Solving geological mysteries | Appalachian Today


Dr. Steven J. Hageman is a two-time Fulbright award recipient who researches patterns and processes of evolution, including the interaction of colonial growth habits and their environments.

He is also an award-winning teacher, former editor of the Journal of Paleontology and an elected Fellow of The Geological Society of America (GSA) — one of the highest honors in the profession based on a sustained record of distinguished contributions in research, teaching, administration of geological programs and other contributions.

Recognizing his research and professional acclaim, the Fulbright Program selected Hageman for study of new research methods in evolutionary biology and paleobiology at Croatia’s Center for Marine Research, and the effects of global warming on marine organisms in the polar Arctic through the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

“It is always a goal of mine to have my students become comfortable with the process of problem solving when faced with the unknown. … after graduation, they are going to need to know the process of getting to the right answer more than just having memorized a fact.”

Dr. Steven J. Hageman, App State professor of geology

About Dr. Steven J. Hageman

Career history

  • Faculty member at App State since 1998.
  • Research associate at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

Campus service

Awards and honors

  • Two-time Fulbright Research Fellow, 2006 and 2018.
  • Fellow in The Geological Society of America.
  • Former editor of the Journal of Paleontology.
  • UNC Board of Governors’ Appalachian State University College Teaching Award, 2009.
  • Strickland Award, outstanding junior faculty member, College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Distinguished lecturer for The Paleontological Society, 2000–02.
What excites you about the field of geology?

The study of the Earth is inherently interdisciplinary. I greatly enjoy that problem solving in geology requires knowledge and application from all fields of science. I really like the challenge of being confronted with the unknown and then working to provide an explanation. There is still so much that is unknown in geology. The mystery still engages me when I hold a 540-million-year-old fossil and imagine it alive, in its ancient environment interacting with other organisms, all long extinct, having spent that vast amount of time inside a rock, waiting to be a data point for analysis in my research question.

Why did you choose to come to App State to teach?

Our program is special, if not unique in our field, because we have a large faculty of highly successful scientists who dedicate all of their time to teaching and mentoring research with undergraduate students. We make a critical investment in our undergraduates. This is a career decision that I, and most of my colleagues, have made consciously — we enjoy focusing on providing the best opportunities for our students.

What is your research specialty and how does it fit into and/or strengthen your teaching?

I am an invertebrate paleontologist. I am interested in questions of patterns and processes of evolution at the species level. Specifically, I am interested in how genetic and environmental influences produce the size and shape of an organism’s skeletons, which can then be preserved as fossils.

I study modern organisms at marine research stations, in museum collections and those that I have collected from the field. I have had two Fulbright Research Fellowships to support this work, one to a marine lab on the Adriatic coast in Croatia and one to an oceanographic institute on the Baltic Sea in Poland. The interchanges between me, a paleontologist, and the marine biologists at these facilities were rewarding and productive for everyone. When possible, I bring specific examples of this cross-disciplinary research into classrooms at Appalachian.

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Dr. Steven J. Hageman,…

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