Eric Holdener is a geologist/paleontologist who teaches Kenyon's geoscience courses. He has studied the systematics and microevolution of Paleozoic stenolaemate bryozoans and his new area of research involves the application of spatial analytical techniques (GIS) to the surfaces of fossil bryozoan specimens.

Areas of Expertise

Geology and invertebrate paleontology.


1997 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ Illinois Chicago

1991 — Master of Science from Univ Illinois Chicago

1986 — Bachelor of Arts from Washington University

Courses Recently Taught

Fossils fascinate and educate. This course explores the history of paleobiology from when fossils were first recognized as evidence of ancient life forms to the present day, when modern techniques allow us to determine details such as the color, sex and running speed of an animal that died tens of millions of years ago. Our investigation includes the clues fossils might hold to how the former organisms they represent lived and died – a sort of “Jurassic CSI.” We explore the use of fossils as tools for interpreting the environments in which ancient organisms lived, and survey certain exceptional fossil finds that reveal evidence of interactions between individuals (e.g., predation, escapes from predation and parasitism). As new fossil finds regularly generate headlines across the globe, time is set aside for evaluation of recent discoveries in light of the concepts learned in the course. If your news feed commonly includes stories about bone beds, mass extinctions, dinosaurs and whales with legs, then this course will be of interest to you. No prerequisite.

Photovoltaic power generation is proving to be a viable renewable alternative to fossil fuels, and Kenyon College is embarking on a multi-year plan to install PV systems on several buildings across campus. This course is uniquely situated to take advantage of this endeavor. We discuss the role energy serves in society and examine the basic physics of energy in general before discussing and comparing traditional fossil fuels versus alternatives. Focusing our attention on PV electrical energy, a series of hands-on lab exercises explores the science of electricity, PV power generation and linking such systems to the grid. Determining potential locations for installing Kenyon's growing network of solar power systems is addressed via a combination of spatial analysis exercises and visits to past and future installation sites. Additional field trips to local residential and commercial agricultural PV systems and conversations with their owners augment these efforts. Through conversations with leaders of Kenyon's campus efforts and online virtual meetings with leaders in the industry at the state, regional and national levels, we learn the ins and outs of designing, planning, installing and financing PV systems from the perspectives of buyers, sellers and investors. During semesters when an installation is in process, we are directly involved in site evaluations and closely follow along with the design and construction of the system. During these times, students help plan and host a public flip-the-switch event at system sites when these new systems are commissioned and officially energized and connected to the grid. This counts toward the additional skills requirement for the major. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

This course is for all students interested in improving their spatial literacy, or the ability to use spatial information to communicate, reason and solve problems — in this case environmental problems, nearly all of which have a spatial component. Following a review of maps (coordinate and projection systems, cartographic principles, etc.) we survey a number of online mapping applications (e.g., Google Earth) and use these to produce informative maps. We also explore the nature of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and how data can be collected in the field for future analysis and presentation. The focus of the course eventually settles onto the nature of computer-based geographic information systems (GIS) and the ways in which this powerful suite of tools can be used to analyze geographic data, model spatial processes and make informed decisions. Lectures introduce fundamental concepts such as scale and resolution, the nature and structure of spatial data models, and the construction of GIS queries. A series of laboratory case studies presents real-world applications of GIS while offering students opportunities to apply the fundamental concepts discussed in lectures. This counts toward the additional skills requirement for the major. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing.

This course introduces the modern understanding of the solar system, including planets, moons and smaller bodies (asteroids, comets, meteors). Topics include planetary interiors, surface modification processes, planetary atmospheres and the evolution of the solar system. Evening laboratory sessions utilize a variety of methods for exploring space-science topics, including telescopic observations, computer simulations and laboratory investigations. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.

As an introduction to the geosciences designed for all students, this course surveys a wide range of physical geology topics. Our initial coverage of minerals and rocks, the basic building blocks of the world around us, includes discussions of the environments in which they form and the major processes operating in these environments. Hands-on exercises are designed to aid in the identification of these basic components of the Earth and to teach students how to recognize clues to their formation. Students use this knowledge in a series of self-guided on-campus "field trips." Our coverage of plate tectonics includes discussions of the major evidence in support of this grand unifying theory of geology, including seismicity and earthquakes, volcanism and plutonic activity, orogenesis and structural geology, and geomagnetism and paleogeographic reconstruction. We establish these ideas in a global context and apply them to the geologic history of the North American continent. Requirements include laboratory exercises, on-campus field trips, at least one off-campus field trip and small group projects. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.

Around us we see a vast, expanding universe of galaxies. The galaxies are composed of stars, some of them orbited by planets. At least one of these planets is inhabited by an astoundingly complex set of living things. Where did all this come from? This course presents an overview of the formation and evolution of the universe, the solar system, planet Earth and life on our planet. Astronomical observations, computer simulations and laboratory experiments supplement lectures and readings. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.