UNO instructor, alumnus pursues doctorate, travels country for research

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Juli Oberlander
CONTRIBUTOR

Growing up along the Missouri River, Brandon Weihs spent a lot of time walking beans with his grandfather.

An only child, the geology instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha says his experiences cultivating soybeans on the family farm served as opportunities to reflect and appreciate the land.
Weihs says he enjoyed studying Earth systems from an early age.

“My favorite thing to do when I was probably four was to hunt for pyrite in my grandparents’ limestone driveway,” Weihs says. “They told everybody I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was little, so not too far off.”

When Weihs was in his undergraduate studies at UNO, he initially majored in aerospace engineering. However, he says he didn’t enjoy it and went back to studying what interested him in his childhood.

“It wasn’t really until taking an undergraduate class in geography that I really knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Weihs says. “I realized that stuff is fun, even though I was doing it as a kid.”

Weihs graduated UNO in 2007 with a bachelor’s in geography. Two years later, he received a master’s degree in geomorphology, the study of the earth’s surface and its relation to underlying structures. Currently, he is working on a doctorate in geomorphology from Kansas State University.

“I took my first geomorphology course at the very end of my undergrad,” Weihs says. “That’s pretty much what sealed the deal for me in wanting to do a master’s thesis and what I was going to focus on.”

The geology instructor says he likes to study how various parts of the ecosystem, such as glaciers, plants and animals, affect the landscape.

Weihs’ doctoral studies have provided him with many opportunities to do research and travel the country. He has visited places such as Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and the District of Columbia in order to attend conferences and explore nature in surrounding areas.

Weihs’ research has also taken him to the Tetons and the Red Rock Pass in Idaho to study mass movements.

The adjunct instructor has worked extensively with glaciers, as well. Recently, he had the opportunity to write a chapter in Global Land Ice Measurements from Space, which was published in 2014.

Of the places he has visited for research, Weihs says the Pacific Northwest is his favorite region.
“There’s this really nice cabin I stayed in near Gold Bar, Washington,” Weihs says. “The area is really pretty and a good place to go relax.”

Weihs also says that being on the inside of a glacier is “pretty fun”, along with walking on landslides. He says he has gone on many hikes with fellow researches where he found “fresh bear scat,” which made him realize how close he has been to animals in the wild.

Once, he captured a picture of a moose, which led him to a close encounter with the animal.
“There’s some things I’ll never do again,” Weihs says.

The Nebraska native says the most exciting aspect of his research is that it is never boring, although it can be hard work most of the time.

“The best part about my job is that I get to pursue my own personal curiosities,” Weihs says.

“It’s pretty nice to say, ‘I’m going to go look at Google Earth today and look for some new landslides today in my study area, and then I’m going to map them,’” he continues. “And then maybe I’ll get to go there, too, and study them.”

Among his hobbies, Weihs enjoys riding motorcycles. Every summer, he says he likes to travel. As he was raised in Nebraska, Weihs says he often chooses places like Wyoming or Colorado in order to take in the mountain scenery.

Weihs says one of his favorite aspects of science is that it is challenging and makes life less predictable.

“It shouldn’t be boring, and if it is, you aren’t looking hard enough,” Weihs says. “Something about science will make you feel really stupid sometimes. You think you know something for sure, soon to find out that you know very little, and that’s a good thing. It makes it fun.”

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