Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Wesleyan Participates in Earth Day Commuter Challenge

Between now and Earth Day in April, Wesleyan employees who seek greener ways to commute to campus will have the opportunity to earn rewards through the Earth Day Commuter Challenge 2010: “Race to the Finish.” The event encourages all forms of green commuting including carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, biking, walking and taking the bus, and is projected to eliminating more than 140,000 vehicle trips state-wide. This level of participation would result in 5,000,000 fewer miles of driving and the elimination of 2,000 tons of emissions.

“Our hope is that the Earth Day Commuter Challenge will encourage employees to get out of their single occupancy cars and use alternate green modes of transportation,” explains Cliff Ashton, director of Physical Plant. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment and hopefully it will save employees money at the same time.”

The event is endorsed by Governor M. Jodi Rell and culminates with a reception at the State Capitol for the employers who have successfully encouraged their employees to participate.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans take 1.1 billion trips a day. Of these trips, 78 percent are single-occupant trips, which clog roadways and account for about 50 percent of urban air pollution.

Several Wesleyan faculty and staff already make green choices in their to-and-from-work

Royer Speaks on Palaeo-CO2 Patterns

Dana Royer

Dana Royer

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, was quoted in a Dec. 30, 2009 issue of Nature News in an article titled “Soils give clean look at past carbon dioxide.”

According to the article, scientists believe atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may have been lower in warm eras of the Earth’s distant past than once believed. The finding raises concern that carbon dioxide levels from fossil fuel burning may, in the near future, be closer to those associated with ancient hothouse climates.

More immediately, the work brings one line of palaeoclimate evidence — that deduced from ancient soils — into agreement with other techniques for studying past climate.

“It makes a major revision to one of the most popular methods for reconstructing palaeo-CO2,” Royer says in the article. “This increases our confidence that we have a decent understanding of palaeo-CO2 patterns.”

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising today, and the new finding suggests that climate might be considerably more sensitive to changes in carbon dioxide than previously thought.

“This may have implications for near-future climate change,” Royer says.

Hingorani, Royer Published in National Academy of Sciences

Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the author of “S. cerevisiae Msh2-Msh6 DNA binding kinetics reveal a mechanism of targeting sites for DNA mismatch repair,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ” Early Edition,” December 2009.

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of “Fossil soils constrain ancient climate sensitivity,” published in the same journal.

Zeilinga de Boer Explains How Geology Influenced Connecticut Culture

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, Emeritus, presented "Stories in Stone: How Geology Influenced Connecticut History and Culture" Nov. 19 in the Exley Science Center.

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, Emeritus, presented “Stories in Stone: How Geology Influenced Connecticut History and Culture” Nov. 19 in the Exley Science Center. Fertile soil in the Central Valley fueled the state’s development into an agricultural power house, and iron ores discovered in the western highlands helped trigger its manufacturing eminence.

More than 100 students and faculty attended Zeilinga de Boer's talk.

More than 100 students and faculty attended Zeilinga de Boer’s talk. He explained that geology not only shaped the state’s physical landscape, but also provided an economic base and played a cultural role by inspiring folklore, paintings and poems.

The talk was sponsored by the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

The talk was sponsored by the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

Zeilinga de Boer is the author of Stories in Stone: How Geology Influenced Connecticut History and Culture published by Wesleyan University Press in July 2009. The book is available online from The University Press of New England.

Varekamp, Thomas Present Papers at Estuarine Research Conference

Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, and Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented papers at the Estuaries and Coasts in a Changing World conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation in Portland, Ore. Nov. 1-5.

Their talks were titled “Proxies for Eutrophication in Long Island Sound” and ” Hypoxia in Long Island Sound – Since When and Why.”

Farm Tours, Fun, Food at 2009 Pumpkin Fest

Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm Club hosted the sixth annual Pumpkin Festival Oct. 31 at the farm on Long Lane. The event was open to the Wesleyan and local community. Activities included food, baked goods, live music, Farmer’s Market vendors, pumpkin sales and painting, face painting, t-shirt designing and tours of the organic farm.

Music was provided by the student band, 350 degrees, and faculty band, the Mattabessett Pickers. (Photos by Valerie Marinelli)

Article by Resor, Meer ’06 Accepted in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Vanessa Meer '06, are co-authors on a paper titled “Slip heterogeneity on a corrugated fault," to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters in December. In 2005, Royer, Marie Brophy '07, pictured in foreground, and Meer (pictured in background) scanned a fault in Greece using a reflectorless total station in the field. Meer and Dana Royer returned in 2006 to rescan with a newer instrument. The paper builds on Meer's honor thesis work in Greece.

Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Vanessa Meer ’06, are co-authors on a paper titled “Slip heterogeneity on a corrugated fault,” to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters in December. In 2005, Resor, Marie Brophy ’07, pictured in foreground, and Meer (pictured in background) scanned a fault in Greece using a reflectorless total station in the field. Meer and Resor returned in 2006 to rescan with a newer instrument. The paper builds on Meer’s honor thesis work in Greece.

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.

Grad student Bennum Honored by Petroleum Geologists

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student George Bennum ’08 received an honorable mention for his student research poster titled “3D Modeling of Synsedimentary Faults in the Capitan Reef, Guadalupe Mountains, NM/TX” at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists “Rocky Mountain Rendezvous of Geoscience Students and Employers.” Phil Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, is Bennum’s advisor.

Blakemore ’65 Speaks on Psychologies of Global Warming

Bill Blakemore '65, an ABC News Correspondent, will speak on "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming," during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

Bill Blakemore '65, an ABC News Correspondent, will speak on "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming," during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

Four weeks before the nations meet in Copenhagen to try to avert the catastrophes that global warming may bring, ABC News Correspondent William Blakemore ’65 will identify many surprising psychological factors at play as people in all walks of life deal with the latest “hard news” on climate.

Blakemore will speak on “The Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

He’ll explore new definitions of sanity that may pertain, and give examples displaying different “psychologies, as well as manmade global warming’s place in “the long history of narcissistic insults to humanity itself.”

Two new time-line graphs of rapid and dangerous climate change will give fresh global context to the psychological challenges and experiences he has observed in the five years since he began focusing on global warming for ABC News.

Computer modelers trying to project the speed and severity of global warming’s advance often say that “the biggest unknown” in their equations is not data about ice or atmosphere, carbon or clouds, but “what the humans will do.” This talk probes that field and many states of mind already engaged.

The talk is sponsored by the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty, Department of Psychology, and the Robert Schumann Lecture Series in the Environmental Studies Program.

A follow-up discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Wasch Center on Lawn Ave.

Freshwater Resources Topic of Where On Earth Are We Going Symposium

Patrick Osborne

Patrick Osborne, executive director of the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, will speak on climate change during the Where on Earth Are We Going symposium Nov. 7.

During the last 50 years, humans have degraded rivers and lakes through excessive water abstraction, pollution and by over-harvesting aquatic organisms. River flow has been impeded by dams, and floodplains have been converted for agriculture and urban areas.

The human population has doubled to nearly 7 billion and, per capita water availability has declined on all continents. During the past 50 years, global climate change has further impacted water resources.

On Nov. 7, three climate experts will speak on “Global Environmental Change And Freshwater Resources: Hope For The Best Or Change To Prepare For The Worst?” during the annual Where On Earth Are We Going? Symposium. The event is sponsored by the Robert Schumann Lecture Series in the Environmental Studies Program.

At 9 a.m., Patrick L. Osborne, executive director of the Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will look at ways climate change and global warming have altered river and lake function and the water resources on which humans rely. He has 30 years experience in tropical ecology research, education and environmental consultancy and was the head of the biology department at the University of Papua New Guinea and deputy director of the Water Research Center at the University of Western Sydney in Australia.

At 10:15 a.m., Frank H. McCormick, program manager of Air, Water and Aquatic Environments at the Rocky Mountain Research Station,

Filmmaker Speaks to Wesleyan About Water Crisis

Eco-activist. filmmaker and reality television star Shalini Kantayya spoke about the global water crisis during Wesleyan’s Earth Day Celebration April 15. Her production company, 7th Empire Media, is committed to using media to give a powerful voice to the unheard.

Kantayya captured the attention of the nation during the television series “On the Lot,” a reality show created by Steven Spielberg for the purpose of finding Hollywood’s next great director. Out of over 12,000 filmmakers, Kantayya was the only woman to finish in the top 10.

(Photos by Alexandra Portis ’09)