I think, therefore I EXPLORE
Meet Geography & Geosciences Department Chair Keith Mountain.
It’s not every day you get to meet an adventurer from Australian sheep country who spends half his year living on glaciers. Prof. Keith Mountain is that person – a throwback to the explorers of the past combined with an acute scientific mind attuned to the environmental problems of the present.
In this Q&A, we learn that a background in fine arts can be useful even when you’re knee-deep in snow studying climate change, and that no man is an island.
Name: Keith R. Mountain
Department: Geography & Geosciences
Years at UofL: 22
What is the focus of your current research?
Climate and environmental change. In particular, glaciers and the global climate record and what we can tell from the current global retreat of glaciers with respect to future climates. Also, [I’m] currently working with the green Cities Partnership in Louisville to investigate urban climatology and the urban heat island effect. As an addition to issues involved in climate change, [I’m looking at] the use of alternate energy sources such as solar and wind power as a cost-effective power source for housing is catching my interest.
What was the most memorable class you took as an undergrad? Why?
As an undergraduate at Melbourne University in Australia I was interested in fine arts and took many courses in art history. These courses taught me the need for precision in writing, clarity in thinking and why it is important to present work in a professional manner. At the University of Oregon and at Ohio State University I took many courses in geology, geography, and climatology all of which benefitted from my earlier learning and opened my thinking in the environmental sciences.
What is the biggest achievement in your career thus far?
Personally, the biggest achievement has been in the gaining of a broad base of knowledge which has allowed me to act as an essential member of prominent environmental and glaciological research teams. I have been able to travel and work in parts of the world that would otherwise be impossible to visit and explore and to participate in the discovery of scientific evidence as to how our planet functions.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Who are they and how did they influence you?
You cannot do this alone. I have been fortunate in being able to gain knowledge from and interact with a great number of people all of whom helped me move forward as an academic and researcher and in ways to handle all other essential aspects of life.
What was the last book you read? Why did you pick it up?
I most often find myself reading several works at any given time and almost exclusively non-fiction. The last book I read was The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester. This covered the history of exploration of the Earth, the evolution of science and the character of human occupancy of our planet. Currently reading Patrick Allitt's work, A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism. This is important, if not essential, reading for those interested in how we understand the nature of the environment and the development and consequences of environmental movements in America.