CCSU Rocks the Durham Fair Next Weekend

Once again, students and faculty from the Geological Sciences Department will be rocking the Durham Fair on September 21-24. Visit our table in the Llama Building on Thursday from 3-10 PM, Friday 9 AM – 10 PM, Saturday 9 AM – 11 PM, and Sunday 9 AM – 3 PM. View minerals through a polarizing microscope and a display of Connecticut rocks and minerals. Children will receive a goody bag with rock samples (supplies limited).

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Troy Schinkel: Tour Guide to the Environment

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One of our talented adjunct faculty, Troy Schinkel, is also part of the Master Naturalist Program at Goodwin Forest. He not only shares his broad knowledge of the natural environment in his classes at CCSU, but through public talks. Here are some of his outreach events coming up in the near future.

Talks at Goodwin State Forest in Hampton, CT

  1. September 8th, 10 – 11:00 AM. Goodwin Topography

Topography is the shape of the land. During this talk we’ll take a look at topographic maps of the area and learn how to read them. We will also take a short walk to compare what we see on the map to what we see in nature.

2. September 8th, 11:00 – 12:00 AM. Phragmites – Invasive Species

Phragmites has been invading the state of Connecticut. Learn about this invasive species and what the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has done to decrease the growth of the plant.

3. September 8th and 29th, 10 – 10:30 AM. Today’s Weather at Goodwin

This talk will focus on the weather that is occurring today. Topics may include: temperature, dew point, humidity, pressure, cloud type, wind, etc. We will then discuss the relationship between the weather variables. We will also use the weather variables to try and predict future weather.

4. September 29th, 10:30 – 11:30 AM. Mosquitoes

Nobody likes them! The buzz around us and then leave these itchy bumps! Well, let’s learn a thing or two about these insects. During this talk we’ll learn about some of the different types of mosquitoes, where they breed, and some of diseases they carry.

Troy is also giving public talks at Indian Rock Nature Preserve – Bristol, CT

September 30th & October 22nd, 11:00 AM. Climate Change: 2 Part Series

Earth: The only livable planet that we know of is heating up. Learn about the process behind the heating and what’s causing it. We’ll focus on the deadly trio within our oceans: warming, acidification, and anoxia, and how this trio impacts our oceans. We’ll also take a look at the differences between natural and human induced heating.

Please contact the hosting facilities directly for more information. Read more about Troy here, and please join us in thanking Troy for his service to the general public. Troy Rocks!

 

Eclipse viewing is a family affair at CCSU

[Chemistry Professor Barry Westcott and family are among the CCSU community members observing the Great American Eclipse on campus]

Although the Great American Eclipse was not total at CCSU, an impromptu observing session in front of Copernicus Hall allowed members of the CCSU family to safely observe the 67% partial eclipse. Clouds occasionally obscured the view, but using a variety of telescope projection systems Geological Sciences Department staff and volunteers (under the direction of Mr. Craig Robinson of our Copernican Planetarium and faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek) helped the students, staff, and faculty (as well as some from the general public) take a break from the preparation of our Fall semester and catch a glimpse of this celestial wonder.

Elsewhere on campus, Blue Devils watched the partial eclipse on their own, using solar eclipse glasses handed out by faculty member Dr. Kristine Larsen before she left for her total solar eclipse trip to Missouri. More on that adventure will be posted on our sister blog, CCSUniverse.

Although we did not have the resources to safely host an organized public event, we hope you enjoyed your eclipse adventure, wherever you observed it from, and regardless of how much you actually witnessed.

Geology is Everywhere!

[Crinoid fossils; CCSU alumna Jessica Johnson examining exposed strata]

Geology is everywhere! CCSU Geological Sciences Department professor Kristine Larsen and alumna Jessica Johnson are currently in Columbia, Missouri for the total solar eclipse. On a pre-eclipse adventure, the pair walked to the University of Missouri campus and found some amazing outcrops dating from about 350 million years ago. These rocks formed on the floor of an intercontinental sea and are literally flooded with tiny crinoid fossils. Crinoids were sea creatures that resembled plants. The “donuts” in the upper left photo are broken skeleton segments of their “stems.” Jessica was excited to apply what she had learned in her CCSU classes to a new geological environment.

Dr. Mark Evans is a Fine Fellow

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[Mark Evans and his wife, Cheri, on Mt. Evans (appropriately named) in Colorado]

In Spring 2017, Dr. Mark Evans was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. As described on the GSA website:

“Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting. GSA members are nominated by existing GSA Fellows in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic, and library responsibilities.”

One of Dr. Evans nominators, Dr. Charlie Onasch of Bowling Green State University says of Dr. Evans “Mark Evans is a leading authority on the nature and evolution of paleofluids in foreland fold-thrust belts and the interrelationships between fluid flow, diagenesis, paleomagnetism, and both brittle and ductile deformation. He has also excelled in the training of young geologists through classroom experiences and involvement in geological research.” Dr. Evans currently has 38 journal publication, 22 of which are first-author, and 117 meeting abstracts, 35 of which are with undergraduate student first-authors.

Dr. Evans was similarly elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London in 2012. The Geological Society of London is the first geological society, established in 1811.

The Geological Sciences Department at CCSU congratulates Dr. Evans on this prestigious accomplishment!

The Next Best Thing to Being There

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[A rainbow over the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico]

Dr. Jen Piatek’s research is literally out of this world! Although she is an expert on the geology of Mars, she can’t exactly take her astronomy students there for a field trip. Similarly, when teaching regular geology classes she wishes she could bring her students to see volcanoes, mountains, or lake deposits up close and personal, but the department budget is limited. However, using a camera and special GigaPan software, Dr. Piatek and her research students have created amazing high resolution panoramic views of these geological features  and bring them into the classroom for students to have an experience that is the next best thing to being there. Many of these geological features are reasonable facsimiles to features seen on Mars, so by learning about our own planet, students can increase their understanding of our neighboring planet.

Dr. Piatek’s latest GigaPan adventure was to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Students in her classes should expect to see these amazing panoramas in the near future. Dr. Piatek is always interested in involving students in her GigaPan adventures, so if you are interested in being one of her assistants, please contact her!

CCSU now has the coolest sandbox (and it’s not just for playing in!)

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[Introducing the new Augmented Reality Sandbox]

CCSU is now the only university in Connecticut with an Augmented Reality Sandbox. Part computer, part sand pile, this 100% educational (and fun!) set-up demonstrates a variety of geological phenomenon in real-time, including floods, volcanic eruptions, and glacier melts. Read about this new addition to the Geological Sciences Department here, and expect to get your time in the sandbox at the next university open house event!

Department Alumna Reaches for the [Falling] Stars

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[Jessica Johnson hugging a block of tephra in the national monument, Tent Rocks. The deposits are from one of the volcanic eruptions from the Valles Caldera.]

I graduated from the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU last May and have recently completed the first year of my Master’s degree at the University of New Mexico. For my Master’s thesis I am working on a carbonaceous chondrite, a primitive type of stony meteorite, which contains material from when the solar system was still forming!

Why did I choose this as the area of Geology to study?

Meteoritics, the study of meteorites, combines two loves of mine that I am deeply passionate about: Geology and Astronomy, two loves that were nurtured and encouraged in the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU! The faculty are like family to me there; a tight knit group of wonderful educators who want nothing more than for their students to succeed, and they will go to extreme lengths to help!

As part of my graduate degree adventure I had to complete a comprehensive exam. I wrote a research proposal on the project I wanted to complete and then defended that proposal in front of my thesis committee (a group of 3 faculty and research scientists) who questioned me for 1.5 hours about my proposal and various topics related to my research. I passed my exam and can continue on in my program! In about a years’ time I will complete my Masters’ degree!!

As scary as all that might sound, I felt incredibly prepared for graduate school because of the many opportunities the CCSU Geological Sciences Department offered me! I was fortunate enough to be able to complete research projects introducing me early on to what research meant and how much fun it was! In the classroom almost all of the classes required completing a small project or research paper and subsequently presenting on that project. Presenting in general can be a daunting and nerve-racking, but it’s inherently important in practically every profession, especially in the scientific world. Because we got so much practice presenting scientific views it has become second nature to me and I have become very comfortable doing it. This skill proved incredibly useful when I needed to present my research proposal to my committee during my comprehensive exam.

There are so many wonderful things that I have learned but probably the most valuable thing I learned from my family at CCSU was to never be afraid of a challenge! Graduate school has pushed me mentally in ways very different from my undergrad degree, but it is a challenge I am up for! Every single faculty member in the Geological Sciences Department made their classes challenging but provided the encouragement and tools to embrace and overcome those challenges. I am proud to call myself an alumna of the Geological Sciences Department and so grateful to have been taught and mentored by the wonderful people in that department!

— Jessica Johnson, CCSU Class of 2016

 

Giving back is a privilege

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[CCSU Astronomy Professor Kristine Larsen explaining to 5th graders how she became a scientist]

Giving back to the public is one of the greatest joys of my job. Whether it is showing the general public views through our telescopes or helping a high school student with a science fair project, giving a talk at a local library or talking about recent discoveries on a local radio station, sharing the wonders of the natural world with the people of Connecticut (and beyond) is something I am passionate about. Recently I was privileged to speak at Career Day at St. Paul’s school in Berlin. The two groups of fifth graders were enthralled by the meteorites I passed around, as well as the reproduction astrolabe, and could not contain their enthusiasm when they got to look at the overhead lights through diffraction grating glasses. It only took two hours of my time, and if I am really lucky, it might have made a lifetime of difference to one young girl or boy. Hopefully I might see some of these young people in my classroom in seven years.

My heartfelt thanks to the people of Connecticut for allowing me to serve them in this capacity. The universe belong to us all. If I can, in any way, help you to understand it just a little bit better, please call on me! You might find it hard to get me to STOP talking about it! – Kris Larsen, CCSU Class of 1985

Rocking Ireland for A Good Cause

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[Dr. Piatek at Meteor Crater in Arizona during the 2016 field project]

Dr. Jen Piatek, our planetary geology specialist, is part of a project (funded through NSF’s IUSE: GEOPATHS program) titled “Engaging Students in Inclusive Geoscience Field Experiences via Onsite-Remote Partnerships”. This week, she joins a team of researchers from multiple universities [including Steven J. Whitmeyer and Eric Pyle (James Madison University), Christopher L. Atchison (University of Cincinnati), and Helen Crompton (Old Dominion)] and students for a week of field geology in western Ireland. The project’s goal is to identify techniques and technologies that can provide access to remote field sites for geoscience students with mobility limitations. The first field season took place this past May in northern Arizona (see above picture) with the same students – a video describing the project and the first season is also “live” this week as part of the “STEM for All” Video showcase. The video can be found at http://stemforall2017.videohall.com/presentations/920 – please come by to leave comments, ask questions, and perhaps give the project a vote.