Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall
Earth Sciences
207-801-5735 | | faculty website
Sarah joined the faculty of COA in the Fall of 2012 and teaches courses in the Earth Sciences. Most recently Sarah was an Assistant Professor at McGill University in Montreal following her graduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz and undergraduate degree at Hamilton College. She grew up in upstate NY and after college spent a few years in Atlanta, GA working as a Geologist at an environmental consulting firm and as an ECOWATCH AmeriCorps team member.

Sarah is trained as a geomorphologist studying the processes shaping the surface of the earth. However, her research interests are quite broad including mountain building, past glaciations, active faulting, and the erosion of landscapes. One of Sarah’s current research projects involves completing a chronology of past glaciations in a portion of the Peruvian Andes. She is excited to begin new projects on MDI including a high-resolution geologic and geomorphic survey of the various COA properties.

Her courses include topics such as natural resources, climate, geologic principles, the intersection of Geology and Humanity, as well as place-based studies of MDI and the Andes. Through field-based courses, COA students will participate in mapping diverse parts of the island and Acadia National Park.

B.A. Geology, Hamilton College, 2001
Ph.D. Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2009

Courses Taught

ES3044Climate and Weather

This class will explore general weather and climate patterns on global, regional, and local scales.  We will discuss the major forcings driving global climate fluctuations - on both long (millions of years) and short (days) timescales, including natural and anthropogenic processes. We will also learn about basic meteorology and the processes producing some common spectacular optical weather phenomena (rainbows, coronas, cloud-types, etc). Students will complete a term project comprising a photo-documentary journal of the different weather phenomena they observe during the 10-week term. The field component of this course will be self-guided through the observation and documentation of weather phenomena.  Who should take this course: No prior geology/science experience is needed - but expect to do a bit of basic math in this course! The course level is intermediate because it will not cover foundational principles of geology (or other sciences) but instead the course will be integrative and require students to practice both their quantitative and qualitative skills. Take this course if you are passionate or curious about climate change, but do not know much about the science of climate and weather!
Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 16  Lab fee:  $10  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1046Critical Zone I

This course will cover the foundational concepts in Geology and Earth System Science such as plate tectonics, rock and mineral classification, weathering and erosion, climate, and cycles: water, carbon, nitrogen. Further, students will learn to use many “tools of the trade” including using a Brunton compass, geologic mapping (field and GIS), describing and identifying rocks through outcrop, hand-sample, and thin-section analysis, and describing soils. The course will have lab and lecture components, but will also include field study at various sites within the Northeast Creek watershed including the Peggy Rockefeller Farm and The Protectorate. Students will be evaluated based on weekly or bi-weekly problem sets, quizzes, and a field project. The students will also prepare a field-based project proposal.  They will work on this project proposal throughout the term with multiple opportunities for peer review and revision.

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 16.  Lab fee: $65.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3058Critical Zone II

This class will build upon the foundational concepts in Geology and Earth System Science covered in Critical Zone I: plate tectonics, rock and mineral classification, weathering and erosion, climate, and cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen). Students will use the field tools and methods learned in Critical Zone I, including geologic mapping (field and GIS), navigation, and rock/soil identification to complete a term-long field study of the Northeast Creek Watershed. The course will be mainly field-based with weekly field trips, but will also have supplemental lab and lecture components. Students will work in pairs to complete a term-long study of a specific site within the watershed as proposed during Critical Zone I. Students will be evaluated based on weekly assignments, quizzes, presentations, and a term-long field project. The field project will culminate in a written report. They will work on their project report throughout the term with opportunities for peer review and revision.

Class level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Critical Zone I or equivalent coursework that is approved by instructor prior to preregistration. Class limit: 16. Lab fee: $70. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1042Geology and Humanity

In this course we will explore how geology has played a major role in human history and culture over multiple temporal and spatial scales. We will explore the underlying geological processes forming and influencing our environment and how this relates to human migration and settlement patterns, political boundaries, geohazards, resources, the modern landscape, and agriculture. This course will appeal to students interested in exploring connections between geology and other subject areas, or who are curious about humanity's place in geologic time.  This course will implement readings from a range of sources: geologic textbooks, excerpts from short historical texts, and scientific journal articles. We will use class time in a variety of ways: lecture-based, seminar-style discussion, and laboratories spent visiting local field sites.  Students will be evaluated based on their performance on weekly problem sets or writing assignments, a midterm quiz, as well as a term project with both oral and written presentation components.

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 20.  Lab fee: $15. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1038Geology of Mt. Desert Island

This course is designed to introduce students to geological concepts, tools of the trade, and to the geological history of Mount Desert Island. Throughout the course, students will learn skillsets (topographic and geologic map reading, orienteering, field observation, note taking, field measurements) and geologic principles (rock types, stratigraphy, plate tectonics, earth systems, geologic time, surface processes) both in the classroom and in the field. We will conduct multiple short field excursions on MDI and one extended weekend field trip to explore the regional geology. Students will submit a term project complete with their own field data, maps, photos, and analysis of the local and regional geology. Students will be evaluated on the term project, short quizzes, additional written assignments and lab reports. Offered every fall.

Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 15.  Lab Fee: $100.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

HE1010Human Ecology Core Course

Human Ecology is the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between humans and their natural and cultural environments.  The purpose of this course is to build a community of learners that explores the question of human ecology from the perspectives of the arts, humanities and sciences, both in and outside the classroom.  By the end of the course students should be familiar with how differently these three broad areas ask questions, pose solutions, and become inextricably intertwined when theoretical ideas are put into practice.  In the end, we want students to be better prepared to create your own human ecology degree through a more in depth exploration of the courses offered at College of the Atlantic.  We will approach this central goal through a series of directed readings and activities.

Level:  Introductory.  Lab fee: $25.  Meets the following degree requirements: HE

ES1040Natural Resources

This course will focus on various types of natural resources we have on Earth including water, soil, rock and mineral, and various energy resources (fossil fuels, alternatives). Students will learn fundamental geologic principles through a discussion of the processes forming and influencing these resources. We will explore how each type is extracted/refined/exploited/conserved for human use. We will also discuss the many environmental issues associated with each industry. Finally, we will look at the local industries built on the many natural resources available in our region of Maine. This course will appeal to students interested in geologic processes and how they relate to our resource needs. This course will also provide scientific grounding in the relevant geology for students whose primary interests are in the policy or politics of resources.  Class time will be spent as lectures, discussions, labs or demonstration, and occasionally visiting a local field site. Students will be evaluated based on weekly labs and/or problem sets, a field trip report, and a final report.

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 16.  Lab fee: $40. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3063Seminar in Climate Change

In this seminar-style class, students will learn about climate change over multiple timescales. We will discuss the major forcings driving global climate fluctuations - on both long (millions of years) and short (days) timescales, both natural and anthropogenic in nature. Students will learn about the main  paleoclimate methodologies being used today to quantify and understand past climates over tens to millions of years. We will also discuss current modeling efforts to predict future climate scenarios. This course will use primary scientific literature to broadly explore some of the major topics related to climate change including: paleoclimate methods, modeling, feedbacks, atmosphere-ocean interaction, and predicted environmental changes. We will discuss some of the broader impacts of climate change (stresses on resources, water, food, economies, land-use, etc.) according to student interest and expertise. Beyond discussions in class, students will be required to attend lectures by a few visiting experts in the field. Students will take turn leading discussions on specific topics at least twice during the term. Assessment will be based on written responses to readings and a final project and presentation.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 16.  Lab fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES5024South American Earth Systems

This course will explore a number of Earth Systems shaping a portion of the longest mountain belt on the planet. We will discuss processes forming the Andes Mountains on timescales spanning millions of years to tens of years! Some of these processes include plate tectonics, erosion (glacial, wind, river), active faulting, regional climate patterns (ENSO, glacial cycles), land use (agriculture, water and mining), and geohazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides!) This course will involve multiple case studies focused in the Cordillera Blanca region of northern Peru. Students will read primary scientific literature and become "experts" in some area that fascinates them. The course capstone (although not required to take the course) will be a ~14 day field trip to the Cordillera Blanca of Peru where the students will have a chance to see and explore the environments they studied so intensely during the term. The program fee of $1340 for students wishing to participate in the trip covers all in-country costs (plane ticket not included). Who should take this course: You must have taken at least one of the other geology courses (or equivalent) to take this course. In this course we will attempt to synthesize various Earth System datasets focused on a specific location. The field component of this course is an opportunity to 1) practice basic geology field tools, 2) experience world-class geological and ecological field sites, and 3) enjoy a cultural experience (practice your Spanish!). The field trip will not be a vacation - it will be physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding!

Level: Advanced.  Prerequisites: at least one of the other geology courses (or equivalent).  Class limit: 10.  Lab fee:  $1340 for students wishing to participate in the trip to Peru.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES597Tutorial: Mineralogy and Petrology

In this advanced level tutorial students will learn to identify ~50 common minerals in hand sample, and ~10 common minerals in thin section. Building on the ability to identify minerals, students will learn to properly classify igneous and metamorphic rocks based on the type and abundance of different minerals. The tutorial will follow weekly readings from a Mineralogy textbook and students will complete a rock/mineral lab each week for the first 8 weeks. During week 9-10, each student will present a petrological study of a specific area in the world (different geologically than MDI). Through weekly in-class labs and field trips, students will work together on a term-long project to classify the rocks and minerals of MDI and to build a more complete COA rock teaching collection.  Students will be evaluated on their performance on weekly problem sets, quizzes, and their petrological study presentation. 

Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: One introductory geology course (Natural Resources, Geology and Humanity, Geology of MDI or equivalent).  Class limit: 4.  Lab fee: none