Faculty, Students Present Work at Geological Society Meeting

Several Wesleyan faculty, graduate students and alumni participated in the 2009 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Oct. 18-21 in Portland, Ore.

Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, director of the Service Learning Center, presented a research poster and delivered a presentation titled “Techniques and Tools for Effective Recruitment, Retention and promotion of Women and Minorities in the Geosciences.” She spoke about the grant-funded organization Geoscience Academics in the Northeast (GAIN), which was established to build a community of academic geoscience women within a small geographic area.

Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented an abstract of his research titled “Twelve Years of Element Flux Measurements at Copahue Volcano.” He spoke about measuring water fluxes and river water compositions on the volcano for the last 12 years including a magmatic eruption period in 2000.

Varekamp and Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented the paper “Natural and Human Impacts on the Evolution of Block Island, RI.” Sarah Gillig ’09, Emma Kravet ’09 and Conor Veeneman ’09 also contributed to the paper.

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, gave a talk titled “Leaf Economic Traits from Fossils Support a Weedy Origin for Angiosperms.” Royer explained how many key aspects of early angiosperms are poorly known. By studying leaf economic traits such as photosynthetic rate and leaf lifespan, Royer concludes that early Cretaceous landscapes were populated with weedy angiosperms with short lived leaves.

Royer’s former post-doc Dan Peppe and Maria Gabriela Doria Ramirez M.A. ’09 gave a talk. McNair Fellow Sofia Oliver ’10 attended and co-authored Peppe’s paper.

Earth and Environmental Sciences major James Rea ’09, who currently works at the Cascade Volcano Observatory, presented his work on “Regional Magmatic Setting of Callaqui Volcano (S-Andes, Chile).” Rea samples several rocks from lava flows, scoria cones and dikes around the volcano for trace elements, mineral chemistry and radiogenic isotope compositions.

Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate student Tristan Kading presented a similar abstract titled “Copahue Volcano, Argentina: Introducing ‘Extreme Environments’ on Earth to High School Students” and “Lake Caviahue, Argentina as a Source-Sink for Volcanic Arsenic and Phosphorus.”  Kadding has spoke to local high school students about field work in the small village of Caviahue. The talks highlight the nature of geological field work while touching on some important basic concepts in earth science.

Other attendees included Peter Patton, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences and Emma Mendelsohn ’10.