Tag Archive for O’Connell

OConnell, Dann ’17 Join 2021 Voices for Science Cohort

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne OConnell

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Julian Dann ’17, a graduate student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, were both selected to be part of the American Geophysical Union’s 2021 Voices for Science Cohort.

Hosted by the American Geophysical Union, Voices for Science aims to train scientists “to address the critical need for communicating the value and impact of Earth and space science to key decision makers, journalists, and public audiences,” according to the union’s website. Each cohort receives specialized training and mentoring throughout a 12-month period to hone their skills in communication and outreach.

Throughout the coming year, OConnell and Dann will participate in science communication workshops and work to promote the geosciences.

 

 

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.

 

Earth and Environmental Science Seniors Conduct Research in Hawaii

Sixteen earth and environmental science majors from the Class of 2020 recently conducted field research in Hawaii as part of their Senior Field Research course.

The class, E&ES 498, is taught by Tim Ku, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences. The course is open to students who completed E&ES 497: Senior Seminar, and focuses on improving scientific research skills.

Past classes have conducted research in Death Valley, Calif., the main island of Puerto Rico, the Connecticut River Valley, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The field research took place on the Big Island of Hawaii on Jan. 5-12 and the course concluded with student group presentations on March 3 and 5 and written reports.

The trip was funded by the Lawrence H. Davis ’76 Fund.

The students and their project titles are below:

Emmy Hughes, Avery Kaplan, Haley Brumberger, and Shuo Wang worked on a project titled "Assessing Microplastic Accumulation and Distribution on Four Beaches in Hawaii.

Shuo Wang, Haley Brumberger, Emmy Hughes,and Avery Kaplan worked on a project titled “Assessing Microplastic Accumulation and Distribution on Four Beaches in Hawaii.”

Emily Litz, Jackie Duckett, Miles Brooks, Katie Toner, and Allegra Grant worked together on a project titled "Coffee Soils: Carbon Source or Sink?"

Emily Litz, Jackie Duckett, Katie Toner, Miles Brooks, and Allegra Grant worked together on a project titled “Coffee Soils: Carbon Source or Sink?”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

O’Connell in The Conversation: How Deep is the Ocean?

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell has written a new article for The Conversation’s “Curious Kids” series answering the question “How deep is the ocean?” The article is based on her research studying the sea floor.

Curious Kids: How deep is the ocean?

The remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer captures images of a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field in the western Pacific. NOAA

The remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer captures images of a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field in the western Pacific. (NOAA)

Explorers started making navigation charts showing how wide the ocean was more than 500 years ago. But it’s much harder to calculate how deep it is.

If you wanted to measure the depth of a pool or lake, you could tie a weight to a string, lower it to the bottom, then pull it up and measure the wet part of the string. In the ocean you would need a rope thousands of feet long.

In 1872 the HMS Challenger, a British Navy ship, set sail to learn about the ocean, including its depth. It carried 181 miles (291 kilometers) of rope.

During their four-year voyage, the Challenger crew collected samples of rocks, mud and animals from many different areas of the ocean. They also found one of the deepest zones, in the western Pacific, the Mariana Trench, which stretches for 1,580 miles (2,540 kilometers).

O’Connell Works with International Scientists to Collect Sediment Cores from Scotia Sea

JOIDES

The JOIDES Resolution at the pier in Punta Arenas, Chile. (Credit: Thomas Ronge & IODP)

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

As campus was winding down for spring break last semester, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell was packing her bags for a two-month expedition in the Scotia Sea, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, to drill for marine sediment miles below the ocean waves.

On her ninth expedition since 1980, O’Connell was one of 30 international scientists working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, navigating “Iceberg Alley” aboard the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. It is the only ship in the world with coring tools powerful enough to extract both soft sediment and hard rock from the ocean floor.

At five carefully selected sites the ship stopped, and—provided the vicinity was iceberg-free—scientists lowered coring equipment through an opening in the floor of the ship to drill 0.5 to 2.5 miles down through the water and into the ocean sediment. After two hours, the equipment (which uses an action similar to that of coring an apple), would bring back the 31-foot-long core. Back on board, the cores were cut into 1.5-meter segments and then split lengthwise to reveal a layer cake of preserved mineral and organic sediment, each layer representing a snapshot of the ocean floor from a moment in geologic history.

Yang ’21 Participates in NSF-Sponsored Workshop on Antarctic History

Donglai Yang ’21 worked at the University of Arizona this summer on a project titled “Cenozoic detrital record offshore Dronning Maud Land.” His workshop concluded on July 8.

For two weeks this summer, Donglai Yang ’21 used isotope dating of rocks, minerals, and sediments from the Weddell Sea near Antarctica to determine the age of a section of Earth’s southernmost continent.

Yang, an earth and environmental sciences and physics double major, was selected as one of 10 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to participate in the National Science Foundation–sponsored Antarctichron/Chronothon 2019 workshop held June 24 to July 8 at the University of Arizona.

The workshop introduced participants to geo- and thermochronology through some applications to the geology of Antarctica. Students learned to analyze and interpret their own samples and data in the context of their own research projects.

Yang’s study focused on the “Cenozoic detrital record offshore Dronning Maud Land,” a Norwegian territory that makes up approximately 1/6 of Antarctica. He specifically studied rock and sediment fragments that broke away from a landmass.

“These sediments were deposited around 30 million years ago, but the minerals within that layer of sediments have diverse ages,” he said. “Those minerals are scraped directly from the Antarctic bedrock by glaciers so their ages bear complicated terrestrial thermal history.”

During the workshop, Yang participated in informal lectures and discussions and learned the fundamentals of radioisotopic dating, laboratory techniques, analytical instrumentation, basics of thermochronologic modeling, and the geology of Antarctica. Core samples were provided by the International Ocean Discovery Program sediment core repository and the fellowship also was supported by Wesleyan’s College of the Environment.

Yang’s advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, initially introduced Yang to the concept of radiometric dating in geosciences.

“I was fascinated at once,” he said. “Its current applications have far transcended its use since its advent when, about a hundred years ago, scientists finally managed to fathom the absolute age of the Earth.”

Now with a much-expanded understanding of the kinetics in multiple decay systems, questions that arise from almost every single field in earth and environmental sciences become resolvable to varying extents, Yang explained. “On top of this, our sedimentology lab reckons it a valuable opportunity to bring in some new techniques as we have rarely dealt with unstable isotopes in minerals before.”

After Yang graduates from Wesleyan, he plans on attending graduate school, conducting research in geophysics or geochemistry.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New York Times Magazine: I’m 20. I Have 32 Half Siblings. This Is My Family Portrait.

Eli Baden-Lasar ’22 always knew he was conceived using a sperm donor, but he didn’t discover he had half siblings until he was 19. He went out searching for them and found more than 30 young men and women around the country. In this photo essay, he writes about the experience of meeting his half siblings. Photo portraits he took of each of them are featured along with their quotes about meeting blood relatives they hadn’t previously known existed.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Geologist Embarks on 60-Day Voyage to Study Past Climates

Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell is featured in this blog post. She has studied paleoceanography for more than 30 years and recently sailed to the Subantarctic Ocean just north of the Antarctic Circle to drill for and study ocean sediment samples on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. She talks about dodging icebergs, and how she hopes the data she helped collect will be useful for climate modelers working to figure out how fast the ice will melt in the future.

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. (Read more about O’Connell’s experience in this AAAS article.)

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.

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.

O’Connell in The Conversation: What Scientists Have Found by Drilling into the Ocean Floor

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

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,Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, writes about the important findings that have resulted from 50 years of scientific drilling on the ocean floor—and how much is still unknown.

Scientists have been drilling into the ocean floor for 50 years – here’s what they’ve found so far

It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor. Much of what we do know has come from scientific ocean drilling – the systematic collection of core samples from the deep seabed. This revolutionary process began 50 years ago, when the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 11, 1968 on the first expedition of the federally funded Deep Sea Drilling Project.

I went on my first scientific ocean drilling expedition in 1980, and since then have participated in six more expeditions to locations including the far North Atlantic and Antaractica’s Weddell Sea. In my lab, my students and I work with core samples from these expeditions. Each of these cores, which are cylinders 31 feet long and 3 inches wide, is like a book whose information is waiting to be translated into words. Holding a newly opened core, filled with rocks and sediment from the Earth’s ocean floor, is like opening a rare treasure chest that records the passage of time in Earth’s history.

Oceans and Climate Class Visits D.C. to Learn about Legislation

Pictured, first row at left, Avery Kaplan, Nethra Pullela, Melissa Luna, Ella Caplin, Eric Hagen, Louisa Winchell, Kelly Lam, Suzanne O'Connell. Pictured second row is Ryan Nelson, Ryan Keeth, Miles Brooks, Ciara O’Flynn, Jason Yoo, Matt Butrim, Eduardo Centeno.

On Sept. 26, the Oceans and Climate class traveled to Washington, D.C. Pictured, first row (from left): Avery Kaplan ’20, Nethra Pullela ’20, graduate student Melissa Luna, Ella Caplin ’20, Eric Hagen ’18, Louisa Winchell ’18, Kelly Lam ’19 and Suzanne O’Connell. Pictured second row (from left): Ryan Nelson ’19, Ryan Keeth ’20, Miles Brooks ’20, Ciara O’Flynn ’20, Jason Yoo ’18, graduate student Matt Butrim and Eduardo Centeno ’19.

Students enrolled in the Oceans and Climate service-learning course recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where they had the opportunity to learn how legislation related to climate change is moved through Congress.

The trip, held Sept. 25-26, was led by Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair Program.

After a day of travel and overnight stay, the group took an early Metro ride to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where they met with representatives of the Congressional Research Service. Later that morning, the class traveled to the Dirksen Senate Building, which houses the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There, they met with two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellows.

The students shared lunch with policy staff in the Dirksen building and then traveled to the Rayburn House Office Building to meet with Sarah Laven, a legislative fellow for Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (CT). After touring the U.S. Capitol, the class returned to Middletown.

In the Oceans and Climate class, students are studying the major properties of the ocean and its circulation and changes in climate, including the effects of variations in greenhouse gas concentrations, the locations of continents, and the circulation patterns of oceans and atmosphere. They look at past variations in Earth’s climate and oceans and try to understand the implications for possible climates of the future.