Geological Science and Engineering

Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Alumni Spotlight: Ellen (Edwards) Herron

BSc '64, MSc, PhD

Summer 2014, visiting the plate boundary between America and Europe in Iceland as part of a cruise to Greenland.

Growing up in Toronto, Ontario, Ellen became hooked on Geology when she and her brother became members of the Junior Geology Club at the Royal Ontario Museum. Following in the footsteps of her father (H.J. (Shine) Edwards, Science ’24), Ellen came to Queen’s University as an undergraduate to further pursue her passion for Geology. She describes her most memorable experience at Queen’s as “Surveying with plane table and pace and compass the Holleford meteorite crater site just north of Kingston. John Woodside and Edward Sawford were my partners in this field work class under Al Gorman in 1963. I still have a copy of my report.”

After completing her undergraduate degree in Geology and Physics at Queen’s in 1964, Ellen became associated with the Lamont Geological Observatory of Columbia University, now called Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The move was a result of there being no opportunities for women in the field in Canada at the time. Starting as a graduate student and continuing as a research scientist, Ellen became one of the first women sent to sea and the first to serve as chief scientist on a Columbia research vessel. She describes her experience at Lamont as one of the highlights of her career, saying “Being part of the ‘revolution’ in mapping sea-floor spreading in the 1960's and 70's that is a key part of plate tectonics…was a very exciting time to be doing science.  Do students today ever wonder what ideas were proposed to explain mountain building when the physicists insisted that the earth was rigid and fixed?

Ellen in 1965 working on the coring rig to attach heat flow sensors on a ship called the USNS Eltanin while working in the Pacific Antarctic

Ellen eventually became the Observatory’s Assistant Director. (Robin Bell, Senior Research Scientist for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory wrote an article about the early women at Lamont, which features some of Ellen’s accomplishments at the Observatory).

Leaving Columbia University in 1981, Ellen and her husband Tom, started work in Research and Development and Geological Exploration for Aramco in London, England and Saudi Arabia.  Her comments on the experience, “I really loved the opportunities to get into the field in Saudi with other geologists and brainstorm about all the features we could observe – geological and archeological”.

In 1987, Ellen took on her next big adventure, moving back to New York where she worked for a local orthopedist and tackled home renovations with her husband.

In 1990, Ellen and Tom moved to Florida, where Ellen worked as a Civil Servant - Data Management for the Comprehensive Nuclear Treaty Monitoring Program at Patrick Air Force Base.

Since “retiring” in 2000 to North Carolina, Ellen has remained active in her local community. She teaches English as a second language, takes French classes, does play reading, line dancing, water aerobics, dog training and is a member of the community building and grounds committee. Her dog has more titles after his name than she does.

Ellen’s advice to younger alumni and current students “Follow your interests, abilities and curiosity, work hard and have fun doing so. Definitely, don’t get so hung up with your own ideas that you can never question your assumptions or conclusions and don’t be afraid to admit that your initial ideas were wrong.”


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