If you watch HUDSY TV, a streaming service featuring the region’s most interesting people and places, you may have seen “New York ROCKS with Geo Beck,” hosted by 26-year-old geologist Becky Nesel. As she explains the backstories of our region’s pebbles, boulders, and mountains, her enthusiasm chisels away the fear you had back in earth science class. Soon, you’ll want to go grab a pickaxe yourself.
Nesel has been a rock groupie since her childhood in Red Hook. “I brought home gravel in my pockets from preschool,” she laughs. Still, she never pictured herself growing up to be a scientist until she began college at SUNY Oswego, where that bedrock assumption shifted. “I saw geology on a list of majors, and it brought back memories of being curious and loving nature,” she says.
After graduating in 2019, she worked for a geotechnical engineering company, conducting field observations of soil and bedrock. But she wasn’t happy: “I missed asking questions about the earth,” she explains. As the pandemic rolled in, she quit and started geological videos and posts for social media platforms. She continued even when she began working at The O Zone in Red Hook, a sustainability center and bulk-refill store.
Soon, Nesel’s Instagram page racked up over 74,000 followers. Then in the fall of 2021, she responded to HUDSY’s call for creators to license videos for their app, and they ultimately arranged for Nesel to have her own show. Two episodes have dropped so far. At least for now, the program is designed to be brief—Nesel’s debut airing was about 10 minutes long. In the pilot, she visited Kerhonkson, North Salem, and Pleasantville, discussing glacial erratics in the area—or stones that originated far away, but were then pushed by glaciers around ten thousand years ago to their current locations. The second episode, an interview with a science and teacher education specialist at New York City’s Museum of Natural History, came out in September.
Nesel also leads walks alongside botanists for the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program in Ghent. “In the spring, we pointed out ferns and ephemeral flowers like trillium, growing at the base of a mountain that was mostly marble,” she shares. “Those plants love the calcium.” Another passion is conducting walks with the Dutchess Land Conservancy as a volunteer. But you don’t have to put on hiking boots to learn more about the rocks all around us; just follow Nesel on Instagram (@geobeckly) and YouTube (Geo Beck) and watch her HUDSY TV shows. Another rock-solid resource, she adds, is the United States Geological Survey (usgs.gov).
She loves sharing facts about our area. “A lot of people don’t know that the Hudson River used to be a lake at the end of the last ice age,” says Nesel, “It stayed like that for hundreds of years until there was a flood, and then the natural dam that was holding it broke. The water flowed to the Atlantic and left behind a river and clay deposits.” It resulted in brick factories being built along the Hudson in the 1800s and 1900s; a billion bricks a year were sent down to New York City.
Ulster County, she says, is remarkably rich in limestone. Travel to Rosendale and you’ll find Widow Jane, an old cement mine. (Limestone is perfect for creating this masonry staple.) “A lot of it was used in the city as well—for the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station, and the American Museum of Natural History,” she explains. In Kingston, she adds, some older buildings also used the limestone cement on the floors, and you can see tiny fossils embedded in them.
That’s ancient history, of course. As for Nesel’s present life, she resides in Millerton with her partner, David, and their cat Mo. “I love reading and collecting vintage books and postcards, and I’m interested in film and digital photography,” she says. Not surprisingly, she also likes to hike and spend time in our region’s parks. “I’m just enjoying life in the Hudson Valley and meeting new and wonderful people,” she adds. In other words, Nesel is young, fun, and rockin’ on.
“A lot of people don’t know that the Hudson River used to be a lake at end of the last ice age.”