Dr. Michael Mann visits Wooster

March 28th, 2013

MichaelMann032713WOOSTER, OHIO–We were honored this week when Dr. Michael E. Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate-change experts and a leader in the efforts to educate the public about anthropogenic effects on the atmosphere, came to Wooster as part of our Richard G. Osgood, Jr., Memorial Lecture series. He gave a public lecture in the nearly-full Gault Recital Hall Wednesday evening (“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines”), and then a Geology Club lecture the next day in Scovel (“The Past as Prologue: Learning from the Climate Changes in Past Centuries”). Students, faculty and staff of the Geology Department also had a wonderfully informative dinner with him in the Wooster Inn.

Michael Mann is very well known in the diverse community that studies climate change in the past, present and future. He was the senior author of a pivotal article in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001. It set the direction for more than a decade of later climate research. He has written dozens of other papers and two books on climate change. He has received numerous awards, most recently the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union.

The public Osgood lecture Dr. Mann presented on Wednesday was centered on his latest book. He described the recent scientific history of climate change research and then how he became an “accidental public figure” through the famous “Climategate” theft and publication of private email messages. His stories of attempted congressional interference in his work and that of other climate scientists were astonishing, representing what he calls “the scientization of politics” (where science — or pseudoscience — is used as a political tool).

The image at the top of the page is Dr. Mann near the end of his Osgood Lecture. The image on the screen is of his daughter enjoying a moment in the polar bear pool at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. He fears that someday such animals will be found only in zoos because humans “melted their Arctic environment.” Numerous questions and conversations followed.
MannLecture032813Dr. Mann gave a Geology Club presentation this morning in Scovel Hall on some of his scientific work (shown above). He talked about using proxies to model historical climate change and then predict future climate.
WilesMann032813For me one of the best moments was his conversation with Greg Wiles in our dendrochronology lab (above). It was great fun to see how the work of Wooster Geologists is part of the unfolding grand story of what factors control our climate, and why such research is critical in our efforts to cope with future changes.

One of the many diverse results of being a geology major: the adventures of Will Driscoll (’05) in evolutionary ecology

March 6th, 2013

WillDriscoll05_030513WOOSTER, OHIO–Yesterday Greg Wiles and I attended a Biology Department Seminar given by our former student Will Driscoll (Geology ’05). Will was in all our standard departmental courses and did his Independent Study project with Dr. Wiles in dendrochronology. Yet here he was giving a presentation to the Biology Department. How did this happen? It is yet another example of the utility of a liberal arts major in science … and what persistence and great ideas can lead you.

I well remember the day during Will’s senior year that he brought me an essay he wanted me to read. For one thing, it was an essay unconnected with any course — Will just wanted to write down some ideas and get a response. The essay was about evolutionary ecology and morphogenesis. To say this came from left field would be an understatement. I had no idea Will had such concepts, and they were extremely well developed and expressed. Will applied to the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Arizona (the top program in the nation for this subject). He finished his PhD there last year and is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Département de Biologie, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. That is a long way from Scovel Hall!

WillImage030613 copy

A small swarm of toxic Prymnesium parvum (small golden cells) attacks a rotifer accustomed to grazing on unicellular algae. The toxic algae help themselves to a meal, and in the process help all of the algae that the rotifer might have otherwise eaten. (Image and caption from Will Driscoll.)

Will’s specialty, and the topic of his seminar yesterday, is in a broad sense on “the ecological drivers and consequences of multilevel selection”. He is pursuing this interest now with studies on what has been called “microbial sociobiology”. The title of his Wooster talk was “The ecological consequences of microbial sociality”. He is looking at the behavior of microbes as cooperative groups and all this means for evolution and ecology. His stories about toxic bloom-forming algae were amazing, opening up new dimensions on how to place single-celled organisms into our models of behavioral evolution. Will himself can tell you much more about his research and ideas on his website.

Will’s presentation was inspiring at (appropriately) multiple levels: the science was novel, fascinating and provocative, and Will’s enthusiasm and skills reminded us yet again why teaching at Wooster is simply the best job in the world.

The Dendrochronology Team of Wooster Geologists makes its television debut

February 28th, 2013

Gwiles022813aBarn Detectives” is a recent episode of the television show Our Ohio, and it features Dr. Greg Wiles and his team of crack dendrochronologists. You can view the video by clicking the link. It is very well done. The project described in the program is the dating of the Emerson barn in Apple Creek, Ohio. These Wooster scientists study the tree rings in the beams which were used in the original structure. Careful analysis of these rings will show the year the old-growth trees were cut for timber, and thus the date of the building. This work not only gives the Emerson family a date for a treasured building, it also provides additional dendrochronological data for studying climate change in the last two centuries.

Nwiesenberg022813Our geological technician Nick Wiesenberg provides explanations of the process from the barn, a local old-growth forest (Johnson Woods, see above), and the dendrochronology lab at Wooster.

lvargo022813Geology senior Lauren Vargo describes the value of tree rings for climate history, and is shown in several action shots of coring and sanding.

anash022813Andy Nash, another geology senior, describes the construction of “floating chronologies” from tree cores that are eventually tied to the larger dendrochronological record to give dates to the wood. (With an accuracy, as Greg likes to say, of “plus or minus zero years”.)

gwiles022813bBack in the lab, Greg shows how the cores from the Emerson barn are counted and measured with our video microscope system. On the monitor is a magnified view of rings from the Emerson barn.

nwiesenberg022813bNick had the honor of announcing the calculated date the trees were cut to make the barn’s beams: (Spoiler Alert!) the Fall of 1845. The ground would have been hard then and the farmers would have had time to collect materials for the construction.

It was great fun to see our students and colleagues explain their work so well, and to show the world the enthusiasm and professional skills of Wooster’s dendrochronologists.

The full “Barn Detectives” video is available on YouTube at this link.

Celebrating the achievements of Wooster Geologists

February 21st, 2013

2013Geo AwardWinners

WOOSTER, OHIO –One of the pleasures of being the chair of the Geology Department at Wooster is that I get to go to the annual college Awards Banquet with some of our best students. Tonight we celebrate three young women who have done especially well at Wooster. On the left is Whitney Sims (’13) of Maple Heights, Ohio. She received the Charles B. Moke Prize, which is a “field instrument or device” awarded to the graduating senior who has shown the greatest improvement during his or her college career. (Whitney’s award was a new iPad — coolest prize of the evening.) In the middle is Tricia Hall (’14) of Marion, Ohio. She won the Karl Ver Steeg Prize in Geology and Geography, which goes to the geology major who has the highest standing in the middle of the junior year. On the right is Kit Price (’13) of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her award was the Robert W. McDowell Prize in Geology for having the highest general standing among geology majors in the junior and senior years.

Congratulations to Whitney, Tricia and Kit! We are very proud of them and all our Wooster Geologists.

Women scientists at Wooster, featuring Wooster Geologist Shelley Judge

February 7th, 2013

Dr. Shelley Judge begins this excellent short video about women in science at Wooster:

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.20.43 AM(You have to click the link I made in the text above. Embedding a video in a blog post is beyond my skills!)

We’re proud of all the women scientists at Wooster, past, present and future!

 

Geology Heads to Melrose Elementary

November 29th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO — A “Volcano Team” headed to Melrose Elementary this week for an afternoon of fun with Marge Forbush’s 4th grade class. It was our annual fall trip to her classroom, and our task was to discuss the various geologic processes associated with volcanoes. The 4th grade students had already studied plate tectonics and volcanoes, so they were experts on the volcabulary, such as “Ring of Fire”, “magma chamber”, and “Pompeii”. Before Thanksgiving, they had even built active volcanoes in the classroom.

Our goal was to bring pounds and pounds of volcanic rock to show the students, so that they could see basalt, volcanic bombs, obsidian, pumice, tuff, and several intrusive rocks (granite and gabbro). Wooster students in the department each were in charge of specific stations around the classroom, and the 4th graders migrated between stations. Here’s a look at some of our Wooster students hard at work:

Lauren Vargo (’13) is a Wooster veteran of community outreach, having gone with both Greg Wiles and myself to several elementary schools in Wooster (Cornerstone, Melrose, and formerly Wayne).  She was in charge of discussing the impact of contact metamorphism with the students, and she had numerous metamorphic rocks on hand.

Matt Peppers (’13) seemed to field some of the most unusual questions of the day.  Here he is showing the 4th graders several different types of intrusive igneous rocks, along with the minerals in each rock.  Some of the students in Matt’s group are destined to become geologists, because they already could identify the minerals from their own “rock collections” at home.

Adam Silverstein (’16) was in charge of one of the more fun stations:  volcanic bombs!!  He used some of his knowledge from Meagen Pollock’s Natural Hazards course in order to talk to the students about hazards during a volcanic eruption.  As you can imagine, everyone liked to pick up the volcanic bombs, some of which were collected in the Black Rock Desert, Utah.

Another member of Wooster’s Natural Hazards course, Kaitlin Starr (’16), was a welcomed volunteer and an old friend.  Kaitlin, who was in charge of the lava flow station, is a Wooster native.  Kaitlin was actually a student of Marge Forbush when she was in the 4th grade, and so she received a round of applause from the students for coming back and visiting her old classroom.

We’ll be back to visit Marge’s classroom again in the spring, but next time our focus will be on fossils.  Stay tuned!!

 

 

Wooster Geologists on Camera — Spotlight on Dendrochronology

November 16th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Greg Wiles and members of his crack dendrochronology team from our tree-ring laboratory are being filmed today for a PBS program called “Our Ohio“. It is great fun watching the TV crew setting up their equipment, and our faculty, staff and students getting ready for their close-ups. We thought you might like to see a few pictures of the process. In the image above you see Greg thoughtfully listening to instructions from the field producer.

Here’s a closer view of the camera set-up, including a small monitor that shows exactly what the camera sees.

Jenn Horton (’13), looking stylish and Wooster-branded, is talking to the film crew as they set up the dendrochronology lab with lights. Tree-ring lab veterans know this room well! (I think it looks a little cleaner than usual.)

Greg Wiles and our ace technician Nick Wiesenberg at one of the dendrochronology stations prior to filming. Nick had just dated a particular barn in question as having been built in — spoiler alert! — 1845. A preliminary date, Greg quickly adds.

The TV crew van parked outside Scovel Hall this morning, greatly enhancing our departmental prestige on campus. (Everyone knows, after all, they didn’t come here to interview philosophers.)

We hope to have more photos later of the outdoor filming. Well done, Wooster dendrochronologists!

TREE CAMPUS USA – The College of Wooster

September 24th, 2012

On a beautiful homecoming afternoon in September – The College of Wooster celebrated its new designation as a Tree Campus USA. This special designation of The College of Wooster was lead by Beau Mastrine, director of grounds (above).  Partners include the City of Wooster and the OARDC. Grace Tompos, a good friend of the campus trees, places a shovel of dirt onto the latest maple planted in front of Holden Hall.
Andy Nash and Lauren Vargo of the Wooster Tree Ring Lab in Geology  explain the science of tree-rings as part of  the Tree Campus USA celebration. Both students will be using the campus tree-ring data in their drought studies and will be presenting their results at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America Meeting in November. Andy’s work examines drought in the Midwest and Lauren’s study will analyze the link between North Pacific climate and Midwest drought.

Dr. Mariola (Environmental Studies) explains how he uses the campus trees in his courses. The tree journal assignment increases awareness of the practical and aesthetic value of the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The D-shaped hole of the emerald ash borer (above). On the left is a “tree IV” (left) hooked up to a Green Ash on campus. This treatment repels the ash borer attack and protects the tree.

 

 

 

Employees of the City of Wooster explain the value and care of the urban forest.

Below is one of the bottom lines of the value of trees – here summarizing the value of the campus’ maples.

 

Wooster Geologists begin the 2012-2013 school year

August 30th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Always so much fun to begin a new year with the Wooster Geologists. The happy people above belong to the Geology Club in our annual group photo. This semester we are missing our treasured colleague Shelley Judge who is on a semester research leave. We also have a number of students in off-campus programs.

Here our our senior geologists. Front row from left: Joe Wilch, Richa Ekka, Anna Mudd, Whitney Sims, Kit Price; middle row: Kevin Silver, Jenn Horton, Lauren Vargo, Jonah Novek; back row: Will Cary, Melissa Torma, Matt Peppers.

Today we also posted a colorful pdf of our 2011-2012 Wooster Geology Department Annual Report, the front cover of which is shown above. You can find it at this link with our other recent reports. Thank you very much to cherished Patrice Reeder, our Administrative Coordinator, for her creativity, production skills, and detailed work. It is beautiful.

As you’ve seen in previous posts, we have newly renovated classrooms, and our courses officially began on Monday. The weather is exquisite right now in this part of the country, so we are very much looking forward to our first field trips.

Here’s to happy students and good starts!

Classes begin again for Wooster Geologists

August 27th, 2012

The happy students above are in our 8:00 a.m. History of Life course (Geology 100). They are the first class to use our newly-renovated Scovel 105 room. To remind you what it used to look like –

This new room is far more comfortable for both students and faculty. We don’t miss the 1985 color scheme either! You can see the progress made on Scovel 105 in this series of images.

Scovel 105 was first officially used for the Junior Independent Study presentation of Kit Price (’13) and the Senior I.S. presentation of Richa Ekka (’13). They each worked during the summer on their projects and gave their summaries to a group of faculty and students on Friday afternoon.

Kit Price (’13) and her very last slide. She worked on Cincinnati area fossils this summer. Note the new lecture table top.

Richa Ekka (’13), also with her last slide. She did field work in Estonia this summer.

 

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