Faculty Awarded Grants to Improve Education (and More)

Department faculty members Dr. Jen Piatek (above left) and Dr. Jeff Thomas (above right) were recently awarded nearly a half a million dollars in grants to improve geoscience education and research.

Dr. Piatek, our planetary geology specialist, received two grants. The first is GP-EXTRA: Engaging Students in Inclusive Geoscience Field Experiences via Onsite-Remote Partnerships, a project funded through NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into Geoscience program (IUSE: GEOPATHS). She is part of a team of researchers [including Steven J. Whitmeyer (James Madison University), Declan G. De Paor (Old Dominion), and Christopher L. Atchison (University of Cincinnati)] exploring how technology can provide solutions to solve the problem of access to remote field sites for geoscience students with mobility limitations. The first field season took place this past May in northern Arizona, where she and her colleagues explored several geologically important field sites (including the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Meteor Crater, and volcanic features around Flagstaff). Students who could not get up close to outcrops or hike up cinder cones were able to see many of the same features via streaming video and communicate with the remote field teams to ask questions and speculate about the geologic features in the videos.  The team is presenting some of the initial results at the national Geological Society of America meeting in September, and will be expanding on these results during the second field season in Ireland next May.  More information about the project can be found at http://www.theiagd.org/geopath/– just keep in mind that the project isn’t accepting any more applications. The grant totals $27,000.

The second project, Constraining crater modification and primary ejecta characteristics of Martian craters via quantitative infrared and visible image analysis, has been funded for $292,000 by NASA’s Mars Data Analysis program. She and her colleagues [co-investigators Livio L. Tornabene (SETI) and Nadine Barlow (Northern Arizona University)] are using a suite of datasets to examine impact craters on Mars, with the goal of identifying the characteristics of the least-weathered craters. At CCSU, she and her research students will be working with thermal infrared data, looking for variations in surface temperature associated with different types of crater deposits. Simultaneously, a team at the University of Western Ontario (led by Gordon Osinski) will be mapping the same craters using high resolution visible images. When both maps are finished, they will compare the results (along with information from databases of crater characteristics) in order to understand what surface deposits have come from the formation of the crater, and which are the result of later erosion or deposition. There is room for more student researchers on this project (which will lead to numerous conference presentations and eventually publications), so contact Dr. Piatek if you are interested.

Dr. Thomas, a specialist in science education, has been awarded $144,900 for a second year of funding for the Next-gen Earth and Space Science Literacy Instruction and Expertise or NESSLIE professional development grant project.  This project is funded by a federal grant called the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant under Title II of the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110).  NESSLIE aims to improve the preparation of 38 middle school science teachers’ Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) earth science content knowledge and pedagogy through intensive and focused professional development. During the summer of 2016, teacher participants from 13 districts will complete three NGSS earth science units, focusing on weather, the solar system, and weathering and erosion. Department colleagues Dr. Kristine Larsen and Dr. Oluyinka Oyewumi will be presenting the latter two of these units. In the Fall the participating teachers will apply what they have learned in their own classrooms. For more information about this project, please go to https://nesslie.padlet.org/thomasjed/nessliehome

Congratulations to our faculty!

 

Introducing the New GPS Club President

sarajess

[Outgoing president Jessica Johnson (in green) gives a boost to incoming president Sara Poppa (in blue)]

[Editor’s note: The Geology and Planetary Sciences Club (GPS) held its officer elections in May. Graduating senior Jessica Johnson passed the rock hammer to Sara Poppa, the new GPS president. Sara’s comments follow below. We all look forward to her taking the reins of the student organization, and thank Jessica for her two years at the helm of the organization.]

This fall brings new and exciting adventures for me. I will be taking on the role of president for the Geology and Planetary Sciences club. I am both excited and proud to take on this role.  I cannot wait to work with everyone to make this a great year for the GPS Club. When I joined the club and the department at the beginning of the fall semester everyone made me feel so welcome and that inspired me to become more involved. I hope for this upcoming year I am able to do the same for everyone, including the new members that are to come. So make sure to bring a friend to our first meeting of the year because the more people there are the more opportunities will be available to us and more fun we will have doing what we all enjoy doing!

— Sara