Sharing Our Students’ Success at the CCSU Majors and Minors Fair


[Mascot Rex the T-Rex, students Nick Zygmont and Sara Poppa, and faculty member Dr. Kristine Larsen representing the department]

While some departments might find it difficult to find volunteers, the Geological Sciences Department found itself with an embarrassment of riches at the annual Majors and Minors Fair at CCSU, with two faculty members and five students rotating through the table over the course of three hours. The faculty and students shared their passion for geology and astronomy with undecided students as well as faculty and staff from other departments on campus. Of course, having free star finders, candy, and Geology and Planetary Science Club bracelets, as well as an inflatable Saturn (plus an appearance from the ever-photogenic department mascot Rex) never hurts. Please join us at the CCSU Open House on October 30, 2016 or the Bristol Rock and Gem Show on October 15 & 16 and learn more about our programs.


CCSU Geological Sciences Rocks the Durham Fair!

[Joe Croze and Samantha Lawrence show the public at the Durham Fair that Geology Rocks!]

The Geological Sciences Department sponsored two tables at the regional Durham Fair from September 22 to 24, 2016. We had two hands-on displays. The first was ‘What’s inside a Rock.’ For this one we had a binocular microscope where people could look at a rock under low magnification. We also had a petrographic microscope with a camera and an external computer monitor displaying a thin section of the same rock. As people looked through the microscope they saw a rainbow of colors in the thin section due to the effect of polarized light. Nearly every little kid (and most adults) went OOOH! WOW! When we switched to plain light, the colors disappeared. Then  we put the polarizer back in and the colors came back. We rotated the stage so the colors changed like a ‘kaleidoscope.’ We told them that this is how geologists ‘look inside a rock’ to learn what minerals are present. Everyone was fascinated.

We also had a display of rocks from throughout Connecticut and especially from around Durham for ‘This is Durham 200 Million Years Ago.’ The kids were able to touch a fish fossil form Durham and we gave everyone samples of muscovite mica (everyone’s favorite), quartz and pegmatite, along with packets of the three different rock types. It was a huge success. We estimate that at least 3000 people stopped by our tables in the total of 30 hours that we were there. We gave away over 600 bags of rocks and minerals.

For Dr. Evans, it was a pleasure talking with the many people who stopped by and asked questions about the display. Dr. Evans also gave two talks at the Fair: The ‘Geology of Connecticut’ and ‘Climate Change Since the Last Ice Age.’ They both went well, even though the computer projector did not work for the first one. Describing the geology of Connecticut without any pictures was a real challenge.

We were invited back for next year’s fair, and we’ll probably do it. However, we’ll need much more planning as we ran out of every rock and mineral we gave away, as well as the bags to put them in. We want to thank all of the students that spent time collecting samples and working at the Fair: Joe Croze, Samantha Lawrence, Danielle Guzzardi, Sara Poppa, Ian Murphy, Nick Zygmont, Angie Colella, and Isabelle Kisluk. We also thank Dr. Allison Weinsteiger and recent alum Melissa Luna and her friend Shaun Mahmood from Wesleyan University.

— Mark Evans


Student Geochemistry Sleuth is Hot on the Trail of Arsenic Pollution


[Max Meadows is searching for the source of arsenic contamination in Lebanon, CT]

I spent my summer this year working with Dr. Oyewumi on a project with the intent to determine the source of arsenic contamination in Lebanon, Connecticut. Over the past few years, other students have collected data from stream sediments, and bedrock to try and solve the mystery of the contamination, but the data was incompatible with these being the sources. With the stream sediment and bedrock being ruled out, we are led to believe the source of high levels of arsenic is coming from the soil in the town. Of the 87 total soil samples collected, half have been geochemically analyzed by completing acid digestion. One such location resulted in arsenic concentrations nearly 10 times greater than the levels recorded in the rest of the town. Some possible reasons for concentrations of this caliber are overuse of fertilizers and other agricultural products, animal waste such as poultry litter that contains high levels of arsenic, or misused industrial products. I am currently preparing the remaining soil samples for geochemical analysis. It is my aspiration to find the source of the contamination, and to remediate the soils that have been constantly contaminated these past few years. – Max Meadows


Student Research Reaches New Heights Over the Summer

Two CCSU GSCI majors,  Heidi Salg (left) and Kristina Landry (right), worked alongside department chair Mark Evans this summer conducting field research in Wyoming and Idaho. They recount their experiences here.

Working in Wyoming was an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience, definitely one that will remain one of my favorites from my undergraduate education. I’ve gained a much more holistic view of how geoscience is conducted.  I really enjoyed being totally immersed in the field work, and working with other students and professors; it really allowed me to absorb so much in such a short period of time.  But what I value most from the field work experience was being incorporated into a team and learning how geologists conduct research and study the earth. Being included in that processes and collecting data allowed me to apply my education and gave a tangible experience to my academic career. Through the course of two weeks I gained a lot of confidence and a deeper understanding of how geoscientists integrate their knowledge along with their skills of observation and interpretation to analyze the natural world and come to conclusions about the processes governing the earth. The trip really helped validate what it is that’s drawn me to geology

Also besides being a great educational experience it was just a really exciting camping trip in the rugged and beautiful Wyoming Salient and I’m very glad I was able to be part of the adventure. – Heidi Salg

This summer, I spent two weeks in Wyoming and Idaho conducting field work with a small group of professors and students.  This was my second year collecting data in this area. Both years have been incredible learning experiences.  Before I left for the field the first year, I had one year of classroom experience.  With two semesters of looking at pictures and diagrams, reading articles and textbooks, and attending lecture and lab, I felt fairly confident in identifying structures and taking measurements.  When I got into the field, however, it was not as easy as the textbooks showed.  In those two weeks I spent immersed in rocks, I relearned and truly came to understand what I had seen and read about in class.  Seeing first hand the immensity of many of the rock formations and structures gave me a better appreciation for the scale and expanse of the units that I saw on the maps.  The country of western WY and eastern ID was a wonderful place to see the natural landscape and geology.  The vast area of untouched land is the perfect canvas to imagine the history of the rock, and visualize the timing relations of different deformation events.  – Kristina Landry