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Faculty Freetime: Plant and earth science professor travels to every continent

December 7, 2019

The Student Voice is excited to welcome back the “Faculty Free Time” column where we take a look at what different faculty members enjoy doing outside of work. This column is written to show students a different side to the faculty at UW-River Falls in order to make them seem more relatable and provide faculty a chance to display what they have accomplished in their lives.

This month, the Student Voice met up with Professor of Plant and Earth Science Kelly Wilhelm to discuss his favorite hobbies and accomplishments. Wilhelm is currently teaching his first semester at UWRF as an assistant professor. Prior to teaching at UWRF, Wilhelm graduated with his Ph.D. and master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and went on to be a lecturer for two years at UW-Green Bay.

Wilhelm mentioned that he has multiple things he enjoys doing when he is not grading papers. These activities include spending time with his wife, playing games on his computer, and most of all, traveling.

His goal was to eventually make it to every single continent, and he achieved that goal. A couple of years ago he was able to visit the last continent on his list. Wilhelm started traveling when he was in high school by going to Spain, where his mother went every year with the high school students that she taught Spanish to. However, Wilhelm recalls that his “first true travel experience happened with an archeology trip to the Netherlands,” when he was a sophomore in college in 2006.

During the summers, Wilhelm was traveling all over the world to do archeology field camps, one of which brought him to the Netherlands. Wilhelm said he was “excavating places that they [the city] were going to put in a large parking lot. So, we were excavating Roman graves, actually.” Wilhelm also mentioned that in Europe, there needs to be “extensive excavating done anywhere they are going to build a building because almost everywhere they build there is going to be ruins, graves, or something.”

When he was on this archeology field camp, the archeologist dug down around six feet and discovered many Roman cremation graves and found many pieces of bone and even pieces of iron nails from the once wooden Roman coffins that were burned. Samples were taken from these and then the archeologists, including Wilhelm, used these samples to look at elevation depths and compare them to other graves that were nearby. Wilhelm also recalls a very unique experience where a complete and intact pot was found and inside of it, there was a golden broach.

The Netherlands archeology project lasted just four weeks. After that, Wilhelm traveled to Mongolia, Turkey, China, and many more places. He has accomplished many things on his various archeology field camps and has plenty of stories to share.

Now, Wilhelm is more focused on his work and providing his students with the knowledge that learning can be enjoyable and exciting, it does not always have to be a chore. He also urges students to take advantage of the resources from the University, because there are many opportunities to travel and gain knowledge on those different areas.