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  Promotion for two ERS faculty

April 9th, 2012

Today the University formally announced that Dr. Brenda Hall will be promoted to Professor and that Dr. Christopher Gerbi will be granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor.  You can read more at the UMaine news site.

Hall, whose main research focus is in glacial geology, joined the faculty as a Research Professor in 2001 and as an Assistant Professor in 2004.  Gerbi, who runs the electron microscopy laboratory and focuses his research on rheology, joined the faculty in 2007.

  UM record of Oxaca quake

March 26th, 2012

A Magnitude 7.4 Earthquake occurred on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 18:02:48 UTC time (2:02:48 Eastern Daylight time). The shaking was significant enough to be measured on the seismometer at the University of Maine. The quake occurred at a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles) at a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles). The epicenter was located 322 km (200 miles) south-southeast of Mexico City. The earthquake is a result of thrust faulting on or near the plate boundary between the Cocos and North American plates. The characteristics of the earthquake are thought to be consistent with subduction zone activity in the area. In the impacted area, the Cocos plate moves to the northeast at a rate of 60 mm/year (approx. 0.1 inch/year). Damage appears to be primarily structural, with no deaths and relatively few injuries reported.

  Earth Science majors win competitive scholarships

February 6th, 2012

We send out our congratulations to Eliza Kane and Audra Norvaisa for scholarships we learned about recently!

Eliza is using a $5000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, to support her studies in Brazil this semester. This is a nationally competitive award aimed at supporting travel abroad for Pell grant-funded students. More information is at their website.

Audra won a $4500 Vydunas Fund Scholarship – also a nationally competitive award. This is an award given to students of Lithuanian descent who are active members in the Lithuanian Scouts organization. Audra used the award to support her participation in the University of Oregon Geoarchaeology Field School last summer.

  Upcoming seminars on river restoration

February 2nd, 2012

On February 23, Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative and the Department of Earth Sciences are hosting a seminar with Dr. Robert Jacobson, a supervisory research hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey ( . The event will include two presentations by Dr. Jacobson, both of which will take place in Wells Conference Center, Room 2.  For more information, please contact Ruth Hallsworth at and 581-3196.

Conceptualizing and Communicating River Restoration
12:00 noon – 1:00 pm

In this presentation, Dr. Jacobson will discuss his recent book chapter that presents a model for communicating aspects of river management. The model includes a decision-making structure in which managers, stakeholder and scientists interact to define management objectives and performance evaluations.

Re-engineering the Lower Missouri River for Ecosystem Recovery: A Long, Strange Trip
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

This presentation will focus on some of the details of Dr. Jacobson’s work investigating physical processes on the Missouri River. He will highlight some of the measurements used to describe water flow, sediment transport and river morphology that are at the heart of the aquatic habitat restoration activities currently underway in the Missouri River. Co-sponsored by the Department of Earth Sciences.

  Ed Grew participates in “Sunday with a Scientist” at the State Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

January 10th, 2012

Priscilla and Ed Grew presented a display of color in minerals.

Ed explaining double refraction and other optical phenomena in minerals to a family. Behind him stands the skeleton of Archie, the Museum’s prize mammoth specimen.

Ed answers children’s questions about minerals.

One of the youngest visitors is fascinated by minerals.

Ed joined his wife Priscilla Grew and other volunteers in presenting “Sunday with a Scientist: Rocks and Minerals” at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln on December 18. The Museum’s monthly “Sunday with a Scientist” outreach programs are designed to appeal to family audiences. Volunteers from the University and local groups present topics related to science and natural history in a fun and informal way through demonstrations, activities, or by conducting their science on site. Other presenters were UNL geology professor Matt Joeckel and volunteers from the Lincoln Gem and Mineral Club who demonstrated lapidary techniques. Attending were 164 visitors including 70 children.
Ed and Priscilla selected examples from Ed’s mineral collection to illustrate the great variety of color and crystal forms in minerals, including rock crystal, agate, tiger eye, amazonite feldspar, garnet, pyrite, malachite and azurite. These were displayed in temporary cases for easy viewing. In addition, visitors could handle “touchable” minerals showing special properties—such as clear cleavage rhombs of Iceland spar displaying double refraction. Even more fascinating for visitors were polished slices of ulexite, the so-called “TV stone,” which demonstrated the effect of light traveling along crystal fibers. Children could also color pages printed with outline pictures of minerals, and they could take home sheets with special patterns to cut and fold into paper crystal models. Each visitor could also choose a rock or mineral trading card as a souvenir of the event.
For three hours, Ed answered visitor questions about the optical effects and origin of mineral color, explained the difference between cleavage and crystal faces. The children were full of curiosity and got great delight from handling minerals, looking at them with magnifiers, and admiring their colors and forms. Adult visitors posed some tougher questions for Ed about the geochemistry of beryllium and the origin of the solar system.

The Museum’s exit survey asked visitors what they liked best about the event. Among the responses: “the pretty rocks” (from a 5 year old girl); “crystals”; “different than the usual museum”; “I like seeing scientists”; and “awesome”!

  Olsen to develop EarthKin environmental chemical reaction database

January 2nd, 2012

Assistant Professor Amanda Olsen is partnering with colleagues at Penn State and St. Francis University to create a database of environmental reactions in order to more comprehensively investigate rates of weathering, carbon sequestration, and other chemical processes that occur at Earth’s surface. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Read more at the UMaine news site and at NSF’s awards page.

  New photo of guidottiite

December 13th, 2011

The late Charles V. Guidotti, Professor in the U Maine Department of Earth Sciences from 1981 to his untimely death in 2005, was honored in 2010 with having a new mineral, guidottiite, named after him. Stephen Guggenheim recently sent us photograph of guidottiite taken by Ludi von Bezing. Guidottiite is the black, shiny columnar material near the center of the photograph. The column band is about 1 mm in width. The scientific paper officially reporting guidottiite was published in Clays and Clay Minerals, vol. 58, p. 364-376 under the title “Guidottiite, the Mn-Analogue of Cronstedtite: A New Serpentine-Group Mineral from South Africa,” by Michael Wahle, Thomas Bujnowski, and Stephen Guggenheim from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and by Toshihiro Kogure from the University of Tokyo.

Guidottiite is a new manganese mineral in the serpentine group discovered in the Kalahari manganese deposit in South Africa, and to date is only known from this locality. Serpentine-group minerals belong to the class of layer or sheet silicates, which also includes micas, chlorites, and clays, and were a special focus of Prof. Guidotti’s mineralogical career. He co-authored many scientific papers on sheet silicates, which are familiar to many residents of Maine as the shiny flakes of mica found in schist and granite throughout the state. He also had an interest in manganese minerals found in small deposits in Maine, so a manganese serpentine is a particularly appropriate choice for a mineral to bear his name.

  Mayewski’s new book about polar exploration

November 29th, 2011

Paul Mayewski, Director of the Climate Change Institute and Professor of Earth Sciences, along with Michael Cope Morrison of Opsin Imaging, has released a beautiful new book entitled Journey Into Climate: Adventure, The Golden Age of Climate Research, and the Unmasking of Human Innocence.  They use stories and period photographs to follow a number of threads about the history of climate change research and their personal journeys.  Read more at:

  Anderson appears in CUGR website

November 11th, 2011

Kaitlyn Anderson, an Anthropology major with minors in Earth Science and Spanish, is featured in the Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) website!  Anderson conducted research with the Climate Change Institute under Professor Karl Kreutz collecting bivalve shells from the ocean bottom off the coast of Maine.  She focuses on chondrophores, which are decay-resistant components of clam shells. By investigating the changes in the chondrophores to changes observed in growth patterns of bivalve shells, she will learn how cultural practices, which are reflected in ancient shell middens, and climate change intersected.  She uses instruments such as a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and an electric microprobe to test the effectiveness of two methodologies in determining climate change with these organisms by viewing differences in structure, color and chemical analysis of the shells.  Congratulations, Kaitlyn!


  Denton Co-authors Book about Comer Greenland Expeditions

October 26th, 2011

Earth Science Professor George H. Denton is a coauthor of a recently published book “The Fate of Greenland”, which depicts the scientific escapades of a group of distinguished climate scientists sponsored by billionaire philanthropist Gary Comer.  Comer, the former head of Lands’ End Company, once sailed his yacht through the Northwest Passage and upon experiencing no troubles with sea ice, was intrigued with the idea of climate change and how it is reflected in polar environments.   Since then he has devoted much of his time and wealth to scientific investigations of the ongoing changes in polar landscapes.  Along with Denton, Comer also sought the advice of Richard B. Alley of Pennsylvania State University and Wallace S. Broeker of Columbia University, one of climate science’s premier researchers most known for his discovery of the role played by the global “conveyer belt” oceanic circulation in triggering abrupt shifts in climate. On these trips, mainly to Greenland, researchers were able to take advantage of Comer’s vast assets during these expeditions, most notably his 150-foot, staffed yacht and private helicopter. “The Fate of Greenland” makes it possible for all interested in climate change and polar research to go on the expedition with the researchers and marvel at the landscape that is crucial to our understanding of Earth’s past and future climate.  This book has received a number of favorable reviews, including: