EWU professor rocks at more than just being a teacher in the geology program


(from top to bottom) Professor Davies doing what he loves most, digging in rocks; One of the many hikes Davies likes to go on; Davies with one of his students in the cycling club after a race they participated in | Photos contributed by professor Nigel Davies

By Kristi Lucchetta, Staff Writer

To some students, EWU professor Nigel Davies plays a vital role in the geology department both as a mentor and a teacher.

“He makes geology interesting by his passion of the subject when he lectures. He is also very personable and approachable,” said EWU senior Lourdes Garcia. “All of his teachings have been instrumental while applying them in my directed studies. It is not difficult to see why he is a valuable asset to the geology program.”

EWU senior Drake Martin said he has never had a class directly with Davies but expressed how much energy he brings to lab.

“He has great analogies for different processes that bring the thought of science to normal everyday events,” said Martin. “He is also the go-to guy in the department, he runs the geology 100 labs and runs the Columbia Basin Geological Society.”

Davies has been a professor at EWU for almost five years now, where he immensely enjoys discussing science with his students.

“I enjoy research and the components of geology but I love teaching more,” said Davies. “I was a TA all through graduate school for a variety of courses and ended up teaching. I didn’t know I would enjoy it so much.”

Davies was born in England but grew up in Connecticut and eventually moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, for his undergraduate studies. He finished his graduate program in Bellingham, Washington, where his passion for the environment developed.

“I first became interested in geology when I took an environment sustainability class my freshman year of college,” said Davies. “It was a first year experience class and my advisor was a geologist. What truly got me first interested was during a spring break trip, we went to the Mumbai desert in California where it was a weeklong geology and environmental learning experience through the Death Valley.”

Davies stressed that geology can apply to many outside hobbies, including hiking and backpacking or even camping. He said having an interest in geology allows him to be able to work while also having fun.

Another hobby of his includes cycling. He is currently the advisor of the EWU cycling team which won best sport this last year at EWU. This year he is proud to be taking the team to nationals in Asheville, North Carolina.

“The students on the team are fun to ride with,” said Davies. “We all put a lot of focus on cycling.”

He said he looks forward to taking advantage of the atmosphere in the city of Asheville and hoping to snap some exceptional geological photos, saying he tries to take geology photos wherever he goes.

Davies just finished a 6.8-mile bike race with four stages, timed in the Tour of Walla Walla, which is 190 miles over three days. He admitted that will be the closest he will get to the Le Tour de France bike race.

He spends much of his free time hiking or backpacking through the mountains and trails and enjoys bringing along his fiancé and his fiancés dog, a basenji mix. He has been to many places around the Cheney area and offers advice on some places students should go.

“If you’re looking to get out somewhere close to Cheney I would recommend Bowl and Pitcher Park,” said Davies. “It has really nice exposure to basalt. There is also Sharon and Beacon Hill where you can mountain bike or go on a trail run. A highlight spot is Mica Peak on the Idaho/Washington border.”

Davies encourages students to visit Palouse Falls, saying it is the best place to go during the spring season, and Mt. Spokane once the snow melts. He described both areas as having great views and great experiences.

“The most spectacular location to go hiking is in Wyoming called the Wind River Range,” said Davies. “It is a great place and is devoid of people.”

As a professor of geology, Davies stressed the importance of students being knowledgeable of the environment around them.

“When students leave an [introduction] to geology class, I expect them to have a feel for what geology is,” said Davies. “I expect them to be able to identify rocks and the story that surrounds them. I want students to question what is happening here in Cheney or Washington or even the state of Oregon. They should know the big picture and the hazards the Earth poses in their life with nearby volcanoes, flooding or climate change.”

Davies said he is also excited for the new developments and technological advancements the geology department is integrating here at EWU.

Davies said geology students will have the opportunity to work with a hand-held x-ray fluorescence analyzer that will have the capabilities of determining the element make-up in a mineral with just a simple zap.

Another aspect of the program he is currently working on is a digitation class. He said the class will incorporate a digital platform for a complete submission and return for laboratory materials in order to integrate a value-added technique. The department is trying to integrate educational experiences that the university could not provide on a field trip and instead bring it to the classroom.

“I really like to instill in my students how to use natural resources, such as petroleum,” said Davies. “It’s important to know how to extract natural resources and use them.”

Davies said that students should not only take a geology class but be interested in the course content.

“Even if you are in a business setting it is good to know where any natural resources are in any project you are running and how they interfere,” said Davies. “It is important to know what is near you and what is not or what you have in your environment and what you don’t have.”

Garcia emphasizes the importance of geology by stating, “It is important for students to learn geology, because some of society’s most important problems, such as energy, water and mineral resources; the environment; and natural hazards like landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, are all topics that have geology at the very root of it. It’s important to understand these processes to be a more conscientious citizen.”

Davies explained how EWU is a preferable university where students can get that small major or minor that allows them to actually interact with their professors instead of having 200-plus students in their lecture.

For every student who enjoys hiking, backpacking or any other outdoor activities, Davies encourages them to be aware of their surroundings through science and know the natural resources the environment provides.