Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Ramos ’16 Studies Oceanography, Marine Policy in Hawaii

Robert Ramos '16 spent five weeks this summer at the Hawaii Pacific University’s Hawaii Loa campus, participating in a SEA Semester program called “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Robert Ramos ’16 spent five weeks this summer at the Hawaii Pacific University’s Hawaii Loa campus, participating in a SEA Semester program called “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Robert Ramos from the Class of 2016.

Q: Robert, where are you from and what is your major?

A: I’m from Philadelphia, and I’m a biology and earth and environmental sciences double major.

Ramos explained how the ship's sonar equipment works.

Ramos explained how the ship’s sonar equipment works.

Q: This summer you did a SEA Semester program, “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” How did you become involved in the program?

A: I learned about the program from another Wesleyan student who had done it a few years ago. As a biology and E&ES double major, it sounded like it was right up my alley! At the time, I was thinking about how I was going to apply my studies—what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This seemed like a good opportunity to explore new options.

SEA Semester does programs at sea all over the world. This summer just happened to be the trip to Hawaii, and I was very excited to go there! I also didn’t want to miss out on a whole semester on campus at Wesleyan, so this worked out well in that it was just five weeks in the summer.

Q: Please give us an overview of how you spent those five weeks.

A: I took two classes—on oceanography and marine policy—and did research on topics like ocean salinity, temperatures and currents.

Wesleyan Hosting New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference Oct. 9-11

The 107th New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference will  be hosted by Wesleyan in Octobe

The 107th New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference will be hosted by Wesleyan in October. (Click to enlarge)

Wesleyan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences is hosting the 107th New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference Oct. 9-11 on campus and in the field. Several Wesleyan faculty, students and alumni are participating in the conference, which includes trips to local sites of ancient and modern geological interest.

Participants will have the opportunity to examine tectonic slivers of oceanic terrain near New Haven; explore groundwater flow patterns and geologic deposits in Bloomfield; observe a gravel bed channel affected by a dam removal on the Naugatuck River in Waterbury; learn about the bedrock geology in Collinsville; examine common continental facies that comprise the Jurassic Portland Formation in the Hartford Basin at multiple locations; observe mineral forming geoenvironments near Trumbull; study a cranberry bog restoration in Massachusetts, and much more.

In addition, Wesleyan’s Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, and Ellen Thomas, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, will lead a tour of coastal marshes

O’Connell Named Society Fellow of the Geological Society of America

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

For her distinguished contributions to the geosciences, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, recently became a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on leading professional geoscientists. New fellows are nominated by existing GSA fellows in recognition of their contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic and library responsibilities.

“Suzanne O’Connell is an accomplished geoscientist who highly honors the traditions of research and scholarship in the geosciences, but also pays great attention to the societal well-being of the community, reflected by her service in professional societies, her work in policy, and her persistent and caring attention to students,” said GSA fellow and nominator Marilyn Suiter MA ’81.

At Wesleyan, O’Connell teaches courses in the geosciences

O’Connell Edits Book that Focuses on Women in the Geosciences

womeningeosciencesSuzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-editor and co-author of the book, Women in the Geosciences: Practical, Positive Practices Toward Parity, published in May 2015 by Wiley and the American Geophysical Union.

The geoscience workforce has a lower proportion of women compared to the general population of the United States and compared to many other STEM fields. This volume explores issues pertaining to gender parity in the geosciences, and sheds light on some of the best practices that increase participation by women and promote parity.

Highlights include lessons from the National Science Foundation-ADVANCE; data on gender composition of faculty at top earth science institutions in the U.S.; implicit bias and gender as a social structure; strategies for institutional change; dual career couples; family friendly policies; the role of mentoring in career advancement for women; recruiting diverse faculty and models of institutional transformation.

O’Connell’s chapters are titled “Multiple and Sequential Mentoring: Building Your Nest”; “Learning to Develop a Writing Practice“; “Hiring a Diverse Faculty”; and “Lactation in the Academy: Accommodating Breastfeeding Scientists.”

O’Connell also is the faculty director of the McNair Program.

Thomas Authors 4 Papers on Environmental Change

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of four recenty-published papers. They include:

Deep-sea benthic foraminiferal turnover during the early middle Eocene transition at Walvis Ridge (SE Atlantic),” published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Issue 417: pages 126-136, January 2015. The paper’s co-author, Silvia Ortiz, was a PhD student at the University of Zaragoza, and spent several months at Wesleyan working with Thomas.

Students, Faculty, Alumni Attend Planetary Science Conference in Texas

Students, faculty and alumni involved in planetary science attended the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 16-20 in Houston, Texas.

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor earth and environmental sciences, gave a talk titled “urCl-KREEP? Cl-rich glasses in KREEP basalts 15382 and 15386 and their implications for lunar geochemistry.” Martha Gilmore, chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, met with the Venus Exploration Analysis Group as a member of its Executive Committee.

Jack Singer ’15 and Lisa Korn MA ’15 presented posters.

Several Wesleyan alumni also made presentations at the conference including James Dottin ’13 (E&ES), now a PhD student at the University of Maryland; Tanya Harrison MA ’08 (E&ES), now a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario; Ann Ollila MA ’08 (E&ES), now at Chevron; Nina Lanza MA ’06 (E&ES), now a scientist at Los Alamos National Lab; Bob Nelson MA ’69 (astronomy), senior scientist at Planetary Science Institute; Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02 (physics), assistant professor at the University of California – Santa Cruz.

Jack Singer ’15 presented a poster titled "High fluorine and chlorine in a chromite-hosted melt inclusion from Apollo 12 olivine basalt 12035.” He was supported by NASA Connecticut Space Grant and is the McKenna Scholar in E&ES. Jim Greenwood is his advisor.

Jack Singer ’15 presented a poster titled “High fluorine and chlorine in a chromite-hosted melt inclusion from Apollo 12 olivine basalt 12035.” He was supported by NASA Connecticut Space Grant and is the McKenna Scholar in E&ES. Singer’s advisor is Jim Greenwood, assistant professor earth and environmental sciences.

Lisa Korn, MA ’15 presented a poster titled "Possible Carbonate Minerals within an Unnamed Gulled Crater in Eridania Basin, Mars.”  She was supported by NASA Connecticut Space Grant and the E&ES Foye Fund. Scott Murchie, the Principal Investigator of the instrument whose data she uses (the CRISM spectrometer in orbit at Mars) showed her work to NASA as an example of the important new discoveries being made with the instrument. Korn's advisor is Marty Gilmore, chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology.

Lisa Korn MA ’15 presented a poster titled “Possible Carbonate Minerals within an Unnamed Gullied Crater in Eridania Basin, Mars.” She was supported by NASA Connecticut Space Grant and the E&ES Foye Fund. Scott Murchie, the Principal Investigator of the instrument whose data she uses (the CRISM spectrometer in orbit at Mars) showed her work to NASA as an example of the important new discoveries being made with the instrument. Korn’s advisor is Martha Gilmore, chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology.

E&ES major  James Dottin ’13 met Marty Gilmore at the conference.

E&ES major James Dottin ’13 met Martha Gilmore at the conference.

Resor Explores Connecticut’s Geological History

Phillip Resor at Connecticut's "Lake Char" fault zone. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Skahill/WNPR).

Phillip Resor at Connecticut’s “Lake Char” fault zone. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Skahill/WNPR).

Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, was recently interviewed on WNPR about an amazing part of Connecticut’s geological history. According to the story, several hundred million years ago, Connecticut was in the middle of a massive continental collision, which formed the super continent Pangea and pushed up huge mountains. Deep beneath the earth, a borderland beneath the two continents formed. Today, geologists call it the Lake Char fault system; it runs along the I-395 corridor in southeastern Connecticut.

Resor took WNPR reporter Patrick Skahill to East Haddam by Gillette Castle to walk along the banks of the Connecticut River, and showed him fine black patterns flowing through the hardened cliff which showed evidence of ancient earthquakes.

“That super-fine grain material actually is what we call ‘pseudotachylite.’ It was a melt — a frictional melt in the fault,” Resor said. “If you think about rubbing your hands together, you’ll get heat, right? So if you rub fast enough, you’ll raise the temperature to the point where you can actually melt the rock.”

Resor explained that as Pangea broke apart about 200 million years ago, the Atlantic Ocean began to open up. A little piece of that ancient continent called “Gondwana” had broken off and was left behind, stuck to Connecticut. Geologists call this zone “Avalonia.”

Read more and see pictures of Resor and the area he studies here.

Thomas Uses CT Scans, Computer-Aided Visualizations to Study and Teach Microfossils

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental science, holds two samples of microfossils that were printed on a 3-D printer at the American Museum of Natural History. The printed fossil models are about 8,000 times bigger than the actual limestone fossils.  Ellen Thomas holds two planktonic forms which lived closer to the surface of the water. At left is Hantkenina alabamensis, which lived when the world was warm, and went extinct at the time of formation of the Antarctic ice cap about 33.7 million years ago. At right is Globigerinella siphonifera. It lives in the subtropics today, in open ocean. "When it's alive, it has spines and protoplasm inside and along the spines," she said.

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental science, holds two samples of microfossils that were printed on a 3-D printer at the University of Iowa. The printed fossil models are about 8,000 times bigger than the actual limestone fossils. These planktonic forms lived closer to the surface of the water. At left is Hantkenina alabamensis, which lived when the world was warm, and went extinct at the time of formation of the Antarctic ice cap about 33.7 million years ago. At right is Globigerinella siphonifera. It lives in the subtropics today, in open ocean. “When it’s alive, it has spines and protoplasm inside and along the spines,” she said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

This slide contains 65 different microfossil specimens taken from an ocean drilling site in the eastern Indian Ocean. Some are estimated to be 55.8 millions years old and span a duration of 170,000 years. During this time, there was an extinction of deep-sea benthic foraminifera which may have been caused by rapid global warming.

This slide contains more than 300 microfossil specimens from an ocean drilling site in the eastern Indian Ocean. These are estimated to be 55.8 millions years old, and lived during a period of extreme global warming with a duration of 170,000 years. At the beginning of this warm period, there was a mass extinction of deep-sea benthic foraminifera, which may have been caused by the rapid global warming and ocean acidification.

#THISISWHY

Research Professor Ellen Thomas grasps a glass-enclosed sample of hundreds of microfossils, each a white fleck of limestone barely visible to the human eye.

“The first time students look at these they say, ‘they all look the same to me,’ but in reality, they are all have very different shapes,” Thomas says. “Even under a microscope, it can be difficult for a new eye to see the differences, but each species has its own shape; some have a much more open, light structure because they lived floating in the oceans close to the surface. Others have denser shells and lived on the bottom of the ocean, or within the mud. And each one can tell us, in its chemical make up, what the environmental conditions were like at the time that they lived and built their shells.”

By studying and analyzing microfossils, Thomas and fellow scientists are able to explore aspects of climate change on a variety of timescales,

Paper by Gilmore, Harner MA ’13 Says Mars May Host Hydrous Carbonate Minerals

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, and her former graduate student Patrick Harner MA ’13 are the co-authors of a paper titled “Visible–near infrared spectra of hydrous carbonates, with implications for the detection of carbonates in hyperspectral data of Mars,” published in Icarus, Vol. 250, pages 204-214, April 2015.

The paper suggests that hydrous carbonate minerals might be relevant on Mars.

“We bought and made these unusual minerals in my lab and then took spectra of them to simulate what Mars orbiters might see. Carbonate minerals form in water on Earth (e.g., limestones), and are predicted for Mars, but to date are uncommon on Mars,” Gilmore explained. “We suggest this may be because Mars may host hydrous carbonates which look very different than the anhydrous carbonates everyone is looking for in the data.”

Gilmore also is chair and professor of 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.