Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Gilmore Discusses Future of Space Exploration With Buzz Aldrin

Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Professor Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, joined legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin and Hoppy Price of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a discussion on WNPR about the past, present and future of space exploration. The three were guests on The Colin McEnroe Show on May 25.

Aldrin, who was one of the first two humans to walk on the moon, is the author of a new book, No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

McEnroe asked Gilmore about our current level of understanding about Mars.

“Our knowledge of Mars has really increased over the last two decades, and that’s because of a sustained series of missions, a flotilla of spacecraft in orbit, roving and on the surface of Mars that have been able to learn upon each other’s discoveries and leverage each other’s assets. We understand now not only that it was habitable on Mars at the same time that life evolved on Earth, but also where it’s habitable. And so the last rover we landed on the surface of the planet has landed in a place where there was mud and there were rivers and there was sustained water over long periods of time. So we understand now a lot about the history of Mars and the history of water on Mars and the environments that exited on Mars at the same time life was evolving on Earth.”

 

 

Thomas Co-Authors 5 Papers in Academic Journals

Ellen Thomas, professor of earth and environmental sciences and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, recently co-authored five papers in academic journals.

Her first paper, “Jianshuiite in Oceanic Manganese Nodules” co-authored with Jeffery Post and Peter Heaney, appeared within American Mineralogist. Deviating from her usual research, Thomas focused on mineralogy and, in particular, the crystal structure of a rare mineral found in sediments during an ancient counterpart of future global warming.

Thomas co-authored “Variability in Climate and Productivity during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Western Tethys,” with Flavia Boscolo-Galazzo and Luca Giusberti, both of the University of Padova. This paper, more in line with her usual research, examines unicellular organisms of the deep sea floor that suffered extinction due to a prior period of global warming. It appeared in Climate of the Past.

Working once again with Boscolo-Galazzo and Giusberti and several other scholars, Thomas co-authored, “The Planktic Foraminifer Planorotalites in the Tethyan Middle Eocene” in the Journal of Micropaleontology. This paper describes the researchers’ use of stable isotope analysis to distinguish between floating planktonic matter from bottom-dwelling foraminifera. Through this analysis, they discuss environmental changes during a relatively period of global warming that took place between approximately 9 and 40 million years ago.

“Late Paleocene-Middle Eocene Benthic Foraminifera on a Pacific Seamount (Allison Guyot, ODP Site 865):Greenhouse Climate and Superimposed Hyperthermal Events,” appeared in Paleoceanography. It discusses deep-sea faunas during the same period in the article from the paragraph above. The two other authors of the paper were mentored by Thomas and briefly visited Wesleyan while under her supervision.

The final paper, “Oxygen depletion recorded in upper waters of the glacial Southern Ocean,” appeared in Nature Communications. This paper documents Thomas’s collaborative research with several scholars and PhD students on Antarctic environments during the last few ice ages. In particular, their work focuses on benthic foraminifera, and chemical analysis of their shells.

O’Connell, Alumni Participate in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair Program, together with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94, attended a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) workshop in Washington, D.C. on April 20-21. The three were involved in a report on Service Learning in the Geosciences.

O’Connell presented the report at the meeting.

Laine, recently retired from Bowdoin College, was on the meeting steering committee, while Brenner, a senior program officer in the Board on Science Education in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (NAS) coordinated the meeting.

A summary of the workshop will be published as a book by the National Academies Press in fall 2016.

Students, Faculty, Alumni Present Research at Planetary Science Conference

From left, graduate student Ben McKeeby, Melissa Lowe ’17 and graduate student Shaun Mahmood met Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the only geologist to go to the moon. Schmitt collected collected the samples that Lowe and Mahmood were presenting on at this meeting.

From left, graduate student Ben McKeeby, Melissa Lowe ’17 and graduate student Shaun Mahmood met Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the only geologist to go to the moon. Schmitt collected the samples that Lowe and Mahmood are studying.

Three Wesleyan students, faculty and several alumni recently attended the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

This conference brings together international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology and astronomy to present the latest results of research in planetary science. The five-day conference was organized by topical symposia and problem-oriented sessions.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate students Ben McKeeby and Shaun Mahmood, and earth and environmental science major Melissa Lowe ’17 presented their ongoing planetary science research at the conference. Lowe received a NASA CT Space Grant travel award to attend the conference.

McKeeby shared his research titled, “An investigation of jarosite and associated alteration mineralogy
in Martian Meteorite Roberts Massif 04262 using Micro-Raman spectroscopy;” Mahmood presented his study titled, “Hydrous glasses of lunar sample 75055: A Micro-Raman spectroscopy investigation;” and Lowe spoke about her study titled “Cl-rich britholite substitution in apatite of high-titanium basalt 75055: A chlorine and REE-enriched phase of lunar phosphates.”

The students were accompanied by their advisor, James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences. Greenwood presented on “Volatile content of the lunar magma ocean: Constraints from KREEP basalts 15382 and 15386.” In addition, Martha Gilmore, chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, was an author on two Venus presentations at the conference.

Several alumni also made contributions at the planetary sciences meeting including Ian Garrick-Bethell ‘02; Peter Martin ‘14; Bob Nelson MA ‘69; James Dottin ‘13; Keenan Golder MA’13; Tanya Harrison MA ‘08; Nina Lanza MA ’06; and Ann Ollila MA ’06.

Faculty, Students Win Research Support from NASA’s CT Space Grant Consortium

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

Two faculty members and three students have been awarded grants in the latest call for proposals from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, professor of integrative sciences, were awarded $8,000 for a Faculty Collaboration Grant titled “Chondrule Formation Experiments.” This is to run high-temperature experiments on material that makes up meteorites in order to test a hypothesis that they put forward in a recent paper in Icarus this year.

Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, was awarded $1,500 for a STEM Education Programming Grant

Seniors Improve Scientific Research Skills with Studies in Hawaii

Students who are enrolled in the E&ES 397/398 Senior Seminar and Senior Field Research Project Capstone spent eight days conducting research in Hawaii. Pictured, the students gather on a lava tree field.

Earth and environmental sciences majors, who are enrolled in the E&ES 398 Senior Field Research Project course, spent eight days conducting research in Hawaii. Pictured, the students gather on a lava tree field.

Off the Kona Coast in Hawaii, massive manta rays glide through the ocean waters feeding on microscopic zooplankton. For more than 50 years, local hotels and tour boat companies artificially illuminated the coast with bright lights to attract plankton, and ultimately manta rays seeking an extra boost of nutrition in the evening hours.

“The manta ray tours use white lights, but we were curious to know if different light wavelengths correlated to changes in plankton abundance and diversity,” said earth and environmental studies senior Rebecca Hanschell.

Robert Ramos '16 observes tropical fish and corals while snorkeling in Kahaluu Beach.

Robert Ramos ’16 observes tropical fish and corals while snorkeling in Kahaluu Beach.

As part of the EE&S 398 Senior Field Research Project course, Hanchsell and 18 of her peers spent Jan. 5-12 in Hawaii working on group research projects. This course is open to all E&ES majors who completed the mandatory course E&ES 397 Senior Seminar during the fall semester.

The goal of 397 is to provide seniors with a seminar-style capstone experience “that explores topics that span multiple subdisciplines of the earth and environmental sciences,” explained Tim Ku, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. “In addition, students create hypothesis-driven original research projects which are then implemented in 398. We hope the seminar and field research project teaches students how to become independent, professional scientists.”

Hanschell, along with Zachary Calhoun, Alex Fireman and Robert Ramos, worked with a tour boat company to collect samples of seawater exposed to no light, white light, yellow light and red light. After removing water and examining the particulate matter left behind in filters in the SEM microscope, the group discovered that red light treatment had the highest nitrogen concentration and the highest overall number of plankton identified. The control sample collected in pure darkness had the lowest number of identified plankton.

Will Sawyer '16 uses a long “selfie stick” to photograph a top view of lava tree mold on a 1974 lava flow while Dara Mysliwiec '16 and Alex Fireman'16 assist.

Will Sawyer ’16 uses a long “selfie stick” to photograph a top view of lava tree mold on a 1974 lava flow while Dara Mysliwiec ’16 and Alex Fireman’16 assist.

For their senior field research project, Will Sawyer and Lydia Tierney studied a Hawaiian lava tree formed in 1974.

Varekamp Leads Invited Talk at Geophysical Union Meeting

varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Howard T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, led an invited talk at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 2015.

The earth and space science community participated in discussions of emerging trends and the latest research. The session, which was co-authored by former Wesleyan E&ES graduate student Lauren Camfield, focused on the 2012 eruption of the Copahue volcano in Argentina.

Due to the success of the invited talk on Volcanic Hydrothermal Systems, Varekamp will be a co-editor for a special issue of a journal based on that session. As part of his role as chair-elect of the Committee on Geology and Public Policy of the Geological Society of America (GSA), he will be interviewing five candidates in Washington D.C. for the position of congressional fellow.

Herbst, Greenwood Co-Author Article on Chondrules

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, and James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-authored an article published in the planetary science journal Icarus. Their article, “A New Mechanism for Chondrule Formation: Radiative Heating by Hot Planetesimals” grew out of research seminars from the recently introduced Planetary Science graduate concentration and minor at Wesleyan.

Their work focused on chondrules, or tiny spheres of molten rock that permeate primitive meteorites and date to very close to the beginning of the solar system.

For decades, the existence of chondrules has puzzled astrophysicists and cosmochemists as no obvious heat source exists at the time and location of their formation. Herbst and Greenwood set out to find this elusive heat source by combining their expertise in astronomy and earth science, respectively.

Jim Greenwood

James Greenwood

“It could be that the heat source is hot lava — oceans of magma– that may appear on nascent planets in their earliest days. The heat source is radioactive decay of a short-lived isotope of Aluminum, incubated in planetesimals with the size of small asteroids and brought to the surface as molten rock,” Herbst said.

Most of the material available for planet formation ends up on a planet very early on. A few “lucky bits,” represented by the primitive meteorites, avoided collision with a planet until just recently.

“It is, perhaps, not surprising that many, if not all of them, had a close encounter with a hot planetesimal that produced the chondrules and, likely, the chondritic meteorite in which they are embedded,” he said.

Environmental Geochemistry Students Present Research

Students in an Environmental Chemistry class presented their research about Lake Hayward on Dec. 2. From left to right: Zachary Kaufman '16, Nicole DelGaudio '18, Hannah New '16 and Jesse Tarnas '16.

Students in an Environmental Geochemistry class presented their research about Lake Hayward on Dec. 2. From left to right: Zachary Kaufman ’16, Nicole DelGaudio ’18, Hannah New ’16 and Jesse Tarnas ’16.

Students from Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Timothy Ku’s Environmental Geochemistry class presented their findings regarding the geochemical makeup of Lake Hayward in East Haddam, Conn., to almost two dozen members of the Lake Hayward and Wesleyan communities on Dec. 2 in a presentation at the Russell House. The class is part of Wesleyan’s Service Learning Program spearheaded by Rob Rosenthal, director of Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology.

“Working in science, it’s always fulfilling when you have people who care about the information you’re looking at,” said Zachary Kaufman ‘16.

Students did fieldwork on Lake Hayward in East Haddam, Conn.

Students conducted their fieldwork on Lake Hayward in East Haddam, Conn.

During the project, students collected samples and conducted lab work to analyze the lake’s eutrophication, or the process by which bodies of water are made more well-nourished and nutrient rich. While the process occurs naturally in all lakes, human activity can expedite the occurrence and cause ecological impacts and a rise in fish mortality, among other things. Students’ findings showed that there is nothing concerning about Lake Hayward’s current geochemical makeup.

“The students were enthusiastic and engaged,” said Randy Miller, a member of the Lake Hayward community who worked with students and attended the event. “We would do this again in a heartbeat.” (Photos below by Hannah Norman ’16)

Timothy Ku, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Science, introduces the class research.

Timothy Ku, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Science, introduces the class research.

More than a dozen members of the Lake Hayward  and Wesleyan communities watched the presentations.

Almost two dozen members of the Lake Hayward and Wesleyan communities watched the presentations.

Students presented their findings on the water chemistry of Lake Hayward. Left to right: Robert Ramos '16, Rebecca, and Lydia Tierney '16.

Students presented their findings on the water chemistry of Lake Hayward. Left to right: Robert Ramos ’16, Rebecca, and Lydia Tierney ’16.

Several Wesleyan Projects Awarded NASA’s CT Space Grants

Astronomy

Jesse Tarnas ’16 (left) one of this year’s award winners, accompanied Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield (second from right) on an observing run at the Kitt Peak National Observatory to do research on exoplanet atmospheres. Also pictured are Estella Barbosa Souza, now a graduate student in physics at Yale University, and Adam Jensen, previously a postdoctoral researcher at Wesleyan.

Four Wesleyan undergraduates and a faculty member received awards in the latest call for proposals from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Astronomy major Rachel Aronow ’17 was awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship in the amount of $5,000 for her project, “Planet Formation and Stellar Characteristics in Tatooine-like Systems.” She is working with Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, studying Tatooine-like systems (named after the fabled home system of Luke Skywalker), which are planet-forming disks that surround a close pair of stars that are in orbit around each other. Aronow conducted research with Herbst last summer, and these funds will support further work this academic year and possibly next summer.

Two students each received Student Travel Grants of $1,000. Melissa Lowe ’17, an earth and environmental sciences major, is working with James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and will use the travel grant to present research at the Lunary and Planetary Conference in Houston, Tx. in March. Jesse Tarnas ’16, an astronomy and physics double major with a minor in planetary science, is working with Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, on a project using data from the Kepler Space Telescope to measure the atmospheric and planetary properties of distant exoplanets. He is working on a senior thesis and will present preliminary results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Florida this winter. He is also attending the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco to present research he did as part of a summer research program at NASA Ames Space Academy.

Aylin Garcia Soto ’18 was awarded a $5,000 Undergraduate Scholarship, given to a student preparing for a career in STEM. Last summer, Garcia Soto worked at Williams College as part of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) Research Experience for Undergraduates program, of which Wesleyan is a member.

Finally, Amrys Williams, visiting assistant professor of history, was awarded a Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant of $5,000 for the “Under Connecticut Skies” project. She is leading an effort that involves several faculty in the Astronomy Department, History Department, and Science in Society Program to create a museum exhibit in the library of the Van Vleck Observatory inspired by the celebration of the observatory’s centennial anniversary. Supported by the Connecticut Humanities Council, Williams led research with a team of student last summer into possible exhibit topics. This NASA CT Space Grant award will support the implementation of the exhibit.

 

 

 

 

O’Connell Writes ‘Time to Stop Climate Cancer’ in Op-Ed

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair program, is the author of a new op-ed appearing on Inside Sources and The Hartford Courantin which she urges aggressive action to counteract climate change.

O’Connell acknowledges the difficulty in communicating the urgency of climate change, and writes that one way she’s found to express this to her students is to liken climate change to cancer. That is, it is the rapid rate at which we are introducing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—much like the accelerated rate of cell growth in cancer—that is so harmful.

She writes:

Cancer progresses at different rates in different patients and requires different treatments. Once diagnosed, however, aggressive measures are taken to stop the process. And the earlier treatment starts, the better the prognosis. Why aren’t we taking the same aggressive measures to limit our greenhouse-gas production? Because it’s too difficult or too costly? The same might be said for cancer treatment, yet most people take the aggressive option.

Maybe we are failing to take action because just as in the early stages of cancer, the early stages of global warming aren’t too obvious. Not yet. Few people, if any, wake up one morning knowing they have cancer. There are analyses and tests to be conducted first.

We’ve already done that work with regard to our climate, we have those analyses and tests. We know that air, land and ocean temperatures are rising. The warming ocean and melting ice contribute to sea level rise. Our wait-and-see attitude makes as much sense as waiting to see if the cancer spreads before undergoing treatment. What will a few degrees of warming do to a planet? To a human body?