Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

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?

E&ES Faculty, Students Contribute to GSA Annual Meeting

 

uzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences and faculty director of the McNair Program,  with Kate Cullen '16.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences and faculty director of the McNair Program, with Kate Cullen ’16.

Wesleyan Earth and Environmental Sciences students and faculty attended and contributed to this year’s Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting, held Nov. 1–4 in Baltimore, Md.

O’Connell Honored by Association for Women Geoscientists

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, received the Exchange Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists at its annual awards breakfast on Nov. 2. The Exchange Award recognizes the contribution of those who exchange technical, education, and professional information in the field.

The award ceremony took place at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland in conjunction with the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. O’Connell is also faculty director of the McNair Program.

According to Blair Schneider, president of the Association for Women Geoscientists, O’Connell won the organization’s Outstanding Educator Award in 2000. Since then, she has been an active member of the group’s Outstanding Educator Award committee, and has continually written articles highlighting the winners for the group’s quarterly newsletter. In explaining O’Connell’s selection for the Exchange award, Schneider pointed to her rare “exemplary teaching” in which she uses “hands-on learning with research for undergraduates.”

“Suzanne is also an incredible supporter of the organization and exchanges information about who we are to her own students and young professionals at every meeting. For example, she pays to bring her own students to the AWG awards breakfast so that they can learn about the organization and see women being recognized for their achievements,” Schneider added.

O’Connell also recently co-edited the publication, “Women in the Geoscience: Practical, Positive Practices Towards Parity.”

 

Varekamp, Gilmore Co-Author Articles on Argentina’s Copahue Volcano

Joop Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Marty Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of professor of earth and environmental sciences, are the co-authors of two book chapters published in Copahue Volcano (Springer Publishers, September 2015)

Copahue Volcano is part of Springer Publishers’ “Active Volcanos of the World” series. Varekamp is the lead author on a chapter with Jim Zareski MA‘14 and Lauren Camfield MA’15. Gilmore and Tristan Kading MA’11 are co-authors with Varekamp on another chapter dealing with terrestrial environments as analogs for Mars. A third chapter, on acid fluids, was written by Varekamp with an Argentinian collaborator. 

Since 1997, Varekamp has worked with Wesleyan undergraduate and graduate students almost every year at Copahue Volcano in Argentina. This project is reaching its closing stages, and has led to 10 peer reviewed published articles, most co-authored with students, four book chapters, six MA theses, and eight senior theses. All these students have subsequently obtained higher degrees in E&ES fields and are currently employed in the broad field of geochemistry and/or volcanology. Varekamp is now focussing his studies on the Newberry volcano in Oregon.

Scientist Prager ’84 Speaks to Students about Marine Research, Books

Marine scientist and author Ellen Prager ’84 came to the Exley Science Center on Oct. 8 to talk about her recent research and writing. Discussing her book Sex Drugs and Sea Slime: The Ocean’s Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter, she entertained a crowd of Wesleyan students and faculty with stories from her work in the Galapagos and as researcher at the Aquarius undersea laboratory off Key Largo, Fla. Lately, Prager has ventured into the realm of children’s fiction in order to spread awareness about the ocean’s most pressing issues. Her most recent children’s book, The Shark Whisperer, was published in May 2015.

Peter Patton, the Alan. M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, professor of environmental studies, introduced Prager to the audience.

(Article by Andrew Logan ’18. Photos by Will Barr ’19)

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Gilmore a Science Team Member of 2 Space Mission Proposals Selected by NASA

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, believes that if scientists are able to measure Venus’ atmosphere and surface, we can better understand the climate, volcanic activity and the habitability of Earth-size worlds. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, believes that if scientists are able to measure Venus’ atmosphere and surface, we can better understand the climate, volcanic activity and the habitability of Earth-size worlds. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

On Sept. 30, NASA’s Discovery Program selected five planetary mission investigations for study during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for launch as early as 2020. Wesleyan’s Martha Gilmore is on two of the investigation teams.

Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is an expert on terrestrial planets. She studies the morphology and mineralogy of the surfaces of Venus and Mars using data from orbiting and landed spacecraft. She also is on the Executive Committee of NASA’s Venus Exploration Analysis Group which identifies scientific priorities and strategy for exploration of Venus.

Each of the five selected investigations will receive $3 million for one year to strengthen their proposed mission by doing in-depth concept design studies. At the end of the year, it is expected that one or two of the mission concepts will then be selected for flight.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic about this opportunity,” Gilmore said. “Venus is key to understanding how Earth-size planets operate in this solar system and in other solar systems. The driving question is why are Venus and Earth so different? Why is Earth the habitable twin planet? The measurements of Venus’ atmosphere and surface proposed by these missions are necessary to better understand the climate, volcanic activity and the habitability of Earth-size worlds.”