From the Chair
It hardly seems like twelve months since
I last wrote to you. The year has
probably flown by because we seem to be so busy. The big news of the year is three-fold. First, the move of the Geology laboratories
to a refurbished
The second major item is that we are searching for a new, additional faculty member. The new appointment will be set up in a similar fashion to Reide Corbett’s, shared with the Coastal Resources Management Program, and with a research emphasis. The position is in coastal physical oceanography and will help strengthen coastal activities (teaching, research and service) at ECU. So if you know of anyone with a geological background who has an oceanographic bent, please let us know!
The third item of interest is the
establishment of a Geology Advancement Council (GAC). The purpose of the GAC is to provide an
opportunity for friends and alumni to use their influence and affluence to
further the Department’s goals, and to participate in ensuring its future
success. The GAC provides advocacy,
consultation, and support for the Department and the continuing development of
its undergraduate and graduate programs.
The founding members include: C.Q.
Brown, Scott Snyder, Ron Crowson,
Stephen J. Culver
The years seem to pass quicker and quicker…maybe that means I am settling in or getting older!? This year has been exciting, both personally and professionally. Lisa and I welcomed our second child into the family. Noah Steele was born on February 5 and has kept us fairly busy ever since. Ian (now 3) is excited to be a BIG brother and is actually a lot of help, as long as it doesn’t involve changing diapers.
Life around the department has been
equally exhilarating. My research group
has grown to include 2 PhD’s, 3 masters, and 1 undergraduate student. Together we have initiated several new
projects over the last year. We received
funding from the National Science Foundation to evaluate groundwater/surface
water interactions in southern
We have also begun a study to further our
understanding of barrier island hydrology and the effects people have on
groundwater flow (magnitude and/or direction) and nutrient concentrations. We will begin installing short (5 meter)
wells in the next couple months in several locations. We hope to find suitable sites to compare on
Our work in
If you ever have any questions regarding our research group, current activities, or anything else for that matter, please don’t hesitate to call. Have a great year!
After three years of organizing ECU
conferences on flooding, I thought I would have an opportunity to spend a
little more time on my research this year.
But of course, other administrative duties got in the way. I did manage to spend a very enjoyable two
weeks in the field last summer in the company of some 15 to 20 other faculty,
staff and students including visitors from Beloit, Wisconsin and Durham,
England. We stayed at a house in Frisco
and I had an enjoyable time sampling
Talking of results, this year saw the publication of papers on predation on and by foraminifera, the trophic role of marine microorganisms through time, the response of benthic foraminifera to bolide impact at the K-T boundary, and species diversity patterns through the Cenozoic. One of the most enjoyable outputs this year, however, was coauthoring an abstract for the San Francisco AGU meeting with several students and faculty, including your former Chairperson, Scott Snyder. If you read this, Scott, let’s collaborate some more!
Although this section of the Newsletter
focuses on research, I believe that activity is closely connected to
teaching. So let me report that I had
fun teaching Earth and Life Through Time (Historical
Geology) and Paleontology. I even
managed to recruit some students from the former into the latter. Although exam results are sometimes
disappointing, I always get a big kick when a student’s “light bulb” suddenly
turns on when a difficult concept is grasped.
Teaching is most certainly fun and every time I stand in front of a
class it reminds me why I left my job at the Natural History Museum in
On the teaching front, my typical
teaching semester still includes 2 sections of Dynamic Earth (Geology 1500) and
1 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. I recently received an ECU
Teaching Grant from the Vice Chancellor's Office to develop a WEB site
utilizing my personal geo photo library as a virtual field trip to study
landforms for Geology 1500 and 1501.
This is the third teaching grant I have received in the past four
years. Our departmental curriculum also
has me teaching Geomorphology (Geology 5000-5001) every other spring semester,
which includes the spring semester of 2003.
In my Geomorphology course we have just completed a coastal field trip
to the northern Outer Banks and next weekend will be heading to the Blue Ridge
of Virginia to look at debris flows and caves in the
My primary research interest now is
evaluating the role of mass wasting in the evolution of tower karst in coastal areas of Krabi
As for my summer travels for the summer
of 2003, I plan to fly
Well, the most fun I had during the year
was looking at outcrops on the Via dell’ Amore on the west coast of
Otherwise, I made progress on collecting
gravity data along the Cross Anchor thrust in
I doubt they were standing in the middle of a swamp, which is where some of the latitudes and longitudes would lead you to believe.
Oh, and Field Methods is back in the curriculum after its short hiatus, so it is off to the grand city of Hot Springs this April for the annual field trip.
Presently, my work with the North
Carolina Coastal Geology Cooperative (NCCGC) is occupying most of my research
time. For those of who don’t know, this
is the USGS-funded research program to define the Quaternary evolution of the
My other research is progressing as
well. I have an Integrated Ocean
Drilling Program proposal working its way through the maze of reviews. This proposal calls for shallow-water
drilling of relict reefs and paleoshorelines in south
On the home front, my life gets seemingly busier by the day. With a 5-year old (in Kindergarten), a 2-year old (climbing everything in site), and one on the way (due July 19th), there’s never a dull moment (nor a moment to rest).
This past academic year, I've taught Oceanograpy,
introductory geology, now called Dynamic Earth, Manuscripts, a writing
course, and the Geologic Component of Environmental Science, an advanced
course in environmental geology. Last summer I taught the Gunnison, CO,
area projects in the UNC System-Wide Geology Field Course and as Field
Course Director, I've continued to take on much of the financial and
administrative work and planning that goes with the course. A total
enrollment of about 40 looks certain for the coming summer. Enrollment
has been augmented by 3 students from James Madison Univ. and 4 from
George Mason Univ.
I've done some reviews of introductory geology and
oceanography texts, completed geologic maps of parts of two quadrangles
brief manuscript describing a Zr-rich, silica-poor, ferric iron garnet
and a possible ferric iron-bearing thomsonite (a zeolite) from
I walk one of our Siberian huskies for a mile or more
every day and do some reading. My recommended reading list for this year
Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire
Stephen J. Pyne, Foreword by William Cronon, 1997
The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea
John Pina Craven, 2002
Bob Sheets and Jack Williams, 2001
I see there is a little space left in the
newsletter so I guess I will do my part in filling in the white. This has been a hectic year with a fair
amount of travel and a lot going on outside.
Last fall I had the distinct priviledge of
presiding over the biennial convention of Sigma Gamma Epsilon held at Southern
Utah University. I must have done an
okay job as they elected me to a second term as National President. This means I get another two years of trying
to keep The Compass appearing regularly and nurturing existing chapters
and starting new chapters of the honor society.
This was followed closely by the GSA
Speaking of research interests, I am
still working with carbonates. I have
two graduate students working on Mississippian carbonates in southwestern
On the home front, my sister the pastry chef moved back from the mountains of western North Carolina and I have helped her open up a coffeeshop/bakeshop/gourmet food retail store in a little strip mall on the south side of town. I can now make a variety of espresso drinks even though I don't drink the stuff. All of the baked goods are made from scratch and business is getting better. So, if you are ever in town, please stop by.
I guess enough white space has been filled-up for this year. Here's wishing you all the best.
Live long and prosper.
It has been three years now since I have taught an undergraduate class, but I don’t feel like I have ever left teaching. I have been the co-PI on two large teacher workshop grants for the past three years. One is a National Science Foundation funded program called Earthview. This weekend we have our final workshop to come full circle back to the coast and wrap things up at Nags Head with the 40 earth science high school teachers that have been with us now for 3 years—year 1 was an extended field workshop on coastal systems; year 2 was in the Appalachian Mts; and year 3 was in the Piedmont-Coastal Plain systems. This hands on teacher training program led into our Sea Grant funded project entitled Seaview. Here we took the 10 best teachers from Earthview and their 10 best students back to the coast to develop a curriculum that would take the coast to the inland schools. This program will finish up this summer. I still have a passel of graduate students that I work closely with on their thesis research as part of the ECU/USGS/NCGS coop project. In addition, I have been giving an untold number (I don’t have to keep count any more!) of public lectures, workshops, and programs for government agencies, professional organizations, and public groups—this is all pretty much fun because these people really do want to learn something.
Last fall I had an opportunity to travel
My research program on the riverine systems of coastal NC has slowed down and sort of
fallen on hard times—most have forgotten about floods and the others have lost
interest in the geology. I guess rivers are not glamorous enough anymore. On
the other hand, the coast is becoming ever more glamorous as our Coastal
Geology Cooperative Program for
Be sure to visit both our ECU geology and the USGS websites to keep up with this research program—our second year progress report is 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 wet your gills before they permanently dry out!
It has been a very busy year. So busy, in fact, that I have to keep this brief so I can get to my next task! Here are some the highlights:
Two of my M.S. students (Renee Farabaugh and Amy Caulder)
presented posters at GSA in the fall. It
was fun. And, the feedback we received
on the Ramis work (Renee) and on Amy’s work on cores
Michelle Warren and Renee Farabaugh completed their thesis research this year. Michelle finished in the fall. Her work on 5 cores from the central Rio Desaguadero valley finished up a seven-year long NSF-funded
paleoclimate project that included surface studies
(done by Pattie Baucom – the first ECU student to
work with me in South America, way back in ’96-’99) and other core evaluation
studies (done by Stephanie McNabb – M.S. ’00 – and several undergraduate
researchers) in that valley. Renee
defended in April. Her thesis extended
our paleoclimate research to the Peruvian watersheds
· David Foster started an undergraduate honors thesis this semester. He is doing some detailed grain-size and inorganic- and organic-carbon analysis on the cores studied by Michelle and Stephanie. That work will continue through the Fall of 2003.
· I’ve been working hard on faculty governance issues: helping to redefine faculty scholarship at ECU as we transition into a research-extensive university, reexamining the undergraduate general education program, looking carefully at instructional technology issues on campus, slugging through the ever-present parking problems (somebody has to do it . . .), etc., etc..
The “Sediment Deposition and
Transport” class had a great trip to
I’m heading for
I love hearing from my ex-students out there, so keep writing to let me know how everything is going in your career and your life. As most of you know. Even though it often takes awhile, I usually do respond to your e-mails. If you don’t hear from me immediately, just assume I’m out doing fieldwork in some great place! Also, I try to update the research pages of my website – http://core.ecu.edu/geology/rigsbyc/rigsby/home.html – a couple of times a year (adding new pictures and info about current and past students). Check it out every now and then. You never know what might turn up!
Scott Snyder continues as Associate Dean
After a depressing start (Remember 9-11!), this year has been quite eventful for the Spruill family. Lisa and the kids are doing well – Alex is fourteen and six feet tall, Anna graduates from elementary school, and Lisa and I are master chauffeurs!
I am teaching the same courses – Physical Geology, Petrology, and two Groundwater Hydrology courses. I am committed to teaching a smaller number of topics better, and I hope that it will pay dividends for the students down the road?
I taught a couple of short courses in
Hydrology with my mentor Ralph Heath last summer in
Much of my focus for the last fifteen
years has been to bring to the attention to the regulatory agencies and the
consuming public the plight of our overstressed aquifers. I am happy to report that as of
That is about it for me. I continue to be proud of all of you out there who trusted us to provide you with geologic information during your “time” at ECU, and I continue to hear great things about your contributions to the State and the region.
On the research front this year, I have spent time analyzing
data from the
I didn’t make any major changes to my
teaching this past year, but Richard Spruill and I have decided to change
textbooks for Mineralogy and Petrology. We’re going to try a single book
“Earth’s Materials: Minerals and Rocks” for both courses. It should save the
students some money and most claim they never read much in either the Klein and
Hurlburt mineralogy text or the petrology text
Richard Spruill’s been using. Finally, I have taken on a new type of project
for the summer. I’m going to be writing the “Hydrosphere” chapter for the new