Tag Archive for Earth and Environmental Sciences

E&ES Seniors Conduct Capstone Research at Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest

EES capstone

During the Earth and Environmental Sciences Senior Field Research Project presentations on March 19, Phil Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences, showed a map of Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest. Here, three student groups spent the past semester studying the vegetation soils on the property; how the forest changed over time using historical imagery; and how the groundwater underneath the forest interacts with precipitation on the surface.

EES

Students and faculty from the E&ES497 class gather on the Long Lane field property near the forest.

Ten students majoring in earth and environmental science (E&ES) have completed their senior capstone projects.

Each year, seniors in the major embark on a capstone experience that starts with a seminar in the fall (E&ES497) in which students design an original research project, go on a field trip to carry out the research and complete their fieldwork, and then analyze their results and present them in written reports and oral presentations. In past years, students have ventured across the globe for their field trips. However, the pandemic caused this year’s projects to look a little different. This time, the field trips took place in a spot nearer and dearer to their hearts—Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest, which is just a half-mile west from the heart of campus.

Gilmore, Alumni Author Papers in 7 Journals

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of seven new papers and articles. These include:

Distinct Mineralogy and Age of Individual Lava Flows in Atla Regio, Venus Derived From Magellan Radar Emissivity,” published in the March 2021 issue of JGR: Planets. Gilmore’s former postdoc Jeremy Brossier, Katie Toner ’20 and Avi Stein ’17 co-authored this paper.

The Venus Life Equation,” published online in the January 2021 issue of Astrobiology.

Variations in the radiophysical properties of tesserae and mountain belts on Venus: Classification and mineralogical trends,” published in the February 2021 issue of Icarus.

Venus tesserae feature layered, folded, and eroded rocks,” published in the January 2021 issue of Geology.

Long-duration Venus Lander for Seismic and Atmospheric Science,” published in the October 2020 issue of Planetary and Space Science.

Low radar emissivity signatures on Venus volcanoes and coronae: New insights on relative composition and age,” published in the June 2020 issue of Icarus. Gilmore’s former postdoc Jeremy Brossier and Katie Toner ’20 co-authored this paper.

Present-day volcanism on Venus as evidenced from weathering rates of olivine,” published in the January 2020 issue of Science Advances.

In addition, “Felsic tesserae on Venus permitted by lithospheric deformation models,” written alongside and Beck Straley ’07 and Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research later this year.

OConnell Talks Ocean Exploration in Vox Podcast

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne OConnell

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured on Vox Media’s podcast Unexplainable in a March 17 episode titled “Journey Toward the Center of the Earth.”

The podcast explores unanswered scientific questions about mysterious aspects of the world and examines what scientists are doing to find answers. The episode with OConnell delves into a 20th-century quest to drill into the Earth’s layers through the ocean, specifically to learn more about a very dense region between the crust and the mantle called the Mohorovičić discontinuity, or the Moho.

“Project Moho was a bust, but it lay a foundation for exploring the ocean, which hadn’t been done before,” OConnell said in the podcast. “We still don’t know that much about it, and every day, almost, we learn something so exciting and so important about our planet.”

OConnell explained that drilling into the ocean allowed scientists to learn about past life and climate on Earth and discover life in the remotest depths of the ocean floor.

“Drilling into the surface sediment, we had no idea what the surface sediment of the ocean was like, and it defined a whole new field of geoscience: paleoceanography,” OConnell said. “And there could be a whole new field of mantle rheology that could be discovered with more pieces of mantle material.”

Read an accompanying Vox article titled “How an ill-fated undersea adventure in the 1960s changed the way scientists see the Earth” online here.

 

Volcanic Lake Study by Varekamp, Former Students, Published in Geology

Joop Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental studies, is the co-author of an article published in Geology, March 2021.

The study, titled “Volcanic Carbon Cycling in East Lake, Newberry Volcano, Oregon,” focuses on the bubbling East Lake, the site of the Newberry Volcano, and the geological implications of the carbon reactions happening there.

Varekamp co-authored the article with graduate student Christina Cauley and former students: Hilary Brumberg ’17, Lena Capece ’16, Celeste Smith ’19, Paula Tartell ’18, and Molly Wagner MA ’19. The team researched this geological phenomenon from 2015 to 2019, and they are currently preparing several longer papers on their Newberry lakes findings.

Varekamp’s research centers around volcanic lakes, mercury pollution, and rising sea levels.

Study by Snashall ’21, Poulos Published in Forests

Gabe Snashall ’21 and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos are the co-authors of “Oreos Versus Orangutans: The Need for Sustainability Transformations and Nonhierarchical Polycentric Governance in the Global Palm Oil Industry,” published in the Feb. 22 issue of Forests.

According to the paper’s abstract, “While the myriad benefits of palm oil as a food, makeup, and cleaning product additive drive its demand, globally, the palm oil industry remains largely unsustainable and unregulated. The negative externalities of palm oil production are diverse and devastating to tropical ecosystem integrity and human livelihoods in palm oil nations. Given the current trend in increasing sustainability and transparency in global supply chains, we suggest that sustainability policy reforms are feasible and have the potential to promote 21st-century U.S. and international sustainability standards. Polycentric governance may improve the attainment of sustainable global palm oil standards with a set of rules that interact across linear and nonlinear hierarchies and structures, thereby improving collaboration efforts, and increasing connectivity and learning across scales and cultures. Transformations towards sustainability in international palm oil governance has the potential to make valuable contributions to global sustainable development and improve the prosperity of poor rural communities in the tropics by providing a framework for achieving palm oil trade transparency and aligning the sustainability goals across a range of actors.”

Students Use GIS-Based Maps, Apps to Study the Effects of the Pandemic

mapsThroughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public has relied on dynamic visualizations in the form of maps and apps to keep up-to-date with the spread of the disease on both local and global scales.

And with the use of geo-enabled apps, individuals can locate COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, order groceries and other goods online, find uncrowded outdoor spaces, and track and even map the number of available medical resources in area hospitals.

“All of these services are available due to geographic information systems (GIS),” said Kim Diver, associate professor of the practice in earth and environmental sciences. “By using spatiotemporal visualizations, we can provide citizens, researchers, health care providers, and policy makers with a powerful analytical framework for visualization, data exploration, spatial pattern recognition, response-planning, and decision-making during the current pandemic.”

Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12 Named a “40 Under 40”

Rosemary Ostfeld

Rosemary Ostfeld

Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and public policy, was named to Connecticut Magazine’s 2021 “40 Under 40” list.

The 32-year-old from East Lyme, Conn., is the founder of Healthy PlanEat, a new sustainable food-tech startup that helps farmers who use sustainable growing practices sell their farm-fresh goods (whether fruits or veggies, cheese or oysters) directly to local customers.

Farmers using Healthy PlanEat—which enthusiastic members of the community helped start via a crowdfunding campaign—can upload inventory, set distribution options, and manage incoming orders. Customers can purchase food to pick up at the farms themselves, at farmers markets, at pop-up shop locations, or for delivery.

Ostfeld currently works with 14 USDA Certified Organic and Northeast Organic Farming Association Farmer’s Pledge farms in Connecticut and has plans to expand Healthy PlanEat throughout the Northeast.

She completed a BA/MA in biology and earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan, an MPhil in environmental policy, and a PhD in land economy at the University of Cambridge as a Cambridge Trust Scholar. Her doctoral research focused on exploring the impact of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to improve environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry.

This spring, she is teaching CSPL 239: Startup Incubator; E&ES 197: Intro to Environmental Studies; and ENVS 125: Community Gardening.

Wesleyan in the News

Several Wesleyan faculty and alumni have been featured in national media outlets recently. They include:

NewsThe New York Times—Life on Venus? The Picture Gets Cloudier; quotes Martha Gilmore

The New York TimesRobert L. Herbert [’51], 91, Dies; Saw Impressionism With a Fresh Eye

Transport Topics News—Democrat Ron Bloom ’77, P’24 Named Postal Board Chair Amid Calls to Fire Louis DeJoy

Stamford Advocate—Democrats: Impeachment Trial an Obligation ‘Whatever the Verdict’; quotes Justin Peck

Hartford Courant—E.J. Dionne: Does Bipartisanship Matter More Than Helping Kids?; features Michael Bennet ’87

Single-Tusked Walrus Skull Settles into Olin Library

walrus

On Jan. 20, crews installed a walrus exhibit in Olin Library. Pictured, from left back row, are Katherine Brunson, assistant professor of archaeology and East Asian studies; Wendi Field Murray, Archaeology Collections manager and adjunct assistant professor of East Asian studies; Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Bruce Strickland, instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; David Strickland, instrument maker; and Vivian Gu ’23. Pictured, kneeling, from left, are Yu Kai Tan ’20 and Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21.

Olin Library’s newest resident is looking for a good book to sink his tusk into.

The skull of a one-toothed walrus, which was installed in the Campbell Reading Room on Jan. 20, is the University’s latest exhibit on display from the former Museum of Wesleyan University (1871–1957). The piece was donated to Wesleyan 145 years ago by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History but has spent about half of its university life in storage.

The 26-pound skull, which is missing its right tusk, belonged to a Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) living along the Ugashik River in Alaska in 1876. The aquatic mammal would use its tusks to climb onto ice flows, attract mates, establish social structure, or for combat.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened to its other tusk,” said Professor of Biology Ann Campbell Burke. “In the wild, they don’t naturally shed their tusks, but they do get broken. This one was removed after death.”

Gilmore Receives Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America

Marty Gilmore

Marty Gilmore

For her exemplary contributions to research in the geological sciences and for being an instrumental mentor to young people of color, Professor Marty Gilmore received the 2020 Randolph W. “Bill” and Cecile T. Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America.

Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and co-coordinator of Wesleyan’s Planetary Sciences program, was nominated for the award by Jim Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University.

“Few individuals have done more for expanding diversity in the geosciences than Dr. Gilmore,” Head said. She “leads the way in geosciences by example: passionate interest in fundamental and cutting-edge science, dedication to teaching and service to the profession and community, and tireless mentoring and personal advocacy for young scientists. She is a shining beacon of light for young minorities and women contemplating a career in the geosciences, illuminating a clear inspirational destination of success based on her research and service accomplishments.”

Gilmore is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, has served on dozens of NASA and National Academy of Sciences-NRC Committees, has mentored more than 20 master’s degree recipients, many of whom were people of color, has served as chair of the Wesleyan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, VEXAG, and has a publication record of fundamental research contributions in planetary geoscience, particularly on the geological evolution of the Earth, Venus, and Mars.

“Being elected a GSA Fellow a few years ago was one of my proudest moments, and I am so appreciative of the work that GSA has done to advance the profession and its initiatives to seriously address the constant problem of access to the field by women and people with brown skin,” Gilmore said. “There is certainly a long way to go and I hope that we are successful in our work to insist that the geosciences are an open and obvious field for everyone who wants to pursue it. To any students or younger people of color in the field, know that there is nothing in you that prevents you from being at the top of this field. Not just a member, not a cog, but a leader—the best.”

Gilmore will receive the award virtually during the GSA’s national meeting on Oct. 27.

Thomas Honored for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research

ellen thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the recipient of the 2020 Joseph A. Cushman Award for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research.

At Wesleyan, Thomas investigates oceanic benthic foraminifera (eukaryotic unicellular organisms) as proxies for the impact of changes in environment and climate on living organisms on various time scales. This fall, she’s teaching the courses Research Frontiers in the Sciences and Mass Extinctions in the Oceans.

Brian Huber, president of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research noted that the Cushman Foundation Board of Directors agreed that Thomas “richly deserve[s] being honored for [her] voluminous and highly impactful contributions to foraminiferal research and the broader disciplines of paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and environmental science. [Her] influence as a mentor and educator and [her] leadership and selfless public service contributions to the international research community are also considered outstanding.”

Thomas received the award during the virtual Geological Society of American Meeting last fall.

Students, Alumni to Make Presentations at Geological Society of America Meeting

Wesleyan students, graduate students, and recent alumni will present research posters during the annual Geological Society of America meeting Oct. 26–30. The virtual event will allow for a five-minute presentation followed by a five-minute period to answer questions.

poster

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Yu Kai Tan ’20 and Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21 will present their poster, titled “Freshwater Mussels in North America: Museum Collections and Pre-Industrial Biogeography,” at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 29. Their advisors are Ann Burke, professor of biology, and Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences. Listen to the presentation in advance online here.