Early Career Spotlight

Will Odom

Tell us about yourself

I’m Will, a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University working with Professor Darryl Granger. I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I conducted research on the geomorphology of the Appalachian Mountains while working in a U-Pb geochronology lab. My current research combines my interests in geochronology and geomorphology to examine the Cenozoic history of the Appalachians.

What is your research about?

I use cosmogenic nuclide and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology to date terraces, alluvial fans, and manganese oxides in the Shenandoah and Tennessee River basins. The ages of these deposits provide insight into how factors such as climate, drainage reorganization, and tectonics influence landscape evolution.

What excites you about your research?

The evolution of post-orogenic mountain ranges, particularly the Appalachians, has been debated and modeled for decades. I feel fortunate to study this topic at a time when it is possible to use geochronological tools like 40Ar/39Ar and 26Al/10Be burial dating to quantitatively test these longstanding models and form new hypotheses about how this landscape has changed over tens of millions of years.

What broader importance does your research have for society?

My research provides unique insight into how rivers – and consequently, entire watersheds – erode in response to shifts in climate and sea level. This has broader implications for considering landscape response to ongoing shifts, particularly in landscapes prone to landslides and other geohazards.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Earth science?

I became interested in an earth science career as an undergraduate. The prospect of a career where I could combine my passions for science and nature was irresistible, and I haven’t looked back. My experiences in research have only strengthened my resolve to be a professional earth scientist.

What are you looking to do after you complete your PhD?

After I earn my Ph.D., I am interested in continuing research as a postdoc at the USGS or a university. Upon finishing a postdoc, I would like to work somewhere that I can work on complex geologic questions and continue learning about how Earth works.

Given unlimited funding and access to resources, what is your dream project that you would pursue?

Given unlimited funding and resources, I would like to collect sediments from terraces of major rivers and their corresponding deltas around the world. I would then date their burial and conduct provenance studies to see how drainages have evolved through time, and how those changes have corresponded to regional climatic and tectonic histories.

What else do you do?  Any hobbies or interests outside of work?

Outside of the lab, I enjoy running, biking, or hiking if there are any mountains in sight. On rainy days, I can usually be found cooking, having conversations with my cat, or working on computers.

If you know of an early career EPSP researcher (PhD student or Postdoc) who deserves to have a spotlight on them, please contact Austin Chadwick (achadwick@caltech.edu).



Sampling a terrace of the Shenandoah River near Timberville, VA.