Environmental Science Ph.D. candidate Stacy Yager is charting a new course at Ball State through an exciting expedition.

Leading the way

Environmental Science Ph.D. candidate, Stacy Yager

Stacy Yager | Photo: Kinsey Reese, CSH

Stacy, a 4th year graduate student, recently returned from a two-month deep-sea drilling expedition: International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 396. She is the first and only student in her program to embark on an expedition in international seas.

“I have always wanted to sail on an IODP expedition when I started learning more about deep-sea drilling research, but I never had the opportunity,” said Yager. “When I saw the call to sail for Expedition 396, I took the initiative and told my Ph.D. advisor. He completely supported my decision to apply to sail and told me that he would do what he could to help me prepare after I had been accepted.”

Her advisor, Dr. Richard Fluegeman, Professor of Geological Sciences with 39 years at Ball State, began training with Stacy. “Training with Dr. Fluegeman in preparation for the expedition was incredibly helpful in identifying potential planktonic foraminifera, which I could encounter during the expedition.”

“As a shipboard scientist, she shared responsibilities toward achieving the research objectives of the expedition and her work in the Biostratigraphy Lab at BSU enabled her to provide important expertise and a unique perspective to the team,” said Dr. Fluegeman. “This expedition was a career-building opportunity and students need to take advantage of these opportunities when presented. The IODP was not specifically looking for a PhD student, they were looking for a scientist. Stacy took the initiative and applied for the position and her action paid off.”

Dr. Susan McDowell, Vice Provost of Research, played an instrumental role in the process of sending Stacy on this journey. She says experiences such as this “enable students to gain real-world experience, to create a network of friends and colleagues beyond our boundaries, and to have a new line item for resumes that may open doors for future employment.”

Beyond her training preparation, Stacy feels her diverse coursework at Ball State has equipped her to work with people of various backgrounds and expertise, a strong skillset to carry into this mission.


Setting sail

Stacy and her team on Expedition 396 had one primary objective: providing restraints for geodynamic models to test different hypotheses. While on the ship, she was largely focused on collecting core samples through deep-sea drilling, aiming to provide more insight into the “Early Eocene (~55 Ma) hothouse and freshwater incursions.”

Through this research, they strive to better understand the “rapid emplacement of large igneous provinces,” which can release large amounts of greenhouse gases and increase ocean and atmospheric temperatures. By working to learn about past hyperthermal events, Stacy and other research scientists can help refine future models of climate warming response.




In addition to  the captivating science experience, Stacy loved “being able to sail on this expedition, interact and collaborate with scientists from around the world, and create lasting friendships are going to last me a lifetime.”


“This experience is not something I would normally have had, but BSU made it possible,” said Yager.


Because she is the first at BSU to complete an expedition of this nature, Stacy hopes to pave the way for others interested in similar opportunities.

“Dr. Fluegeman and his Biostratigraphy Group have worked with IODP and core samples in the past, but no one has had the opportunity to sail on an IODP expedition,” said Yager. “Through this experience, I will be creating more opportunities to engage with the IODP community through conducting research and presenting at national and international conferences, as well as within the program, department, and university.”

Dr. Fluegeman, who has worked with students in the Biostratigraphy Lab for many years, says those students are no strangers to deep sea data. But until Stacy, they’ve never had a shipboard participant on an expedition.


“This accomplishment will be the new gold standard for student achievement in the Biostratigraphy Lab,” said Fluegeman. “Stacy’s participation in IODP Expedition 396 shows that it’s OK to think big.”


Dr. McDowell says, “Stacy has provided granular detail on how to apply for such a program,” which equips students with the necessary information to get involved themselves. “Future students may more readily be able to believe they can attain such an experience if they ‘see themselves’, see other students who have had such a success,” added McDowell.

Reflecting on the experience, Stacy is grateful for the opportunity and those who helped make it possible.”I will never forget the people I’ve met during my time in the PhD program and the hands-on experience I received from the training and course work taken at BSU,” said Yager. The College of Sciences and Humanities celebrates Stacy’s accomplishment, academic initiative, and leadership as she leads the next generation of Ball State scientists to opportunities beyond their imagination.

For more information about the Department of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources, please visit our website or contact our office.