Ashley Dineen; Masters Student
Ashley Dineen studies the biotic response to climate change during the Late Paleozoic Ice Age. She has traveled through-out Argentina for her M.S. field work to examine rocks containing some of the world’s best records of Earth’s previous ice age over 300 million years ago.
For her research, Ashley has succeeded in securing funds from the Geological Society of America, the Wisconsin Geological Society, and the UWM Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Ashley was a Research Excellence University Fellow in 2009, and the Department of Geosciences’ 2009 Outstanding Teaching Assistant of the Year awardee.
In addition to her research and teaching responsibilities as an M.S. student at UWM, Ashley is a research intern in the Geology Department at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Originally from Kiel, WI, Ashley received her Associates degree of Arts and Science at UW-Fond du Lac and her Bachelor of Science at UW-Milwaukee. Ashley’s projected graduate date with an Masters of Science from UWM is August of this year!
- What is your field of study and how would you describe it to a prospective graduate student?
My field of study is paleoecology, which uses fossils as tools to recreate ancient environments. From this, I can track things such as temperature, salinity, climate change, and faunal diversity through time. This field includes elements of biology, sedimentology, and paleontology; all of these help you to understand the morphology and ecology of the organism you’re studying, as well as the sedimentologic processes that deposited it there in the first place.
- What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your graduate degree?
I came to UWM as a junior majoring in Atmospheric Science. I had taken a geology course when I was a freshman and really enjoyed it, so I signed up for GeoSci 102 - Historical Geology (taught by Dr. Margaret Fraiser, now my thesis advisor). Needless to say, I was hooked, and quickly switched majors. I stayed for my graduate degree because the Geosciences Dept offered me an opportunity for research that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else.
- What's been your best experience so far?
Traveling to Argentina for my thesis research. The scenery and landscape in Argentina are beautiful, especially the Andes, and the people were very gracious. I also enjoyed just being able to collect my own data everyday in locations few people have been to. It was immensely rewarding knowing that I was helping to answer a question that the scientific community has not yet solved.
- In graduate School, have you gotten the opportunity to travel as part of your education?
Before graduate school I had never traveled out of the country, but through geology courses and my research I finally got some stamps in my passport. I spent a week in the Bahamas on San Salvador studying the paleontology of fossil reefs in comparison to modern reef biology. I’ve also traveled to western Argentina for my thesis project, and will be headed back this March to finish up some research, this time to Patagonia.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in graduate school?
As cliché as it sounds, probably my drive and determination. I like to set high goals for myself in order to test my limits. I also think that a high level of curiosity is important. You can’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
Break up your thesis into manageable sections, and then schedule when you’ll have each done by. It’s much easier to view it as a couple of smaller tasks than one big project. Also, take every opportunity that you come across to learn something new. You never know when that knowledge will be useful.
- What has been the hardest part about being a graduate student (Is there anything that you've had to "give up" as a graduate student)?
Probably not having summers off. There’s always something that you can be working on for your thesis, so you always have to be willing to put in the effort.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
Right now I’m considering a couple of options, but I’m most interested in a research-based career. I’m considering working as a research paleontologist for one of our national parks, or for the U.S. Geological Survey. I’ve also explored museum curation as a possible profession, specifically curating invertebrate collections.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
The Geosciences Dept is extremely close-knit and friendly. I’ve personally had every faculty member as a professor at some point, so I think I have a pretty good perspective. The department also provides great opportunities to study geology in the field, and not just in a text book.
- What has been your favorite activity while you’ve been in Graduate School in Milwaukee?
Without a doubt, Milwaukee festivals. Milwaukee has a huge variety, most of which are free to attend. My personal favorites are Irish Fest, Bastille Days, Locust Street Festival, Festa Italiana, and of course, Summerfest.
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
For me, it’s the proximity to Lake Michigan and the general diversity of things to do. I also love that it has a bit of something for everyone.