2018 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 18, 2018.


Student: Angela R Burke
Research Institution: University of Alabama in Huntsville
Lead Student Home Institution: University of Alabama in Huntsville
Lead Student Home State: AL
Faculty Advisor: Mr. Ryan Wade
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: Analyzing Tornadic Debris Signatures by Integrating Aerial Imagery and Polarimetric Radar Data in GIS
Funding Agency: NOAA OAR Office of Weather and Air Quality
Grant #: NA16OAR4590210

Abstract:The historic April 27th tornado outbreak of 2011 produced 62 tornadoes in Alabama, with the one of the strongest being the EF-5 Hackleburg-Tanner tornado. The UAH Department of Atmospheric Science contracted the Atlantic Group to fly the Hackleburg-Tanner EF-5 tornado track and capture high-resolution swaths of the damage path, as well as the paths for the violent Cullman and Cordova tornadoes.This case study involves detailed analysis of the aerial imagery, including digitizing tree-falls and damage points, and outlining a damage path for the tornado. These analyses are then merged with georeferenced TIFF files (GeoTIFF) of UAH ARMOR (Advanced Radar for Meteorological and Operational Research) polarimetric radar scans of Reflectivity Factor, Radial Velocity, Correlation Coefficient, Differential Reflectivity, and Spectrum width to analyze dual-polarization radarTornado Debris Signature (TDSs) associated with the Hackleburg-Tanner tornado.An analysis ofTDSs from this tornado allows for the characterization of the effects of debris loading as the tornado passed over different types of terrain. Additionally, a large gap in damage from Harvest, AL, to theTennessee state line is being investigated to determine the possibility that the Hackleburg-Tanner tornado dissipated before Franklin County,TN,and another formed along the same path.The combined analysis of aerial imagery and radar data will provide a detailed picture of how the physical damage and radar signatures correlate and the effects of debris loading over different terrain, which will add confidence to future forecasting of tornadic events.


Student: Sarah Elizabeth Coffey
Research Institution: Stetson University
Lead Student Home Institution: Stetson University
Lead Student Home State: VA
Faculty Advisor: Dr.Wendy B Anderson
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: A Reconstr uction of Fire Histor y of the San Juan Islands, Washington
Funding Agency: BLM National Landscape Conservation System Research Support Program (BLM OR-WA District)
Grant #: L14AC00205

Abstract: Coast Salish peoples in the San Juan Islands have traditionally used fire in the grasslands as a way of managing native plant communities for agriculture. Natural fire frequency in the islands is among the lowest in Washington, suggesting that historical fire regimes reflect human influence. As Indigenous groups have largely been displaced since the arrival of Neo-Europeans in the archipelago, fire frequency has decreased, which has impacted the productivity of grassland flora. Using macroscopic charcoal as a proxy for fire frequency and radiocarbon analysis to approximate when these fires occurred, I attempted to reconstruct the fire history of San Juan Islands. I took my samples from four sites that were adjacent to the historical grasslands of Iceberg Point, Lopez Island, and Cattle Point, San Juan Island. Peaks in the macroscopic charcoal count signified unique fire events that were used to create mean fire return intervals (MFRIs).The site that was closest to the historical grasslands had the lowest MFRI of 42 years and the site furthest from historical grasslands had the greatest MFRI of 133 years. I also conducted interviews with Coast Salish individuals to glean more knowledge of traditional management techniques through the use of fire. Since there is a general concern about the encroachment of shrubs and invasive species into highly diverse grasslands not only in the San Juan Archipelago but throughout the Pacific Northwest, data on previous management techniques using fire could inform current management solutions.


Student: Alexandria M Weiskircher
Research Institution: Midwestern State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Midwestern State UniversityLead Student Home State: TX
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan D Price
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: Magmatic Timing in an Ancient Rift

Abstract:The Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma expose approximately a dozen granite intrusive bodies (plutons), all part of magmatism within an ancient tectonic rift known as the Southern Oklahoma Aulacogen, a feature that stretched from Dallas, Texas, across Oklahoma, past Amarillo to eastern Utah. At the margin of one of the intrusive bodies, the Quanah Granite Pluton, we noted three rock types.These are (1) the typical coarse-grained facies (CF), (2) fine-grained facies (FF), and (3) porphyritic facies (PF).They are distinguishable based on grain size and mineral content. CF has 6mm mineral grains, FF has 2mm mineral grains, and PF has 5mm larger alkali- feldspar grains with a sub-millimeter matrix. Additionally, the intrusive margin contains several pegmatite bodies, these are coarse-grained igneous pods and linear, intrusive features. Mapping the FF and PF revealed these to have linear, intrusive geometries that cut the CF.To resolve relationships, we assessed the mineral content of the three rock types through petrological and geochemical techniques. Prior researchers noted CF’s distinct mineral populations, which include the sodic amphiboles. PF contains the minerals biotite and/or calcic amphibole. FF contains only biotite.The pegmatite bodies contain quartz ± orthoclase ± biotite or sodic amphibole.,The textures and mineral assemblages imply that the voluminous CF magma first intruded this area, followed by distinct magma(s) that gave rise to the FF and PF.The difference in texture suggests the FF and PF record the last gasps of magmatism in the rift.

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2017 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 26, 2017.


Student(s): Joshua David Pigg | Matthew Barley
Research Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Indiana State UniversityLead Student Home State: IN
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Jennifer C Latimer
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: “Bioavailability of Pb in Urban Soils”

Abstract: Children living in urban areas continue to have a higher risk of lead poisoning than those living in rural areas. An often overlooked source of lead exposure is found in urban soils, which store lead introduced to the environment as a result of the past use of leaded gasoline and leaded paints, as well as industrial emissions of lead. While many studies have quantified the distribution of lead across urban areas, few studies have assessed the bioavailability of lead in these urban soils.The samples used in this study were collected in Terre Haute, Indiana.Total lead concentrations for most of the surface soil samples were previously determined, although additional samples were collected in May 2016 from a historical residential district in Terre Haute.Two different geochemical approaches were used to evaluate the lead bioavailability. Samples were identified with soil lead >200 ppm (n = 210) and subjected to an extraction using a simulated gastric solution to measure what could be absorbed in the stomach during digestion.These samples are currently being subjected to an extraction using simulated bile and porcine pancreatin to measure lead that could be absorbed in the intestines. Samples with lead > 1200 ppm (n= 50) were subjected to a sequential extraction that isolates Pb that is associated with different soil components.The results suggest that soil lead previously considered to be not biologically available could be absorbed in significant quantities during digestion.


Student(s): Perri Silverhart
Research Institution: Middlebury College
Lead Student Home Institution: Middlebury College
Lead Student Home State: CT
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Patricia Lee Manley | Dr.Thomas Manley
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: “Utilizing Landslides in Lake Champlain as Paleoseismic and Paleohazard Indicators”
Sponsoring Agency: Middlebur y College Senior Research Fund, Lake Champlain Research Consor tium, and Lintilhac Foundation

Abstract: Lacustrine landslides have been identified in Lake Champlain via Multibeam and CHIRP (compressed high-intensity radar pulse) seismic profile imagery. Previous studies show that several of these landslides are coeval occurring ~4500 – 5500 cal yr BP.This study focuses on a series of four overlapping landslide deposits on the western side of the main section of Lake Champlain between Bouquet River Delta and Essex, NY, where nearly the entire slope has failed with the exception of a few locations where intact blocks of slope sediment remain. Utilizing radionuclide dating on sediment from the unfailed slopes, sedimentation rates were determined and used to calculate the approximate failure ages for each of the four landslides studied.,The northernmost failure occurred about 950-1200 cal yr BP, and is the first mass wasting event of this age to be recorded on Lake Champlain.The remaining regions failed about 4500-5200 cal yr BP, and agree with the previously studied landslides within Lake Champlain. In the nearbyWestern Quebec Seismic Zone (WQSZ),clusters of terrestrial landslides have occurred at 1000 and 5000 cal yr BP,and are triggered by large earthquakesThe 5000 cal yr BP event has been attributed to a M 6.4 or greater earthquake within the WQSZ.The landslides observed in Lake Champlain are likely triggered by this same earthquake. Additionally, lake tsunami models show that these simultaneous landslide failures can generate a surface water wave of 30 feet that can impact the shoreline within 3-10 minutes after the earthquake.


Student(s): Samantha Bartnik | Adam Wiest | Carly Mueller
Research Institution: University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lead Student Home Institution: University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lead Student Home State: WI
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. J. Brian Mahoney
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: “Establishing an Environmental Baseline for Surface and Groundwater Chemistry in Western Wisconsin: Key to Developing Reasonable and Responsible Regulations”

Abstract:The high demand for silica sand by the petroleum industry has led to a dramatic expansion of silica sand mining in westernWisconsin.That has generated immense public concern about the potential environmental impact to surface water and groundwater.TheWisconsin Department of Natural Resources has proposed water quality regulations on silica sand operations that the industry considers onerous. Documentation of the natural concentration and mobility of trace elements in the environment is a critical first step in the development of environmental safeguards.This investigation will establish a comprehensive environmental baseline documenting background variations of ~25 trace metals in natural waters throughout the region.This study will constrain the concentration and mobility of trace metals that occur naturally in geologic formations. Chemical analysis of ~70 surface water, 50 municipal groundwater, and 50 whole rock, mine tailings, and wasterock storage pile samples will constrain the relationship between the bedrock trace metal content and the composition of natural waters. Preliminary results suggest limited trace metal mobility between geologic formations and surface water and groundwater, and trace metal values (e.g., arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc) are well below federal drinking water standards. Integrating these data with site-specific analyses of surface water and groundwater at mine sites will permit quantification of potential contaminants generated during the mine process. These data are vital to the development of reasonable and responsible environmental safeguards that will facilitate economic growth and sustainable development of the silica sand industry, while safeguarding water resources and public health in western Wisconsin.

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2016 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 19-20, 2016.


Student: Miles T. Bengtson
Research Institution: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Lead Student Home Institution: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Lead Student Home State: NC
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anatoly V. Streltsov
Sponsoring Agency (Grant #): Embry-Riddle Office of Undergraduate Research
Division: Geosciences
Title: Obser vations and Simulations of Whistler Waves in the Van Allen Radiation Belts

Abstract:When the first American satellite, Explorer I, was launched into space it inadvertently discovered one the most significant features of our local space environment: the Van Allen Radiation Belts. This region contains highly energetic particles which are trapped in the geomagnetic field. These particles are extremely hazardous for spacecraft, causing damage to electronics and endangering astronauts on the International Space Station. Certain natural or artificial events, such as coronal mass ejections or high-altitude nuclear explosions, can enhance the Radiation Belts and decrease satellite lifetimes from years to months.Therefore, one of the most critical national defense objectives is to develop a process to remediate the radiation and protect our assets in space from this threat. Our research involves one promising remediation mechanism based on the interactions between these particles and very-low-frequency electromagnetic waves known as whistlers. One important property of whistler waves is that they can be guided along narrow inhomogeneities of plasma density called ducts.To understand the ducting mechanism one needs to compare theoretical predictions with in-situ observations of waves and particles in the magnetosphere. We have analyzed several events of ducted whistlers observed by the Van Allen Probes satellites and reproduce them with numerical simulations based on whistler theory.We demonstrate good, quantitative agreement between our simulations and the observations, indicating that our model successfully explains a majority of the existing satellite observations and can be used to predict the results from future experiments of launching whistler waves into the Radiation Belts from ground transmitters and spacecraft.


Students: David A McLennan, and Erika Smith
Research Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home State: IN
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Jennifer C Latimer, and Dr. Jeffery R Stone
Sponsoring Agency (Grant #): National Science Foundation, and the US Geological Survey
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: “Monitoring Increased Nutrient Loads on a Lake Acting as a Heavy Metal Reservoir”

Abstract: GreenValley Lake State Fishing Area in west-central Indiana once served as a water supply reservoir for the adjacent and now abandoned GreenValley Coal Mine (operated from 1948-1963).The mine property continues to discharge acidic drainage despite reclamation efforts into GreenValley Lake and the connected Scott Lake Fish and Wildlife Areas.To evaluate the variability of metal and nutrient loads over time, two short sediment cores were collected from Green Valley Lake in spring 2014 (38cm) and spring 2015 (39cm). Metal concentrations were determined by a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer after the cores were separated into 0.5 cm samples. Approximately 20% of the metal concentrations will be verified by ICP-OES following extraction in 50% aqua regia. Detailed phosphorus (P) geochemistry was determined using a sequential extraction technique (SEDEX).The sediments in the lake are characterized by heavy metal concentrations elevated above typical background levels. These metals tend concentrate near the sediment water interface, often 2-5 times greater than the average for the sediments below.This suggests they are diagenetically mobile, possibly diffusing out of the sediments under low oxygen conditions and returning to the sediments when oxygen returns.The most dramatic shift in the detailed P geochemistry is the significant reduction of mineral P at 15 cm and increasing importance of oxide-associated and adsorbed P upcore. Diatom assemblages suggest increasing eutrophication. As nutrient loads continue to increase, the oxygen depleted zone may expand impacting fish populations and change water geochemistry significantly, in particular by mobilizing heavy metals.


Student: John Warnock
Research Institution: Carthage College
Lead Student Home Institution: Car thage College
Lead Student Home State: IL
Faculty Mentor: Dr.Wenjie Sun
Division: Geosciences
Poster Title: “Is cycling as an active transpor tation more than environmentally friendly?—Impacts of bicycle networks on property values in Madison,WI”

Abstract: Whether it is a simple bike path in a park or a complex network of trails and bike lanes, bicycling infrastructure positively impacts the economy. Networks promote active transportation which results in both public and personal economic benefits.The community benefits from reduced infrastructure and health costs, reduced vehicle emissions, and increased revenues to local businesses. Individuals benefit through a healthier lifestyle as well as reduced transportation and medical expenses.There is also an economic effect on property values. Opinions vary whether a bike trail will increase or decrease the value of properties near it.While opponents feel that privacy decreases and crime increases near a bike trail, most studies have shown that bike trails will increase property values. ,This study focuses on the effect bicycle trails have on property values in Madison, WI. Madison has a well-developed cycling network which acts as a corridor for transportation and recreation. While only 0.6% of workers in the U.S. commute to work by bicycle, the percentage is much higher in Madison at 5.3%. In this study, through the use of geographic information system (GIS), maps were created and statistical analyses were run to determine how assessed values of single family residential properties vary by the home’s proximity to the nearest off-street, paved bike trail. Many variables relating to the attributes of properties were also incorporated in this research.The results show a statistically significant effect of a home’s distance to the nearest bike trail on assessed value together with other property characteristics.

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2015 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 2015.

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2014 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 29, 2014.


STUDENT: Casey L. Calamaio
INSTITUTION: University of Alabama in Huntsville
DIVISION: Geosciences
POSTER TITLE: From Lindbergh to the International Space Station: 75 Years of Remote Sensing Land Cover Change in Panama
SPONSORING AGENCY: SERVIR Program NASA Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute

ABSTRACT: The field of remote sensing has come a long way over the past century. Opportunistic pilots with handheld cameras have given way to mission specific space-borne platforms that can increasingly target features with high spatial and spectral resolution. The research presented here highlights the history of remote sensing through collaborative research I’ve undertaken with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and NASA’s SERVIR Program (Regional Visualization and Monitoring System). I focus here on the region around Panama, occupying the narrow isthmus between Central and South America. This region is ecologically important, being a natural corridor for species between the continents. In addition, this region is economically important in that its largest public work, the Panama Canal, has a profound impact on global markets. Although satellite remote sensing has only been around since the 1970s, I have been able to examine the history of land cover change in Panama by digitizing and geolocating the Smithsonian’s catalog of aerial photographs spanning much of the twentieth century, the earliest of which date back to Charles Lindbergh’s flights over the Canal in 1927. These black-and-white aerial photographs present an interesting juxtaposition against my ongoing research working with the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) Pathfinder, a testbed camera system developed at and currently on board the ISS. In this poster I compare information derived from historic aerial photographs and the ISERV space-borne camera system to examine both ecological land cover change as well as the value of new remote sensing technologies.


STUDENT: Sam Herreid
INSTITUTION: University of Alaska-Fairbanks
DIVISION: Geosciences
POSTER TITLE: First estimates of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover for all Alaska glaciersDISPLAY AREA: 1C
SPONSORING AGENCY: Cryospheric Sciences program, NASA Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, NOAA EPSCoR Alaska Space Grant program NASA

ABSTRACT: Glacier shrinkage is an accepted indicator of climate change and contributor to global sea level rise. Recent global scale glacier melt models have shown the significance of mountain glaciers (excluding Greenland and Antarctica) towards a rise in sea level. While the first suite of global models incorporate the first-order variables needed to make sound estimates and predictions, we are now investigating variables that were initially neglected. One of these variables is the presence of rock debris on a glacier’s surface, sourced mainly from valley wall erosion. Rock material above a thickness of about 2 cm will reduce the local glacier melt rate by regulating the solar energy available for melt at the ice surface (under the rock layer). We have collected 4 years of field data on Alaskan glaciers aimed at better understanding the relationship between the presence of rock debris and the melt response of the ice below. We have also developed a method to accurately map debris cover at regional or global scales. We have used this method to compile the first exhaustive digital inventory of debris cover on glaciers for the entire state of Alaska. Alaska hosts 12% of mountain glacier area on earth and our results show that 21% of Alaskan glacier area is covered by a layer of rock debris. We will use our field observations and Alaska wide debris cover inventory to make a first-order estimate of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover, a factor previously unaccounted for in existing models.


STUDENT: Lydia C. Babcock-AdamsINSTITUTION: University of GeorgiaSTUDENT HOME STATE: Georgia
DIVISION: Geosciences
POSTER TITLE: Deep Ocean Photochemistry: Reevaluating the Role of UV Radiation on the Global Marine Organic Carbon Cycle
SPONSORING AGENCY: Chemical Oceanography award National Science Foundation
GRANT #: OCE-1234388

ABSTRACT: Earth’s increasing average temperature is linked to rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which currently contains about the same amount of carbon found in the ocean in the form of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These two critical carbon pools are balanced globally by continual exchange, with small changes capable of large climatic effects. Interestingly, most oceanic DOC is “refractory” carbon (DOrC), meaning bacteria cannot consume it quickly, and this pool dominates the deep, dark ocean. Dated at 4000-6000 years old, DOrC has travelled through the entire ocean 4-6 times, spending hundreds of years in sunlit surface waters where photochemistry (reactions driven by sunlight) is known to break apart carbon-containing molecules, form CO (carbon monoxide), CO2, and other small molecules that allow rapid DOC removal. These findings raise the question: Is DOrC really photochemically reactive? Our research addressed this question with shipboard experiments on the RV Melville designed to determine the photo-reactivity of DOrC. Experiments were performed on seawater retrieved from the deep North Pacific where the DOrC pool is oldest. Long-term exposures in a solar simulator showed CO production falling almost to zero in deep and surface samples over 24-48 hours. This suggests that photo-reactive DOC initially present is rapidly lost, leaving DOrC which must be unreactive. When substantiated by our related studies, these novel findings that ~75% of the global DOC pool is NOT photo-reactive, will force a significant reevaluation of the role of marine photochemistry in DOC dynamics, the global carbon budget, and global climate change.

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2018 GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research

In 2018, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citations from the nominators (PDF) and join us in congratulating our fifth group of student awardees in the history of this award.

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Now accepting nominations for the 2018 GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

The Geosciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (GeoCUR) is now accepting nominations for its annual award that highlights the importance of mentoring undergraduate research activities. The award annually recognizes an individual who serves as a role model for productive and transformative student-faculty mentoring relationships and for maintaining a sustained and innovative approach to the enterprise of undergraduate research.

Visit the GeoCUR website for application information, as well as audio interviews with past recipients.

The application deadline is June 1, 2018. Completed nomination packs must be emailed to GeoCURMentor@gmail.com. Inquiries and questions may be sent to Erin Kraal (kraal@kutztown.edu) or Dan Brabander (dbraband@wellesley.edu).

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