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Claire Todd: Professor’s world rocked by rocks

March 18, 2013

“PLU’s location close to Mt. Rainier is a huge resource for me and for students. For me, as a glacial geologist and as a professor, it’s really an easy place for me to go and convince students how geology affects our everyday lives, how natural resources are involved in our everyday lives and how the natural systems are inevitably going to be part of our backdrop as we move through our day-to-day lives,” said Claire Todd, assistant professor of geosciences.

Claire Todd: Professor’s world rocked by rocks

By Katie Scaff ’13

From Antarctica to Washington’s Mount Rainier, Assistant Professor of Geosciences and Environmental Sciences Claire Todd has studied glaciers big and small, far and wide.

The Atlanta-native never truly experienced snow until studying at Pomona College, outside of Los Angeles, where she received her undergraduate degree in geology. From there, she traveled to New York to earn a master’s degree in earth resources engineering, before returning to the West Coast to earn her Ph.D. in geology from the University of Washington. In Seattle, she joined a team of UW researchers studying glaciers in Antarctica.

“That first experience in Antarctica showed me the real power of glaciers, how important they are as geologic forces,” Todd recalled.

Contact Claire
Claire Todd
Talk to faculty

Find out more about the study of glaciers and geosciences by contacting Claire Todd at 253-536-5163 or by email at

After coming to PLU as a part-time professor in Fall 2006, Todd now shares her passion for glaciers and rocks with her students.

She takes advantage of PLU’s location, bringing students’ learning outside the classroom to places like Mount Rainier, where she takes her students snowshoeing in winter months and studying melt water through research projects over the summer.

“During the summer months my students and I are clambering all over the mountain, collecting melt water samples and trying to learn more about glacial processes by analyzing glacial melt water, by mapping the sediments in front of the glaciers,” Todd said. “That is one of my favorite aspects of my job, being able to spend summer with my students on Mount Rainier.”

In addition to Mount Rainier, Todd has also brought two students in recent years to Antarctica to study how glaciers have changed over time.

Areas of expertise
  • Glacial geology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Glaciology
  • Ph.D. in geology, University of Washington – 2007
  • M.S. in environmental engineering, Columbia University – 2002
  • B.A. in geology, Claremont McKenna College – 2000

“There’s really, as you can imagine, nothing that can substitute for seeing continent-sized glaciers and mountains,” Todd said. “We spent a month living out of a tent and researching the glacial deposits. We climbed up the mountains around our camp and collected rock samples and we’re in the process of analyzing those rocks samples and using them to tell us how big the glaciers were in the past, when they were that big, and all of that kind of gives us a view of how glaciers have changed in time.”