Bethany O'Shea, PhD

Bethany O'Shea
Phone: (619) 260-4243
Fax: (619) 269-6874
Office: Shiley Ctr for Science & Techn 273

Associate Professor
Core Curriculum Director

  • Ph.D., University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia: Geology
  • B.Sc (Honours 1), University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia: Earth and Environmental Science
  • Postdoctoral scholar, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University

Bethany O'Shea, PhD, teaches courses in environmental geology, earth science, and geochemistry of ocean and continental waters. All of these courses use the environment as a natural laboratory and include interactive problem solving and thought provoking learning techniques. Dr. O'Shea is interested in the cycling of metals, nutrients, and contaminants in the environment; specifically controls on the movement and distribution of trace elements in groundwater, lakes, and sediments. She welcomes the opportunity to teach and mentor students interested in the earth, marine, and environmental sciences.

Scholarly Work

Dr. O'Shea's early research interests focused on investigating groundwater quality in the Great Artesian Basin. In this semi-arid region of Australia, groundwater is heavily relied upon for irrigation, and therefore it must be assessed for its suitability and compatibility with soils and crops. After a few years working in the environmental consulting industry in Sydney, she further pursued her research interests in environmental contamination by investigating the natural occurrence of arsenic in a coastal aquifer in eastern Australia. Using a combination of geomorphology, hydrogeology, sediment and water chemistry, Dr. O'Shea characterized the source and distribution of arsenic in the aquifer, which led to improved groundwater management techniques and the award of her Ph.D. As a postdoctoral scholar at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, she continued to investigate arsenic geochemistry, but with a focus on determining the arsenic-mineral hosts in a metamorphic aquifer in Maine. This research has led her into the field of metal-mineral surface chemistry, which has enabled her to use some cutting edge research techniques, such as laser ablation and synchrotron radiation.

Areas of Interest

As a postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University, Dr. O'Shea was recruited into the Frontiers of Science fellowship program, a prestigious program for aspiring young faculty. Fellows are mentored by senior Columbia University Professors, many with esteemed resumes and teaching awards, to develop innovative science pedogogic techniques. Curriculum development focused on the importance of problem solving, critical thinking, and scientific habits of mind, instead of traditional memorization and lecture techniques. At USD, Dr. O'Shea continues to teach by engaging her students with active learning, and skills to help them 'think outside the box'. These techniques are not unique to science, but are useful to all disciplines. In addition to teaching in her field of earth and environmental science, Dr. O'Shea also maintains an active interest in geoscience education research.