Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • BAR HARBOR — Paleoclimate scientist Bess Koffman will talk about her research using mineral dust to track wind patterns over thousands of years May 3 at the College of the Atlantic. The free talk is open to the public and takes place at 4:10 p.m. in McCormick Lecture Hall.

    Koffman’s research focuses on learning about past changes in Earth’s atmospheric circulation by analyzing mineral dust from the ice cores.

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  • The beginning of the end started with violent shaking that raised giant waves in the waters of an inland sea in what is now North Dakota.

    Then, tiny glass beads began to fall like birdshot from the heavens. The rain of glass was so heavy it may have set fire to much of the vegetation on land. In the water, fish struggled to breathe as the beads clogged their gills.  [...]

    Richards and Walter Alvarez, a UC Berkeley Professor of the Graduate School who 40 years ago first hypothesized that a comet or asteroid impact caused the mass extinction, were called in by DePalma and Dutch scientist Jan Smit to consult on the rain of glass beads and the tsunami-like waves that buried and preserved the fish. The beads, called tektites, formed in the atmosphere from rock melted by the impact. [...]

    “When we proposed the impact hypothesis to explain the great extinction, it was based just on finding an anomalous concentration of iridium — the fingerprint of an asteroid or comet,” said Alvarez. “Since then, the evidence has gradually built up. But it never crossed my mind that we would find a deathbed like this.”

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    New York Times version

  • Global warming is melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, but for millions of people, ice is vanishing closer to home as lakes lose their winter cover.

    In a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists for the first time quantified the effects of rising temperatures on ice cover across 1.4 million lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. They found that, from Wisconsin to Japan, thousands of lakes that used to freeze reliably every winter already see some years without ice, and that “an extensive loss of lake ice will occur within the next generation.”

    The vanishing ice will affect cold-water ecosystems and be felt by millions of people who live near northern lakes, the study said.

    “Ice cover acts as a temperature reset for a lake every winter,” said Catherine O’Reilly, an associate professor of geology at Illinois State University and a co-author of the study.

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  • The Grand Canyon is a gigantic geological library, with rocky layers that tell much of the story of Earth’s history. Curiously though, a sizeable layer representing anywhere from 250 million years to 1.2 billion years is missing.

    Known as the Great Unconformity, this massive temporal gap can be found not just in this famous crevasse, but in places all over the world. In one layer, you have the Cambrian period, which started roughly 540 million years ago and left behind sedimentary rocks packed with the fossils of complex, multicellular life. Directly below, you have fossil-free crystalline basement rock, which formed about a billion or more years ago.

    So where did all the rock that belongs in between these time periods go? Using multiple lines of evidence, an international team of geoscientists reckons that the thief was Snowball Earth, a hypothesized time when much, if not all, of the planet was covered in ice.

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    Read The Technical Article

  • Severnaya Zemlya is a forbidding place in which to conduct research. Located in the Russian High Arctic north of Siberia’s Taymyr Peninsula, it has a large population of collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx torquatus), no permanent human population, and a mean annual temperature of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It does, however, have glaciers. More than 20 significant glaciers cover the four main islands making up this archipelago. For Dr. Joan Ramage, these glaciers are an important part of her studies into the distribution of glaciers and the impacts of environmental changes to glaciers, snowpack, and the cryosphere.

    The term cryosphere refers to any place on Earth where water is in its solid form, and includes snow, river, and lake ice; sea ice; ice sheets, ice shelves, glaciers, and ice caps; and frozen ground (such as permafrost). According to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the cryosphere covers 52-55% of Earth’s land surface. While glaciers represent only 0.5% of this total, seasonal snow cover, which is variable, can represent up to 30% of this total in the Northern Hemisphere alone, according to the IPCC.

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  • Two centuries have come and gone since the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Baldwin Wallace is celebrating.

    In 1818, the world got it’s first look at Shelley’s haunting tale, sparking discussions about what it means to be a human, and a monster, that still prevail today.  [...]

    Carrie Davis Todd, a professor of Geology, is also lecturing in Ritter on Oct. 17. Her lecture will be science-based, but with a surprising twist.

    She will be discussing the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, a seemingly unrelated event to Frankenstein. But the effects of this volcano are more important than they appear, she said.

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  • Illinois State Associate Professor of Geology Catherine O’Reilly is serving as principal investigator for a $1.7 million National Science Foundation grant to fund Project EDDIE, a series of classroom modules for undergraduate biology, geology, and environmental science students. This grant began October 1 and is estimated to end on September 30, 2023.

    O’Reilly will be part of a team that includes Illinois State faculty Rebekka Darner, Steve Juliano, Bill Perry, and Willy Hunter as well faculty at Carleton College, University of Arizona, and Queens College-City University of New York to develop the modules.

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  • Kristin Bergmann, the Victor P. Starr Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) has been awarded a 2018 Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. Bergmann is one of 18 early-career scientists in the nation selected this year. The prestigious fellowship, which includes a research grant of $875,000, encourages researchers to take risks and explore new frontiers in their field. [...]

     Bergmann is a geobiologist who reconstructs Earth’s ancient climate and surface environments. She uses methods spanning field measurements, isotope geochemistry and microanalysis to study rocks deposited in ancient oceans before and during the evolution of early animals. [...]
    During her fellowship, Bergmann will study ancient climate dynamics and dramatic environmental changes that accompany the emergence and dominance of multicellular, complex life on Earth.

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  • I am a geologist with interests in surface Earth history.  I use stratigraphy and geochemistry to address questions about the co-evolution of life and Earth’s surface environments in deep time.  Most of the rocks I study are carbonates, and I focus on early Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic time.  I’m especially interested in 1) the end-Ordovician mass extinction and Ordovician/Silurian icehouse, 2) carbon and sulfur cycling in deep time, 3) effects of diagenesis on stable isotope ratios of C, O, S, Ca, and Mg, and 4) the origin and geochemistry of dolomite.

    My field work has recently focused on sedimentary rocks in the Great Basin (Nevada, Utah) and modern playa lake deposits in California (Deep Springs Lake). Upcoming projects will include field work in Wyoming and Colorado. Past field work has included the Canadian Arctic, Mongolia, Italy, Atlantic Canada, and the Rocky Mountains.

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  • The 416 Fire, which broke out 10 miles north of Durango and burned over 55,000 acres impacted Fort Lewis College in numerous ways.  [...]

    A dry winter led to perfect conditions for a wildfire, said Kim Hannula, professor of geosciences.

    It was dry in the months of May and June and the little snow that was there melted early, Hannula said.

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