Terry Hughes, recently retired Professor of Earth Sciences and long-time member of the Climate Change Institute, is the focus of an article in Newsweek published June 5. The article describes the current scientific views about the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and the consequent significant sea level rise. Back in 1973, Terry was one of the first to predict the instability of the region. He followed that up in 1981 with a paper considering the mechanisms that could lead to collapse in more detail. Both of those papers relied on relatively coarse data sets. Two recent papers, published last month in Science and Geophysical Research Letters, used much larger data sets that have recently become available to analyze the stability of West Antarctica. Their conclusions support Terry’s original ideas.
Antarctic Treaty nations approve protection for
Stornes Peninsula where U Maine’s Ed Grew discovered new minerals
The Antarctic Treaty signatories meeting in Brasilia in May 2014 voted to designate Stornes Peninsula as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area. UMaine Research Professor Ed Grew has discovered several minerals new to science in rocks from this area. The Geoscience Australia announcement is here. Stornes Peninsula is in the Larsemann Hills on the coast of Prydz Bay, about 100 km southwest of Australia’s Davis Station.
The action taken at the XXXVII Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting strengthens international environmental protection for the area in Antarctica where U Maine’s Ed Grew discovered minerals new to science during field work in 2003-2004 on the Australian Antarctic Expedition. The designation formally recognizes the peninsula’s outstanding geological significance and gives it the highest level of environmental protection under the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection .
“I am thrilled that the Antarctic Treaty nations have taken action that recognizes Stornes Peninsula as a geoheritage site of international significance,” says Grew. “Dr. Chris Carson, now head of Geoscience Australia’s Antarctic Geoscience program, and I spent the 2003-2004 field season mapping and studying its amazing mineralogy and geology. For the past 10 years, Chris has worked very hard with the Australian government team to seek protection of the unique geology and mineralogy of this remarkable area under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty.”
Ed Grew’s discovery in the area of four minerals new to science: the borosilicate boralsilite and the phosphates stornesite-(yttrium), chopinite and tassieite, together with the abundance of the rare minerals prismatine, grandidierite and wagnerite, constitute the scientific foundation for the proposal undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Division and Geoscience Australia. The three phosphates stornesite-(yttrium), chopinite and tassieite have yet to be found anywhere else on Earth. Grew has since discovered chopinite in a meteorite.
Grew’s research in the Larsemann Hills was made possible by the U.S. National Science Foundation through an NSF Office of Polar Programs grant from 2003 to 2009, and a grant from the NSF Division of Earth Sciences from 2009 to 2013. Grew has published 10 research papers about the Larsemann Hills specimens: Chris Carson is co-author on 6 and Marty Yates at Maine is co-author on 7 of those papers. In addition, the specimens that Ed Grew collected have provided the subject material for Master’s degree theses by Ed’s students at U Maine: Eva Wadoski (2009), JohnRyan MacGregor (2012) and Derek Morris (in progress).
In addition to rare minerals, the Larsemann Hills contain more than 150 lakes. The first international measures for environmental protection of the area were taken in recognition of the important biological and limnological features, including fresh water lakes that are important to breeding seabirds and seals, and are vulnerable to physical, chemical and biological modification within their catchment boundaries. Larsemann Hills was designated as an Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) in 2007. An area where activities in Antarctica are being conducted or could be conducted in the future may be designated as an ASMA, to assist in the planning and co-ordination of activities, avoid possible conflicts, improve co-operation between Treaty Parties or minimize environmental impacts.
The next step was the proposal for the Stornes Peninsula as an Antarctic Special Protection Area (ASPA) – this designation of greater protection is granted by the Treaty nations to safeguard outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research. As part of this effort, Grew was invited by the Australian Antarctic Division and Chris Carson of Geosciences Australia to give a talk “Rare minerals in the Australian Antarctic Territory” at the Antarctic Science Planning Workshop in Hobart, Tasmania on September 21, 2010.
Australia took the lead in preparing the proposal to the Treaty Parties, which was jointly sponsored by other nations having research programs in the Larsemann Hills, including China, India and the Russian Federation. The decision in Brasilia in May 2014 reflects international acknowledgment of the region’s potential vulnerability and of the sensitivity of these remarkable mineral occurrences to human disturbance.
Historically Antarctic conservation efforts have focused on sites of biological or cultural significance, whereas sites of geological significance, in general, have been underrepresented. “I see this decision by the Treaty Parties as part of the growing international trend toward greater appreciation of the value of protecting geoheritage sites for future generations,” says Grew. “So far, there is nowhere else in the world that rivals the array of borosilicate and phosphate minerals found at Stornes Peninsula.”
The European Journal of Mineralogy (EJM) founded in 1989 is one of the world’s leading international journals in the mineralogical sciences. It is owned by the national mineralogical societies of Germany, Spain, France and Italy and is published under the auspices of the European Mineralogical Union. Papers appearing in the Journal range across all aspects of mineralogy from nomenclature and crystal structure to petrology, geochronology, geochemistry and environmental mineralogy.
Ed Grew of the University of Maine was a guest editor in 2007-2008 and has co-authored 7 papers published in the journal. Ed is honored to have been appointed to the Editorial Board of the journal effective May 1, 2014. The Editorial Board currently comprises a Managing Editor, 5 Chief Editors and 21 Associate Editors from 8 countries of which only two are from the U.S.
The University of Maine Geological Society (more popularly known as the Geology Club) has elected officers for next academic year. They are:
President: Zach Mason
Vice President: Bailey Morton
Treasurer: Jill Pelto
Secretary: Sarah Mullis
The Geology Club of the University of Maine completed an exciting Spring Break trip starting in Las Vegas NV and ending in Phoenix AZ. The trip was organized by the club members and paid for by the Golden and Ross Undergraduate Enrichment Fund, the UM Student Government, the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, and participants. The week long trip included stunning geology and hikes at Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Red Rock area near Sedona, AZ and on recent volcanoes and lava flows in the Flagstaff, AZ area.
Students from the School of Earth and Climate Sciences joined groups of geology students from the New England region for the New England Intercollegiate Geological Congress (NEIGC) in the Katahdin, Maine, region from October 11-13. NEIGC was established in 1901 for the sole purpose of presenting field trips in areas of current geologic work throughout the region.
The Mineralogical Society of America (MSA) announced that Ed Grew has been elected to serve a two-year term on the MSA Council. Together with the officers, the six-membered Council serves as the governing board of MSA, a scientific society founded in 1919 for the advancement of mineralogy, crystallography, geochemistry and petrology, and applications for mineralogy in other sciences and industry.
A member of the Society since 1971 and elevated to Fellow in 1980, Ed previously chaired the MSA Committee on External Medals and Awards (1986), and edited MSA Reviews in Mineralogy volumes on boron (1996) and beryllium (2002). He also served as associate editor of the MSA’s flagship journal American Mineralogist from 2005 to 2010.
Ph.D. student Deborah Shulman was recently named a Susan J. Hunter Teaching Fellow by the UMaine Graduate School. She will teach ERS330, Mineralogy, in Spring 2014. Deb will be the instructor of record for the upper level course, with mentorship from faculty within the School. The Fellowship program requires that the faculty member who would otherwise teach the course replace it on his or her teaching schedule with a graduate level course. Chris Gerbi, the regular Mineralogy instructor, will teach a course in Spring 2014 entitled College Teaching in the Natural Sciences. It is designed primarily for Ph.D. students who plan to make teaching part of their career.
As reported on the UMaine website, Ed Grew collaborated in the process of describing, classifying, and reporting a new boron nitride mineral. More details are also available in a story from the University of California, Riverside, the home of the lead investigators in the study.
Ed Grew, who has a history of discovering minerals throughout the world, was invited to collaborate with an international team of scientists in the finding and classifying of a new boron mineral.
Geologists at the University of California, Riverside discovered a cubic boron nitride mineral in the southern Tibetan mountains of China. The mineral, named “qingsongite,” was discovered in 2009 and was officially approved this month by the International Mineralogical Association, according to a UC Riverside press release. Ed joined UC Riverside geologists, Larissa Dobrzhinetskaya and Harry Green, as well as scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and institutions in China and Germany in reporting the discovery.
Because of his research on boron minerals and evolution of boron minerals, Ed became interested in the research after reading about the discovery in a journal article. He urged Dobrzhinetskaya to apply for official recognition of the mineral.
School of Earth an Climate Sciences members Ed Grew and Marty Yates are part of a collaborative team that recently was awarded funding from the Carnegie Institute of Washington for a project entitled Isua Tourmaline: A window to Boron Concentrations in the Eoarchean?
Grew is leading the project, which follows up on recent work in collaboration with Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institute of Washington.
A more complete description of the work is at http://umaine.edu/news/blog/2013/06/24/in-the-beginning/; a summary of the project follows:
Scientists have proposed that boron played an essential role in the stabilization of prebiotic organic compounds critical to the formation of life on the early Earth 4 billion years ago. Their proposal assumes that boron concentrations in the Earth’s oceans and crust 4 billion years ago were comparable to concentrations today, but this assumption remains to be demonstrated. The objective of the research, which is funded by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, is to estimate what boron concentrations might have been so early in Earth history. Collaborators Edward Grew (University of Maine), Martin Yates (University of Maine), Robert Dymek (Washington University in Saint Louis), Simon Harley (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) and Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington) will analyze tourmaline from the Isua complex (West Greenland), the oldest tourmaline reported (3.7-3.8 billion years) for the two isotopes of boron, which would give the boron isotope composition of the ocean 3.7-3.8 billion years ago, not long after the critical period in the origin of life. Using a model developed by French geochemists relating sea-water boron isotope composition to the proportion of boron extracted from Earth’s mantle into the oceans and crust, we will try to determine whether concentrations of boron present on the early Earth were sufficient to play a critical role in the origin of life.