CCSU Geology Students Share Their Expertise with Local Rock Hounds

On October 20 and 21, CCSU Geology students and faculty shared their passion for pumice, love of labradorite, and zeal for zircons at the annual Bristol Mineral and Gem show. The students were especially excited to spark an interest in geology in the youngest attendees, including Cub Scouts and Brownies. If you didn’t get a chance to see our students in action (and pick up your free samples of Connecticut rocks!), mark your calendar for March 3 and 4, 2019, when the students will bring our department booth to the annual Meriden Rock and Mineral show.

Meet the Rock Stars: Kelsey Duffy

Kelsey on the Gunks

[Kelsey Duffy is a Senior majoring in Earth Science with a Specialization in Geology]

Current research project: The fracture and fluid history of the Tuscarora Mt. Anticline in the Pennsylvania salient.

Research advisor: Dr. Mark Evans

Favorite class in the department (and why): Mineralogy and Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology! Getting so much experience using the department’s petrographic microscopes was incredibly gratifying.

Other CCSU activities: Geology and Plantary Science Club (GPS); SIgma Gamma Epsilon Earth Sciences Honors Society.

Most amazing thing you’ve learned at CCSU: The faculty here have really helped me learn how to learn. Careful time management and collaboration are everything in this department and I always feel very supported.


One More Time at the Durham Fair!



For the third year in a row, the Geological Sciences Department sponsored two tables at the regional Durham Fair from September 27 to 30, 2018. We estimate that over 3000 people stopped by our tables in the total of 32 hours that we were there.

Our set-up was similar previous years: 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 WOW!, 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 from Durham and we got a chance to teach the general public about the fascinating geology of the region. We also gave out samples of muscovite mica, pegmatite, and packets of the three different rock types. We gave away about 1000 bags of rocks and minerals.

Like previous years, Dr. Evans also gave two talks at the Fair: The ‘Geology of Connecticut’ and ‘Climate Change in Connecticut in the Past 20,000 Years.’ Both were well attended with 30-40 people in attendance for each. For Dr. Evans, it was a pleasure talking with the hundreds of people who stopped by and asked questions about the display.

We had nine Geological Sciences majors volunteer their time to help out. We especially want to thank: Ben Bogue, Penny Christy, Robb Evans, Brenden Hughes, Allie Kovaleski, Ryan McMahon, Alexa Muntz, Sara Poppa, and Jake Weiss. Everyone did a long, extended stint as we were short of the number of volunteers we had last year. We could not have had such a successful event without them.

We were invited back for next year’s fair, so if you did not see us there, we’ll be back in 2019 if we can get enough volunteers. In the meantime, stop by and see us at the Bristol Gem and Mineral Show ( in October!

— Dr. Mark Evans


Dr. Evans Talks about Glaciers, Climate Change, and Gardening


This is what Connecticut may have looked like 16,000-17,000 years ago just after the glacial front retreated northward into what is now Massachusetts. Credit:

Dr. Evans made a presentation on “Ice Ages and Connecticut” to the Wethersfield Garden Club on Monday October 1 in the beautiful Solomon Wells house on Wethersfield Cove. About 30 people were in attendance to hear him discuss how glaciers altered the Connecticut landscape and how the plants in southern new England changed as the climate changed and the glaciers retreated northward. He explained that the climate is always changing and that we all (gardeners included) should expect major changes in the kinds of plants that will grow in Connecticut over the next century.


Geology Alum Rocks Politics


[Department alum Vanessa Swenton and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley]

Geology program alum Vanessa Swenton, now working on her PhD at Portland State University, was recently honored by the Cordilleran section of the Geological Society of America. She was selected to represent Oregon at the recent Geoscience Congressional Visit Day in Washington, DC.  She writes “I was part of the UT-MT-OR team, where our task was to discuss the significance and need to prioritize funding and legislation for geoscience research and education. We met with staff members representing each Congress member, except for the meeting with OR Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who was present for the entire duration of the meeting! We had great conversations with her and other staff members, and we were even complimented multiple times on our preparedness and ability to be clear and concise in what we were asking of them. I was also able to meet with OR Senator Jeff Merkley in a coffee meet-and-greet at his office, where I actually got to speak with him one-on-one! It was a really amazing experience.”

Congrats Vanessa, we’re very proud of you!

CCSU Students Rock the Anthracite Belt


[Students Ben Bogue, Ryan McMahon, Allie Kovaleski, Kelsey Duffy, and Alex Muntz take time out from their field research atop the whale-back anticline at the Bear Valley Strip Mine]

As part of his continuing research into the structural geologic history of the Valley and Ridge province of central Pennsylvania, Dr. Mark Evans took five students on a five-day field trip to the Anthracite Belt. They packed up the huge Ford Expedition on Sunday morning and drove to just east of Wikes-Barre, PA where they started their field work. The work involved collecting structural data from fractures and faults in the rocks and mineral samples form the fractures. It took a while for everyone to recall how to use a Brunton compass from Field Methods class, but by the second day, they were all pros. They then spent the next several days driving across backroads in an area that was once the largest coal mining region on earth.

A special type of coal called anthracite (hard coal) was mined here since the early 1800s and is still being mined. The evidence for the mining is everywhere in the form of mine tailing piles hundreds of feet high, extending for miles and miles. Unfortunately, outcrops that were safe to stop at were relatively uncommon, and they only had 42 stops to collect samples and data. Most of the good outcrops were along narrow highways with a constant stream of coal trucks. The highlight of the trip was a stop at the world-class geologic locality known as the Bear Valley Strip Mine. The mine was stripped of its coal and the miners left behind huge perfectly-exposed anticlines (check it out on Google and GoogleEarth). The students will now choose research projects to analyze the samples collected to determine the pressure and temperature conditions of the rock deformation. Hopefully everyone will have a poster at the next NE GSA in Portland, ME.

CCSU Alum to Study Space Rocks for Ph.D.


Jessica presenting meteorite research done during her undergraduate NASA Summer Internship

Department alumna Jessica Johnson will be defending her Masters thesis at the University of New Mexico next month and has been accepted into their Doctoral Program in Planetary Science. A geological sciences major, with dual minors in astronomy and math, Jessica has turned her love for all these fields towards her research projects in meteorites.

Jessica is clearly a Superstar!

Remembering Our Friend Frank Scalia


[Our friend Frank Scalia (1941-2018) among his classmates, top row on the left, smiling as always]

There are those remarkable individuals who leave the world a better place than they found it. Our friend Frank Scalia was one of those rare individuals. Visitors to a classroom the Geological Sciences Department might have mistaken Frank for the professor, based on his infectious enthusiasm for the material, depth of life experience, and the fact that he was a bit older than most of the other students in the class. While Frank actually was a professor at CCSU (adjuncting in the School of Business for many years), on the 5th floor of Copernicus he was a student, learning more about the natural world for the sheer joy of it. Frank was the quintessential poster child for the value of life-long learning, as demonstrated by his impressive resume. He was also an amazingly wonderful human being. Self effacing and unassuming, many who shared the classroom with him never had the slightest inkling that he was actually “Dr. Scalia”, having earned a Ph.D in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University. To us he was simply Frank, the man with the permanent smile and the earnest and enthusiastic “hello”,  and a valuable role model to those a third his age.

We will miss you dearly, Frank. The 5th floor of Copernicus Hall will not be the same without you. Many thanks to you for allowing us to share your journey of learning and discovery.

– The Members of the CCSU Geological Sciences Department