Kirsten M. Menking

Professor of Earth Science and Director of Environmental Studies on the Althea Ward Clark Chair
Kirsten M. Menking wearing a light patterned shirt and eyeglasses with a tree in the background.

Kirsten Menking conducts research on past climate change, on landscape evolution due to climatic and tectonic processes, and on the impacts of urbanization on streams. For her dissertation she took part in a US Geological Survey Project to study sediments from Owens Lake in eastern California where she reconstructed cycles of glaciation and lake level change over the last 800,000 years. More recently she has worked on the climate record contained within Lake Estancia in central New Mexico and on the late glacial and Holocene history of southeastern New York. The latter work has taken her to lakes in the Shawangunk Mts. and to Lozier Pond, a small lake from which the Hyde Park mastodon was unearthed in 2000. With colleagues in Geography, Biology, Chemistry, and Urban Studies, she also carries out investigations on road salt and nutrient contamination of streams in Dutchess County, New York.

BA, Occidental College; PhD, University of California-Santa Cruz
At Vassar since 1997


Ely Hall
Box 59

Research and Academic Interests

Past Climate Change


ENST 124 Essentials of Environmental Science
ENST/ESCI 361 Modeling the Earth

Selected Publications

  • Menking, K.M., Bixby, R.J., and Cutler, S.M., 2022, Diatom evidence for a groundwater divide that limited the extent of Lake Estancia, New Mexico, USA, highstands during the Last Glacial Maximum, Geological Society of America Bulletin,
  • Menking, K.M., Polyak, V.J., Anderson, R.Y., and Asmerom, Y., 2018, Climate history of the southwestern United States based on Estancia Basin hydrologic variability from 69 to 10 ka, Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 200, p. 237-252.
  • Stirpe, C.R.*, Cunningham, M.A., and Menking, K.M., 2017, How will climate change affect road salt export from watersheds? Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, v. 228, article number 362.
  • Menking, K.M., 2015, Decadal to millennial-scale solar forcing of Last Glacial Maximum climate in the Estancia Basin of central New Mexico, Quaternary Research, v. 83, p. 545-554.
  • Menking, K.M., Peteet, D.M., and Anderson, R.Y., 2012, Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation and climate variability, including major droughts, in the Sky Lakes region of southeastern New York State, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 353-355, p. 45-59.
  • Cunningham, M.A., Menking, K.M., Gillikin, D.P., Smith, K.C., Freimuth, C., Belli, S.L., Pregnall, A.M., Schlessman, M.A., and Batur, P., 2010, Influence of non-impervious area on longitudinal recovery of an urban stream, Physical Geography, v. 30, doi: 10.2747/0272-3646.30.3.269.
  • Cunningham, M.A., O’Reilly, C.M., Menking, K.M., Gillikin, D.P., Smith, K.C.*, Foley, C.M.*, Belli, S.L., Pregnall, A.M., Schlessman, M.A., and Batur, P., 2009, The Suburban Stream Syndrome: Evaluating Land Use and Stream Impairments in the Suburbs, Physical Geography, v. 30, p. 269-284.
  • Menking, K.M., Schneiderman, J.S., Nester, P.L., Bedient, K.D.*, Collins, B.C.*, and Feingold, B.J.*, 2008, Lithology and stratigraphy of core LP2A from the Hyde Park mastodon site, southeastern New York, Palaeontographica Americana, v. 61, p. 143-150.

Books and book chapters

  • Merritts, D.J., Menking, K.M., and DeWet, A.P., 2014, Environmental Geology: An Earth System Science Approach, 2nd Edition, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  • Menking, K.M., 2000, A Record of Climate Change from Owens Lake Sediments, in Schneiderman, J.S., ed., The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, p. 322-335.
  • Menking, K.M., 2000, chapter summaries and thought questions, in Earth Issues Reader, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 132 p.
  • Merritts, D.J., DeWet, A.P., and Menking, K.M., 1998, Environmental Geology: An Earth System Science Approach, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 452 p.


Grants, Fellowships, Honors, Awards

Professors of Earth Science acquire grant for SEM microscope and EDS spectrometer
Professors of Earth Science Laura Haynes, Kirsten Menking, and Jeffrey Walker received a National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Instrumentation and Facilities (EAR/IF) grant to acquire a Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer (EDS).

In the Media

Ezra Potts ’25 points to a screen  showing what pollen looks like when viewed under a microscope.

More than 80 students engaged in research projects on the Vassar campus this summer with 33 faculty members under the auspices of the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI).


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