Jessica Moore

March 25, 2021

Jessica Pierson Moore ’03 completed her undergraduate work at West Virginia University, which was less than an hour from her home. A map and an old family photo led her to pursue her master’s in geology at UNCW.

“By the time I graduated from WVU, I was ready to venture out of state for graduate school but wanted to be within a day’s drive home. So, I found a big paper map and drew a 500-mile radius around my hometown. Several North Carolina schools stood out among the other choices and the more I researched UNCW’s Earth Sciences Department, the more intrigued I became,” she said.

When she discussed UNCW with her family, her mom pulled out a picture of her grandmother taken at Carolina Beach sometime in the mid-1930s. Her grandmother, Edna, was raised as an orphan in the Grandfather Home for Children outside of Banner Elk. When she was a young girl, the teachers piled a bunch of the residents in a car and drove across the state to Carolina Beach.

“It was a formative moment for her,” said Moore. “It instilled in her a love of the Carolina coast that continued after she and my grandfather met and settled in West Virginia.”

Moore has returned to her native WV and in January became the state geologist and director of the Geological and Economic Survey, a government agency tasked with the collection and management of the state’s geological data.

The agency is located on Cheat Lake in an old state forestry lodge called Mont Chateau. The areas that were once the hotel lobby and dining area were later converted to museum space, which Moore is currently redesigning.

“It’s a great place for the public to enjoy the beautiful scenery and learn more about the geology of West Virginia. We’ve had several recent donations that our staff are working to incorporate into the design and we are very excited to be able to reopen the space to the public in the near future,” she said.

While at UNCW, Moore said she realized that it’s one thing to be a scientist, but quite another to make science approachable to young learners, a lesson she remembers every day as she aims to balance the agency’s commitment to geologic research and public outreach.

-- Caroline Cropp