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About Dr. Ellen Cowan

Dr. Ellen Cowan has researched glaciers from Alaska to Antarctica. Her specialties include glacial marine sedimentology, or simply put, the study of the sediment in the seafloor to determine the past extent of glacier systems. Particularly, Dr. Cowan wants to know the history of glaciation over the past 2.6 million years, and what we can learn about the future of glaciers in polar regions.

Dr. Cowan joined the Appalachian faculty in 1988. She teaches a variety of introductory and advanced classes, including Introduction to Physical Geology, Oceanography, Geomorphology, and Geoarchaeology, but does research in glacial-marine sedimentology and in the transport of coal ash in river systems after the spills from TVA and Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. She is a member of Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences Academy of Outstanding Teachers and received the Donald W. Sink Outstanding Scholar Award from the College in 1999.

Areas of Expertise
Coal ash spills in the Southeast United States
Sedimentary record of climate change
Glaciers in Antarctica and Alaska


Present Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, Appalachian State University Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences

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Honors and Awards

  • Don Sink Outstanding Scholar Award, 1999


  • GLY 3680 Geoarchaeology
  • GLY 3333 Geomorphology
  • GLY 1105 Oceanography
  • GLY 1101 Introduction to Physical Geology


1988 Ph.D., Northern Illinois University ‐ Geology
1982 M.S., Northern Illinois University ‐ Geology
1979 B.A., Albion College ‐ Geology and Biology

Contact Information

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Research Works (73)