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Geography major finds adventure and stories in the field

By Mary Giunca

BOONE, N.C.—Digging a snowpit, setting up tents or strapping bags on horses high in the Andes is a long way from day-to-day life in Greensboro. For Evan Montpellier, who loves science and working with his hands, fieldwork for Appalachian State University’s Master of Arts in Geography pointed the way to a fulfilling course of study.

View larger imageEvan Montpellier, a graduate student in geography from Greensboro, enjoys being outside for the fieldwork his major requires. He’s traveled to the Andes to study precipitation and to Montana and the North Carolina coast to analyze tree rings. Photo by Marie Freeman

Montpellier’s fieldwork has taken him high into the Andes to look at precipitation patterns and deep into forests of both Montana and the North Carolina coast to study tree rings.

“The best part of fieldwork is being outside and getting to see what you’re researching,” said Montpellier, who earned his bachelor’s degree in geography at Appalachian in May 2017. “Being able to gather information in different areas and bring it back to the Appalachian Mountains is really a unique opportunity.”

Montpellier is now working on a Master of Arts in Geography as part of an accelerated graduate admissions program that allowed him to start taking graduate courses during his senior year. By doing so, he earns both his bachelor’s and master’s in about five years.

Dr. Baker Perry, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, said that Montpellier was a valuable part of his team in the Andes, where they studied past weather patterns to better understand future weather patterns across the globe.

“He’s willing to dig deep and learn new techniques,” Perry said. “In the field, we work in very challenging conditions. He’s always there to give a hand, whether that be digging a snowpit or setting up tents — he’s super helpful.”

Montpellier also did fieldwork with Dr. Peter Soulé, a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, where he learned to analyze tree rings for their insights into weather long past.

“It’s incredible to look at a tree ring core you’ve dated back 500 years,” he said. “You’re reconstructing history. It’s fascinating to me to know that there were early explorers walking past these trees and we have a snapshot of what conditions were like then.”

About the College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, two stand-alone academic programs, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university’s strengths, traditions and unique location. Our values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of our students as global citizens. There are approximately 5,850 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.