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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.  


Due to COVID-19, the Open Night Series will be held virtually this semester. 
Please register here for the free Geology Open Night lectures. 

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:


Spring 2021

February 26, 2021
7:30 PM via zoom
Deanne Rogers                 The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission
March 26, 2021
7:30 PM via zoom
Donald Weidner Studying the Earth's interior with synchrotron X-rays
April 23, 2021
7:30 PM via zoom
Brian Phillips Useful impurities in minerals and how to find them with a big magnet and a radio

FALL 2020 

September 25, 2020
7:30 PM via zoom
Daniel Davis                      Using Geophysical Tools to Explore the 
Dynamic Evolution of Long Island and its Coasts
October 23, 2020
7:30 PM via zoom
Marine Frouin An Introduction to Luminescence Dating


 SPRING 2020 

February 28, 2020 Gregory Henkes The Environments of Human Evolution in East Africa    
March 27, 2020 Brian Phillips CANCELLED
Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to Locate
Impurities in Minerals That Can Tell Us Something
About Their History
April 17, 2020 Deanne Rogers CANCELLED


FALL 2019 

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
October 25, 2019 William Holt A Trek Across Western North America Through Geological Time
September 27, 2019         Troy Rasbury Boron in Long Island Fresh Water



NYS teachers who wish to receive CTLE credit for any of these lectures must register here for each lecture you attend  and sign-in at the lecture.

The Graduate School will send a CTLE certificate about six weeks after each lecture. 

2020-21 Schedule Abstracts


March 26, 2021 - Donald Weidner

Studying the Earth's interior with synchrotron X-rays

The deep Earth is revealed by measuring the speed of sound waves created by earthquakes. In order to decipher the chemical and physical state of any particular region of the Earth’s interior, we must know the sound speeds in candidate Earth materials at the conditions of pressure and temperature that exist in the region of interest. Synchrotrons become the corner stone of studying materials at these extreme condition because they can penetrate portions of the pressurizing system and give us direct information about the sample properties. As an example, we will look in detail at the experimental approach to measure the compressibility of partially molten rocks at seismic frequencies and deep Earth conditions.

Dr. Weidner received his undergraduate education from Harvard University and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences where he has been a faculty member for over 40 years. He is currently Director of the Mineral Physics Institute. Dr. Weidner’s research focuses on understanding the deep Earth by understanding the rocks and minerals that make up this inaccessible region. He has developed several new experimental tools to this end. He currently is involved in synchrotron research on samples at high pressure and temperature. His group runs a beamline at the Advanced Light Source in Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and is building one at the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is winner of two international awards; the James B. Macelwane award of the American Geophysical Union in 1981 “For significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist” and the Inga Lehmann award, also of the American Geophysical Union in 2011 “For outstanding contributions to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth’s mantle and core”.

February 26, 2021 - Deanne Rogers

The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission

The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) mission launched in 2016 and arrived at asteroid Bennu in 2018. After ~2 years of orbital reconnaissance, the spacecraft successfully collected a sample of Bennu’s regolith in October 2020, and will return the sample to Earth in 2023. Detailed studies of a pristine sample of Bennu’s carbon-rich regolith will help us to understand early solar system processes, such as planet formation, and perhaps how life began. Another mission objective is to characterize the potential harm that asteroids pose towards Earth. I will describe the details and major findings of the mission thus far, and describe what we can expect from the mission in the coming months.

Deanne Rogers is an Associate Professor of Geosciences at Stony Brook University. She uses remote sensing techniques, statistical methods and laboratory spectroscopy to investigate planetary surface processes. She is a Participating Scientist Collaborator on the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and is a Co-Investigator on the Mars Odyssey mission. She is a member of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) sub-node at Stony Brook University and was a collaborator on the Mars Exploration Rover mission from 2004-2006. Rogers was named a NASA Planetary Science Division Early Career Fellow in 2008, and serves on the National Academies’ Committee on Planetary Protection and on the editorial board for the Journal of Geophysical Research--Planets. She teaches courses in remote sensing, natural hazards, environmental geology, and geomorphology.

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 volcanism. 

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.