Geological Sciences Newsletter
The 2007-2008 year in Geological Sciences
What a busy year! Just when you think things will settle
down, new issues and opportunities arise.
Thankfully, most of these have been and continue to be positive for the
department. Dave Mallinson was awarded
tenure. Congratulations, Dave! Last
August we welcomed Siddhartha (Sid) Mitra.
Sid is an organic geochemist who we enticed away from
We’ve increased the number of faculty and now we have increased the number of staff. As you know, John Woods joined us in September 2006 to work with Jim Watson. Michelle Stevens joined us in December, 2007. She is taking on the reception duties while Dare Merritt concentrates on managing the department’s burgeoning external grant portfolio.
Continued on page 2
Water Resources Research in the Geological Sciences Department
Currently, the State of
This is particularly challenging
with the added uncertainty of the future effects of climate change on the
hydrologic cycle. Recently, researchers in the Department of Geological
Sciences have been shedding light on a variety of water resources
problems. Our work has dealt with the
quantity and quality of the surface water and ground water of
Continued on page 3
2007-2008 Continued from page 1
We continue to improve our complement of instrumentation. A while ago I was asked to indicate what equipment we have that is obsolete. I listed our XRD and XRF and then promptly forgot about it. Early in the fall semester we had a very pleasant surprise when, out of the blue, we were notified that we had been allocated the funds for an XRD! As I write, a room is being readied for refurbishment for the arrival of the XRD. Fingers are crossed now for an XRF!
The addition of faculty and staff leads to pressure on space. Last summer, we managed to carve out two additional offices in the Graham building by redesigning and refurbishing the main office suite and the storage room of a teaching lab. This lab now has new furniture and is fully “smart”. In May we will be refurbishing the graduate student space and furnishing it with new, computer-friendly and storage-friendly workspaces.
Scott Snyder retired at the end of December after a 35 year career at ECU. Scott had spent the last nine years as Senior Associate Dean but he still kept his hand in foraminifera via collaborations with several of us in the department. I intend to continue to pester him to work with us!
Finally, I must report to you that two more stalwarts of the faculty will be retiring at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year. Richard Mauger and Dave Lawrence have been at ECU for a combined 50 plus years. They taught many of you and, as a result of their vast knowledge and skill in imparting it, you have gone on to become successful geologists in your own right. Richard and Dave will be sorely missed but they, like the rest of us, are excited by the new challenges and opportunities that their retirements will afford the department. Together we will work diligently to search for their replacements. Of course, it’s not really possible to replace the breadth of knowledge of these two colleagues but we will do our best.
Please join us in wishing Richard, Dave and Scott long and happy retirements.
My very best regards,
Jeremy D. Brandsen
John P. Deloatch
Henry A. Winn
David M. Caldwell
John B. Elkins
Heather W. Hutchinson
Patrick K. Johnson
Katherine E. Ryan
Jason R. Soban
Benjamin W. Sumners
Water Research Continued from page 1
Figure 1. The Tar River at
Land-Use Effects on Water Quantity and Quality
Dr. Mitra has been involved with research addressing the growing concern of the effects of trace organic chemicals in the environment. The active ingredients of hundreds of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) commonly used by consumers are being found in natural waters throughout the world. There is an ever growing concern about these chemicals. In many cases, these chemicals are endocrine disrupting chemicals and may be toxic to aquatic organisms. In other cases, the toxicity of these chemicals to the ecosystem is not known. These PPCP compounds are largely released from waste water treatment plant discharge but the question remains as to whether they are also introduced into rivers and stream via septage and/or other sources, such as erosion from agricultural areas. To reduce the loading of these chemicals to the environment, consumers should practice the “two Rs: Reduce and Return!!”. First, use less medication, and if you can’t do that, please do not dispose of your unused medications by flushing them down the toilet! Give them back to your pharmacist (who will hopefully not flush them down her or his toilet).
Dr. Woods has been involved with research focused on the
geochemical changes caused by reverse osmosis water treatment plant discharge (present
and proposed) in coastal waters of northeastern
Dr. Corbett has recently completed a
project in collaboration with NCSU focused on the spatial and temporal
variability in ground water-based nitrogen input to a stream in an agricultural
Dr. O’Driscoll has been involved with research documenting the effects of urban land-use on coastal plain and barrier island hydrology. The expansion of urban areas since the 1980s has increased the extent of impervious surfaces in the form of rooftops, roads, parking lots, etc. This has resulted in a reduction in ground water recharge and an increase in stormwater runoff that is often responsible for stream channel erosion and a lowering of riparian zone water tables. The net result is a change in floodplain moisture regime known as “riparian drought.” Many urban floodplains in the region have dried up compared to their undeveloped counterparts. Other work has been focused on the geologic controls on septic system effluent treatment in coastal areas. In general, sandy soils provide less removal of nutrients from septic wastewater when compared to loamy soils with greater percentages of silt and clay. Results suggest that high densities of septic systems in coastal areas threaten the shallow ground water quality.
Figure 2. Dr. Terri Woods and Brad Panneton sampling water quality in the
Geologic Controls on Coastal Plain Hydrology
Mallinson and O’Driscoll were recently involved in a study characterizing the
geologic controls on river-ground water interactions along the
Ground Water Resources Management
Spruill has been working on numerous ground water resources projects. He is
currently involved in the pilot project for
and other studies have helped to provide water managers with important data and
insights that have helped to improve water resources management in the Coastal
Plain of North Carolina. Population growth, land-use, and climate change will
undoubtedly affect water quality, supply, and demand in the future. Water
resources research is crucial to help guide sound water management practices in
New Kid on the Block
It is indeed a pleasure to be writing this
as the newest addition to the faculty in Geological Sciences here at ECU. My wife Paula, my 2 yr old son Sthir and our dog Angel, are all enjoying life here in
On the professional front, I am an Organic Geochemist who focuses on the fate and transport of trace organic chemicals in the environment. Organic chemicals, natural or synthetic, can help answer many questions about anthropologic or geologic processes. Below, I have highlighted my specific areas of research in organic geochemistry.
One major area of research, which I will be introducing here at ECU, deals with the geological cycling of black carbon and its effects on the global carbon cycle. Black carbon is the residue left after combustion processes such as biomass or fossil fuel burning. Investigations of historical black carbon deposition in sedimentary environments can offer evidence of paleofires and historical land use practices and are intimately linked to paleoclimate. Another area of research with which I am involved deals with the science of organic contaminant bioavailability. For example, why is it that an organic contaminant presents deleterious effects to a community of benthic organisms in one area but not to another community of the same organisms in another area? The answer may not lie so much in the organisms’ biological response but more so in the natural organic matter composition of the sedimentary matrix to which the organisms are exposed. Finally, the third area of research with which I am involved, deals with tracking the fate and transport of the active ingredients in many pharmaceutical and personal care product chemicals, in the environment. Many of the drugs we ingest as humans are being detected in aquatic environments and may pose a significant threat to the ecosystem. Identifying the factors that affect the stability of these chemicals in the natural environment is tantamount to minimizing their potential environmental hazard.
Much of my
research is comprised of fieldwork in coastal areas coupled with extensive
laboratory analytical work. Field work
for my current projects takes place in venues such as the Hudson River in NY
I firmly believe that promoting scholarship at the university level requires not only a strong and cutting edge research program but also a sound educational program. In that context, I will initially be teaching Introduction to Oceanography (GEOL 1550), Environmental Geology (GEOl 1700) at the undergraduate level and Biogeochemistry (GEOL 7830) at the graduate level.
As an organic geochemist with a background in marine science and oceanography, I anticipate collaborations with several of the faculty here. I am very excited to be here and look forward to getting my research and education program up and running as soon as possible.
The Usual Suspects
We have had another productive year
here in Geological Sciences. This year
saw research-related trips to several areas in
Hope you and yours are also doing well…look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you at this year’s spring celebration!
JP and Reid, working???
Over the last few years, I have been part of a team of many people on campus who have worked to design, plan and implement the Institute for Interdisciplinary Coastal Science and Policy (IICSP). The role of this umbrella organization is to promote interdisciplinary research, education and outreach on coastal issues. It brings together the faculty from the former Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources (ICMR) and the Coastal Resources Management (CRM) PhD program. The search for a director of IICSP was not successful. Last August I took on the role of Interim Director while a new search was conducted. This has taken up much of my time during the past year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Don Neal who cheerfully agreed to teach my courses during this academic year.
Part of the role of the Director is to increase external
funding for interdisciplinary research.
In December we heard that a Culver and Riggs-led UNC Research
Competitiveness proposal was funded. We
received $288,000 that had to be spent by June 30th, 2008. This is not as hard as it seems because the
project on Coastal Hazards in
In a similar vein, I have been spear-heading, with Stan
Riggs, the initial efforts to get a federally funded “Coastal Hazards in the
My six masters and two PhD students continue to undertake
their research. Jenny Foley finished
during the year and I expect three or four more students to finish by the end
of summer 2008. Two more students, joint
advised, with Dave Mallinson came on board in August and are looking forward to
the week of fieldwork at the coast that will occur in May. We will be vibracoring
and running seismic in Pamlico Sound and coring in salt marshes near
In summary, another busy year but one that will end with the most rewarding part of a professor’s job, the graduation of his/her students.
Stephen B. Harper
For those of you have wondered why my title has remained “Visiting Assistant Professor” after being here for more than a decade at ECU, you need wonder no more! Due in part to some recent nomenclature changes by the ECU Faculty Senate and in part to a decision by the Department of Geological Sciences Personnel Committee, my title is now “Teaching Associate Professor.”
On the teaching front, my typical
teaching semester still includes sections of Dynamic Earth (Geology 1500) and one
section of Environmental Geology (Geology 1700). As has been the case since I first arrived in
the Geology Department in 1992, part of my teaching duties still include
training and mentoring our Graduate Teaching Assistants to teach Geology 1501
labs. Our departmental curriculum still
has me teaching Geomorphology (Geology 5000-5001) every 2 years. I will be teaching an Honors course in the
Fall Semester of 2008 entitled “The Geologic Environment and Resources of
I am still
the Director of the North Carolina Summer Geology Field Course. I will be in the teaching rotation for the
Geology Field Course in New Mexico and Colorado in May and June 2008 for the 10th
straight year and will be teaching at the Abiquiu,
San Ysidro, Cuba, and Taos-Sipapu,
NM sites and then travel with the students up to Gunnison, CO where Dr. Diemer from UNC-C and myself will lead the Jack’s Cabin
Mapping Exercise. This year we will look
like one big moving family as I will be renting a Penske truck in order to
transport all the cooking and camp gear as well as student duffel bags out to
New Mexico, around New Mexico, and back from Colorado. For the 2008 field course, our enrollment in
the Geology Field Course is in the 22 to 25 student range. Currently, these students hail from ECU,
After the Field Course concluded
last year, I travelled to Southeast Asia and
Well, finally the article on the Gold Hill shear zone will
be coming out in the journal South Carolina Geology this year. Never have I
seen a review process take so long. Last
May I did continue to look at shear zones in the region of
After the SC field work, Sally and I drove out to
After field camp we continued west and north, up through
This year I taught Structural Geology, Field Methods, and
Dynamic Earth. For those of you remember the
Another year has come and gone, and ECU Geology continues to grow in every way (reputation, facilities, equipment, people, collective weight, gray hairs, offspring, etc.). I was fortunate to have a big role in the recruitment of two new faculty members (having been given the great privilege of being search committee chair). We went through a long list of candidates and interviews, and selected two outstanding individuals for a position at ECU, and at the new UNC-Coastal Studies Institute in Manteo. They are Dr. Sid Mitra and Dr. Rick Miller, respectively. Sid already started, and Rick Miller will be here (or rather in Manteo) in August. You’ll be hearing a lot about them, and from them, in the near future.
As far as
what I’ve been up to, in addition to searches, I’ve been keeping busy as an
Associate Editor for Sedimentology, and serving on
other assorted university, state and national science panels. Then there’s teaching (Marine Geology,
Dynamic Earth), overseeing several excellent graduate students, writing
proposals and manuscripts, and continuing and expanding research with lots of
collaborators. I’m working closely with
other faculty here in our continued studies of the Quaternary evolution of the
coastal system, and responses to climate and sea-level change. And, I’m also working closely with researchers
Enough about me. We want to hear about you! As you alumni now know, we’re celebrating 40 years of Geology at ECU (40 Rocks!). So make sure you put May 3rd on your calendar to visit and enjoy the festivities and grub and grog at the anniversary celebration! We guarantee a good time!
Last year I reported that I was working on another Oil and
Gas report. Well, I am still working on
the report but only have two sections left to complete. Hopefully I can finish this summer. In the meantime I pull small parts of the
research out for presentation at GSA.
This spring I will present some information on Devonian black shale
stratigraphy and gas production at the meeting in
It has been more years than I care to remember since I took a paleontology course and this spring I am teaching it. I guess it is good to have a refresher now and again but I haven’t seen some of this stuff in the last 35 years and don’t much care if I see it again. In addition to paleo I am teaching stratigraphy: I pity those poor students who have to endure two senior level writing-intensive courses with me this spring. I am just trying to survive until the end of the semester.
I continue to advise undergraduate majors and a few students who came in thinking they want to major in geology. Some make it and others fall by the wayside. Some things never change. I am still editing The Compass of Sigma Gamma Epsilon and still looking for manuscripts. Also, I continue in my role as Secretary-Treasurer of the Southeastern Section of GSA.
Here is wishing each and every one of you the very best.
Hope you are having a good year. This year has been good to
us. Our twins are 18 months old now and started to attend ECU in the fall. They
desperately want to be Pirates and attended their first football game this year.
We taught them to scream “arrrgh.” Now they won’t
stop. We also took them to their first Geological Society of America Conference
I have been busy chasing around the twins and when they tire
out I get back to work. This fall semester three of my students graduated with
their M.S. degrees: Kolt Johnson, Heather Hutchinson, and Jason Soban. All
worked on Coastal Plain hydrology problems. Kolt landed a nice job as a
Currently my efforts are focused on teaching Environmental
Geology and Drainage Basin Hydrology, advising students, and finishing up
several research projects. In NC, our work is dealing with urban runoff effects
on Coastal Plain and
In the fall I visited
Well, have a great year!
As I have gotten older, I have slowly evolved into the Department’s curmudgeon. In spite of a high degree of crankiness, my 41st year in the ECU Department of Geological Sciences has been great—I still look around and smile. I take great pleasure in still being a part of the best little program within the University. The Department is very healthy, has excellent leadership, awesome new young faculty, great students, and even an administration that is in tune with the Department and responsive and supportive of our program. All of you alumni can be extremely proud of your alma mater.
I am still actively
involved in the ECU/USGS/NCGS North Carolina Coastal Geology Cooperative
Program as we wind down our 8th year with this exciting research
program. This program dealt with the origin and evolutionary development of the
The NC State Legislative Commission on Climate Change, of
which I am a member, has been meeting for two years now. What an incredible
change in people’s attitudes during this time period. The public has gone from
a so what attitude to front burner. The Commission has been a real learning
experience for me as we try to educate the legislators about our earth, its
resources, and dynamic processes. NC might just get their act together and
become a leader in the SE, if not nationally. Of course, all of our coastal
research here at ECU is extremely relevant and makes ECU one of the main
leaders in the state concerning global climate change, sea-level rise, and
storm dynamics, and water resources. This is not only a case of being in the
right place at the right time, but being there with the backup science that we
have been developing for many decades now. And many of you, our former
undergraduate and graduate students were extremely important parts in helping
the Dept of Geology, ECU, and the State of
My research associate, Dorothea Ames, and I now have produced the following series of monographs as part of the USGS research project. Several others are in various stages of completion—hopefully they will be done by next years newsletter.
Riggs. 2001. Shoreline Erosion in
Communities: A Geological Perspective”, Eds. J.T. Kelley, R.S. Young, and O.H. Pilkey.
To keep up with the ECU-USGS-NCGS research program, visit both the ECU geology and the USGS websites—some of our progress reports are now on the ECU website (www.ecu.edu/geology/coastal.html; http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/northcarolina/). We always look forward to hearing from each of you, or better yet, come out in the field with us—get your feet muddy and your gills wet before they permanently dry out!
Things are great and life is good! Cheers.
It has been another fun and action-packed year. Some new opportunities have arisen and others have completed or are coming to an end. This past Fall I taught Oceanography which was gratifying (and fun) because this was the class which got me hooked on geology. This spring I am teaching my seminar class, Land-Sea Interactions, which is also enjoyable as the students are engaged and enthusiastic. On the research front, I had a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters in late 2007; it presents evidence (see below) for a filling canyon during the present high stand in sea level which is interesting as canyons are often viewed as erosional features. I’m also working with a number of authors on papers covering topics such as classification of fine-grained deltaic systems, estuarine shoreline erosion, inlet-opening potential and tempestite characteristics. I slaved over two big grant proposals this year, but unfortunately neither was funded. I guess this is the harsh reality of grant funding. Fortunately, other projects continue, and some new funding sources have become available. Most of my fieldwork over the past year has been in coastal NC, including one freezing day aboard the R/V Beeliner in January 2008 (see photo).
This year I passed another big milestone as I graduated my
first few MS students. Katie Ryan
(Spring 2007), Ben Sumners (Fall) and Kat Marciniak (Fall) all graduated after
producing impressive theses. Katie’s
thesis focused on sedimentation in a coral reef environment near La Parguera,
Outside of work, life is great. My wife, daughter and four-legged friend are all doing well. Most of our free time is spent
A seismic-reflection fence diagram of chirp data which documents recent (Holocene) filling of a submarine canyon head.
enjoying time at home, exploring NC or visiting family. I just wish there were more hours in a day so I could work and play more!
Fieldwork on the
Greetings one and all.
It’s been an exciting year here at ECU Geological Sciences. John Woods and I have gotten involved in a
couple of vibracoring expeditions in search of more
Holocene record in
We’ve also had the opportunity to acquire an new x-ray diffractometer, which should be delivered in a few weeks. There’s lots of excitement around the department about the potential of this instrument, which we were able to configure well beyond the basics.
And……thanks to Pat Mallette (BS 1982, MS 1986) we now have an ECU Geology Alumni weblog set up to help us all keep in touch. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. We welcome contributions of all kinds…from insights from your corner of the geologic world to reports from your extracurricular activities. There are two ways to contribute: you can email your contribution to Pat or myself, or, better yet, you can request a password so that you can post directly. My email address is email@example.com.
Here’s the link: http://ecu-gas.blogspot.com/
Also, don’t forget to keep us updated as to your whereabouts and contact info via our alumni registry: http://www.ecu.edu/geology/alumni.html
I worked off and on during the summer to get two manuscripts to my co-authors. I succeeded in doing this by early September, but have still not heard back from them. The Reverse Osmosis project I worked on in 2005-2007 is on hold while they are building the new plants. Then we will go into the “post-construction monitoring”. I have, therefore, spent most of my time on teaching and outreach in science education. As I did for my Oceanography class, I now have all my Physical Geology lectures in Powerpoint with lots of stuff on my website. Any of you need a quick refresher on a basic geology topic give it a try. Unfortunately, the publisher of the textbook I use came out with a new edition this year so I’ve had to go back and change all the figures and page numbers on my outlines and study questions. Other than rearranging things they make very few substantive changes so it’s not worth it to the students to have to pay for a new book.
My big project has been developing an online course in Physical Geology-with a lab. The UNC-General Administration is making a big push to help improve science education by getting more basic courses on line. Physical geology is required for most of the science teaching degrees so I started working on it last fall. I refused to put the lab all online so we’re working on the details of providing the students a kit with rocks, minerals, maps, etc. It’s quite a challenge to turn a face-to-face course into an online course. If I didn’t have nearly 20 years of lecture notes, study questions, outlines, and exercises already developed, I wouldn’t have tried it. The biggest problem though has been the images. Think of the thousands of photographs, charts, diagrams, etc. used in an intro course. Most of mine are from the textbook but since this course cannot be tied to a particular book, I can’t use those copyrighted images. I have spent hours on the web finding images that are available. If any of you have good pictures of neat surface features, please send them along. I have been developing “reading assignments” for each topic that may make a text unnecessary except as a reference - especially considering that less than ~50% of students buy the textbooks.
The department was quite visible at Science Olympiad this year. Grad students ran four events and we had a big map of the world posted on which competitors plotted the locations of volcanoes and earthquakes. I’m hoping that all of you are involved in Science Olympiad in your communities. You would be invaluable to the local middle schools and high schools as coaches for the earth-science events!