Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Art Books Illustrate Environmental Concerns, Lessons

From left, Sophia Ptacek '18 and Khephren Spigner '18 show their artist book to instructor Kim Diver.

From left, E&ES 197 students Sophia Ptacek ’18 and Khephren Spigner ’18 show their final project to instructor Kim Diver.

Students from Introduction to Environmental Studies (E&ES 197) presented their final projects Dec. 11 in Exley Science Center.

The Project Showcase involved 80 students informally presenting artists books, GIS story maps, children’s stories, fictional journals and other creative explorations.

“All projects are related to environmental issues in the Connecticut River,” said course instructor Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences. The project is associated with the Center for the Arts’ Feet to the Fire initiative.

Several Wesleyan scholars and staff volunteered their time to demonstrate artist books to the students including Kate TenEyck, art studio technician and visiting assistant professor of art; Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives; Rebecca McCallum, cataloguing librarian; and Joseph Smolinski, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment. Erinn Roos-Brown, program manager in the Center for the Arts, helped initiate the idea for the artist book projects.

Photos of the Project Showcase are below: (Photos by Cynthia Rockwell)

Chantel Jones '17 and Tanya Mistry '17.

Chantel Jones ’17 and Tanya Mistry ’17.

GIS Service Learning Class Shares Field Research, Projects with Community

As part of the GIS Service Learning Laboratory course, Katy Hardt '15 researched the wetlands, waterways and critical habitats of the northwest section of Middletown. Hardt and fellow group members John Murchison '16 and Catherine Reilly '15 presented their findings to the Middlesex Land Trust.

As part of the GIS Service Learning Laboratory course, Katy Hardt ’15 researched the wetlands, waterways and critical habitats of the northwest section of Middletown. Hardt and fellow group members John Murchison ’16 and Catherine Reilly ’15 presented their findings to the Middlesex Land Trust.

Five groups of students enrolled in the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Service Learning Laboratory course E&ES 324 spent their semester helping local organizations learn more about land parcels in the City of Middletown.

On Dec. 1, the students presented their research to fellow students, faculty, staff, community members and community partners.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class.

Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, taught the class, which included included lessons on geographic information systems (GIS) concepts and spatial data analysis and visualization.

“GIS are powerful tools for organizing, analyzing and displaying spatial data,” Diver explained. “GIS has applications in a wide variety of fields including the natural sciences, public policy, business, humanities or any field that uses spatially distributed information. In this class, students worked to solve local problems in environmental sciences.”

The students worked closely with community partners from the Middlesex Land Trust, Middletown Conservation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and others to design a GIS, collect and analyze data, and

NASA Supports Greenwood’s Extraterrestrial Materials Research

James “Jim” Greenwood

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, was awarded a Faculty Seed Research Grant from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, supported by NASA. The honor comes with a $6,000 award.

Greenwood will use the grant to support his research on “D/H of ‘Dry’ Extraterrestrial Materials.”

Understanding the distribution, delivery, and processing of volatiles in the solar system is of fundamental interest to planetary science. Volatiles influence a number of important properties of planetary bodies, such as the cooling, differentiation, volcanism, tectonism, climate, hydrosphere/atmospheres and especially habitability.

Greenwood will use the award to develop a new state-of-the-art inlet system for the measurement of hydrogen and water and their hydrogen isotope composition in nominally anhydrous extraterrestrial materials. This inlet system will work in conjunction with the Wesleyan Hydrogen Isotope Mass Spectrometer, a Thermo Delta Advantage isotope ratio mass spectrometer installed in August 2014.

With the new system in place by the end of the project period, Greenwood and fellow researchers will be in position to measure hydrogen and water in two Apollo mare basalt rock samples.

“This will increase sensitivity for water by 250x our current measurement,” Greenwood said. “The added capability will allow us to make new and exciting measurements of volatiles in important planetary materials, such as these lunar rock samples.”

Read past News @ Wesleyan stories on Greenwood here.

Studies by Varekamp, Thomas Published in Paleoceanography

varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Wesleyan faculty Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas are among the authors of a paper on rates of sea-level rise along the eastern U.S. seaboard titled “Late Holocene sea level variability and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation,” published in the journal Paleoceanography, Volume 29, Issue 8, pages 765–777 in August 2014. Varekamp is the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences and professor of environmental studies. Thomas is research professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan, and also a senior research scientist in geology and geophysics at Yale University.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this  foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Pre-20th century sea level variability remains poorly understood due to limits of tide gauge records, low temporal resolution of tidal marsh records, and regional anomalies caused by dynamic ocean processes, notably multidecadal changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the study, Varekamp and Thomas examined sea level and circulation variability along the eastern United States over the last 2,000 years, using a sea level curve constructed from proxy sea surface temperature records from Chesapeake Bay, and 20th century sea level-sea surface temperature relations derived from tide gauges and instrumental sea surface temperatures.

Thomas also is a co-author of a paper titled ‘I/Ca evidence for upper ocean deoxygenation during the PETM‘ published in the Paleoceanography, October 2014.

In this paper, Thomas suggests that the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a potential analog for present and future global warming, may help in such forecasting future deoxygenation and its effects on oceanic biota. Forecasting the geographical and bathymetric extent,

Royer’s Study Suggests that the Meteorite That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Changed Forests

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of a study that suggests fast-growing deciduous plants replaced slower-growing evergreen plants after an impact of a meteorite 60 million years ago. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Sixty-six million years ago, a meteorite struck the Earth with enough force that the ensuing environmental changes, including floods, earthquakes, variable temperatures and light-obscuring dust clouds, possibly wiped out dinosaurs and other pre-historic life. Scientists believe this opened a path for mammals, and ultimately humans, to evolve.

A new study by Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and colleagues from the University of Arizona and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science suggests that the chaos in the wake of the space rock’s impact changed the Earth’s plant life as well. Deciduous plants survived and flourished to a much greater extent than flowering evergreens, the scientists believe, probably because their properties made them much better able to respond to climate conditions post-impact. The deciduous plants, not needing to maintain their leaves year round, essentially needed less energy for survival.

Royer’s Study Published in PLOS Biology

Dana Royer

Dana Royer

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of “Plant Ecological Strategies Shift Across the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary,” published in PLOS Biology on Sept. 15.

The study reveals that a meteorite that hit Earth 60 million years ago – and may have led to the mass extinction of the world’s dinosaur population – also led to a shift in the landscape of plants, particularly deciduous plants.

Royer and his colleagues showed how they applied bio-mechanical formulas to fossilized leaves of flowering plants dating from the last 1.4 million years of the Cretaceous period and the first 800,000 of the Paleogene. Read more about Royer’s study in this News @ Wesleyan article.

Resor Delivering 6 Lectures to Petroleum Geoscientists in Australia

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June.

Associate Professor Phil Resor is delivering six lectures in Australia this June. He is the 2014 AAPG Distinguished Lecturer.

Philip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is taking his knowledge of petroleum down under.

Between June 18-26, Resor, a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), is delivering six lectures in Australia. The talks are geared toward members of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) and a general petroleum industry audience.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

Phil Resor at a talk in Melbourne.

While abroad, Resor will speak on “Syndepositional Faulting of Carbonate Platforms” and “Revisiting the Origin of Reverse Drag.”

He’ll be lecturing in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

A specialist in structural geology, Resor’s work integrates field mapping, remote sensing, and numerical modeling to better understand the mechanics of faulting. Recent projects have focused on the causes of syndepositional faulting in carbonate platforms, deformation around normal faults, folding on Venus, and the effects of fault zone geometry on earthquake slip.

Prior to joining the faculty at Wesleyan, Resor worked for several years as an exploration geologist in the oil and gas industry.

sydney

Phil Resor in Sydney.

Singer ’15 to Study Moon Rocks as Connecticut Space Grant Fellow

Jack Singer '15 holds a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12039,3), a crucial sample for studying his mineral of interest — apatite — on the moon.

Jack Singer ’15 holds a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12039,3), a crucial sample for studying his mineral of interest — apatite — on the moon. This summer, Singer received a Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium grant to fund his summer research in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

As a recent recipient of an undergraduate research fellowship, Jack Singer ’15 is spending his summer at Wesleyan studying the geochemical evolution of the moon. 

The fellowship, supported by the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, comes with a $5,000 award. Grantees are expected to work on research related to space/aerospace science or engineering under the guidance of a faculty member or a mentor from industry.

By using a microscope in Wesleyan's Solar Systems Geochemistry Lab, Jack Singer takes a closer look at a Lunar sample.

By using a microscope in Wesleyan’s Solar Systems Geochemistry Lab, Jack Singer takes a closer look at a lunar sample.

For the next three months, Singer will work on various research projects with his advisor James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental science. Singer will first prepare a fragmented lunar sample (Apollo 12035,76) for analysis under an ion microprobe. An ion microprobe applies a beam of charged ions to the sample and helps determine the composition of the material.

This rock contains olivine, a mineral that is mysteriously sparse in many different lunar samples.

“By analyzing the melt inclusions contained within olivine in this rock, I’ll be able to better understand geochemical evolution of the moon,” Singer said.

Singer’s second project is more experimental. He’s attempting to model and quantify diffusion in a late-stage lunar environment (one of the last regions to cool on the moon) by synthesizing a granite-rich model lunar glass.

Singer will heat this glass past its melting point and place it in contact with solid terrestrial apatite — the Moon’s major water-bearing mineral — and measure how elements diffuse across the glass-grain (or solid-liquid) boundary.

Jack Singer and his advisor, James Greenwood, will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

Jack Singer and his advisor, James Greenwood, will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

“This type of analysis helps us to better understand the processes that occurred during the last stages of lunar cooling,” he explained.

In addition, Singer and Greenwood will travel to Japan this summer to use an ion microprobe at Hokkaido University.

“This machine allows us to analyze and measure stable isotope ratios in the minerals we are interested in, and can therefore tell us something about the fractionation and geochemical history of the lunar body,” Singer said.

Next fall, Singer will write about his research findings.

Thomas’s Paper Published in Paleoceanography

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Photo by Ellen Thomas)

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Photo by Ellen Thomas)

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a paper titled “Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in Paleoceanography, May 2014. 

In this paper Thomas and her colleagues document that ocean acidification of the surface ocean not only occurred during past times of global warming and high CO2 levels, but also by how much — about 0.3 pH units. The group studied planktic foraminifers from a drill site in the North Pacific.

Thomas’ study has been highlighted in a press release from Columbia University and also on Phys.org.

NASA Supports Greenwood’s Research on the Moon’s Water

James “Jim” Greenwood

James “Jim” Greenwood

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James “Jim” Greenwood has received a $331,000 grant from NASA to support his research on the moon’s water.

His proposed research, tracking water in rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions, will “take a giant leap towards solving one of the most important questions in planetary science – whether the Moon is wet or dry,” Greenwood said.

“We’ll be studying pockets of glass trapped in early and late-crystallizing minerals in lunar mare basalt samples,” Greenwood said. “We will measure water and other volatile elements in these trapped melt pockets to reconstruct the volatile history of the samples as they cooled and crystallized near the lunar surface.”

The NASA grant is part of NASA’s Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research program.

Greenwood intends to use the grant, which will be distributed over four fiscal years, to fund one Wesleyan undergraduate per summer to conduct research in his lab. The grant will also allow Greenwood to do critical measurement work at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

This project is only the latest initiative in Greenwood’s intensive work on lunar rocks, and the Moon’s relative wetness. Most recently he and four colleagues co-authored a paper in the prestigious journal Science, casting doubt on the theory of abundant lunar water, while simultaneously boosting theories around the Moon’s creation, several billion years ago.

 

Thomas’s Paper Published in Nature Geoscience

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of a paper titled “Carbon Sequestration during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum by an Efficient Biological Pump,” published in the April 2014 edition of Nature Geoscience.

In the paper, Thomas explains how ocean-dwelling bacteria may have vacuumed up carbon and halted a period of extreme warmth some 56 million years ago. The finding suggests how Earth might once have rapidly reversed a runaway greenhouse effect.

Its effect on global oceanic productivity is controversial. In the paper, Thomas and her colleagues present records of marine barite accumulation rates that show distinct peaks during this time interval, suggesting a general increase in export productivity. The authors propose that changes in marine ecosystems, resulting from high atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 and ocean acidification, led to enhanced carbon export from the photic zone to depth, thereby increasing the efficiency of the biological pump. Higher seawater temperatures at that time increased bacterial activity and organic matter regeneration.

Gabriel Popkin ’03 wrote about Thomas’s research in a April 2014 article titled “Ocean Bacteria May Have Shut Off Ancient Global Warming” in Science News.

Greenwood, Colleagues Debunk Sloshy Lunar Theory

James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, studies the potential of water on the moon.

James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, studies the potential of water on the moon.

James “Jim” Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and four colleagues have published a paper that casts doubt on the theory of abundant water on the moon while simultaneously boosting theories around the creation of the moon, several billion years ago.

The paper, “The Lunar Apatite Paradox,” published March 20 in the prestigious journal Science, stems from work involving the mineral apatite, the most abundant phosphate in the solar system. (Along with its presence on planets, it’s found in teeth and bones.)

Initial work on the lunar rocks brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions indicated that the Moon was extremely dry. Any evidence of water was dismissed as contamination from Earth.

But more recent experiments have shown the presence of plenty of water in grains of apatite derived from lunar rocks. Greenwood and colleagues sought to figure out whether, or how that could be.

“We formulated a solution to the problem of how you get this much water into moon apatite by using a mathematical model,” Greenwood said.