Earth Science Day Brings Science Down to Earth

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[Some of the activities from CCSU Earth Science Day: Make a fossil, the virtual reality sandbox, polarizing microscope]

Members of the CCSU Geology and Planetary Science Club brought Earth Science down to earth for the members of the CCSU community and their families who attended our Earth Science Day celebration during CCSU’s Homecoming and Family Day. Hands-on activities and planetarium shows allowed our visitors to get up close and personal with rocks, walk a timeline of earth’s history, tour a scale model of the solar system, and control rivers and volcanoes with just a swipe of a hand with our virtual reality 3-D sandbox. This annual event is run by the students and offered to the public free of charge. Congratulations to GPS President Sara Poppa and all the other students for a job well done!

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CCSU GSCI Rocks the Durham Fair Again

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Ben Bogue demonstrates the petrographic microscope to a young visitor

For the second year in a row, the Geological Sciences Department sponsored two tables at the regional Durham Fair from September 21 to 24, 2017. We estimate that over 3500 people stopped by our tables in the total of 39 hours that we were there.

Our set-up was similar to last year: 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! THAT’S NEAT! 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 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.

For Dr. Evans, it was a pleasure talking with the hundreds of people who stopped by and asked questions about the display. Like last year, 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 nearly 50 people in attendance for each.

We had seventeen (17!!) Geological Sciences majors volunteer their time to help out. We especially want to thank: Henry Abbott, Ben Bogue, Angie Colella, Emma Colucci, Joe Croze, Kelsey Duffy, Robb Evans, Brenden Hughes, Neal Hulstein, Isabelle Kisluk, Sarah Krzeminska, Chrisette Landell, Corbin MacDonald, Ian Murphy, Sara Poppa, Abbie Underwood, and Nick Zygmont. In addition, we had help from former student Melissa Luna (now working on her Master’s at Wesleyan) and Sarah Krzeminska’s friend Ken Lalli. 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 2018. In the meantime, stop by and see us at the Bristol Gem and Mineral Show (http://bristolgem.org/annual-show/) in October!

— Mark Evans

 

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.

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!

Teachers Go To SCI Camp

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[Teachers discuss how to make science come alive for their students]

Nearly 80 teachers attended SCI Camp CT, which was held at CCSU on Saturday March 25, 2017, hosted by the Geological Sciences Department. SCI Camp CT, an unconference, is a grassroots effort to introduce the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to all Connecticut K-12 teachers. An unconference is a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas among all teachers. Unconference topics from this SCI Camp CT included how to embed science modeling as part of science instruction, incorporate three-dimensional learning, embed NGSS assessments, use crosscutting concepts as a way to teach science, understand the nexus of Common Core of State Standards (CCSS) and NGSS, and embed engaging science phenomenon as part of science instruction.

This SCI Camp CT was the second one hosted by the Department of Geological Science, the first being in held in December of 2016. Future SCI Camps are being planned for the summer of 2017 and beyond to provide a venue to science teachers to discuss NGSS adoption in Connecticut.

CCSU Geology Students Close NEGSA in Style

[Emily Gajda (above left) is rightfully proud of her research poster;  Max Meadows (above right) adeptly explains his work to fellow geologists; a (semi-)group shot of the CCSU contingency (there was so much to learn at the NEGSA conference that it was impossible to get all 19 CCSU attendees in one shot!)]

CCSU’s final day at NEGSA brought with it two more excellent presentations from department students, both on important environmental issues in Connecticut. Emily Gajda shared her research on the environmental impact of the Roxbury Quarry, while Max Meadows presented his findings on heavy metals pollution in Lebanon, CT. Please take the time to read their linked abstracts – you will be as impressed as we are with the amazing work these undergraduate researchers have accomplished! Rock on!

Meanwhile, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas…. (Updated!)

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[CCSU Geological Sciences alumnae Jessica Johnson (left) and Ali Steullet (center) with faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek]

While much of the department is presenting at the NE Regional Geological Society of America conference, faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek is presenting her work at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference. Here she ran into two of our illustrious alumnae, recent graduate Jessica Johnson (now studying meteorites at the University of New Mexico) and Ali Steullet (now a practicing geologist!). We’re so proud of you, Jess and Ali! Rock on!

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Update! There has been a sighting of alum Keenan Golder (pictured above), who is now working on his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee.

CCSU Students Keep Rockin’ at Northeast GSA Conference

[Ian Murphy (left) and Melissa Luna and Jackie Giblin (right) presenting their research at NEGSA in Pittsburgh]

Day Two of the Northeast Regional Geological Society of America Conference finds more CCSU students (and alumni) presenting their work. Ian Murphy is highlighting his work on Martian craters, done under the mentorship of Dr. Jen Piatek. You can read his abstract here. Jackie Giblin is presenting work on the geology of Connecticut done with now CCSU alumna Melissa Luna (currently a masters student at Wesleyan) and Dr. Michael Wizevich. Their work can be found here. Congrats to all the student researchers who, once again, prove that CCSU Geology Rocks!

CCSU Once Again Rocks the Northeast Geological Society of America Conference!

[Corbin MacDonald and Nick Zygmont present their research this morning in Pittsburgh]

March brings with it not only Spring Break, but the Northeast regional conference of the Geological Society of America. Once again, CCSU is a dominant player, with 16 students and 3 faculty members in attendance. On the first morning of presentations, Corbin MacDonald and Nick Zygmont present research done on the geology of Pennsylvania (under the mentorship of department chairman Dr. Mark Evans). Read about Corbin’s research here and Nick’s research here. Dr. Evans is also presenting in this same session. His research is described here.