Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Varekamp Watching Alaskan Volcano Closely

Ascending eruption cloud from the Mount Redoubt volcano in 1990 as viewed to the west from the Kenai Peninsula. The mushroom-shaped plume rose from avalanches of hot debris that cascaded down the north flank of the volcano. A smaller, white steam plume rises from the summit crater. (Photo by R. Clucas)

Ascending eruption cloud from the Mount Redoubt volcano in 1990 as viewed to the west from the Kenai Peninsula. The mushroom-shaped plume rose from avalanches of hot debris that cascaded down the north flank of the volcano. A smaller, white steam plume rises from the summit crater. (Photo by R. Clucas)

About 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, the ground around Mount Redoubt has begun to shake and a smell akin to rotten eggs tinges the air. The last time this happened the 10,197-foot volcano erupted for five months, venting hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide gas and spewing ash into the air. Professor Johan Varekamp remembers it well. He was among scientists who analyzed the direct effects of the 1989-1990 eruption.

The ash he examined was ejected more than 40,000 feet into the sky; the resulting ashfall covered nearly 8,000 square miles of the surrounding landscape.

“As is often quoted in the newspapers, ash is an unpleasant substance for human lungs as well as jet engines, given the sharp edges of small glassy ash fragments,” says Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, who studies volcanoes and their effects. “Inhalation of volcanic ash leads to lung irritation and possibly lung damage. It is often compared to silicosis, which is a lung condition that many workers

‘Father of Environmental Justice’ Keynote at MLK Celebration

Robert D. Bullard.

Robert D. Bullard.

Robert D. Bullard, a leading authority regarding environmental justice and the author of Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, will lead the Celebration of the Life of Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. keynote address. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in Memorial Chapel.

Bullard is the Ware Distinguished Professor of Sociology and director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. Prior to joining the faculty at CAU in 1994, he served as a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, as well as visiting professor in Center for Afro-American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. His scholarship has distinguished him as one of the leading experts on environmental justice and race and the environment. He is one of the planners of the First and Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit.

“Robert Bullard, an activist and academic, is considered to be the father of environmental justice,” says Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, director of the Service Learning Center and member of the MLK celebration Planning Committee. “We’re very honored to have someone of his stature speak

NASA Grant to Fund Study on Venus’s Landscape

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Holding a globe model of the planet Venus, Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental science, and Phil Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental science, will study an area on Venus that contains the oldest rocks on the planet’s surface. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)

Thanks to NASA, two Earth and Environmental Science faculty are going to spend the better part of their next three summers on Venus looking at volcanoes and mountain ranges.

Specifically, Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environment science, and Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental science, will be using a three-year NASA grant to examine an area of Venus called the Tellus Regio, which is contains some of the oldest rocks on the planet’s surface.

“It’s an area of interest for two reasons, primarily,” says Gilmore, who has done work on Mars and Venus missions, among others for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “First, it’s an area that is high on NASA’s list of

Thomas Published in Science Magazine

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-author of an article on the “long record of the Ca-isotope composition of seawater,” published in Science Magazine Dec. 15.

Wesleyan, Community Design Festive Greens

The Center for Community Partnerships hosted a "Green Your Holiday" craft event Dec. 6 for the Wesleyan staff, faculty and students and the local community. Volunteer Shelia Gray Smith, at left, taught participants how to make festive centerpieces using fresh pine greens.

The Center for Community Partnerships (CCP) hosted a "Green Your Holiday" craft event Dec. 6 for the Wesleyan staff, faculty and students and the local community. Volunteer Sheila Graham Smith, at left, taught participants how to make festive centerpieces using fresh pine greens. Elisa Del Valle, assistant director of student activities and leadership development, is pictured at right.

Thomas Paper Designated as ’Current Classic’

A paper by Ellen Thomas was identified as one of the most highly cited papers in the field of geosciences.

A paper co-authored by Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and enviornmental sciences, titled “Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present,” published in Science, 292, in 2001, has been identified by Thomson Reuters Scientific’s Essential Science Indicators as one of the most highly cited papers in field of geosciences, and has been designated as a “Current Classic” for October 2008.

For more information go to: http://sciencewatch.com/dr/cc/08-octcc/’Article.

Thomas Author of 3 Geology, Palaeogeography Articles

Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and enviornmental sciences, is the author of “Research Focus: Descent into the Icehouse,” published in Geology, 36: 191-192, 2008. She is the co-author of “Depth-dependency of the Paleocene-Eocene Carbon Isotope Excursion: paired benthic and terrestrial biomarker records (ODP Leg 208, Walvis Ridge),” published in  Geochem., Geophys., Geosyst, 9 (10): Q10008, 2008; and “Effects of Oligocene climatic events on the foraminiferal record from Fuente Caldera section (Spain, western Tethys),” published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 269: 94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.08.006, in press.

Seniors Project Takes Student Researchers to Puerto Rico

At left, Hannah Hastings ‘’08 and Andrea Pain ‘‘08 snorkeled the Puerto Rico shoreline to collect seagrass as part of their earth and environmental sciences senior research seminar.

In January, Hannah Hastings ‘’08 and Andrea Pain ‘‘08 collected seagrass from the ocean floor to study nutrient content in a dinoflagellate-rich ecosystem off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico. The seniors returned to Wesleyan and analyzed their samples for carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus levels. They discovered a high ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus compared to the normal ratio in the ocean.

“”We discovered that high dinoflagellate concentrations are directly associated with elevated nitrogen to phosphorus ratios,”” Pain said during Part I of the Earth and Environmental Science Department’s Senior Seminar Research Project colloquium March 6. Part II of the colloquium is scheduled for March 25.

Assistant Professor Joins Earth and Environmental Sciences Department

Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, studies fossilized plants and plant physiology. He started at Wesleyan July 1.
Posted 07/13/05
Dana Royer has joined the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department as an assistant professor on July 1.His professional interests include global change; paleoclimatology, paleoecology, carbon cycles, paleobotany; plant physiology and stable isotope geochemistry.

“I study fossil plants in order to infer something about the paleoclimates in which they lived, as well as their paleoecologies,” he says. “I also study modern systems to learn more about the biological basis of these plant-environment relationships.”

After spending a semester studying wildlife ecology and conservation at the School for International Training in Arusha, Tanzania, Royer double majored geology and environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He received a Ph.D in geology from Yale University. His thesis is titled “Estimating Latest Cretaceous and Tertiary Atmospheric CO2 from Stomatal Indices,” and is based on fossil leaves that infer ancient CO2 levels back to 66 million years ago.

Before coming to Wesleyan, Royer worked as a research associate in the Department of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and as a visiting research associate at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, in The United Kingdom.

This fall, Royer will teach Geobiology and Introduction to Environmental Studies in the fall and Global Warming in the spring.

Royer says he’s most impressed by the energy in the E&ES Department, and Wesleyan’s solid reputation with research.

“I like the dual l emphasis on undergraduate teaching and cutting-edge research here at Wesleyan,” he says. “Most academic institutions make some claim to this, but Wesleyan delivers on both fronts better than any other institution that I know.”

Royer says the students also make Wesleyan an appealing institution to work.

“I was blown away by the students during my interview,” he says. “When I talk to my colleagues about Wesleyan, invariably the first point that they raise is the quality of the student body.”

Royer is the co-author of “Correlations of climate and plant ecology to leaf size and shape: potential proxies for the fossil record,” published in The American Journal of Botany, 92: 1141-1151, 2005; “Contrasting seasonal patterns of carbon gain in evergreen and deciduous trees of ancient polar forests,” published in Paleobiology, 31: 141-150, 2005; and “CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate change,” published in GSA Today, 14(3): 4-10, 2004.

He received an $80,000 grant from the Petroleum Research Fund, American Chemical Society in 2004 for his research on “Why do leaves have teeth? Breakthroughs in paleoclimate analysis from biological understanding of leaf shape.” The grant expires in 2006.

Royer resides in Middletown with his wife, Jenny, a plant ecologist. They have a 2-year-old son, Cole, and two “lazy” cats. For fun, he participates in endurance sports including marathons, ultramarathons and bicycling.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor