the public and with local community groups, including the Manchester Historical Society and Lebanon Rails-to-Trails Committee.
Christine earned her master’s degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Connecticut and her bachelor’s of science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut. She is working on her dissertation for her doctorate degree in Earth Sciences from Boston University. She was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Fellow from Boston University, as well as both the Dean’s Fellowship and Denton Fellowship from the Department of Earth Sciences at BU. She also was named Outstanding Woman Scholar while at UCONN.