Cynthia Rockwell

Cynthia Rockwell, MALS ’19, P’11

Melillo ’65 Says Biofuels Emit More Co2 Than Gasoline

Jerry Melillo ’65, a senior scientist at the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., says in a study published in Science that the new generation of biofuels will actually emit more carbon dioxide, averaged over the first three decades of this century, than gasoline—although the fuels were meant to be a low-carbon alternative.

A Reuters report on the study noted that governments and private industry are spending billions of dollars on research into making fuels from wood and grass in the hopes of cutting carbon emissions while not competing with food, as corn-based biofuels do.

Melillo and his team found, however, that these advanced “cellulosic” biofuels will actually lead to higher carbon emissions. They contend that the land required to plant poplar trees and tropical grasses would displace farmland and therefore lead to more deforestation to create new crop farmland. Deforestation is a significant source of carbon emissions. Additionally, these biofuel crops require nitrogen fertilizer, which itself produces two greenhouse gasses.

Melillo notes that the paper is not meant to negate the place for cellulosic biofuels.

“It is not an obvious and easy win without thinking very carefully about the problem,” Melillo told Reuters. “We have to think very carefully about both short and long-term consequences.”

Shumlin ’79 to be Honored by Civil Rights Group

Peter Shumlin ’79

Peter Shumlin ’79

Vermont State Senator Peter Shumlin ’79 will be honored at the 8th Annual Human Rights Campaign New England Dinner, to be held in Boston on Nov. 14. HRC New England, the largest GLBT civil rights advocacy group in the country, is this year presenting the marriage equality award to “those who were heroes in our fight for equality.”

As President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Shumlin is considered instrumental on the April 15, 2009 Vermont legislature’s vote to override the governor’s veto and pass same sex marriage into law for the state.

Shumlin spoke about his reasons to support the bill last March on Vermont Public Radio. He called the passage “one of the proudest moments of my life” on the UK’s Guardian web site, where he traces his involvement in this historic legislation back to 2000.

“I owe a lot of my commitment to helping promote social justice to my Wesleyan experience,” he says.

It is expected that on Nov. 16, he will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Vermont Governor.

Report by Harrison MA ’08 Says Water Found on Mars

Tanya Harrison MA ’08, who studied with Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and is now at Malin Space Science Systems in California, is first author on a report that says her team found evidence of liquid water flowing on the surface of Mars in multiple locations as recently as this year.

An abstract of the report, titled “Present-Day Activity, Monitoring and Documentation of Gullies With the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera,” was published in the Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 267. The findings were reported in a speech at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting on Oct. 8, and the work also was presented at the 2009 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Oct. 19-21.

According to the report, the group found evidence of six active gully flows that formed since 2001. Of the six new flows, three have formation dates constrained to within a single Mars year; these three formed during autumn to early spring, demonstrating that summer warming is not participating in creating the liquid involved in their formation.

“These efforts are focused on understanding how the gullies formed, how they have been degraded, and where they are active today,” the report says.

Cothran ’01 Discovers Rare 1870s Photography Book

A recent article in the Tennessean highlighted a notable discovery at Nashville’s Parthenon Museum: a rare and complete copy of William J. Stillman’s 1870 photographic book, The Acropolis of Athens, Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally in Photography.

Museum assistant curator Brenna Cothran '01 at the Parthenon — Nashville's full-scale replica of the Athenian temple — shows a copy of William J. Stillman's photographic works. (Photo by Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Museum assistant curator Brenna Cothran '01 at the Parthenon — Nashville's full-scale replica of the Athenian temple — shows a copy of William J. Stillman's photographic works. (Photo by Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Registrar and Assistant Curator Brenna Cothran ’01 came across it as part of an ongoing four-year-old project of inventorying every item in storage as other duties permitted. She told Tennessean journalist Janell Ross that when she saw the book, which had been stashed away in a storage room drawer, “The hair on my arms stood up. It was kind of this adrenaline rush.”

Stillman, an American painter, photographer, journalist, and diplomat had published this work at a time when photography was, one might say, in its adolescence, and tourism had just begun to flourish. Nineteenth- and early early-2oth century admirers of Stillman’s work often removed the pages of the album to frame and hang on their walls. Thus, finding a complete copy of his book is highly unusual and the museum set about raising funds to cover the cost of conserving and restoring it.

Now, the back story. The reason Cothran immediately knew this was an exceptional find: her Wesleyan education—specifically classes with Professor Andy Szegedy-Maszak, who admits, “I guess I talked a bit about William James Stillman, about whom I’ve written a fair amount.” Stillman was a natural subject for the Classical Studies professor who, with his wife, writer Elizabeth Bobrick, has assembled a noteworthy collection of photographs, a number of which have recently been on exhibit at the Getty Museum and were exhibited in 1998 at Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center.

Additionally, Cothran’s find has also served to reconnect the former student with Szegedy-Maszak her former professor. “She wrote me immediately,” he says, “and we’ve been back in touch ever since.” Recently she notified him that the Tennessean article sparked the interest of a donor who has agreed to underwrite the entire cost of restoring the album. “The whole thing is pretty cool,” Szegedy-Maszak says.

Cothran agrees: “When I took art history, Latin literature, and other humanities classes at Wesleyan, I took them for the love of learning. At the time, I never imagined that just a few years later, I would be lucky enough to have a job that allowed me to put what I learned to use. This experience has highlighted for me the value of the education I got at Wesleyan.”