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Recent News

Tufts EOS Assistant Prof. Andrew Kemp and the Boston Research Advisory Group release Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Projections
Twenty-two scientists from 13 different regional Universities and institutions have released their final report on sea level and other climate change impacts to the city of Boston. The report was prepared for the Climate Ready Boston project, a partnership between the City of Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission. Prof. Andrew Kemp, an expert in the determination of historic relative sea level rise, was part of the six-member sea level rise working group that produced a key component of this report. Findings suggest that sea level rise for Boston will "...exceed the global average throughout the 21st century..." (p. 6). Critically, the sea level rise impact of three different greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenarios were compared. Prior to 2050, no matter what GHG trajectory is considered, sea level is likely to rise between 7.5 to 18 inches, possibly as high as 30 inches. After 2050, the different GHG scenarios make a larger impact, with likely rise of 2.5 to 7.4 feet, depending on GHG emissions (low to high), by the year 2100. The report underscores loss of salt marsh habitats and increase in tidal range, wave energy and elevation of coastal storm surges as a result.
Read the full report >

Study by Prof. Kemp and colleagues shows global sea level rising faster than at any time in the past 2800 years
A report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kopp et al. found that global sea level rose much faster during the 20th century due to global warming than it would have otherwise. Prof. Andrew Kemp, an expert on deriving sea-level changes through marsh sediment analysis, is a co-author in this first study to estimate global sea-level over the past 3,000 years. Media coverage from the Washington Post links this and future sea-level predictions published in a separate paper.

Tufts Quartzite is exposed near the South Hall
dormitory at the site of the drill coring operation.

Professor Gardulski receives grant to study Tufts campus structural geology
Prof. Anne Gardulski was recently awarded a grant from the GDL Foundation to study a major fault zone and the surrounding rocks on the Tufts campus. The informally named "Jackson Fault" has been intersected in several boreholes that Prof. Garven has installed on the campus for his hydrogeology courses (see news item of 2/3/14). Prof. Gardulski is using diamond-drill cores, drill cuttings (rock chips), and geophysical logs to unravel the history of fluid flow, structural diagenesis, and strain on this ancient fault. In addition, she is studying the sedimentary history of the surrounding 560-million-year old strata, and the complex Jurassic igneous intrusions that lace the rocks. Two students are working with her on this project.

Professor Ridge to be inducted as Fellow of the Geological Society of America
Following the Kirk Bryan Award from the Geological Society of America last year, Professor Ridge is set to be inducted as a GSA Fellow at this year's annual Geological Society of America meeting. The GSA, established in 1888, is a global professional society of geologists.  From the GSA: "Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession…in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences." Congratulations, Prof. Ridge!
Learn more >

Professor Garven and collaborators find helium leaking from the mantle at ancient subduction zone
Using helium iostope data gathered from deep oil wells along the Newport-Inglewood fault zone in the Los Angeles Basin, California, Professor Garven and colleagues have discovered a high helium-3 enrichment, suggesting a mantle source for over half the helium in the wells. The results are a surprise given the current tectonic setting and lack of volcanic activity in the region. The results of modeling point to a deep-seated fault that maintains some connectivity to the mantle. The paper and media can be located at the following links:

Undergraduate EOS majors working with Profs. Ridge
and Kemp to collect sediment cores from Boston
harbor tidal marshes, summer 2015.

Professors Ridge and Kemp seek to understand sea level change in Boston harbor tidal marshes
Professors Ridge and Kemp seek to understand sea level change and the record of pollution and land surface disturbance in the Boston area by coring tidal marshes. Work began this summer with the help of EOS undergraduate students on salt marsh sediment that had accumulated continuously over at least the last 2000 years. The sediment contains fossils of microscopic organisms (foraminifers) that are sensitive to sea level change. Along with radiocarbon ages of sediment at different depths, the combined data will allow the formulation of a sea level curve. In addition, in historic times pollution and clear-cutting of the land surface introduced magnetic particles and increased clay deposition on the salt marsh. Concentrations of metals of various types, including lead, arsenic, copper, and others provide a record of historic pollution.

Prof. Andrew Kemp's research highlighted in President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address
A paper on sea-level rise published by Prof. Kemp and colleagues in PNAS in 2011 was cited and figured in the State of the Union Address last month. See Arts & Sciences Faculty Highlights for more information.

EOS winter break field trip to Death Valley a success
In early January, two Tufts EOS faculty took 11 students on a winter break geological tour of Death Valley, California. From a base within the national park the group spent eight days exploring everything the area had to offer, from Precambrian metamorphic core complexes, to the history of Pleistocene lakes in the valley, to recent volcanic cratering. Of special interest was a very long, bumpy drive to Racetrack Playa, home of the famous sliding stones. Each day included at least one hike into a canyon that exposed a new formation or structural feature, and at each location the students took turns teaching the group about the geological phenomena involved based on their nightly readings. Generous donations made by Tufts geology alumni help to support the winter and spring break geology trips, making for a thankful group of students! Photos from the Death Valley trip can be viewed on the Tufts EOS Facebook page.

Tufts alum interviewed on CBS "60 Minutes" regarding research on water resources
Tufts Geology alum Jay Famiglietti, Senior Water Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology and Professor, Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Irvine interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes about water issues in California and beyond.
Learn more >

The work of Professor Andrew Kemp and EOS students highlighted in Boston Globe
Prof. Andrew Kemp's "cutting-edge" work on sea-level change was recently profiled in the Boston Globe.
Learn more >

Professor Jack Ridge Receives Two Major Awards
Prof. Jack Ridge was recently honored with two awards in recognition of his work on the deglacial history of the northeastern United States. The James Hall Medal, awarded by the New York State Geological Survey for providing outstanding contributions to the advancement, study, and understanding of New York State's geological history and evolution was awarded to Prof. Ridge at the June 2014 Northeast Friends of the Pleistocene Annual Meeting. At the 2014 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC, Ridge, along with co-authors including many former Tufts students, was honored with the Kirk Bryan Award. Established in 1951, the Kirk Bryan Award is the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division's only named GSA award and is bestowed upon the author or authors of a published paper of distinction advancing the science of geomorphology or some related field, such as Quaternary geology. Ridge and co-authors were recognized for the 2012 publication of The new North American varve chronology: a precise record of southeastern Laurentide Ice Sheet deglaciation and climate, 18.2-12.5 kyr BP, and correlations with Greenland ice core records, American Journal of Science 312:685-722.

Prof. McCanta receives 3-year NSF funding to study volcanic deposits of the Lesser Antilles
Prof. Molly McCanta and colleagues from Oregon State University and Boston University have received a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study layers of volcanic ash deposited in the ocean around the Lesser Antilles islands, a group of volcanic islands in the southern Caribbean Sea. The group will be hunting for "cryptotephras"—layers of ash not visible to the naked eye--in cores of seafloor sediment collected during McCanta's time on an International Ocean Drilling Program expedition in 2012. A new method to rapidly and non-destructively identify cryptotephras using spectral imaging will be employed and tested that could then be provided to the wider scientific community for future use. Identifying these hidden layers of volcanic ash will allow the team to expand the history of eruptive activity around these islands, including the active Montserrat volcano.

Prof. Garven completes exploratory drilling of the President's Lawn for the EOS 133 class
At the end of January 2014 the EOS-133 Field Methods in Hydrogeology course drilled a "wildcat well" on the President's Lawn as part of the course groundwater exploration project, and discovered a new bedrock aquifer at a depth of 105-107 feet below grade. The well was drilled to a total depth of 200-ft, and preliminary estimates indicate a natural yield in excess of 60 gallons per minute. Subsequent study of the drill cuttings and geophysical logging indicate the finely-laminated Cambridge Argillite has been intruded by Medford gabbro/diabase. Old hydrothermal fractures filled with calcite have been weathered out, providing the permeability. Students will be running tests and sampling the water chemistry for further study this spring. If the well yield is found to be sustainable, the University could convert the well to a production groundwater well for lawn irrigation.

Research in deep fluid migration presented by Prof. Garven and colleagues
At the 2013 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Professor Grant Garven presented some of the latest hydrogeologic results from his collaborative DOE-funded project on the role of fault zones in deep fluid migration. In the presentation entitled "Tidal Fluctuations in a Deep Fault Extending Under the Santa Barbara Channel, California", Prof. Garven, his graduate students, and co-PI Jim Boles (University of California, Santa Barbara) are analyzing pore-pressure signals from 1-km deep reservoirs in the Monterey Formation. The pressure signals display ocean tidal behavior, albeit slightly damped and out of phase with respect to the tides in the Santa Barbara Channel. Besides the correlations, they are also using natural seepage data to characterize the permeability of large fault zones in young sedimentary basins of southern California.

Tufts Announces EOS Alumni Gathering at AGU Fall Meeting 2013, on Tuesday, December 11
The Tufts Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences will host an alumni gathering at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. We will have our reception on Tuesday evening, December 11th from 6 to 7:30 PM at the Marriott Marquis at 780 Mission Street in the Bin 55 Restaurant and Wine Bar. The Bin 55 is located in the lobby of the hotel, which is a block north of the Moscone Center. Look for Anne Gardulski, Jack Ridge, Grant Garven, Molly McCanta, and Andy Kemp (or some combination of them!). We hope to see you there!

Prof. Molly McCanta's research supports geological interpretations of planetary surfaces
Two recent publications by Prof. McCanta and colleagues aim at the analysis of the geology of Mars and other planets. Data returned from a laser spectrometer (LIBS) instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL; the Curiosity rover) currently traveling through Gale Crater on the Martian surface is providing new insight, but how reliable is it and what does it mean? McCanta et al.'s work with a simulated LIBS showed that as laser beam size increases, the reliability of data decreases. These findings will help operators of the MSL determine the best operating conditions for the instrument as it spends the rest of its mission on Mars. This work was published recently in Planetary and Space Science.

In addition to work with instrumentation, another study led by McCanta of Hawaiian lavas is meant to simulate the conditions under which rocks on other planets were weathered. On Mars and Venus, sulfur-rich gases are a prominent part of the atmospheric mixture and play a role in the alteration and breakdown of basaltic lava rock. Hawaiian volcanoes are natural laboratories for the study of these phenomena because of the sulfuric gases released during eruptive episodes. McCanta et al.'s work, to be published in American Mineralogist, led to a better understanding of the products of the reactions between sulfuric gases and basalt. This information can be used to identify mineral species on the Martian surface that may be encountered by Curiosity or future instruments sent to Mars or other planets of similar geological composition.

McCanta M.C., Dyar M.D., and Dobosh P.A. (2013) Using the LIBSSIM Program to Calculate Rock Composition: Testing the Veracity of LIBS Analyses on Mars. Planetary and Space Science. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2013.03.004

McCanta M.C., Dyar M.D., and Treiman A.H. (2013, in press) Alteration of Hawaiian basalts under sulfur-rich conditions: Applications to understanding surface-atmosphere interactions on Mars and Venus. American Mineralogist.

Dr. Andrew Kemp's latest sea-level publication garners national attention
A recent publication in the Journal of Quaternary Science that combined historical data from tide gages in New York and New Jersey with high resolution data from marsh sediment cores indicates that flooding from storm surge will become more likely in the future. In light of the impact from storm surge during Hurricane Sandy on these two states, the findings reinforce the relevance of sea-level studies to daily life. In interviews, co-author and Tufts Professor Dr. Andrew Kemp has explained that smaller and smaller storms will be able to cause flooding in the future due to the combined effects of sea-level rise and land subsidence in the region.

Read the publication >

Read more about Dr. Kemp's interviews:

Dr. Andrew Kemp—New Assistant Professor in the Tufts University Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences
The Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences is pleased and excited to introduce Assistant Professor Andrew Kemp to the Tufts University community. Dr. Kemp comes most recently from Yale University where he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI). He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (2009) and BSc from the University of Durham (2002) in the UK. Dr. Kemp will, in part, support the Tufts Environmental Studies Program through new course offerings in climate change science.

Dr. Kemp's research aims to produce detailed reconstructions of sea level over the last 2000 years and in particular to determine the response of local, regional and global sea level to known climate deviations such as the Medieval Climate Anomaly, Little Ice Age, and 20th century warming. Dr. Kemp takes an interdisciplinary approach to this work using coastal stratigraphy, biological, and geochemical proxies, varied dating methods and quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction techniques to reconstruct sea level at unprecedented resolution. These records provide a constraint for future projections of sea-level rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5) is consulting these reconstructions to place current and projected sea level changes in an appropriate geological context. It is hoped these new geological data will aid coastal management under scenarios of future sea level change.

Dr. Kemp's first course at Tufts will be offered Fall 2013: EOS 191 Global Climate Change. This course will be an introduction to the workings of Earth's climate system to better understand the causes of present and future climate change. Emphasis will be placed on processes that control Earth's modern climate, such as global energy budgets and the behavior of greenhouse gases. Important features of global and regional climate systems such as El Nino South Oscillation will be studied. Students who complete the course will have a deepened understanding of how and why climate changed in the recent past and the science behind forecasts of future global climate change.

Review the selected recent peer-reviewed publications by Dr. Kemp and colleagues >

Prof. Jack Ridge publishes culmination of work linking New England glacial sediments with Greenland ice core records
Prof. Jack Ridge and a colleague from the Berkeley Geochronology Center, along with six former Tufts undergraduates have published a landmark paper now available in the current issue of the American Journal of Science entitled "The new North American Varve Chronology: A precise record of southeastern Laurentide Ice Sheet deglaciation and climate, 18.2-12.5 kyr BP, and correlations with Greenland ice core records."

Key to this research was work supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation that located and sampled new sections of glacial varves in the Connecticut River valley. Varves are annual deposits of sediment distinguished by a winter layer and summer layer, and in this case they were deposited in a glacial lake that filled the valley during the end of the last Ice Age. By counting the annual layers and using carbon dating on the new sections of varves, much of which was work performed by Tufts undergraduates, Ridge and colleagues were able to piece together the "missing links" in the timeline of the retreat of the ice sheet from New England. In addition, more precision in the new varve records provided links to some key archives of climate change during the last ice age: Greenland ice cores. This result allowed Ridge and colleagues to infer that the processes of climate change that affected the Greenland ice sheet starting at about 15,000 years ago were synchronous with changes in the ice sheet in New England. They conclude that a widespread regional change in climate mechanisms, rather than local ice sheet conditions in either locale, were acting to cause ice retreat.

The paper can be located at the American Journal of Science or downloaded from the from the North American Glacial Varve Project website.

The Earth and Ocean Sciences Spring 2013 course catalog is now available for download.

Fall 2012 EOS Courses
Please download the Fall 2012 EOS course listing for a list of available courses!

Changes to the Earth and Ocean Sciences 'Geological Sciences' major
The Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences has recently revised the Geological Sciences major, providing both more breadth in the Earth Sciences and more flexibility in the supporting sciences. Current Earth and Ocean Sciences majors should review this information and discuss with their advisors, as it may have bearing on your choice of major. The following are the new requirements for the Geological Sciences major, one of the two majors the department offers.

Geological Sciences
Students intending to continue in fields of Earth and Ocean Sciences after graduation should complete the following courses:

  • EOS 1, 2, 11 and 22.
  • In addition, students must select a total of 6 more courses from the following groups:
    • 3 courses from EOS 12, 13, 32 and 42
    • 1 course from EOS 131 and 133
    • 2 courses from above EOS 9 or approved related fields courses
  • Students must complete Mathematics 32, Chemistry 1 and Physics 1 or 11
  • Students must select two additional courses from Mathematics 34, Chemistry 2, Physics 2 or 12, and 1 approved statistics course
  • Chemistry and Physics courses must be taken with labs
  • Research experience and a six-week geology summer field camp are strongly recommended

Future majors or interested students should also feel free to discuss major options with any of the Tufts Earth and Ocean Sciences Faculty. Full descriptions of major and minor options in the Earth and Ocean Sciences can be found here.

Department of Geology to take on new name in Fall 2012!
Meet the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences! We are excited to announce an update of our departmental identity to more accurately describe our research and teaching activities. The Tufts Daily recently ran a story about this change that you can read here.

This change of name will result in a change of abbreviation in the course catalog. From now on, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences courses will be listed under the 3 letter abbreviation "EOS".

Prof. McCanta Joins Joides Resolution Scientific Cruise to Lesser Antilles
Professor Molly McCanta recently departed for a research cruise on the RV Joides Resolution to participate in an IODP (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program) investigation deep sea sediments deposited near the Lesser Antilles island chain. She provides this update from aboard ship:

"We're currently drilling off several islands in the Lesser Antilles (Montserrat, Martinique, Dominica) in order to study the construction and destruction of volcanoes. To do this we're looking at the submarine tephrachronology of the region, which is usually better than the subaerial record, and the submarine debris avalanche history. After the cruise the data collected will be analyzed and we'll have a better understanding of subduction zone processes and hazards.

The core retrieval process operates 24/7, so we all work 12-hour shifts. I'm on midnight to noon. When a core is recovered from depth it's first divided into ~1.5m sections (total length of a core with total recovery = ~10m). It's then equilibrated at surface T and P for 2+ hours. After another 2+ hours of whole core data collection (NGR, MagSus), the core is finally split for us to log. We run the archive half through a high resolution imager and a magsus/reflectance spectrometer. Then we log the lithologic units, structures, contacts, etc. It can be crazy when we're piston coring and material is coming up every ½ hour or so. The rotary coring process slows the recovery down which gives us a bit more time to focus on the science. We've certainly logged >100m in a single 12-hour shift (~14 cores)! This is impressive if you consider the number of tephra layers in each core to be described (150 in one 10m section! Each had to be logged separately.). Finally, all the data is input into a giant searchable database by hand."

You may continue to follow the progress of IODP Expedition 340 and Professor McCanta on the expedition's blog or via twitter @TheJR.

Past Climate and Ice-Volume Changes in Antarctica: Looking Back to Our Future

A seminar presented by Dr. Stephen Pekar, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, NY

Friday, Nov. 18th, 4pm, Lane Hall 100

Carbon dioxide levels are predicted to rise during this century to levels not seen in 25 to 50 million years. Back during this time, the Earth changed from a generally ice-free 'greenhouse world' to a more much colder and heavily glaciated 'icehouse world'. Dr. Pekar will provide an overview of Antarctic climate changes when CO2 levels were similar to what is predicted for this century and also provide some of early results from IODP Wilkes Land Expedition.

Dr. Pekar is traveling to Tufts University as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Ocean Leadership Distinguished Lecturer Series.

Download the announcement.

New GEO Course: Field Methods in Hydrogeology
A new course offered by Professor Grant Garven, Field Methods in Hydrogeology, will be offered in the Spring 2012 semester.
Download the announcement.

Spring 2012 Geology Course Listing
Geology Department courses for the Spring 2012 semester are now available as a PDF download here: GEO Spring 2012 Courses (~3 MB PDF)

Fall 2011 GEO courses appropriate for first- and second-year students
Download an information sheet regarding Fall 2011 courses appropriate for first- and second-year students interested in Earth Sciences here.