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Applied Learning, Close to Home

Late afternoon sunlight danced across the tree branches and changing leaves as SUNY Potsdam student Anah Bogdan ’24 traversed along the Stone Valley Trail in Colton. Just 10 miles south of Potsdam, the beautiful wilderness setting is a favorite spot among hikers, and the perfect location for Bogdan and her classmates in Geology Field Methods to explore rock formations along the banks of the Raquette River.

“We’re looking at metamorphic rocks—doing strike and dip, and the foliation of the rocks. A lot of our work is looking at and talking about the history of rocks around here,” said Bogdan, a double major in geology and mathematics at SUNY Potsdam.

Every Wednesday, Bogdan and her friends in Field Methods explore different locations throughout Northern New York with Assistant Professor Sara Bier—putting their skills to the test through hands-on fieldwork that forms the backbone of a degree in geology at SUNY Potsdam.

The SUNY Potsdam sophomore is thriving at the College. Named to the President’s List both semesters in her first year, Bogdan was also accepted into the Honors Program, just one of 58 highly motivated incoming students welcomed into the program her freshman year. A year earlier, as a senior at Massena High School, Bogdan was also at the top of her class and graduated as the salutatorian. Already dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, she was looking for the right college experience as she transitioned out of high school, and SUNY Potsdam rose to the top.

From the welcoming faculty, and reasonable tuition costs, she chose SUNY Potsdam over Clarkson University, her other top choice locally.

“I didn’t want the debt. SUNY Potsdam is close to home, and I went and sat in on some math classes, and I really liked the professors that I met, so I said, ‘You know what, I feel like this is for me.’”

-Anah Bogdan ’24

Living at home and commuting the short distance from Massena, has allowed her to save money and remain close to her family. Her classes have been the highlight of the experience so far. “I come home and tell my parents everything that I’ve learned. I really like talking about my amazing professors, and everything that I get to learn and do during the day at Potsdam,” she said.

First enrolled at SUNY Potsdam as a mathematics major, she saw the value of combining that with a degree in geology. With her foundation in math, she brings a different level of analysis to her geology classes. “It helps to be mathematically thinking. We’re looking at how structures work, it’s a lot of mapping, and trying to figure out where you are,” she said. “I just love math, working with equations, and solving them.”

She was recently asked to join a research team to examine rock formations in Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park with Dr. Page Quinton and Dr. Mike Rygel. Leading up to that trip, Bogdan will be working as a field assistant in Montana to measure and describe 300 million-year-old rocks, learning valuable field skills that she will parlay into her research project in Texas. “The work Anah will be completing is part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation to study the connection between sea level and the cycling of carbon on the Earth,” said Quinton. “These results can help geologists understand how carbon dioxide levels change through Earth's history and how those changes influenced our climate.”

Last summer, Bogdan also gained valuable public speaking skills working for the St. Lawrence Seaway as a tour guide for the Eisenhower Lock in Massena. Standing with visitors overlooking the ships passing through the lock, she provided visitors with unique facts about the route of the ships, and the lock that offers safe passage. “There used to be rapids in the St. Lawrence River, so they built the lock so the ships could navigate and go through the area. The lock itself is 860 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 100 feet from top to bottom, and the water rises or lowers 42 feet in about 7 minutes, with 22 million gallons of water released whenever a ship comes,” she explained, thinking back to her training. “The coolest part of the job is that I get to meet people from all over the country.”

Still just in her second year of college, Bogdan is laying a strong foundation for a successful career. She hopes to align her hands-on experiences, and education in math and geology, to be a change-maker for the environment. “I’ve always been interested in how the weather works, and natural disasters. Climate change is a huge issue,” she said. “I want to do something where I’m out in the field, but also still doing research, something with climate change, and the environment.”

To learn more about the Department of Geology, visit:
To learn more about the Department of Mathematics, visit:

Article and photos by Jason Hunter