Idaho State University Geosciences Department Celebrates Career of Professor Paul Link
November 29, 2021
When you take a look at Idaho State University Geology Professor Paul Link’s curriculum vitae, you quickly realize the meaning of the Latin term – “course of life” – is 100 percent spot-on.
Over its pages, his curriculum vitae takes you on the journey through his storied educational and working career. Right at the top, his Ivy League credentials jump out at you, “B.S. Yale University.” It only gets more interesting from there with “B.Sc.Hons., University of Adelaide, South Australia,” “Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara,” and it begs the question, “How’d he make his way to Idaho State?”
“My Ph.D. was on the Pocatello formation in the mountains east of Pocatello,” Link said. “I knew the local geology, and ISU was the perfect place to get a job.”
And for more than 40 years, the Gate City and the Geosciences Department have been Link's home base. While at Idaho State, his research has focused on geologic field mapping and sedimentary geology. His research led to him being an author or co-author on more than 125 published papers and 30 geologic maps. He’s also been an author, co-author, or editor on 11 books, the most recent of which is the 2021 edition of the “Roadside Geology of Idaho.”
“In 2012, I completed a new Geologic Map of Idaho with the Idaho Geological Survey, and it will probably be my most lasting research product,” Link said. “The map will be used by anyone interested in the geology of Idaho.”
He’s taught thousands of Bengals over those decades through community classes like “Rocks, Rails, and Trails” (based on a book of the same name he wrote with Chilton Phoenix) up to graduate-level courses. For over 100 master’s degree students, Link was their major thesis advisor.
“The long-term personal and professional relationships with my students have been the most rewarding part of my career,” Link said. “During the field research, we would spend time hiking and camping together. There’s a lot of one-on-one time, and a bond gets established. In addition, I’ve been able to keep in touch with most of my graduate students for more than 40 years and many of them came to Pocatello for the Department’s Alumni Reunion last September.”
“Dr. Link has mentored generations of graduate students who have gone on to successful careers around the world and made lasting contributions to the scientific record,” said Scott Snyder, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “He has inspired students and colleagues alike through his passion for the geosciences.”
Outside of ISU, Link has been involved in groups across the Pocatello community and Gem State, including Centennial Rotary Club, Idaho State Historical Society Board of Trustees, Idaho International Choral Festival, to name a few. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Portneuf Greenway Foundation.
“The Greenway was a much-needed project that was just waiting to happen,” Link said. “The Portneuf Greenway has and will continue to benefit Pocatello into the future.”
“Paul has always been extremely energetic,” said David Rodgers, Associate Vice President for Research at ISU and Link's colleague for more than 30 years. “He’s donated his time and effort in so many different ways.”
“Paul has not only shaped the academic research and degree programs within ISU’s Geosciences Department but also helped to define who we are as a community,” said Ben Crosby, Geosciences Department Chair. “These halls have served as a second home to Paul, and those that walk them as faculty or students are like family to him. Without doubt, this legacy of departmental commitment lives on, helping define who we are, what we do, and why we do it.”
Even though he officially retired in 2020, Link has continued to be a fixture on Idaho State's Pocatello campus, just in a more limited capacity as Professor Emeritus. He has been teaching “Historical Geography of Idaho” – the successor to “Rocks, Rails, and Trails” – and researching the sources of sand in the Snake River in Hells Canyon.
“The Geosciences Department has grown from four faculty when I arrived in 1980 to ten now, and is a premier research and teaching component of ISU,” Link said. “The ISU community is a great place to be, and the Geosciences Department is a fantastic place to work. Exciting things are going on, and working with the students helps to keep you young.”
“Paul has permanently influenced the course of the College of Science and Engineering and all of ISU,” Snyder said. “His support was key to the establishment of the Lost River Field Station, a treasure that provides hands-on education for geology students from across the nation in an unsurpassed natural setting. We will miss Paul as a faculty member and thank him for his continued support of ISU.”
Thursday, Dec. 9, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the ISU Geosciences Department will be hosting an open house to celebrate Link's work and accomplishments. The open house will be in the Salmon River Suite in the Pond Student Union Building.
For more information on the ISU Geosciences Department, visit isu.edu/geosciences.