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Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • Vicki Hansen '80 Proposes Plate Tectonics Initiated By Meteorite Impacts

    January 25, 2010

    Recently, geologist Vicki Hansen, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, proposed a hypothesis that plate tectonics were triggered by ancient bolides crashing into Earth.

    Hansen theorized that early in Earth’s history - perhaps as much as 2.5 billion years ago - impacts from large extra-terrestrial objects could have been the catalyst for two prime elements of plate tectonics: the spreading out of new crust, and particularly subduction. Since numerous impact craters can be found on Mars and on the Moon, it’s a good bet that Earth suffered a similar steady barrage of meteor impacts in its formative years. According to Hansen, the Earth’s crust at the time was more uniform in thickness, except in certain zones where mantle heat rising up from below would have caused it to thin.

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  • Cam Davidson and Laura Cleaveland Peterson '01 to Explore Field-Based Science Program at Summer Workshop in Italy

    January 25, 2010

    Why would anyone propose starting up an off-campus study program – and a science program, at that – in a tiny village, perched on a ridge in the Apennine Mountains in central Italy?

    The answer, according to geology professor Cameron Davidson from Carleton College and environmental studies professor Laura Peterson from Luther College, is that the village in question – Coldigioco – is a center for geological research and is superbly situated for a field-based program in the earth and environmental sciences.

    And though it's not part of the "official" answer, Coldigioco happens to be, Peterson said, "one of those places that people just seem to fall in love with."

    This summer, with the support of a grant from the ACM Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Project, Davidson and Peterson will take a group of faculty from ACM colleges to Coldigioco for a five-day workshop, "Earth and the Environment in Italy." The deadline to apply for the June workshop is February 10.

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  • Laura Veirs '97

    NPR Interview With Laura Veirs '97: "July Flame"

    January 9, 2010

    With much of the country in a deep freeze this week, it might be good therapy to daydream about summer. July Flame is the summery title of the new album from Laura Veirs. She's known for writing songs about the great outdoors, and this new record — her seventh — is no exception.

    You needn't look any further than the title track as a way to warm up; it's about a peach grown in Veirs' home of Oregon. She saw the peach at a farmer's market and thought it was such a great name that it eventually became a song.

    Listen To The Interview

  • Walter Alvarez '62 Publishes "In The Mountains Of St. Francis," A Thoughtful Discussion Of The Apennines

    January 8, 2010

    Walter Alvarez is not just a supremely lucky scientist, but also a first-rate geologist. His luck is well known. He was alert enough to spot the signs, by an Italian roadside, of the "crater of doom" impact widely thought to have ended the Cretaceous Period and with it the dinosaurs. He was forceful enough to push forward a wave of research and take on the doubters, leading a classic and timely (and widely overstated) paradigm shift away from "conservative uniformitarian thinking" in geology. One never sets out to accomplish such a thing.

    If you think of science in terms of American football (not so outlandish), Alvarez worked hard and when the ball happened to fall into his hands, he took it for a touchdown. In that superstar role he has gained glory, left bruises and done a little end-zone celebrating in his previous book T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. But at the time of his discovery he had spent years in Italy, and would spend decades more there, doing something else.

    In the Mountains of Saint Francis is about that something else. It's about the rewards of playing on the team: being a first-rate geologist for more than 30 years in a field area of exceptional beauty, history and scientific fruitfulness. The mountains of the title are Alvarez's fanciful name for the central Apennines around the ancient land of Tuscany, where Francis earned his sainthood and where, as it happens, five centuries later the first true geologist studied the land and rocks. 

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  • Bretwood "Hig" Higman '99: Broadband, Yes. Toilet, No.

    December 30, 2009

    ON a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico during spring break, Bretwood Higman '99 and Erin McKittrick '01 found themselves on a beach, holding a battered tourist map. Sick of the collegiate shenanigans around them, Mr. Higman suggested they ditch the bars, take the map and walk the 30 miles of shoreline to the next town. “The beach is probably continuous, right?” Ms. McKittrick remembers him saying.

    To his surprise, Ms. McKittrick, whom he had met while they were studying at Carleton College outside of Minneapolis, was game. “That was a defining moment,” said Mr. Higman, now 33; he knew Ms. McKittrick was the one.

    Ten years later, they are married, have an 11-month-old son and have walked more than 7,000 miles together. “When we got together, it was more than the sum of the parts,” said Ms. McKittrick, 30. “Much more.”

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  • Holly Ewing '89 Leads Students In Lake Water Biochemistry Study

    December 15, 2009

    "Many lakes in Maine are clear and have relatively small amounts of nutrients coming in from outside," says Holly Ewing, assistant professor of environmental studies at Bates College.

    "Those of us who like to live on clear lakes, take drinking water from them and use them for recreation want to see them remain clear," Ewing says. But a process called lake eutrophication is spoiling clearwater lakes in Maine and elsewhere as higher levels of nutrients encourage blooms of algae and bacteria, many of which form scums or mats on lakes.

    When these organisms die and decompose, their decomposition can use up the oxygen in the water — bad news for fish and other organisms that need oxygen.

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  • Eiler Henrickson ‘43

    Henrickson ‘43, Denison Professor of Geology Emeritus, Passes Away

    December 14, 2009

    Eiler Henrickson ‘43, Carleton College Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology emeritus, passed away on Dec. 10, 2009. Funeral services are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. at Northfield’s First United Church of Christ with burial at the Oaklawn Cemetery. Visitation is on Friday from 9-11 a.m., also at First United Church of Christ.

  • Professor Emeritus Eiler Henrickson '43 Passes Away

    December 10, 2009

    It is with heavy hearts that we in the Geology Department report that Professor Emeritus Eiler Henrickson ’43  passed away this morning.  Several of his children and family members were by his side.

    Eiler's funeral service was held Friday morning, Dec. 18, 2009, at the First United Church of Christ (UCC) in Northfield.  The schedule for the service includes visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. at the church, the service at 11:00 a.m., and then a light luncheon following the service.

    We will be making up a picture board or slide show of pictures of Eiler doing the geology and wrestling that he loved.  If you have a classic Eiler picture we might be able to use, please mail it or email it to Tim Vick or Ellen Haboroth.  Email to me can be done with a reply to this email; my email is and Ellen's email is  Our mail address is Carleton Geology Dept., 1 N. College St., Northfield, MN  55057.

    We also will be making a memory book of comments and stories about Eiler.  Those can either be mailed to us on paper at the address in the signature block below, or you can use this handy on-line submission form.

    Also, we will hold a special memorial service on campus to celebrate Eiler in conjunction with alumni reunion in June.  That is tentatively scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, June 18, 2010.  We hope to join many of you there.


    Eiler Henrickson, age 89 of Northfield, passed away Thursday, December 10, 2009 under the wonderful care and support of the staff of Three Links CareCenter. Funeral Services will be 11am Friday, December 18th at the First United Church of Christ in Northfield with burial at the Oaklawn Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday from 9 am until the time of Services at the Church.

  • Prof. Mary Savina '72 And Suzanne Savanick Hansen '89 Help Win Funding To Study Adding Sustainability To Undergraduate Curriculum

    December 8, 2009

    Professor Mary Savina '72 and another alum, Suzanne Savanick Hansen '89, were among those who recently received Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) grants from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) to support collaborative faculty workshops with their proposal entitled "Integrating Sustainability into the Undergraduate Curriculum."

    The goal of this cross-disciplinary and cross-college collaboration is to develop, assess, and then disseminate well thought-out pedagogical strategies and practical, meaningful, usable activities for introductory courses across the disciplines at our institutions and beyond. Teaching and learning resources that will be developed over the course of the project will be disseminated online.

  • Naomi Lubick '94 Is Writing For Scientific American And NATURE

    November 20, 2009

    Carcasses of adult crocodiles do not usually signal the return of winter in South Africa, but mass death seems to be becoming the harbinger of the season. Rangers at the Kruger National Park have found Nile crocodiles floating in the Oli­fants River or bloated and decaying along its banks. Investigators are rushing to figure out the cause and worry that the deaths might be signaling the presence of toxins or pathogens that could threaten not only the croc population but also the livelihoods of the people living near the river.

    The Olifants River runs several hundred kilometers through three South African provinces and into Mozambique. It supplies water to industrial agriculture operations that send food to Europe and to the local rural communities, which also depend on those waters for fishing and farming.

    Thus begins one of Naomi's recent articles in Scientific American.

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    Another Story On Mud Volcanoes In Indonesia

    Some Of Naomi's Articles For NATURE