GEOLOGY OPEN NIGHTS
Geology Open Nights are part of a science lecture series which are open to the public.
The Geology lectures are usually presented by faculty on aspects of their research,
expertise or a topic of public interest.
This series is offered in conjunction with our Astronomy, Physics and Ecology and
Evolution Departments. The links to their lecture schedules can be found below.
ASTRONOMY OPEN NIGHTS
THE LIVING WORLD
WORLD OF PHYSICS
Due to COVID-19, the Open Night Series will be held virtually this semester.
Please register for the free Geology Open Night lectures at this
The zoom link will be shared the day before the talk.
If you have any questions or are unable to register, please email the
Geology Open Night Coordinator:
IN-SERVICE CREDIT FOR TEACHERS
NYS teachers who wish to receive CTLE credit for any of these lectures must register
for each lecture you attend
sign-in at the lecture.
The Graduate School will send a CTLE certificate about six weeks after each lecture.
2020-21 Schedule Abstracts
October 23. 2020 - Marine Frouin
An Introduction to Luminescence Dating
Measuring time in the geological record is fundamental to the study of the evolution
of life, and the geomorphic processes occurring on the Earth’s surface. In human origins
research, past advances in radiometric and relative dating techniques have fundamentally
changed our capacity to piece together our evolutionary past over millions of years.
My research is focused on the development and application of luminescence dating techniques,
an absolute chronometer that is almost universally applicable to any sediment that
has been exposed to daylight during transport. It is a major chronometric tool for
late Quaternary studies, with a wide age range from a few years up to about 0.5 Ma,
with some indication that this limit can be further extended.
In this presentation, we will go over the basics of luminescence dating, its advantages
and enduring challenges. I will also give you an overview on the latest developments
and applications, with a special focus on archeological studies.
Dr. Frouin received her Ph.D. in Geochronology from the University of Bordeaux (France)
in 2014. Following that she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research Laboratory of
Archaeology and the History of Art (Oxford University, UK) from 2014-2019, and then
joined the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University
of Denmark. She joined the faculty in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook
University in 2020. She is also a faculty in the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological
Sciences and an affiliated faculty with the Turkana Basin Institute. She runs the
luminescence dating laboratory on campus and has more than 14 years experience working
in the field in Eurasia, Africa as well as in America.
September 25. 2020 - Daniel Davis
Using geophysical tools to explore the dynamic evolution of Long Island and its coasts.
Geophysical tools such as ground-penetrating radar and resistivity allow us to image
the sediments that record the evolution of Long Island from the time of the Pleistocene
ice ages to the present. Signs of how the glaciers shaped the landscape are everywhere
around us. To this day, winds still produce extraordinary and beautiful dunes and
gradual processes reshape out coastlines. Hurricanes and nor’easters continue to cause
sudden changes to Long Island and, especially, to its barrier islands – and extreme
weather events present an ever-greater threat for the future. This talk will explore
what modern tools can tell us about how our island has been shaped by glaciers and,
since their retreat, by ongoing environmental forces.
Dan Davis has been a member of the Stony Brook faculty since 1986. His primary area
of research has focused on the tectonics of regions where plates converge, causing
great earthquakes and the construction of mountain belts. Other areas of research
include the application of geophysics to nuclear arms control and to the study of
the glacial and post-glacial geology of Long Island. His public outreach includes
astronomy, and he is co-author of
Turn Left at Orion, a guide to telescopic stargazing that has sold over 160,000 copies.
2019-20 Schedule Abstracts
March 27, 2020 - Brian Phillips
Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to Locate Impurities in Minerals That Can Tell
Us Something About Their History
Calcium carbonate minerals such as calcite are ubiquitous in nature, being the main
component of limestones and similar rocks that are exposed over about 20% of Earth’s
land surface. Precipitation of carbonate minerals removes CO2 from the atmosphere,
while creating a repository of valuable chemical information about the environment
in which they formed. During crystal growth various impurities are incorporated into
the mineral, some of which geoscientists are exploiting to infer environmental conditions
at the time and place the mineral precipitated, called “paleo-environmental proxies”.
With micro-analytical methods now available geoscientists can read such chemical and
isotopic signatures at sub-millimeter resolution to determine chemical variability
at geologically short time scales. In this presentation I will discuss the factors
that determine how an impurity becomes trapped in a mineral, whether its abundance
is suitable for use as an environmental proxy, and the results of some of our research
that show where impurities are located in calcium carbonate minerals. For this research
we use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which is based on the same phenomenon
as MRI and measures the pitch of atomic nuclei “singing” in a strong magnetic field.
This allows us to locate impurity atoms from their chemical environment and identify
some of their neighbors.
Brian Phillips is a Professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University.
He has been on the faculty at Stony Brook University since 2002, where he investigates
the atomic arrangement of minerals and related materials using primarily Nuclear Magnetic
Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. His research focuses particularly on bonding of atoms
adsorbed to mineral surfaces and how impurities are incorporated in minerals. He is
a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America.
February 28, 2020 - Gregory Henkes
The Environments of Human Evolution in East Africa
There are a variety of hypotheses for the patterns and processes of human evolution,
but virtually all call on changes in the local environment and regional or global
climate to perpetuate hominin speciation over the last 4-5 million years. This talk
will be part tour through the geologic and paleontological changes in East Africa
and part review of the environmental and climatic changes that accompanied them. My
research interests are better understanding the chemistry of sedimentary rock archives
of environment and climate, thus my focus will also be on how these records are developed
and where the state-of-the-art currently lies.
Dr. Henkes received his Ph.D. in isotope geochemistry from Johns Hopkins University
in 2014. Following that he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University from 2014-2016
and joined the faculty in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University
in 2016. He is also a faculty in the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological
Sciences and an affiliated faculty in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
and with the Turkana Basin Institute. He runs an isotope geochemistry laboratory on
campus and has conducted fieldwork in Kenya, The Bahamas, Australia, and Norway.
November 22, 2019 - John Parise
The Stone Age Did Not End Because of a Lack of Stones: Materials Production as a
Reflection of Economic Power
It’s right there in the constitution: “To promote the progress of science and useful
arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to
their respective writings and discoveries.” Societies rise and fall based on their
intellectual capital, and their economic well-being depends on their mastery of earth
materials. The development and utility of modern materials still depends on, sometimes
rare, materials we obtain from the Earth. This talk will present examples where basic
research into the benefaction of Earth materials led to transformative economic gains,
such as the electrochemical extraction of aluminum metal. In the 1800s aluminum was
more valuable than gold. It is now $0.68 a pound. The cold embrittlement of tin
buttons during Napoleon’s Russia campaign provides a counter-example; the unintended
consequences of a breakthrough in technology, and the worst wardrobe malfunction in
military history. To meet the challenges of a new age, where energy production and
electrical grid stabilization will be key challenges, the Earth abundance of certain
elements will determine the finite number of materials we can use to meet these challenges.
John Parise is a mineralogical crystallographer and Solid State Chemist with joint
appointments at Stony Brook University (SBU) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL)
on Long Island New York. His research interests intersect mineralogy, mineral properties
the properties of novel materials developed with inspiration from the naturally occurring,
though rare, minerals. His recent interests include exploratory high-pressure materials
synthesis, aided by theoretical and in-situ x-ray and neutron scattering. In 2012
he was appointed Director of the Joint Photon Sciences Institute, a SBU-BNL initiative
to promote education, training and research at BNL's National Synchrotron Light Source-II.
He directs the Department of Energy’s, Energy Frontier Research Center, GENESIS, A
Next GENeration SynthESIS Center, which is headquartered at Stony Brook and involves
8 other institution nation wide. Professor Parise obtained his PhD from James Cook
University, for work carried out in neutron scattering at the Australian Atomic Energy
Commission. He had previously spent 2 years in a masters program at Osaka University,
Japan. He has held appointments in Chemistry at Du Pont and at the University of
Sydney. He has published over 400 papers and holds 4 patents.
October 25, 2019 - William Holt
A Trek Across Western North America Through Geological Time
Western North America today consists of high topography with many roughly north-south
trending mountain belts, including the Rockies, the Basin and Range province, and
the Sierra Nevada range. The complex geology and topography owes much of its existence
to a long history of subduction and mountain building along the western margin of
North America, followed by the development of the San Andreas Fault system in California.
At the conclusion of the period of wide-spread convergence about 35 million years
ago a major mountain range existed to the west of the Rockies in what is now the Basin
and Range province. Little is known about the precise height or distribution of this
mountain chain. This topography experienced a dramatic collapse as subduction ceased
along the western margin of North America and the current San Andreas fault system
developed. This collapse of topography continues today. In this talk I will provide
a tour through geologic time of the west and show new research results that demonstrate
that this ancient mountain range once rivaled the Andes Mountains of South America.
What remains enigmatic is how or why the lithosphere weakened enough for the topography
to collapse. Geophysical evidence points to a hot upper mantle beneath these regions.
Furthermore, the introduction of water into the upper mantle and crust from the ancient
Farallon slab that subducted beneath North America likely played a major role as a
weakening mechanism that facilitated the collapse of topography coupled with widespread
William Holt is a Professor in the Department of Geosciences, Stony Brook University.
His interests include seismology and active tectonics. Professor Holt uses observations
from seismology, space-geodesy, and geology to constrain the forces operating in the
lithosphere that are responsible for producing earthquakes, plate tectonics, and mountain
building. Professor Holt is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, an NSF early
CAREER awardee, and was given an Alumni Achievement award from the University of Arizona.
Professor Holt was on the founding Board of Directors for the UNAVCO, which is a non-profit
university- governed consortium that facilitates research and education in geodesy.
Holt later served on the UNVACO board again in the period of 2009 – 2013 and was chair
during the period of 2010 – 2012.
September 27, 2019 - Troy Rasbury
Boron in Long Island Fresh Water
Boron isotopes have been used as a tracer of the source of contaminants such as nitrate
to surface and groundwater in a variety of terrestrial settings. We conducted a survey
of Long Island waters including rainwater, spring fed creeks and rivers, subterranean
groundwater discharge, and ponds across eastern Long Island to determine if boron
could be a useful tracer of contaminants. A major motivation was to identify the source
of nitrate to groundwater and to the Long Island Sound. Nitrates can cause harmful
algal blooms in ponds, lakes and in the Long Island Sound. As background to this study
we analyzed samples that are potential sources of nitrates including septic samples
as well as some commercially available fertilizer and manure to consider potential
contaminants to the waters.
Septic waters have high boron concentrations and light boron isotope compositions,
likely derived from bleach. Fertilizers also have high concentrations and have a range
of isotope ratios, but are mostly isotopically distinct and heavier than septic samples.
Manure has lower boron concentrations and is isotopically heavier than commercial
fertilizer. Seawater has high boron concentrations and is isotopically very heavy.
This study shows that boron from seawater is a significant source of boron without
concomitant increases in salinity. Volatilization of boric acid from seawater likely
accounts for ratios that are even heavier than seawater. Ponds in the Pine Barrens
have boron isotopes similar to seawater with the lowest boron concentrations of any
samples we measured, likely reflecting the average composition of rainwater. There
is a remarkable range in boron isotopes across all the fresh groundwater samples we
measured. There is little trend with boron concentrations suggesting that there are
multiple sources with different isotope compositions.
Combining these results with analyses of subterranean groundwater discharge (SGD)
which has been conducted in several locations on the Long Island Sound indicates that
the source of nitrate to the Long Island Sound through SGD has isotopically light
boron isotopes and is not one simple source, but rather must represent a range of
sources. This is consistent with the idea that non-point source contributions of nitrate
to the Long Island Sound are significant.
Troy Rasbury is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences. She is an
isotope geochemist and oversees the Facility for Isotope Research and Student Training
(FIRST) at Stony Brook University. The work presented here represents a new direction
for her research and is collaborative with Henry Bokuniewitz and J. Kirk Cochran of
SoMAS. Students including Caitlin Brown, Joe Tamborski, Deanna Downs, and Brooke
Peritore have been involved in this research and contributed to the data and discussion.