Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • In the May-June issue of the journal American Mineralogist, a team of scientists announced the discovery of the new mineral krotite, one of the earliest minerals formed in our solar system. It is the main component of an unusual inclusion embedded in a meteorite (NWA 1934), found in northwest Africa. These objects, known as refractory inclusions, are thought to be the first planetary materials formed in our solar system, dating back to before the formation of Earth and the other planets.

    This particular grain is known affectionately as "Cracked Egg" for its distinctive appearance. Dr. Harold C. Connolly, Jr. and student Stuart A. Sweeney Smith at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) first recognized the grain to be of a very special type, known as a calcium-aluminum-rich refractory inclusion. ("Refractory" refers to the fact that these grains contain minerals that are stable at very high temperature, which attests to their likely formation as very primitive, high-temperature condensates from the solar nebula.)

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  • Heather Macdonald '76, the Chancellor Professor of Geology at William & Mary, was recognized for her excellence in teaching by being named a finalist for Baylor University's Robert Foster Cherrry Award for Great Teaching.


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  • Hidden behind an old rock quarry south of Fredericksburg is a nondescript sandpit that opens a window on the world of 14 million years ago, a spot where dolphins frolicked and sharks hunted. Today, teams of student and volunteer diggers are pulling out a jackpot of fossils sandwiched between layers of bluish-gray rock.

    "We don't know how they got here," said Alton Dooley, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, as he chipped away at the clay surrounding a newly uncovered bone. Dooley and other scientists say this is one of the biggest fossil sites east of the Mississippi - staggering in both number and diversity of species. "The most striking thing is the sheer number of bones and teeth that are packed in such a small area. In 20 years, we've only excavated about 4,000 square feet, and we've pulled out tens of thousands of specimens."

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  • Bess Koffman '04, a PhD student at the University of Maine, shows in a video how she studies ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland to reconstruct the seasonal variations and unusual events (like volcanic eruptions) on Earth thousands of years ago.

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  • UC Davis geologists have been using laser scanning and underwater video to capture images of life in an ice-covered Antarctic lake.

    Dawn Sumner, professor of geology, and graduate student Tyler Mackey have been studying bacterial communities called microbialites in the lake. These microbialites, which can grow into rocklike structures, are similar to the earliest known fossils of life on Earth from billions of years ago.

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  • AmherstCollege

    Karin Brown, Amherst College assistant swimming coach, and Susannah Rudel, a junior and member of the swim team, discuss the swim team's prospects and the annual "Ted Mullin Hour of Power," a nationwide swim-a-thon to raise cancer awareness and funds in memory of Karin's former teammate and friend at Carleton College, Ted Mullin.

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  • A wonderful geology alumni drama unfolded in the past few weeks as Stu Grubb was given a new kidney by his freshman year roommate Glen Carleton, both  hydrologists from the class of 1985.

    Stu has suffered from kidney disease for most of the past decade, but their other freshman roommate, Dave Lefkowitz ‘85,  wrote in late October, “Recently the situation has become much more serious. Last month he had to go on dialysis and begin the excruciating process of finding a kidney donor.  Stu is lucky to have a few very good friends who volunteered to donate a kidney, and amazingly, the closest match is our other freshman roommate, Glen Carleton. Glen will be making the trek from his home on the banks of the Delaware River to the Twin Cities for the surgery in mid-November.”

    The surgical transfer of the kidney took place Nov. 16 and was completely successful for both Stu and Glen.  Both of them were out of the hospital in a few days and home for Thanksgiving, their digestive systems on the way to returning to normalcy.

    Here is Stu’s blog posting from Nov. 27:

    “Obviously, I have lots to be thankful for this year.  I can hardly talk about all the support people have given us without getting all emotional.

    “I am also thankful for the ability to eat and drink almost everything again.  The last few months, I have been on a low-phosphorous, low-potassium diet (limited cheese, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, beans), and I had to limit my water intake.  Before that I was on a low-protien (vegetarian) diet for 8 years.  Now the doctors are encouraging me to eat and drink extra cheese, potatoes, beans, meat, and Diet Coke to help my body cope with all the drugs.

    “It has been wonderful.  If I could, I would make an extra huge bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy and just roll around in it.  Friends brought blueberry muffins and lentil soup, which were great, and my Mom prepared some delicious meals too.   A few times I ate so much that the outward pressure on my stitches was a little painful.  I think a little moderation is in order on the Thanksgiving leftovers.

    “No, on second thought, I am just going to eat ‘til it hurts.  Doctor’s orders.

    -       Stu”

    Congratulations and best wishes to both of you amazing people!

    (For more information see Stu And Glen's Blog)

  • Hannah Hilbert-Wolf may only be in her third year of studying geology at Carleton College, but she’s got some impressive field experience and publication credits: This past year was her sixth field season on the Monument. (Yes, she’s been coming out here since she was in high school.) And in addition to co-authoring papers, Hannah was recently an author on a published paper.

    Hannah was the most recent recipient of a Partners grant that aims to promote scientific research on the Monument. She found time between classes and conferences this fall to talk to me on Skype about her project.  Click here to listen to our discussion.

  • The Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VT EPSCoR) has appointed Miranda Lescaze as the coordinator of the VT EPSCoR Center for Workforce Development and Diversity (CWDD). The center recognizes the increasing importance of cultivating and preparing a diverse science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and social science workforce in Vermont and providing research internship opportunities for meritorious high school, undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing these areas of study.

    The Streams Project, launched in 2007 by VT EPSCoR, is a main initiative of the CWDD. The CWDD will help connect interested students in social science and STEM areas with faculty and private sector mentors throughout Vermont from the high school to graduate level at multiple institutions and companies through a competitive application process. The CWDD aims to help ensure, in partnership with participating institutions, equal educational research opportunities for all students, inclusive of a responsive environment for students with disabilities.

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  • On July 18th, 2005, around four in the morning, a research ship called the Arctic Sunrise was slowly making its way south along the eastern coast of Greenland. There was a helicopter on the deck, painted bright orange so it could be spotted easily if rescue were needed, and Hamilton saw its pilot, the only other person awake so early, coming down a nearby staircase. They had plans to fly to a massive glacier called Kangerdlugssuaq later that afternoon, to measure its speed and to see whether the warming climate had forced this part of the world into dramatic changes. The pilot asked if Hamilton wanted to take a quick flight over to the glacier now, to scout out a good landing spot. "Sure," Hamilton said. He went below deck to collect his maps.

    Returning to the Arctic Sunrise, Hamilton found the graduate student who was working with him, Leigh Stearns, and asked her to return to the glacier with him. On the way, he was purposely vague about what he'd seen; he still thought he might have missed something. 

    Later, back on the ship, Hamilton collapsed onto his bunk, exhausted. Stearns opened her laptop and started downloading data from the monitors. When she was done, the speed was so implausible that she checked her calculations five times to make sure she had the math right before she showed her boss. 

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