Arens Blogs for Britannica – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Arens Blogs for Britannica

Associate Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens was recently featured as a contributing author on the Encyclopædia Britannica Blog, which seeks to engage readers of the renowned encyclopedia in lively conversation through the posts of experts on a wide variety of topics. Arens has been writing articles for Britannica since 2000.

Arens’ most recent blog post for the Britannica Blog discusses the origins of her own fascination with geology and paleontology, pointing to its ability to transport one back in time by reading a rock’s history. Studying the history of a rock, says Arens, is like reading a book – an account with plots and story lines, but perhaps with a few words, lines or paragraphs missing. Reading this book helps us to better understand what came before us, and by extension, the world around us.

Using climate change as an example, Arens outlines an approach to predicting how Earth will respond to our burning of fossil fuels, which adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Utilizing programs for desktop computers, such as The Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Program, Arens discusses criticisms of favorite methods of climate prediction – leading to where her research begins.

Approached by the Britannica Blog’s editor, Arens was recommended as a great resource for geological and paleontological information and thought. “When she approached me, I jumped at the idea. I was a science writer before I became a scientist, and the opportunity to share my experiences with the public sounded like fun,” says Arens. “I wanted to write about the role creativity and chance play in discovery.”

However, Arens finds that her entries are not only educational in terms of data, but as a resource for other women in her field who find themselves struggling to choose between motherhood and science.

“I wanted to talk about being a “Mommy Scientist.” Even today, women scientists are trained to see our families in conflict with our science. There’s a clear message that if you are serious about raising your kids, you must not be serious about your research. Many women cope by drawing clear lines between work and family,” explains Arens. “In contrast, I’ve been taking my kids in the field and to conferences and to class since they were infants. It’s not easy, but it’s the best way I can think of to push back. I want to share those experiences.”

To read Arens’ latest entry, visit