Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Thomas Published in Geology, Paleoceanography

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of several new articles including:

“High-resolution deep-sea carbon and oxygen isotope records of Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 and H2 and implications for the origin of early Paleogene hyperthermal events,” published in Geology, 2010;

“Export Productivity and Carbonate Accumulation in the Pacific Basin at the Transition from Greenhouse to Icehouse Climate (Late Eocene to Early Oligocene),” published in Paleoceanography, 2010;

“Cenozoic record of elongate, cylindrical deep-sea benthic Foraminifera in the North Atlantic and equatorial Pacific Oceans,” published in Marine Micropaleontology, 74: 75-95, 2010;

And “Cenozoic Record of Elongate, Cylindrical, Deep-Sea Benthic Foraminifera in the Indian Ocean (ODP Sites 722, 738, 744, 758 and 763),” published in the Journal of Foraminiferal Research, 40: 113-133, 2010.

Greenwood Mentioned on BBC News Regarding Water in Lunar Rocks

James Greenwood, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, was mentioned in a June 14 BBC News science article on “Much More Water Found in Lunar Rocks.”

Greenwood and Professor Lawrence Taylor from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, have come up with evidence on the origins of lunar water: comets. According to the article, they believe there were a lot of comets flying around at the time of the Moon’s formation, “hitting the little, nascent, early Moon some 4.5 billion years ago.”

Fellowship Takes Haddad to Japan for Research on Environmental Politics

Mary Alice Haddad, assistant professor of government, assistant professor of East Asian studies, assistant professor of environmental studies, is one of 14 researchers in the world selected for the 2009 Abe Fellowship.

Although Japan lacks large national environmental advocacy organizations, it has one of the best records of environmental policymaking in the world.  Japan is one of the top producers of clean energy technology and hosted the global Kyoto Protocol that has set the standard for climate change policy worldwide.

For the next 12 months, Mary Alice Haddad will use Japan’s experience of environmental activism to build a broader theory of civic participation. She will test and refine a theory through the examination of environmental politics and civic participation in China, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore.

Her research is supported by the Abe Fellowship Program. Haddad, assistant professor of government, assistant professor of East Asian studies, assistant professor of environmental studies, is one of 14

Royer Awarded Donath Medal for Geological Research

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, has been awarded the Donath Medal by the Geological Society of America (GSA).

The Donath Medal is presented to “a young scientist (35 years or younger) for outstanding achievement in contribution to geologic knowledge through research which marks a major advance in the earth sciences.”

Royer’s research interests include global change, paleoclimatology, carbon cycle, paleoecology, paleobotany, plant physiology and light stable isotope geochemistry. He has done extensive studies which have established evidence on how plants affected ancient ecosystems, drawing parallels and evidence from current plant life and conditions.

The presentation of the Donath Medal will be made during the 2010 GSA annual Meeting in Denver, Colo.

Chernoff Writes About New Catfish Species in Zootaxa

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of earth and environmental sciences, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program,  is the co-author of “A new species of suckermouth armored catfish, Pseudancistrus kwinti (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) from the Copename River drainage, Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Suriname,” published in Zootaxa 2332:40-48, 2010.

Royer Author of Fossil Leaf, Fossil Soil Articles

Dana Royer, assistant professor of environmental studies, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of “Quantification of large uncertainties in fossil leaf paleoaltimetry,” published in Tectonics, doi:10.1029/2009TC002549, 2010; and “Fossil soils constrain ancient climate sensitivity,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107: 517-518, 2010.

Wesleyan Community Celebrates Earth Day

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, welcomes the audience to Wesleyan’s 2010 Earth Day Celebration titled ““Keeping Our Feet to the Fire: Joining Art and Science to Engage Environmental Issues.”

Wesleyan Celebrates Earth Day with Film, Panel Discussion

Feet to the Fire: Exploring Global Climate Change from Science to Art was an 18-month project which included research opportunities for a team of students and faculty to explore first-hand the effects of global warming. Feet to the Fire included an eco-arts festival in a neglected city park.

“Keeping Our Feet to the Fire: Joining Art and Science to Engage Environmental Issues” is the topic of Wesleyan’s 2010 Earth Day celebration on April 22.

The event will feature a world premier screening of Paul Horton’s film Connections within a Fragile World.

A  panel of environmental experts will discuss the question “are art and science as natural allies in communicating environmental issues to the public?” It will be moderated by Jeremy Isard ’11, with panelists: Godfrey Bourne, University Missouri St. Louis; Marda Kirn, EcoArts Connections, Colorado; Cassie Meador, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Washington, D.C.; and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program at Wesleyan.

The Schumann Prize for Distinguished Environmental Stewardship will be awarded to a member of the class of 2010 and a reception will follow the event.

O’Connell Lectures on Sea Sediment at Syracuse University

Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, director of the Service Learning Center, will be the K. Douglas Nelson Lecture Series keynote speaker at Syracuse University April 22. Her title is “Weddell Sea Sediment, ODP Site 694: One Clue to Antarctica’s Past.”

The event is sponsored by Syracuse’s Department of Earth Sciences.

Faculty Examine Issues Surrounding “Climategate” Report

A presentation titled, “After Climategate: Rethinking Climate Science and Climate Policy” was held March 25 in the Public Affairs Center. Faculty panelists examined a variety of issues surrounding the recent news media accounts known as “Climategate” which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC’s 4th Assessment Report.

A presentation titled, “After Climategate: Rethinking Climate Science and Climate Policy” was held March 25 in the Public Affairs Center. Faculty panelists examined a variety of issues surrounding the recent news media accounts known as “Climategate” which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC’s 4th Assessment Report.

Greenwood Finds Water in Moon Rocks

Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)
Jim Greenwood, research assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, holds a slide with a moon rock sample that contains water. The water was found in the mineral apatite, which he and his team were able to identify in the sample. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Soon after the Apollo spaceflights to the moon, experts examined the rocks brought back by the astronauts and declared with certainty that the moon was a dry, waterless place.

Forty years later, James Greenwood begs to differ. Not only does he have proof, his findings strongly suggest that some of the lunar water he found is not indigenous to the moon or earth but appears to have originated from somewhere else in space.

Greenwood, research associate professor, visiting assistant professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, pioneered a new method of analyzing the rocks using a combination of light, electron and ion-beam microscopes. He and his international team of planetary geologists and geochemists, announced their findings at the 41st Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, in March.

It was a discovery almost didn’t happen, however. In fact, the only reason Greenwood found proof of water on the moon was because he was looking at a rock from Mars.

“I was in a lab at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, using an ion microscope to measure water in Martian meteorites,” Greenwood, who is a planetary geochemist, says. “We had pioneered this new technique to use two-dimensional ion imaging and were looking at this mineral in the meteorites called ‘apatite,’ which is a common phosphate mineral and holds water. Our analyses had been very good, probably better than ever before. So I thought, ‘What if we used this technique on moon rocks?’”

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Greenwood thought of moon rocks because a 2008 study from Brown University had found possible evidence of water in volcanic moon rocks. However, the study had been problematic and its results disputed. Still, Greenwood was intrigued that the possibility of water in the lunar rock samples had not been thoroughly vetted.

“The rocks were all declared devoid of water when they were first analyzed 40 years ago,” he said. “But I thought our new technique held some promise.”

Greenwood’s technique and the advanced instruments he gained access to, made it possible for him and the other scientists on his team to analyze the sample’s chemical composition over areas as small as 5 x 5 microns.

“In the past, they had actually ground up the analyzed samples. This created conditions that put the chemical analysis out of context,” he says. “Our method let us look at the samples as they are, in situ.”

The hardest part was getting permission to examine a sample. Less than 900 rocks were brought back from all the Apollo missions combined. Access is strictly limited.

It took several months, but Greenwood was able to get a few samples to analyze. The first were from the lunar highlands, which he thought might hold promise. But no water-holding apatite was found. Then he gained access to a sliver of rock brought back from the southwestern edge of the Mare Tranquillitatis – the “Sea of Tranquility” – where Apollo 11 had set down in 1969.

“So there we were in the lab at about 3 a.m. and the first sample we looked at, boom, there it was. Water. At first we couldn’t believe it. But we double-checked and we were just blown away. It was clearly there.”

The apatite, which is the same mineral that teeth are made of, was rife with water molecules. However, as Greenwood and his colleagues continued to analyze the samples they found that the water contained in the rocks was not from the earth or the moon.

“It was consistent in the water that comes from comets,” Greenwood says.

How could he tell? Water molecules found on earth – and those indigenous to the moon, since it was once part of the earth – contain a specific ratio of hydrogen to deuterium, which scientists use as a standard. The water Greenwood has found in some of the lunar samples has nearly twice the deuterium.

“The only things that falls into this range with any consistency are comets,” Greenwood says.

He adds that comets have long been known to hold frozen water and that perhaps as much as 10% of the earth’s water had come from comets, as well.

Microscopic water in minerals inside moon rocks is a tremendous find, but in a practical sense it does not open the door to, say, astronauts extracting this water to use on a lunar base or colony. Greenwood says that process would be too expensive and energy-exclusive with current methods. However, his discovery does open up another possibility.

“The level of water we found in the samples are consistent with the amount of water one would find from the mantle in the earth,” he says. “So there may be a reservoir of water within the mantle of the moon. Somewhat like groundwater here on earth.”

How far within the mantle, how deep below the surface is another challenge for another completely different type of study.

But Greenwood and his team have confirmed what many people have wondered for centuries, perhaps millennia. There is water on the moon.

Wesleyan Faculty Host “After Climategate” Presentation March 25

Faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent reporting known as "Climategate," which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC's 4th Assessment Report.

Faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent reporting known as "Climategate," which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC's 4th Assessment Report.

A presentation titled, “After Climategate: Rethinking Climate Science and Climate Policy” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25 in PAC 001. Admission is free and open to the public.

The panel discussion will feature Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and senior member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Joe Rouse, chair of the Science in Society Program, Hedding Professor of Moral Science, professor of philosophy; Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental science, director of the Service Learning Center; and Paul Erickson, assistant professor of history, member of the Science in Society Program.

With Rouse moderating, the faculty panelists will examine a variety of issues surrounding the recent news media accounts known as “Climategate” which impugned some of the findings of the IPPC’s 4th Assessment Report.

Yohe’s presentation will include his first-hand experience with the Climategate story, from the initial leaking of private emails of key IPCC members on the Web a month before the U.N.’s Copenhagen conference, to the present. He will also offer quick glimpses