Geology alumna researches landslides after natural disasters

Kelli Baxstrom ’16

As a geologist for the United States Geological Survey, Kelli Baxstrom ’16 put much of the expertise learned from her time at The College of Wooster into practice. “Wooster prides itself on instilling communication, critical analysis, and project management skills into its students,” the geology and religious studies double major said. “I have had to use all of those for every job I have had since graduation.” After interning for a year at Indiana Dunes National Park, Baxstrom got her master’s in geological sciences from Ohio University. She then returned to another national park, Mammoth Cave, before starting her current career in the Landslide Hazards Program at the USGS. “Working for the program means I have to communicate my research effectively and keep up to date with and analyze other experts’ findings to incorporate the relevant material into my own work while also managing my own separate projects.”

What do you enjoy most about the work you’re doing?

“There is so much to learn and be a part of! For the last year, I have solely focused on mapping and characterizing landslides in Puerto Rico triggered by Hurricane Maria in 2017, but I’m encouraged to do more. Starting this summer, I will be a part of a team that studies debris flows that happen after wildfires, and I’ve been approved to devote some of my time to scientific communication in our emergency management division. I am constantly learning and exploring the far reaches of my field.”

Was there a certain organization you were involved in at Wooster that stands out?

“The one that I think really changed my life was WOODS, the student-run outdoors club. My first year, a friend convinced me to go on the annual spring break trip. She was the only person I knew, and I had never been camping for more than one night my entire life, so I was more than a little intimidated, but I ended up making more than twenty friends, camped for 12 days straight, and came back with my life changed. Camping as well as rock climbing and hiking are now not only favorite hobbies of mine, but they have also impacted my professional life. They were skills that helped me while I was working for the National Park Service, getting my master’s, and working in the field for the USGS.”

Do you have any advice for Wooster students based on your own experiences?

“Join a club you have no experience in or have no idea what it is about. You’ll learn that you can accomplish difficult things outside of the classroom, so get out of your bubble and gain that new perspective — it might send you on a wonderful adventure.”

Posted in Alumni on March 19, 2021.

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