Vertebrate Paleontologist, Jacqueline Richard @camarasaurus145: A Day in the GeoLife Series

St. Elias National Park

Hiking at Wrangell St Elias National park to explore glacial geology ©2018 Jacqueline Richard

NAME: Jacqueline Richard

CURRENT TITLE: Associate Professor of Geology

AREA OF EXPERTISE: I am a Vertebrate Paleontologist currently working on the K-Pg boundary.

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: I have taught at Delgado Community College for 11 years!

EDUCATION: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and minor in Geology from the University of Kansas, and a Master of Science in Geology from the University of New Orleans.

TWITTER: @camarasaurus145

What’s your job like?

I teach mostly lower-level undergraduate courses, which is truly enjoyable. I get to introduce most students to their first exposure to Geology. Living in southeastern Louisiana, there are no hard rocks here at all, so this is truly most student’s first glimpse into the Earth! I typically teach ten to twelve courses a semester, most being lecture courses. I also teach the labs associated with the lecture courses, and those are quite fun as well. Aside from teaching, I try to stay active within the college by being on committees and mentoring honors students. I also set aside two to three hours a day to meet with students, which is one of the most important aspects of my job. If I can help one struggling student, then I’ve done my job properly! We also work with connecting students with the community. We are currently in the beginning phases of working with the city of New Orleans to take students out and teach the basics of water quality testing and core sampling.


Jacqueline Richard with a Supersaurus vertebrae. ©2018 Jacqueline Richard

What’s a typical day like?

Typically, I arrive at my office and sit for an hour meeting with students and answering emails. I typically have between 200-300 students every semester and teach quite a few online courses, so answering my student’s questions in a timely manner is quite imperative. After my office hours, I generally teach several sections of physical geology and a section of historical geology. I generally have two to three lecture courses back to back. While in class, I use lots of visuals and pass around as many hand samples as possible. We do lots of in-class exercises, and playing with google earth is a must. As I mentioned before, living in southeastern Louisiana, we do not have rocks to look at, so we take lots of virtual trips so students can make the connection between what we are teaching in class and what it looks like in real life!

After class is done, I generally hold another two hours of office hours for students to come by with questions. I also use this time to do as much science communication (#scicomm) as possible. Most of my students are on Facebook, so I try to post as many good tidbits that I can during the day. Whether it is study material, things going on in real time, or interesting research. I feel that it is incredibly important for my students to have the connection from their coursework to the real world. If students don’t see the applicability of what they are studying, then it holds no meaning to them. Then around 3 pm, I get to leave work and go home to my two boys, and work in as much personal research time as I can get in! I am currently looking at the microfossils from layers right after the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. I recently completed measuring 3,000+ fossils, so now we are interpreting the statistics. Super fun stuff!!

vertebrate paleontologist

My family standing at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary in North Dakota. ©2018 Jacqueline Richard

What’s fun?

To me, the most fun part is watching, what I call, a light bulb moment. When I can visibly see a student understand! As I tell my students, Geology is basically Earth CSI. There are clues everywhere, you just have to learn how to interpret them! When I see a student really grasp that idea and run with it, that is the most fun to me. I understand that many of my students may not be geology majors in the end, but I love watching them learn how to appreciate the true complexity of our planet!

Glacier National Park

Checking out glacial geology in Glacier National Park ©2018 Jacqueline Richard

What’s challenging?

The most challenging part of my job is to get students to break the stereotype that “science is hard.” Once I can get students to break down that wall of thinking, they realize that science isn’t hard and can be understood! Finding ways to break that barrier is challenging, but I tend to find that making science relatable and fun truly helps!

What’s your advice to students?

The one thing that was told to me, many years ago as a student myself, I love to pass on to my students. It is so simple, but can really change the way you study and learn. There is a big difference between learning and memorizing. Be sure you are learning!


Stromatolites in Glacier National Park ©2018 Jacqueline Richard

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