Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • Luc Mehl is an adventurer in the truest sense. His deepest passion is to set a course across a tract of the Alaskan wild then cover it by foot, ski, packraft, bike, and even ice skate. He documents his human-powered traverses in great detail on his website through photography, video, and writing. For the past several years, his biggest objective was to complete traverses across North America’s three tallest peaks–Denali, Logan, and Orizaba–trips that took Mehl and partners across hundreds of miles of forests, desert, glaciers, rivers, and mountain peaks for nearly a month each time. In between, he’s done dozens of smaller traverses and many summer and winter Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classics, brutal point-to-point adventure races.

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  • BOSTON — BY now the image of the demise of the dinosaurs has become iconic: a luckless tyrannosaur looking over its shoulder as a colossal fireball from heaven bears down on the horizon, the monster’s death by vaporization imminent.

    Hanging above the desk of the Princeton geologist Gerta Keller, though, is a different artist’s depiction. This time it’s a pair of tyrannosaurs — still doomed — but not by an errant space rock. In this picture they’re writhing on the ground in a withered landscape as eruptions from volcanoes and fissures in the ground tear the earth apart.

    These dinosaurs were killed not by the lava itself, but by the environmental catastrophe unleashed by the volcanic gases. [...]

    At a meeting in October of the Geological Society of America, Walter Alvarez patiently looked on as Dr. Keller presented her work dismissing his asteroid theory. When it was time for Professor Alvarez’s Berkeley collaborator, Mark Richards, to present his team’s paper, Dr. Richards admitted the destructive potential of the Deccan Traps and called their proximity in the fossil record to the asteroid “the 8,000-pound gorilla in the room.” Perhaps, he said, there was even a causal link between the asteroid — which induced a magnitude 12 earthquake — and the most destructive period of Indian volcanism.

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  • Tyler Mackey slips through a hole in an ice-covered lake, dropping a dozen meters into the near-freezing water and diving back about 2.5 billion years into the past.

    This trick of time travel isn’t science fiction, though the otherworldly view of what first appear to be small-scale stalagmites on the lake floor could be mistaken for another planet.

    The formations are not lifeless mineral deposits that form on cave floors, but rich mats of bacteria and other microorganisms that build structures reminiscent of organisms that lived billions of years ago before the rise of more complex life forms on Earth.

    “It’s beautiful down there. It’s an alien landscape,” said Mackey, a doctoral student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis. “When you go under the lake ice, it’s just [a] lush growth of bacteria. It’s a very strange knowledge that you are, by orders of magnitude, the largest organism in this setting.”

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  • From atop California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, it is a downhill trek into Nevada. But back in the Oligocene, you would have had a climb ahead of you. During that epoch and the latter part of the Eocene before it, the West Coast was host to a broad band of mountains resembling the modern South American Andes. Over time, the earth's crust in this region, known as the Basin and Range Province, stretched until it cracked into blocks, tilting like thick volumes between sliding bookends. Geologists are now mapping that long-ago transformation by using a phenomenon that has spanned geologic time: rain. [...]

    Those clues come in the form of hydrogen isotopes: rainwater molecules with heavier hydrogen atoms, which leave clouds at lower altitudes, become scarcer as rain clouds move to higher ground. Following that logic, University of Idaho geologist Elizabeth Cassel and her colleagues measured the isotope ratios in rock samples between the Sierra Nevada and eastern Nevada to map the mountain scapes of yesteryear (below). Their results were published in November in the journal Geology.

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  • Depending on the context, volcanic eruptions are either terrifying or transfixing—sometimes both, but rarely neither. The opportunity to safely view the otherworldly spectacle of lava rarely fails to ignite a child-like, giddy wonder. The damage currently being done by a lava flows in the Cape Verde Islands, on the other hand, is heart-breaking.

    We study these things because they are both lovely and terrible. We want to see a lava flow spill across a snowfield out of curiosity, and we want to better understand the hazards surrounding snow-capped volcanoes out of caution. Benjamin Edwards of Dickinson College and Alexander Belousov and Marina Belousova of Russia’s Institute of Volcanology and Seismology got the opportunity to witness one of these events last year in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

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  • Is there life on Mars? It's a question asked time and time again. And NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover may be a step closer to answering the question. The rover has measured a tenfold spike in plumes of methane. They have been detected in a small area in the so called Gale Crater, that's the 154 kilometre wide crater Curiosity has been exploring. And it's the concentrated nature of the methane which has scientists wondering about the possibility of a life form being responsible.

    Radio Interview With Joy Crisp '79

  • Minnesota’s black bear population — which now numbers 10,000 to 15,000 after peaking around 25,000 — appears to have stabilized after state officials deliberately reduced the population by boosting hunter numbers.

    Bruin numbers topped out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, then fell dramatically as the Department of Natural Resources issued more permits to hunters.

    “Our bear population was increasing quite fast during the 1980s and ’90s, and the only way to control it was to increase the number of hunters,’’ said Karen Noyce, DNR bear research biologist in Grand Rapids.

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  • Tyler Mackey has experienced cold like few others have. A Geology doctoral student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Mackey conducts most of his research under thick sheets of ice in water just above freezing temperatures – in the middle of a frozen continent. "I have made three trips down to Antarctica in the course of my graduate work, and I am currently gearing up for a fourth," says Mackey.

    Situated in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, Mackey's research consists of diving expeditions to the bottoms of near-frozen lakes. To train for these scientific dives, Mackey works with UC Davis' diving program at the Bodega Marine Lab, where he tests his equipment and enjoys experiencing the warmer Northern California coast when not in Antarctica or working on campus.

    Mackey was drawn to pursue his studies at UC Davis because of his advisor, Dawn Sumner, a geobiologist and professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “I was interested in the types of questions that she was asking about Earth history and the relationship between life and its surrounding environment,” he says. Sumner introduced Mackey to new areas of study, providing the tools necessary for his investigations and giving him the freedom to explore his own questions and connect them to the broader field of study.

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  • For Jennifer Wenner, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is where geology and creativity meet.

    Wenner is a creative and curious person at her core, she played outside a lot as a child and had parents who encouraged her to pursue education.

    “It wasn’t even a question I was going to go to college,” said Wenner, who was raised by parents with advanced college degrees.

    But Wenner, who now has a doctorate from Boston University, didn’t always know she’d pick a career choice that revolved around science.

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  • After a national search Vassar has named Art Rodriguez to be the college’s new Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. Rodriguez is currently the Senior Associate Dean and Director of Admissions at Pomona College (Claremont, CA), and he will begin his new position on September 1.

    As the senior member of the Pomona admissions staff Rodriguez’s roles range from day-to-day management of the Office of Admissions to development and implementation of admissions policy. He also has been responsible for incorporating new technologies to support the college’s admissions efforts. Rodriguez began his career at Pomona in 2000 and has also served there as assistant, associate, and acting dean of admissions.

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