Tag Archive for COE

Beaumont ’19 a Finalist in Global Eco Competition

Shayna Beaumont ’19, an environmental studies and Hispanic literatures and cultures double major from New York, has been selected as a finalist in Map the System, a global competition that asks participants to research the ecosystem of an issue they care about.

Beaumont ’19 picking coffee at a coffee farm in Costa Rica during a semester abroad.

Shayna Beaumont ’19 picks coffee in Costa Rica during a semester abroad.

Her project, “Food Justice as a Platform for Environmental Equality in Harlem” tackles the issue of food deserts in the neighborhoods of East and Central Harlem in New York City.

“All my life I’ve grown up in food deserts where the unhealthy fast food chains and liquor stores are advertised, instead of healthy eating,” she said in a Coexistdaily blog. “My project is definitely a culmination of life experiences and how environmental studies is a social issue that needs addressing—not only for the white middle- and upperclass people branding the Green Movement, but from the underprivileged black and brown bodies that are victims of the systemic environmental racism that exists to this day.”

Beaumont’s work is supported by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Scholarship.

The competition finals will be held June 7-9 at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, U.K.

Read more about Beaumont in the College of the Environment’s Coexistdaily blog.

Students Study Volcanic Soil, Map Historic Footprints in Hawai’i as Part of Their Senior Capstone Projects

 Left to right: Tim Ku (faculty), Celeste Smith, Jacqueline Buskop, John Sheffer, Ryan Nelson, Sara Wallace-Lee, Kelly Lam, and Phil Resor (faculty) at a newly formed black sand beach on Hawaii. The rocks on the left solidified in 2018.

At left, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Tim Ku, Celeste Smith ’19, Jacqueline Buskop ’19, John Sheffer ’19, Ryan Nelson ’19, Sara Wallace-Lee ’19, Kelly Lam ’19, and Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Phil Resor visit a newly formed black sand beach on Hawai’i. The rocks on the left solidified in 2018.

Six students majoring in earth and environmental sciences who said “aloha” to Hawai’i in January have completed their senior capstone project.

Seniors Jackie Buskop, John Sheffer, Kelly Lam, Sara Wallace-Lee, Ryan Nelson, and Celeste Smith traveled to the Big Island of Hawai’i Jan. 8-15 to conduct original, field-based research projects. They were accompanied by Associate Professors of Earth and Environmental Sciences Tim Ku and Phil Resor.

Prior to the trip, all six students enrolled in the fall semester course Senior Seminar E&ES 497, where they used the primary scientific literature to create hypothesis-driven research proposals. After collecting data in Hawai’i, the students enrolled in E&ES 498, where they analyzed and interpreted their data, and summarized their projects in journal article–style reports. On April 7, the students presented their results in short talks at the E&ES colloquium.

“Through this capstone sequence, students learn to develop and execute a research project from the initial idea through the planning, field collection, and data interpretation stages, and finally, how to synthesize this work into an illuminating presentation and written report,” Ku said. “We hope this capstone experience helps students transition to independent, professional scientists.”

Buskop, Sheffer, and Smith teamed up to work on a project titled “Inferences from 3D Modeling and Field Measurements of Human Footprints of the Ka’u Ash Desert (Kilauea, Hawai’i).”

O’Connell in The Conversation: 60 Days in Iceberg Alley, Drilling for Marine Sediment to Decipher Earth’s Climate 3M Years Ago

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell writes about her work on board the JOIDES Resolution research vessel in the Scotia Sea, drilling for sediment core samples to study how much and how fast the Antarctic ice sheets melted between 2.5 to 4 million years ago, the last time atmospheric CO2 was at the same level as today. 

60 days in Iceberg Alley, drilling for marine sediment to decipher Earth’s climate 3 million years ago

Competition is stiff for one of the 30 scientist berths on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. I’m one of the lucky ones, granted the opportunity to work 12-hour days, seven days a week for 60 days as part of Expedition 382 “Iceberg Alley” in the Scotia Sea, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

I’m a paleooceanographer. My research focuses on how Earth’s oceans and climate operated in the past; I’m especially interested in how much and how fast the Antarctic ice sheets melted between 2.5 to 4 million years ago, the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were about 400 parts per million, as they are today. This work depends on collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor that were deposited during that time. These sediment layers are like a library of the Antarctic’s past environment.

The JOIDES Resolution is the only ship in the world with the drilling tools to collect both soft sediment and hard rock from the ocean – material that we recover in long cylinders called cores. No wonder researchers from all over the world, at all career stages, are excited to have traveled from India, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, China, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States to join the expedition.

Students Receive Undergraduate Research Prizes from Friends of the Wesleyan Library

Two Wesleyan students are the recipients of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library’s third annual Undergraduate Research Prize.

Emma Leuchten '19

Emma Leuchten ’19

Isaac Klimasmith ’20

Isaac Klimasmith ’20

Emma Leuchten ’19, an anthropology and religion double major, received the first place prize for her senior essay, “Anthropology Beyond Belief: Navigating Dreams and Reality in the Burmese Weikza Tradition.” Leuchten based the paper on fieldwork she conducted in Myanmar during a semester abroad. Her advisor was Elizabeth Traube, professor of anthropology.

The essay explores quests for power and knowledge in a contemporary Burmese wizardry tradition. Drawing from personal interviews with weikza (wizard-saints), devotees, and skeptics, Leuchten examines the tensions that have arisen between this tradition and orthodox Buddhist institutions in the post-colonial religious and political landscapes of Myanmar.

“I write against the anthropological impulse to study the symbolic or cultural value of religious figures and experiences—the tendency to explain ‘what’s really going on’ beneath a spiritual event,” Leuchten said. “Beginning with the premise that what I’m studying is real, I propose that a rigorous but open exploration of alternate ontologies can work to destabilize the dominant ontological assumptions that sociocultural discourse takes for granted.”

Isaac Klimasmith ’20, a biology major, received the second place prize for his essay, “Waters in the Wilderness and Rivers in the Desert: Irrigation Myths in the History of Early Mormon Agriculture.” Klimasmith wrote this paper while taking the class ENVS 307: The Economy of Nature and Nations, taught by Paul Erickson, associate professor of history; associate professor, environmental studies.

Varekamp Presents Papers at Volcanic Lakes Meeting in New Zealand, Receives Award

Johan (Joop) Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, presented three papers during the Commission on Volcanic Lakes (CVL) program held March 18-20 in Taupo, New Zealand. The papers were coauthored by Wesleyan students, graduate students, recent alumni, and faculty.

The CVL is a scientific, nonprofit organization of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI), connecting researchers that seek to understand how volcanic lakes relate to volcanic activity and their hazards.

Varekamp, who also is the Smith Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History and professor of earth and environmental studies, is a former leader of the CVL organization. In addition to delivering a keynote address, Varekamp was named the recipient of the 2019 IAVCEI Kusakabe Award.

Fish Species Named After Professor Barry Chernoff

Bryconops chernoffi

Bryconops chernoffi

A new species of fish discovered in Brazil was recently named in honor of Wesleyan Professor Barry Chernoff.

Barry Chernoff

Scientists encountered the Bryconops chernoffi in Rio Ipixuna—a small tributary of the Rio Maicuru, which feeds into the lower Amazon River in Pará, Brazil. Samples of the fish were collected by researchers on four trips in 2014–15, and in March 2019, Zootaxa released an article describing the new species.

Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, focuses his research on freshwater fishes in North America and the Neotropical region, primarily those in South America in the Amazon.

He’s also professor of earth and environmental sciences; professor of biology; chair, Environmental Studies Program; and director of the College of the Environment.

The Zootaxa announcement explains that Bryconops chernoffi’s specific epithet honors “Barry Chernoff, and is in recognition for his contributions to the taxonomy of Bryconops, as well as for ichthyology as a whole.”

Chernoff has published 89 peer-reviewed scientific works, including six books and edited volumes. He has led international teams on expeditions designed to conserve large watersheds of the world, having made more than 34 expeditions in 13 countries.

The Zootaxa abstract describes Bryconops chernoffi as differing from all its congeners “by the presence of an elongated dark patch of pigmentation immediately after the posterodorsal margin of the opercle, running vertically from the supracleithrum to the distal margin of the cleithrum (vs. absence of a similar blotch), and by a dark dorsal fin with a narrow hyaline band at middle portion of dorsal-fin rays (vs. dorsal fin hyaline or with few scattered chromatophores). It differs further from all its congeners, except B. colanegra, by the presence of a blurred black stripe at the anal fin.”

“It doesn’t really resemble my friend Barry, who in addition to being a fish scientist and environmentalist is also a guitar player and songwriter,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael Roth in a recent blog post. “And now he has fish named in his honor. A true species of Wesleyan.”

Chernoff is the third Wesleyan faculty, in recent years, to have a species named in his or her honor.

In 2010, a dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period (about 110 million years ago) was named Brontomerus mcintoshi for John S. “Jack” McIntosh, Foss Professor of Physics, Emeritus. The fossil, discovered in Utah, is marked by its large, powerful thighs, which may have been used to kick predators and travel over rough terrain. The American-British team of scientists who discovered the remains named the dinosaur for McIntosh, “a lifelong avocational paleontologist.”

Two species of benthic foraminifera are named after Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, research professor, earth and environmental sciences; the Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History.

Globocassidulina thomasae, discovered in the northeastern Indian Ocean, was named in 1999, and Ossaggittia thomasae, discovered in the eastern Indian Ocean, was named in 2012. They were named in honor of Ellen Thomas, “a well-known specialist on deep-sea benthic foraminifera, who was one of the first micropaleontologists to document the disappearance of Stilostomellidae and Pleurostomellidae in the Pleistocene of the North Atlantic Ocean.”

O’Connell’s Article Published by the Geological Society of America

The article is accompanied by graphic, featured on the cover, of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) ships (left to right): the Chikyu, a riser-equipped platform coring in the western Pacific; the JOIDES Resolution, which recovers cores throughout the ocean; and a Mission Specific Platform (MSP) drilling vessel. Dotted lines—representative depth.

O’Connell’s article is accompanied by a graphic featuring the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) ships (left to right): the Chikyu, a riser-equipped platform coring in the western Pacific; the JOIDES Resolution, which recovers cores throughout the ocean; and a Mission Specific Platform (MSP) drilling vessel. The dotted lines show representative depth.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a cover article titled “Holes in the Bottom of the Sea: History, Revolutions, and Future Opportunities,” published by the Geological Society of America (GSA) Today in January 2019.

Scientific ocean drilling (SOD) contributions include geophysical surveys, core samples, borehole well logs, and sub-seafloor observatories. After more than half a century, involving thousands of scientists from around the world, SOD has been instrumental in developing three geoscience revolutions: (1) plate tectonics, (2) paleoceanography, and (3) the deep marine biosphere.

In this paper, O’Connell explains that without SOD, it is unlikely that our current understanding of Earth processes could have developed. SOD has also been a leader in international collaborations and the open sharing of samples, data, and information. Almost 2.5 million samples have been taken from over 360 km of core located in three repositories. Today about half the members of scientific teams, including co-chief scientists, are women. This program is needed in the future for geoscientists to continue exploring our planet to understand how it functions and to create predictive models, she explains.

At Wesleyan, Professor O’Connell teaches geosciences with a strong emphasis on hands-on research with undergraduates. Her current research focuses on Antarctic climate change using sediment cores from the Weddell Sea, Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 113. She has authored or coauthored more than 60 refereed publications. Read more about O’Connell’s recent Weddell Sea core research in this College of the Environment blog post.

She is a member of the American Geophysical Union, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association for Women Geoscientists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. She is also on the governing council of the Geological Society of America and a recipient of the Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Award, Wesleyan’s Edgar Beckham Helping Hand Award, and the McConaughy Writing Award.

Students Receive Innovation Fund Grants from the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships

Musical Mentor Henry Hodder ‘20 works with two of his guitar students at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

Musical mentor Henry Hodder ’20 works with two of his guitar students at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown. Hodder’s group, Cardinal Kids, is one of nine student ventures to receive grants from the JCPP Student Innovation Fund.

This spring, nine student ventures received grants from the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) Student Innovation Fund. These student efforts are representative of the JCCP’s commitment to cocreate mutually respectful partnerships in pursuit of a just, equitable, and sustainable future for communities beyond the campus—nearby and around the world.

The Student Innovation Fund provides up to $750 for spring or summer projects that prioritize:

  • Collaboration between student groups, faculty/staff, and/or community partners.
  • Investigation of the impact of our civic engagement efforts.
  • Sharing of ideas and learnings in civic engagement on campus and beyond.

The recipients are:

Jessica Brandon ’20 and Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19
Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA)

Due to the structural forms of racism that economically oppress people of color, volunteer opportunities are inherently restrictive. ASHA’s innovation seeks to investigate this barrier to the involvement of students of color in volunteer opportunities, as it is essential to the project of cultural competency for an educational organization to include members that represent the identities of many different students. The Student Innovation Fund will support their effort to make ASHA an inclusive and equitable organization.

“Terrible Beast” Takes Residence in Exley Science Center

Exley Science Center is now home to its second prehistoric specimen—a massive land animal known as a Deinotherium giganteum. This elephant-lookalike would have weighed up to 20,000 pounds and would use their massive tusks for stripping bark from tree trunks for eating and for dominating fellow males during mating season.

Exley Science Center is home to its second prehistoric specimen—a massive land animal known as a Deinotherium giganteum—or “terrible beast.” The skull cast is displayed in the hallway between Exley Science Center and the passway to Shanklin Laboratory and is part of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History. The exhibit was installed on Feb. 26.

In 2017, the Deinotherium skull was discovered in two wooden boxes by faculty and students exploring Exley Science Center’s seventh-floor penthouse. The skull was once a centerpiece to Wesleyan’s Natural History Museum, located on the top floor of Judd Hall (pictured at left). After the museum closed in 1957, the Deinotherium and thousands of other specimens and objects were relocated and displaced around campus. The skull was first housed in the tunnels beneath the Foss Hill residence hall and relocated to Exley in 1970. (Historic photo courtesy of Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives)

Poulos, Students Collaborate on 2 Publications

Helen PoulosHelen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is the coauthor of two published papers in February.

Response of Arizona cypress (Hesperocyparis arizonica) to the Horseshoe Two Megafire in a south-eastern Arizona Sky Island mountain range,” is published in the February issue of International Journal of Wildland Fire (Issue 28, pages 62-69). It is coauthored by Andrew Barton, professor of biology at the University of Maine at Farmington.

This study documents the effects of the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona on Arizona Cypress. Two Wesleyan students, Hunter Vannier ’20 and Michael Freiburger ’21 assisted with the fieldwork in 2018 as part of their College of the Environment summer fellowships.

The group documented the effects of a fire-sensitive tree species that survives wildfire through fire-induced seed release (serotiny). On sites subject to severe fire, most mature cypresses were killed, the canopy opened, and seedlings established abundantly. Their results firmly establish Arizona cypress as a fire-sensitive but fire-embracing species that depends on stand-replacing fire (the loss of overstory trees) for regeneration.

“A drier future with more frequent wildfires could pose serious threats to all New World cypresses if these species do not have enough time between fire events to reach sexual maturity,” Poulos explained.

The second paper, titled “Invasive species and carbon flux: the case of invasive beavers (Castor canadensis) in riparian Nothofagus forests of Tierra del Fuego, Chile” was published in the February issue of Climatic Change. It is coauthored by biology major Chloe Papier ’17 and Alejandro Kusch of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Punta Arenas, Chile.

For this study, Papier completed a month of fieldwork in Patagonia on a College of the Environment winter fellowship.

The researchers documented the effects of invasive North American beavers (Castor canadensis) on carbon sequestration of riparian Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Their results suggest that beaver invasion can result in major differences between aboveground carbon in invaded versus un-invaded forest stands.

Gary Yohe, professor of economics; the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; and professor, environmental studies; serves as the coeditor in chief of the journal.

Students Partner with Physical Plant Employees to Learn Inner Workings of Campus

Pictured in the back row, from left: Sammy Osmond, Lilley Gallagher, David Malone, Tom Macri, Gaelin Kingston, Joseph Dorrer, Pictured in the middle row, from left: Dean Canalia, Camille Britton, Tamara Rivera, and Mia McKinney. Pictured in the front row, from left: Gretchen LaMotte '18 and Allison Orr.

Pictured in the back row, from left: Sammy Osmond ’22; Lilley Gallagher ’22; David Malone, HVAC/utility mechanic; Tom Macri, HVAC shop foreperson; Gaelin Kingston ’22; Joseph Dorrer, energy manager. Pictured in the middle row, from left: Dean Canalia, plumbing shop foreperson; Camille Britton ’20; Tamara Rivera ’21; and Mia McKinney ’22. Pictured in the front row, from left: Gretchen LaMotte ’18 and Allison Orr, Distinguished Fellow in the College of the Environment. Missing from photo are material handlers Mario Torres and Kristopher Patterson.

Six students in the Introduction to Environmental Studies course traded their notebooks, backpacks, and pens for wrenches, electronic temperature control meters, and even plungers as part of a special project involving staff from Wesleyan’s Physical Plant.

Throughout the fall semester, the students partnered up with an electrician, a plumber, material handlers, temperature control mechanics, and others to learn about trades and to form friendships with the staff who keep Wesleyan running behind the scenes. On Nov. 29 the students presented their experiences—through talks, performances, music, and graphics—to fellow classmates and Physical Plant staff.

5 Students Attend Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in Chicago

Katie Shewfelt '20, Makaela Kingsley '98, Anthony Price '20, Momi Afelin '19, Frederick Corpuz '20 and Ferdinand Quayson '20 attended the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference, held Oct. 19-21 in Chicago, Ill.

Katie Shewfelt ’20, Makaela Kingsley ’98, Anthony Price ’20, Momi Afelin ’19, Frederick Corpuz ’20, and Ferdinand Quayson ’20 attended the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference, held Oct. 19-21 in Chicago, Ill.

While 94 percent of children from wealthy Filipino households attend high school, only 69 percent from poor households continue to get a high school education after graduating from grade school (UNESCO).

Through a nonprofit venture called SALIN Ed., Frederick Corpuz ’20 is working to create an inexpensive, sustainable alternative to classroom learning that enables 10- to 12-year-olds in the Philippines to become independent, successful learners through an online program.

To advance his social entrepreneurial skills and better his venture, Corpuz applied to participate in the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference, held Oct. 19–21 in Chicago, Ill.