Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

Environmental Studies Class Presents Artist’s Books, Projects

Students enrolled in the Introduction to Environmental Studies course presented their artist’s books, children’s stories, documentaries and story maps during the class’s annual Project Showcase on May 14 in Exley Science Center. The class is taught by Kim Diver, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences. Suzy Taraba, director of Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives attended the event and spoke to the students about artist books.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Aviva Hirsch)

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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.

Varekamp Elected Chair of Geology, Public Policy Committee

Joop Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, was elected to be chair of the Geology and Public Policy Committee (GPPC) of the Geological Society of America (GSA). The group prepares position statements for GSA (e.g., on fracking, climate change). Varekamp has already made six congressional visits in March, visiting the offices of Senators Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Representative Rosa DeLauro. He does similar work as chairman of the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound.

Varekamp also was elected to be the chair of the LimnoGeology (‘lakes’) division of GSA for the next two years, which involves organizing conferences and sessions at annual GSA meetings, and editing special volumes on lakes.

In addition, Varekamp received funding through the Keck Geology Consortium for a research project on the two crater lakes of Newberry volcano in Oregon. Varekamp will visit the lakes this summer with a group of student researchers from Wesleyan, Amherst, Colgate and Smith College.

Resor, Seixas ’10 Co-Author Paper on Structural Mapping of Hualapai Limestone

Phil Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Gus Seixas ’10 are co-authors of “Constraints on the evolution of vertical deformation and Colorado River incision near eastern Lake Mead, Arizona, provided by quantitative structural mapping of the Hualapai Limestone,” published in the February 2015 issue of Geosphere, Vol. 11, pages 31-49. The paper includes research from Seixas’s honors thesis at Wesleyan.

In this study, the authors quantify the structural geometry of Hualapai Limestone, which was deposited in a series of basins that lie in the path of the Colorado River. The limestone was deformed by by a fault pair known as the Wheeler and Lost Basin Range faults.

Students Travel to Puerto Rico to Develop Research Skills

The group photo of the earth and environmental science team.  The group travelled to Puerto Rico in January to develop their research skills.

Twenty-one students, two faculty and one guest traveled to Puerto Rico in January. Students honed their research skills while on the chain of islands.

This semester, 21 senior earth and environmental science majors in the Senior Field Research Project (EES 398) course traveled to Puerto Rico to develop their research, data collection, analytical and presentation skills.

Students gathered samples in a bat cave while wading through inches of bat guano.

Students gathered samples in a bat cave while wading through inches of bat guano.

As part of the EES Department’s capstone course sequence, students are required to participate in a series of student-designed research projects. From Jan. 12-19, students performed independent research in the field.

“The overarching spirit is to have students participate in the full arc of a research project: from the design all the way to the presentation of the results,” said Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies. Royer has co-taught the class three times, this year with Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

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.