Alumni Newsletter (2012-2013)

July 15, 2013

Featuring department news, updates from alumni, photos and more.

In This Issue

Letter from the Chair
Alumni Updates
Brown Bears and Roving on Mars
Celebration for Jan Tullis
Commencement 2013
Desert RATS
Faculty Updates
Geo T-Shirts for Sale
The Third Moscow Solar System Symposium

Letter from the Chair

In the fall, we get to celebrate one of the many transitions in academic life: the arrival of a fresh-faced crop of freshman to campus and new graduate students to our Department. We’re also fortunate that the Department can welcome three junior faculty members this year. Ralph Milliken (Ph.D. ’06) joined the department as an Assistant Professor in June of 2012, Baylor Fox-Kemper joined us in January, 2013, also as an Assistant Professor, and Jung-Eun Lee joined us in July 2013 as an Assistant Professor. As you will see elsewhere in this newsletter, Ralph is spending much of this semester living on Mars time as the first data arrives from the new Mars Curiosity rover. Baylor also brought an exciting academic program with him - in this case by allowing the department to move more deeply into fundamental questions on oceanography.

But at this moment, I wanted to ask all of you to recognize the career of one of us poised on the edge of retirement (but not inactivity!). It’s hard to believe, but Jan Tullis moved to Emeritus status in July, 2013. We’re confident that Jan will continue to play an important role in advising undergraduates and promoting excellence in teaching in the Department. But this seems like a good time to say how lucky we’ve been to have Jan as a colleague, friend, mentor and inspiration.

It’s hard for me to overstate the impact that Jan has had on the Department’s culture of teaching and advising. As many of you know first-hand, Jan transforms the life of many, many undergraduates who come into her GEOL-0220 (that’s Geo-22 for many of us!) course. Within a week she’s learned the names of all 80 to 100 students, and she’s soon knocking them out with the clarity of her lectures and the energy with which she invites them into the magic of earth sciences. Anyone who’s taught a reasonably large class knows how impossible it is to obtain rave course evaluations consistently from a heterogeneous group of students. Yet Jan receives these routinely. Her example is contagious for the rest of our faculty. Who would not want to try to capture some of the same enthusiasm? Jan shows us that it’s there, if one is willing to prepare, and distill, and infuse one’s teaching with enough energy and insight. I have no doubt that the high reputation we have in the University, as THE science department that commits itself firmly to excellence in teaching and mentoring, goes directly to Jan’s work.

Most people who go through the Department are also aware of how deeply Jan touches students and colleagues outside the classroom. I rarely pass Jan’s office without seeing a student in her office, bent over with Jan in conversation. She’s a tireless advocate for our students in many aspects of their lives. Jan also plays a central role in the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, which helps to train so many of our graduate students to become effective communicators and teachers.

On June 15, 2013, over 100 alumni, faculty and staff came together to celebrate Jan and her profound contributions to teaching and mentoring. You can read more about the celebration in this newsletter.

As always, we hope to hear from you throughout the year.

Timothy D. Herbert
Professor and Chair 

Updates from the Class of '43 to the Class of '12

Class of 1943:

Dick Ray, ScM writes: After receiving my degree in 1943 I  joined the U. S. Geological Survey spending that summer mapping areas of old copper/iron deposits in southeastern Alaska. Before the next field season rolled around I was considered too young and healthy not to be in the military service, so I volunteered for the U. S. Navy just before the Army draft could catch up with me. I spent my ocean time on Destroyer Escort 195 (USS Thornhill) both in the Atlantic and Pacific. On my release from the Service (Lt. jg) I immediately rejoined the U. S. Geological Survey working the summer field seasons in various parts of Alaska. I had always wanted to join the academic world but needed further academic credentials to do that. So I reentered the student world at The Johns Hopkins University, receiving my Ph.D. in 1950. The USGS allowed me to use a three-season study of gold mines and surrounding areas in southern Alaska for my dissertation. Because I was enjoying my USGS work I chose not to test the academic waters for employment. However, as with many organizations there often come management changes and by 1960 my work at the USGS was no longer as enjoyable as it had been earlier. So at this point in my career I moved to the National Science Foundation where I was Program Director for Geology for 15 years. I got to know the academic world  and the academic world got to know me because I had government funds to disperse for geologic research! My government work terminated in 1975 when I chose to take early retirement. I was now ready for the academic world. I thought I had arrived at the point where I always wanted to be – either in a teaching capacity or management role. On reflection, however, I decided that a move to the educational world after 40 years in the Washington, DC area would be a monumental one for my family. I felt such a move would not only be disruptive to their lives but very inconsiderate and unfair to them. So I opted to continue my career as a staff officer for Board on Mineral and Energy Resources at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. I spent seven years in part-time employment at the Academy at roughly 2/3 time until 1982. After my “second retirement” I took up landscape painting as a hobby and also began playing a lot of tournament bridge. My painting activities essentially ended when my wife became ill. I am still playing a lot of bridge but in general my life is rather humdrum. I go to bed late, watch old movies on TV, get up late, eat a lot of frozen dinners and do a lot of thumb twiddling. My existence is pretty much humdrum but at nearly 93 I am not complaining. If there are still any other old fossils of the early 1940’s still out there I’d be pleased to hear from them.

Class of 1952:

Bill Outerbridge, AB writes: December 1, 2011; I was given an award for service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, specifically for geologic maps done between 1960 and 1978 and landslide studies done between 1978 and 1981. It appears landslides I forecast actually happened. June 1, 2012; Outerbridge, W.F., 2012, Age Relationships Based on Single Crystal Zircon U/Pb Ages, Pennsylvanian, Central Appalachian Basin, Eastern Kentucky, USA: Southeastern Geology, v. 49, n. 1, p. 1-11. Several volcanic ash beds occur in the coal measures of eastern Kentucky. Agesdetermined from some of these ash beds provide a basis for revising our concepts of the timing and development of the Appalachian coal basin.

Class of 1953:

Larry Lundgren, AB writes: I begin as I did last year, since I am hoping for at least one response to a question up front: Do you, dear geologist, know what Ground Source Geothermal (GSG) is? I ask because it is through GSG that geology is still part of my everyday life. So I begin by showing you how I am reminded every day of my life by looking at my neighbor’s yard of one of GSGs benefits –you can neither see nor hear it. For comparison I give you a wind turbine I visit when I am out running. I like that too but many of you do not.

GSG is a basic renewable energy technology here but you will never read about it in the NYTimes and I see no Brown geo course where it might be mentioned. FYI my neighbor’s GSG has been heating his home for 8 years without interruption just as my renewable energy system (distance heating fed by hot water heated by burning municipal waste). No landfills, no ground-water contamination. So why do you dear reader, all one of you, love the oil or natural gas burner so much?

My message is then, that if you are a one-time geology major now retired you can contribute on any one of wide variety of fronts and, if you do so, your life will become perhaps even better than it was before.

I have my own Enkla firman (Simple Company), Right English, in which the work consists of translating medical research manuscripts from Swedish to English and reviewing manuscripts already written in English. True this opportunity is only available to you if you are fluent in a language other than English and that language is one in which scientific manuscripts are written. Doing this is very stimulating and rewarding psychologically. Perhaps I should explain that the path to this was that I left hard rock to become an Environmental geologist. That led to epidemiology (think Chernobyl, radon, ground-water contamination, acid rain effects) and then to becoming Adjunct Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Now the manuscripts flow in. Always exciting.

I am still playing trumpet in Angsars-Missionskyrkans blåsorkester (Ansgars church – Mission church wind orchestra) as my NYT comment ikon will show you in the form of my Bach Stradivarius trumpet if you read Times comments on, for example renewable energy. We play a lot of American music in that orchestra even the Coffee Song if you are old enough to know what that is.

Central to my life and something I recommend to every retiree is working with refugees at the Red Cross, for me here in Linköping. Two to four days a week, I spend several hours to help refugees from everywhere but nowadays mostly Somali born (see my blog), to learn Swedish or to help them with their homework. The best is actually to sit with 5 or 6, each from a different country and just talk. I have described that experience in a New York Times comment on Michael Chabon’s story about small utopias (Times Magazine 30 September) since the Red Cross coffee room and meeting place is a “small utopia”.

I close by showing you one of the great things in my life which one might describe as the result of intercontinental marriage between me and then Professor Ann Frodi, born in Sweden of an American mother and Swedish father. Ann was Professor at Rochester when I met her but we are all in Sweden now where I commute back and forth via Bus4You between Linköping and Göteborg.

I do not do birthdays but my 80th was an exception so Ann did a dinner for me on her island with our almost universally musical friends and then to top that off our daughter Annika did a performance for me (us) using her newly acquired skills as a Tissue performer. Ankan (Ducky as she is often called) has university degrees from the University of Vermont and University of Gothenburg (3 degrees) and thanks to living in two countries now speaks 5 languages, one more than her mother and 3 more than me. That was not enough so she has added what you see below.

On my 80th birthday I walked into the climbing gym in Göteborg, and heard first Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, an auspicious beginning. Next was the opening of Olive’s 1996 You’re Not Alone (see my blog) and there was Annika high in the sky performing for me and Ann. I show you a pic from that performance and another to show the latest. 

That is Ann and me under Annika at the end of that performance, concluded by her playing Happy Birthday on her flute high above us, but right-side-up. And the latest is upside down hanging from the legs of her Brazilian teacher, Jailton. Never a dull moment.

Annika and I also run in as many races as Team T and H.

Blog at where you can tell me if you know GSG  and even my very basic (only in Explorer) to see the immigrants who came to Massachusetts and Rhode Island and account for me writing this from Sweden.  A former hard rocker who switched as you learned above. Larry Lundgren

Class of 1956:

Peter Rona, AB continues as professor of marine geology and geophysics at Rutgers University. He leads the COVIS (Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar) project with NSF support which acoustically monitors flow and flux of hydrothermal venting in a hydrothermal field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge with an innovative sonar connected to the NEPTUNE Canada Cabled Observatory, the first such observatory on an ocean ridge. He works collaboratively with NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center on exploration of the giant Hudson Submarine Canyon to determine the role of conditions in the canyon in supporting regional fisheries. He serves as a consultant to the International Seabed Authority on mineralization on ocean ridges as deep ocean mining for polymetallic sulfides approaches.

Class of 1962:

Randolph Steinen, AB '62, PhD '73 lives in Rhode Island and sends this update: I have been volunteering at the Connecticut Geological Survey for the past 6 years. Now I will try to volunteer at the RI Geological Survey. Tune in later for the results.

Class of 1965:

Charlie Shabica, AB writes: Although retired from teaching Earth Science and Coastal Engineering, I’m still working on sustainable shore protection systems. Most of our projects are in the Great Lakes; close to home. We’re also working on a new “Green” marina located on the Gulf shore of southern Belize. It’s nice to get out of Chicago especially in the winter.

photo of two “Pocket Beaches” we just completed on the Evanston Illinois shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a location just south of Northwestern University that has been sand-starved (no beaches) for decades. The other is the layout for the marina in Belize that’s designed to improve coastal water quality.


Class of 1966:

David Schwartzman, MS, PhD '71, writes: This is my first news as an alum, better late than never! I retired as of last June after 39 years on the faculty, now Professor Emeritus, Howard University. 

I am still active in research, with recent focus on climate and energy issues, as well as continuing interest in the long term carbon cycle, coevolution of life and climate as well as origin of life (see you at Goldschmidt 2013). My paperback update of Life, Temperature, and the Earth (Columbia University Press) appeared 10 years ago, still worth reading. I have several recent publications in Capitalism Nature Socialism. My website with my older son Peter is I am active in Green Party and its local affiliate, the DC Statehood Green Party. My campaign website from last November and previous races is: My older son Peter Schwartzman is director of Environmental Studies at Knox College, Galesburg Illinois where he is an Alderman, leading his community in urban farming and renewable energy. My younger son Sam Junge is a leader of Portland Solidarity (Oregon) where he works in a homeless shelter for youth. My email is My favorite quotation: "Be as radical as reality itself".

Class of 1969:

Davis A. Young, PhD has kept busy since retirement in 2004 from Calvin College where he taught for the final 26 years of his 36 year college career. In 2009, he was given the Mary C Rabbitt History of Geology Award by the Geological Society of America Davis recently wrapped up a five-part series on The Origin of the American Quantitative Igneous Rock Classification that was published in Earth Sciences History. The classification, best known today for the CIPW norm calculation, was published in 1902 and was the brainchild of Joseph P. Iddings, Louis V. Pirsson, C. Whitman Cross, and Henry S. Washington, four of America's greatest petrologists in the pre-Bowen era. All four were members of the National Academy of Sciences. Since retirement he has published three books, the most recent of which is Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God, a challenge to science professionals, teachers, and students to make a serious investigation of Christianity. Davis and his wife have been living in Tucson, Arizona, since retirement.

Class of 1972:

Greg Mountain, AB writes: I've been rather quiet in my Alumni connections back to Brown, though I've worked on occasion with some of the faculty, Warren Prell in particular, and I've enjoyed the many newsletters etc. that have been sent my way. Your latest request for info brought to mind that some might find interesting a 5-min video made about an offshore drilling expedition for which I was CoChief Sci back in 2009. As some who follow this line of work will know, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program for years circled around the challenge of drilling for climate history, etc. on continental shelves, and finally took the plunge offshore New Jersey, with great success. Our scientific results are due to come out in the online journal Geosphere over the next several months.

On an entirely separate issue -- I'm taking over as head of the alumni board for my graduate earth science school (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia Univ.) and I'm curious: does the Geology Dept have any type of alumni organization (distinct from the general and very active Brown Alumni Assoc) ? If so, how is it structured, who are the alums most involved, and is there an actual 'alumni board' with a 'mission statement' type of document that outlines what the board aims to do? One of my first actions as board president here is to invigorate our members and give them a set of 'marching orders' so they know what is expected of them.

Gary Robbins, ScM: On October 12, 2012, Dr. Gary Robbins, Professor of Geology, Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment, received the Licensed Site Professionals Association (LSPA) of Massachusetts 2012 Contribution to Practice Award at their annual meeting. The LSPA is a non-profit organization of environmental professionals and others (attorneys, laboratory personnel, contractors, etc.) involved in the management of hazardous waste sites, with nearly 1000 members.  Dr. Robbins is well known for his research work at the University of Connecticut related to improving site characterization methods at sites that have ground water contamination.  Dr. Robbins received the award ”in recognition of outstanding contributions and advancing the profession”  through helping to train LSPA members in state-of-the-art techniques related to environmental assessment.  In addition to developing mortar and brick courses, especially hands-on field courses, he pioneered on-line training courses in Massachusetts and Connecticut using simulations to provide real world training in virtual space.

Class of 1975:

Suzanne Mahlburg Kay, PhD: Suzanne is the President of the Geological Society of America effective June 1, 2013.

Ross Stein, ScB writes: Brown Geo junior Jeremy Shar spent the summer working with USGS Geophysicist Ross Stein '75 on an earthquake physics demonstration apparatus, QuakeCaster. Jeremy turned the one-dimensional spring-and-rider system into a two-dimensional earthquake interaction apparatus that they have dubbed, Fishnet Stocking Stress. That's because the sliders are magnetically attached to a fishnet stocking stretched in a frame that is pulled by a casting reel over a high-friction surface. The sliders undergo stick-slip and interact as a function of their mass and proximity in ways that are both predictable and chaotic. Ross has since used Fishnet Stocking Stress in talks at UCSC, Univ. WA, and the USGS. Ross hopes to bring Jeremy back next summer to perform experiments and create build-and-buy instructions, and submit them to publication. Ross thanks Jan Tullis for sending him yet another great Brown Geo student.

I don't really have much of an interesting story, but to tell you all of the interesting places that a geology degree can take you, I am not selling business jets for Cessna aircraft. I lead a team of salespeople responsible for jet sales in New England and the Great Lake state.

Class of 1976:

Joel Scheraga, AB: Dr. Joel Scheraga is the Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office ofPolicy in the Office of the Administrator. He is leading EPA's efforts to develop and implement a Climate Change AdaptationPlan to ensure it can continue to protect human health and the environment even as the climate changes. He also represents EPA on the federal Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The Task Force was established by Executive Order in October 2009 and charged with developing recommendations for President Obama on how the nation might adapt to climate change impacts.

The EPA released its draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan on February 7, 2013. The plan was produced by the Cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Change Adaptation, chaired Joel. As stated in the EPA “Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation,” signed by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in June 2011, climate change can pose significant challenges to the EPA’s ability to fulfill its mission. The EPA must therefore adapt to climate change if it is to continue fulfilling its statutory, regulatory, and programmatic requirements. The unprecedented EPA Climate Change Adaptation Plan provides a roadmap (including Agency-wide priority actions) for how the Agency will anticipate and plan for future changes in climate and incorporate considerations of climate change into its programs, policies, rules and operations to ensure they are effective under future climatic conditions.

Class of 1979:

Jim Conca, ScB writes: Forbes asked me to do a weekly blog in May on energy and nuclear. I'd love to hear what everyone thinks of it. It's a lot harder than I thought and definitely is making me feel old!

Adam Schultz, ScB: Adam Schultz. NSF (EarthScope and Marine Geology & Geophysics) released funding for our MOCHA project. This stands for Magnetotelluric Observations of Cascadia using a Huge Array. This is the most ambitious onshore-offshore magnetotelluric (electromagnetic) imaging experiment yet undertaken, and has OSU's National Geoelectromagnetic Facility as the lead (Adam Schultz is PI of the NGF), with collaborators from the University of Oregon, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the USGS. We will instrument most of western Oregon and part of SW Washington and extend the arrays offshore to image the electrical structure of the crust and upper mantle in high resolution, with a specific target of detecting the distribution of fluids rising from the subducting Juan de Fuca plate. These fluids may play a key role in moderating Episodic Tremor and Slip, a slow earthquake type phenomenon that may itself be important in redistributing stress within this megathrust seismic hazard area.

We also recently were awarded NSF funding (GeoPRISMS and EarthScope) for a large scale, high resolution magnetotelluric study of the southern Washington Cascades volcanic arc including Mt St Helens, Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. I am PI of the magnetotelluric study, with collaborators from the USGS, and seismic collaborators from University of Washington, LDEO and Rice University. We will image the details of the volcanic connections between the upper mantle and the surface volcanic expressions, and investigate the possibility suggested by earlier studies that there is a large-scale mid-crustal magma accumulation in this area.

Both MOCHA and the SW Washington Cascades field work will take place during 2013-2014.

The National Geoelectromagnetic Facility has recently completed two marine electromagnetic surveys offshore Reedsport and Newport Oregon in support of wave energy development. Our work at Reedsport in August was a requirement for Ocean Power Technology to gain their permit to install commercial wave energy converters at Reedsport, which is the first commercial wave energy electric generating facility in the US. The permit was granted immediately following our survey. The Newport work was completed last week, and was carried out to detect electromagnetic fields emitted from the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center's wave energy electric grid simulator testbed, which was operating with a scale size commercial wave energy converter attached. Our work at these sites was carried out in collaboration with a colleague from SAIC. Our lab is currently completing a new generation combined ocean bottom electromagnetic field/seismic system with a trawl resistant housing and acoustic telemetry. This will be used for subsequent marine investigations of this sort.

The National Geoelectromagnetic Facility is also carrying out a large scale multidisciplinary investigation at Newberry volcano under Department of Energy support. We are collaborating with Zonge International Inc (Tucson) and the National Energy Technology Lab of the Department of Energy to image the migration of fluids deep beneath the flanks of Newberry caldera as the volcano undergoes a geothermal stimulation (pressurized well injection) by a geothermal development company. Our work involves 3D/4D magnetotelluric and controlled source electromagnetic investigations, ground based and satellite interferometric radar observations of dynamic ground surface deformations, absolute and relative gravity measurements, precision GPS monitoring and geochemical investigations during a "hydroshearing" episode, and during a controlled system depressurization. The goal is to develop technologies to allow geothermal operators to optimize the longevity and energy extraction from an enhanced geothermal system. The methods we are developing will be transferrable to other geothermal systems, and also to shale oil/gas hydrofracturing areas.

We have recently been awarded NSF funding to analyze EarthScope magnetotelluric data from the North American mid-continent region, in the vicininty of the mid-continent rift, and we have just received an additional year of funds to operate the EarthScope magnetotelluric program through the end of FY2013, a continuation of several million dollars in long-running NSF investment in OSU's EarthScope MT project. We are also part of the IRIS 5-year renewal proposal being considered by NSF for continuation of EarthScope operations through 2018. Thus far we have completed a regular grid of magnetotelluric stations, with 70 km spacing, spanning the NW quadrant of the US and another large footprint covering the north central US. Our eventual goal is complete a regular grid of MT stations spanning the entire continental US and Alaska.

In my spare time, I am carrying out a magnetotelluric survey in the Empty Quarter (Rub' al Khali) of Saudi Arabia under Saudi support. We are assisting King Saud University's efforts to locate groundwater resources in the region north of the Yemen and Oman borders. We've been working to develop special methods to obtain high quality electromagnetic data in the heart of the largest sand desert in the world. The arid conditions there make conventional methods of measuring electric fields using grounded electrolytic dipoles ineffective, so we are implementing methods of capacitively coupling to the desert sands.

The National Geoelectromagnetic Facility at OSU (, which was established using 2009 ARRA funding from NSF, currently operates 46 portable long-period magnetotelluric instruments and 7 permanently installed MT observatories. The NGF is completing acquisition of 26 additional next generation wideband/ultra-wideband electromagnetic instruments, in collaboraiton with Zonge International, and it serves as the US national academic instrument pool for electromagnetic geophysics. The lab also currently has two seafloor electromagnetic receiver systems. The NGF has two full time technical support staff and a team of graduate and undergraduate students including two through OSU's Increasing Diversity in the EarthSciences, and summer REU students from Loyola University and UCSD. We'd welcome inquiries from talented undergraduates at Brown who may be interested in an REU experience in the great Northwest, or from potential grad students and postdocs.

Class of 1980:

James Whitford-Stark, PhD writes: I fell and smashed my hip so got a titanium implant. It severely restricted my ability to do field work, so I retired early. Now having fun going places on vacation this year rather than work. So far, Dominican Republic and Cyprus. Bermuda and Texas coming up.

Class of 1981:

William Osborn, ScB writes: I am now representing the State of Texas in cases where its oil and gas reserves beneath state riverbeds are being drained by offsetting horizontal wells. We are having an oil boom here, with about 200 new horizontal well drilling permits being approved every week. The best advice I had at Brown was from Jan Tullis long ago, saying that if I was going to get a geology degree I should not mess around, but should go for the Sc. B., which I did. I was interested in the subject because of all the Cretaceous era fossils at our ranch, and one of her grad students kindly sawed and polished one for me, and I was hooked.

Our daughter graduated from Yale in May, but youngest son is now applying to colleges and I am trying to get him to apply to Brown. They accepted our daughter but she liked the residential college system at Yale so chose it instead, got a degree in Latin American studies and is now in Brazil working on preparation for 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Class of 1982:

David Grinspoon, AB: in April 2012, NASA and the Library of Congress announced the selection of David H. Grinspoon to be the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.

Michael Ravine, ScB writes: I am project manager on the development of the four science cameras on the Curiosity rover. FOUR MALIN SPACE SCIENCE SYSTEMS (MSSS) CAMERAS ON THE CURIOSITY ROVER RETURN SPECTACULAR PICTURES FROM MARS

When the Curiosity rover of the Mars Science Laboratory Project (MSL) landed on Mars on 5 August 2012, on board were four cameras developed by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS): the 34 mm and100 mm Mast Cameras (Mastcam), the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI).

The Mastcams were designed to be the science imaging “workhorse” for the MSL rover. The cameras, capable of taking full color images analogous to those taken by consumer digital cameras, are mounted on the rover’s remote sensing mast, where they can be panned and tilted to provide image coverage around the rover, both near the rover and out to the horizon. The Mastcams are also capable of acquiring 720p high definition video at a rate of about 7 frames per second, as well as stereo (3D) images of the terrain explored by the MSL rover. The 34 mm Mastcam has shot a panorama of the Gale Crater landing site shortly after landing (Figure 1), as well as an image of another MSSS-built camera on the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm (Figure 2). The Mastcam 100 mm camera is a telephoto system, designed to capture detailed views from up to 10 miles away. Figure 3 is a Mastcam 100 mm image of the flanks of Mt. Shape, showing the layered structure thatCuriosity will be investigating in the coming year.

A Mastcam 34 mm camera panorama of Curiosity's Gale crater landing site, showing the rover in the foreground and Mt. Sharp in the distance. (High resolution version at



FIGURE 2. A Mastcam 34 mm camera image of the turret on the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. Another MSSS camera, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), is in the center of this image. (High resolution version at

FIGURE 3. A Mastcam 100 mm camera image of the flanks of Mt. Sharp, taken from about ten miles distance. (High resolution version at

The cameras I helped build on the Curiosity rover are still working great. I just put together this self-portrait of the rover shot with our camera on the rover's robotic arm:

Almost like being there.

Class of 1984:

Michael Wysession, ScB: Michael Wysession class of 1984 (Washington University in St. Louis) got married in September to Margaret Farnon (Brown '84), on the beach in Delaware, just a short ways up the coast from where they went camping together 31 years ago. (Speedy, for a geologist.) Professionally, Michael and his team finished installing an IRIS PASSCAL seismic array in Madagascar this past August, and he has been busy supervising the writing of the Earth and Space Science standards for the national K-12 Next Generation Science Standards."Michael Wysession (Brown '84) and Margaret Farnon (Brown '84) were married on the coast of Delaware in September in a small family ceremony, not far from where they went camping as freshmen (32 years ago!). Michael (seismology professor at Washington University in St. Louis) now has his complete array of seismometers installed in Madagascar. Michael is also a lead author of the national K-12 Next Generation Science Standards, in charge of Earth and space science. The new standards, which are in the process of being adopted by most states in the country, will recommend a full year of Earth and space science in both middle school and high school, and that in both cases it be taught following the bulk of physical and life sciences."

Class of 1985:

Patricia Yager, ScB writes: UGA did a recent "Focus on the Faculty" article on Patricia for their website.

Class of 1990:

Karen Kohfeld, ScB writes: I'm happy to be enjoying my sabbatical as a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at Bristol University in the UK. My family and I are having a fabulous time. Everyone says it's rainy here, but after living in Vancouver, Canada, for six years, I hadn't noticed! I'll return to Vancouver this summer and resume teaching in the School or Resource and Environment at Simon Fraser University in the fall.

Karen with spouse Klaus, and daughter Katie on the beach at low tide in Weston-super-Mare, UK.Karen with spouse Klaus, and daughter Katie on the beach at low tide in Weston-super-Mare, UK.









Class of 1995:

Jon Kay, ScB: Jon was recently profiled by The Oceanography Society

Class of 1996:

Charles (Chuck) Magee, ScB is working for Australian Scientific Instruments, where he sets up SHRIMP mass spectrometers and trains geoscientists in their use. He recently discovered that these high resolution SIMS instruments can function as really expensive seismometers, when the surface waves from a Japanese earthquake wiggled an instrument he was turning up. While this career detour into instrumentation mans that Chuck hasn't seen a rock in the wild recently, he enjoys talking to geologists who do at major conferences. His daughter is in first grade at school, and his son is considering repeating the terrible twos.

Class of 1997:

Dan Brabander, PhD writes: After three years as the geosciences chair at Wellesley College I find myself looking forward to asabbaticalyear ahead examining the cycling of urban carbon in the built environment. Planned research will geochemically fingerprint carbonwaste streamsand design collection and management plans that will permit a wider range of end usescenarios forurban organic carbon. Latest paper looked at the increased incidence and altered risk demographics of childhood leadpoisoningresulting from the CDC's new 5 ug/dL reference value. Complete article can be found at: On the home front we areenjoying adventures in home schooling and I have found a new religion and its name is Triathlon.

Dan pictured with his research group at WellelseyDan pictured with his research group at Wellelsey





Elizabeth Cottrell, ScB has been honored as the 2012-2013 COMPRES Distinguished Lecturer. The Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences is an NSF-funded community-based consortium whose goal is to enable Earth Science researchers to conduct the next generation of high-pressure science on world-class equipment and facilities ( In her role as distinguished lecturer, Liz embarked on an NSF-funded national university and college lecture tour in the fall of '12 and spring 2013.

Andy Long, AB writes: I am currently entrenched in my fifteenth year of teaching elementary and middle school science at Fay School outside of Boston. I've held numerous positions at the school, but teaching young kids about the wonders of the natural world continues to be my passion. I also coordinate the school's sustainability programs and I am always looking to connect with Brown alums and faculty to bring guests to school who can share their expertise with kids. I can be reached at

Class of 1999:

Irene Antonenko, PhD: For over a year has been the science co-lead on CosmoQuest's Moon Mappers project ( CosmoQuest involves the general public in on-going science research through crowd-sourcing of labor-intensive, yet easily mastered tasks. The Moon Mappers component asks citizen scientists to identify and measure impact craters on the Moon using very high resolution images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera. The data gathered by Moon Mappers volunteers is being used by Irene and co-lead Stuart Robbins to address fundamental issues in lunar science, such as whether saturation of craters occurs at the same rate on all lunar surfaces, how processes such as impact-induced seismic shaking affect the crater population, and the implications these have for modelling the ages of lunar surfaces. We are also studying the validity of citizen-science data by comparing it with statistics from crater counting experts. We welcome anyone who's interested to come count lunar craters with us.

Class of 2002:

Sarah Garlick, ScB writes: The most exciting update I have is that my husband and I welcomed our son Oliver William Surette into the world on November 29, 2012. He is a happy, healthy baby and we couldn't be more thrilled. In other happenings, I continue to work in the field of science writing and education. I just finished writing the "Rocks and Minerals" chapter for a big compilation guide to the natural world for National Geographic Books, which should be released sometime this fall. I'm also working with the Museum of the White Mountains, a new museum in Plymouth, New Hampshire, to curate an exhibition about the geology of the White Mountains and its influence on tourism and recreation in the region. I'll be working on this project most of the year, with the exhibition opening at the museum in March 2014, so if you have worked (or played) in the White Mountains and you would like to learn more about our plans, please don't hesitate to be in touch ( Lastly, I'll be at the GSA Northeastern Section meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel next month both as a participant and as an exhibitor for the American Alpine Club. Please stop by and say hi! —Sarah Garlick '02.5, North Conway, New Hampshire.

Sarah Milkovich, PhD writes: I am still working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and am currently a member of two spacecraft operations teams: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (where I am the investigation scientist for the HiRISE camera) and Mars Science Laboratory (where I am the science operations system engineer). I had a very exciting August, when MSL landed successfully on Mars and HiRISE snapped a picture on the way down! I got to be the person who presented the image at the press conference the day after landing, my first press conference and quite an experience. I maintain a blog about working on spacecraft operations at

Class of 2005:

Fatma Khatib, ScB writes: This is my seventh year working with the national petroleum company of Malaysia, and I am currently residing in Yangon, Myanmar working as a petroleum geologist at our international office. It is a fascinating country to experience now, with all the changes that are taking place. If anyone is heading this way, do drop me a line at

Andrew Michelson, AB earned his Ph.D. in Integrated Bioscience from the University of Akron in August of 2012. Currently, he is continuing his research on the taphonomy and paleoecology of lacustrine ostracodes in the Bahamas as a postdoctoral researcher, working with Dr. Lisa E. Park, as well as teaching Introductory Paleontology at the University of Akron. This fall, Andrew will start a two-year appointment as anNSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, studying with Dr. Susan M. Kidwell at the University of Chicago. Please contact Andrew at if you want to learn more about his research."

Class of 2006:

Joe Levy, ScM '06, PhD '09 Joe has a field blog that he invites you to visit

Linnea Sanderson, AB gives this update: After six years of teaching science and art in New York City public schools, the salience of my students' unmet health needs prompted me to begin the study of medicine. I hope to work in adolescent health, especially in underserved, urban communities. In my spare time, I'm still loving time outside with my sweet dog, Penny.  I enter the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in the Fall 2013.

Brown Bears and Roving on Mars

By Ralph E. Milliken
Assistant Professor (Ph.D. ’06)

It’s worth every penny. That was one of the many thoughts that went through my head a year ago in August 2012 when I saw the first images of Mt. Sharp returned from NASA’s $2.5 billion dollar Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, known as Curiosity. The nerve wracking ride to the surface, dubbed the ‘seven minutes of terror’, utilized the new sky crane landing system that included a parachute, a rocket powered descent stage, and cables to lower the rover softly to the ground. Although it sounds crazy (and looks even crazier), physics and unparalleled engineering triumphed and the landing went without a hitch, as evidenced by the amazing descent video sent back by the rover. The first several months of rover operations required science team members to work at JPL, and in some ways it was like a reunion. There are a number of Brown graduates on the science and engineering teams, far too many to list here, and they are a part of the hundreds of people who continue to work tirelessly to ensure that Curiosity achieves its goals.

As for Curiosity’s field site, Gale Crater is a ~150 km diameter impact crater situated along the Martian dichotomy boundary that separates the ancient and heavily cratered southern highlands from the younger and smoother northern lowlands. A mountain, known colloquially as Mt. Sharp, rises more than five kilometers above the crater floor and appears to be composed of layer upon layer of sedimentary rock. Data from satellites orbiting Mars indicate that clay minerals, hydrated sulfates salts, iron oxides, and mafic minerals make up these layers, though their specific origins and the depositional environments they record await examination by Curiosity to be revealed. The evidence for a watery past, which includes hydrated minerals as well as fluvial features, is concentrated in the lower reaches of the mountain, whereas the younger overlying rocks lack fluvial features, hydrous minerals, and suggest a drier environment. These changes in lithology make Gale Crater and Mt. Sharp an interesting target for exploration because roving up the mountain is equivalent to roving through time, and the hope is that we can explore in detail how the Martian climate evolved during the time period in which the rocks were deposited.

One of the mission objectives is to characterize the geology and geochemistry of Mars and, by extension, to assess if any of the ancient environments preserved in the rock record at Gale could have been habitable. MSL is not a life detection mission, but identifying whether or not habitable environments ever existed on Mars is an important step in the greater search for Martian organics. However, we know from our geological experience on Earth that preservation of organic material is tricky business, and many post-depositional processes can erase the evidence of organics in what were once habitable environments, if organics were even there to begin with. Given these complexities, the hope is that Curiosity will encounter and be able to analyze a diversity of rock types that record equally diverse geological processes, thus increasing our changes of finding evidence of habitable environments. Fortunately, the rocks we have encountered so far in Gale are proving to be just as diverse and complex as those on Earth, and so far we have examined a variety of sedimentary rocks as well as some possible volcanic rocks. Indeed, the chemistry of the first rock that we touched with our analytical instruments, a piece of float whose source is unknown, turned out to be higher in alkalis than typical Martian basalts and is best classified as a mugearite (I’ll confess that I had to pull out my copy of Paul Hess’s petrology textbook for this one). More in line with the search for habitable environments, Curiosity has also encountered fluvial conglomerates, sandstones and, most recently, mudstones, all of which indicate aqueous activity.

Curiosity is the most capable and complex rover that has ever been sent to Mars, and the body of the rover houses the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite that consists of a quadrupole mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph, and a tunable laser spectrometer. These instruments allow for the detection of trace amounts of organics (if they happen to be present) and measurements of isotopic variations in soil, rock, and atmospheric samples. In addition, the CheMin X-ray diffraction instrument provides definitive mineralogical identification, a first for a Mars rover. The first sample passed to these instruments came from scooping a portion of a small drift of sand named Rocknest, and CheMin data showed it to be material of basaltic composition with tens of percent amorphous material. The latter may be the weathering product of the former under the cold, arid conditions that Mars has experienced for the past several billion years, and the results of this first time activity have provided detailed information about geological processes and water-rock interactions on ‘modern’ Mars.

Since the activities at Rocknest, Curiosity has traveled downsection (and away from Mt. Sharp) to a region known as Yellowknife Bay, one of the lowest points along the crater floor. The primary destination of the mission is still Mt. Sharp, but the diversion to this location and the associated costs in time were worth the wait. Simply put, the rocks in Yellowknife Bay are spectacular. The lower strata are fine-grained, relatively soft, and are best described as Martian mudstones. These rocks also exhibit concretions and other distinct diagenetic features, indicating a complex history of interaction with water, and they were an ideal location for the first time drilling activity. Earlier this year, Curiosity made history by drilling into a rock on Mars and analyzing the retrieved rock powder with its onboard analytical instruments. Even a casual glance in the night sky confirms that Mars is the red planet due to the abundance of iron oxide, but the science team was thrilled by the decidedly non-red color of the drill powder and rock. The CheMin instrument confirmed that these Martian mudstones contain abundant clay minerals, and they are crosscut by veins and fine fractures filled with calcium sulfate. These results, in combination with measurements by other instruments on the payload, have led to the conclusion that the rocks in Yellowknife Bay record evidence of a habitable environment, a huge step forward in our understanding of conditions on ancient Mars. However, there are still more questions than answers, and Curiosity has now departed Yellowknife Bay and begun her long trek to the base of Mt Sharp. The science team will continue to examine the vast amount of data that pour in, and with any luck we will be able to carefully and methodically piece together the history of Gale Crater as any field geologist would hope to do.

Being a part of the MSL mission is an unbelievable experience, and waking up each morning to view images and data from Mars as Curiosity roves the surface is inspiring, to say the least. Some current and future students in the geology program will also be able to participate in the mission, allowing the next generation of Brown graduates to experience firsthand the wonders of planetary exploration. No one on the team knows what will be around the next bend, behind the next rock, in the next rock, or what is really waiting for us at the base of Mt. Sharp. But if you hear about the exciting discoveries that Curiosity is sure to make over the coming months and years then be proud to know that those results are in part due to the efforts of a number of graduates from our very own geology department here at Brown.

Additional information, images, and videos about the MSL mission, team and Curiosity’s results can be found at:













Celebration of Jan Tullis

On June 15, 2013 alumni, faculty and staff came together to celebrate the profound contributions that Jan Tullis has made to undergraduate teaching and mentoring throughout her career. 

Jan has been an essential part of the Brown University Geological Sciences Department family since 1970. Her compassion, skill and dedication to her students, both current and former, is legendary.  Those students came out in force to honor Jan in a big way. The response to this celebration for Jan was extraordinary! More than 100 alumni, current students and colleagues came together from as far away as Myanmar (Fatma Khatib ’05) and Alaska (Tina Neal ’81) for the opportunity to re-connect with Jan and each other and to share updates on their lives and share memories of their time at Brown University.  Shauna Edson ’05, graciously offered her scrapbooking skills and created a beautiful Memory Book composed of recollections, stories, memories and photos sent to us by alumni over six months and which was presented to Jan at the dinner. It was a really lovely day and Jan was so touched by the enthusiastic response.

Beavertail! Field trip participants enjoy the picturesque scenery! Photo courtesy of Kathleen Cantner.Beavertail! Field trip participants enjoy the picturesque scenery! Photo courtesy of Kathleen Cantner.







After a week of rain and chilly, dreary weather, June 15th dawned sunny and breezy; a perfect day for a field trip to Beavertail in Jamestown, RI. As those who’ve taken GE 22 know, field trips are an integral part of the course work! The motor coach arrived at 9:00 a.m. for at 9:30 a.m. departure. Boxed lunches were loaded into the bus, name- tags were passed out, and sunscreen was applied in preparation for the day. While the field trip included some real geology, its primary goal was to provide an opportunity to get together.  All attendees reported that it was a great time and the weather was fully cooperative!

(L-R) Mary Seid ’06, Kathleen Cantner ’06, Brian Yellen ’06, Shauna Edson ’05, Ren-Horng Wang ’06. Photo courtesy of Ren-Horng Wang.(L-R) Mary Seid ’06, Kathleen Cantner ’06, Brian Yellen ’06, Shauna Edson ’05, Ren-Horng Wang ’06. Photo courtesy of Ren-Horng Wang.








The motor coach returned to the GeoChem building at 2:30 p.m. to give folks a chance to either rest up in preparation of the evening’s events or to catch up with Jan (she was out on MacMillan Green by the rocks). Undergrad concentrators Julia Carr and Rory MacFarlane volunteered to conduct tours of the Department for those interested and had the energy after all that walking!

The main event of the day was an informal reception and dinner, in Jan’s honor, held at the Faculty Club. A very generous anonymous donor requested to cover the cost of the reception and dinner, and in keeping with the donor’s wishes, we enjoyed a New England themed menu. Bill Collins created a really nice slide show of Jan through the years, which everyone enjoyed viewing. It was a packed house, with over 100 guests in attendance!

Jan with alums Gina Snyder ’79 and Bo Garrison ’79.Jan with alums Gina Snyder ’79 and Bo Garrison ’79.







William Osborn ’81 chats with Tim Herbert during the receptionWilliam Osborn ’81 chats with Tim Herbert during the reception







Alums reconnecting! Elizabeth Denis ’10, Nina Carriero ’11, Katey Lesneski ’12 and Margaret Boettcher ‘98Alums reconnecting! Elizabeth Denis ’10, Nina Carriero ’11, Katey Lesneski ’12 and Margaret Boettcher ‘98






As the reception wound down, guests were invited into the dining room, where Chair Tim Herbert kicked off the evening with a toast to Jan, and Shauna Edson ’05 presented Jan with the Memory Book.

After guests enjoyed a delicious dinner, Karen Fischer and Greg Hirth opened the floor for testimonials to Jan. There was a steady stream of alums that stepped up to the microphone to fete Jan and to express the great impact she’s had on their lives. Some folks had their comments written beforehand, some spontaneously queued up to share a memory or story.  Many stories were funny and all were heartfelt.  Jan was extremely touched by the outpouring of affection.

The evening ended with people trading email addresses and phone numbers with promises to keep in touch and to stay in touch. It was a really wonderful testimonial to Jan and her profound influence on her many students through the years!

Finally, through everyone’s generosity, over $17,000 has been raised in the field fund to honor Jan, and until the end of August 2013, an anonymous graduate will match dollar for dollar any new contribution to the fund up to a total of $10,000. Please consider contributing to the fund. It’s a great way to benefit students and a great way to further recognize Jan.

To view all the photos from Jan’s celebration, visit

Commencement 2013

Undergraduate Concentrators

Michelle Graff graduated with an ScB in Geology/Chemistry. She was a member of Sigma Xi and the recipient of the 2012 Sarah LaMendola award. While at Brown, Michelle worked with Professor Yan Liang. She completed an internship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Summer 0f 2011, she was a TA for GEOL 0220 in Fall 2012, and was a GeoDUG member since 2011 and president for 2012-2013.  Michelle was active in the music community at Brown, being a member of the Brown Band since 2010, and the General Manager from November 2010 through November 2011. She was also a member of the orchestra, playing clarinet for her four years at Brown. Michelle is off to Israel and Tanzania for the summer and hopes to enter a career in renewable energy or museum education.

Julia Guimond received an ScB in Geology/Biology. During her time at Brown, Julia was a TA for GEOL 1370 and helped write the labs as part of her UTRA in Summer 2011. She did an UTRA with Professor Yongsong Huang in Summer 2012, studying the chemical and isotopic gradients from base-to-tip in leaf waxes of C3 species. Julia was a member of Brown Women’s Swimming and Diving Team; she was a 1 m and 3 m diver. She attended a summer field course with James Madison University in Ireland and attended the Geo spring break field trips to Grand Canyon in 2011 and Arches & Canyonlands in 2013.

Samuel Phelps graduated with an ScB in Geology/Biology. During his time at Brown, Sam completed a senior thesis with Professor Jim Russell, and also worked in Prof. Russell’s lab on different temperature proxies during his junior year.  Sam did a REU in Summer 2012 in ocean sciences at Columbia. He was a TA for GEOL 0070 and GEOL 1240, as well as being a GeoDUG member and officer.  Sam was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, a chorus member for the Brown Opera and a Brown Derbies member.

Tess Plant-Thomas graduated with an ScB in Geology/Biology. While at Brown, Tess conducted paleoclimate research with Professor Tim Herbert and graduate student Alexa Tzanova reconstructing sea surface temperatures of the Mediterranean from the early Pliocene using alkenone paleothermometry. Tess was a TA for GEOL 1370 in Fall 2012. Outside of academics, Tess was a member of the Varsity women’s Cross-Country and Track and Field teams. She was also a four-year member of Starla and Sons, Brown’s only exclusively long-form comedy improv troupe.

John Ryan-Henry received an ScB in Geological Sciences. John was a member of Sigma Xi and did his senior thesis with Prof. Steve Clemens. He worked in Professor Alberto Saal’s lab in Summer of 2011 and presented a poster of his thesis work at the Northeast GSA section meeting in March 2013. John attended geology field camp, run by the University of Houston, in Summer 2011. He was a member of GeoDUG and attended spring break field trips in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Hannah Rose Schonwald graduated with an AB in Geology/Chemistry. Hannah received a Brown Internship Award Scholarship in Summer 2011 to support research on impact of wave enery technology in New Zealand. She also worked in Professor Yongsong Huang’s lab measuring the incorporation of isotopic markers in GDGTs. Hannah was a mentor to freshman in the New Scientist Program Peer Advising and Leadership Initiative, and also a mentor in the Matched Advising Program for Sophomores. She was the coxswain for Brown’s Men’s Crew Team (2009-2011) and a member of “The Rolling Stones”, the Geo intramural softball team. Hannah also found time to work with WaterWalla, a student-founded, non-profit organization, as a research analyst to help bring water filtration technologies to urban slums in Mumbai, India.

Nathan Van Winkle graduated with an AB in Geology/Physics & an ScB in Civil Engineering.  He conducted research under Pradeep Guduru in Engineering into stresses within battery cells during charging and discharging, and was a co-author on two papers. Nathan was a Meiklejohn for two years and attended the 2013 spring break field trip to Arches & Canyonlands. He was a member of Zeta Delta Xi, where he held multiple offices, served on the Greek Council, and served as treasurer for the Queer Alliance. Nathan interned with National Grid in Summer 2012 as a structural engineer, and in June began working for them as a gas pipeline engineer.

Maya Wei graduated with an ScB in Geology/Physics-Math. During her time at Brown, she worked with Professor Amanda Lynch and the research resulted in her senior thesis. Maya was an intern in Summer 2012 at USGS Pasadena working on Focal mechanism analysis of the 2011 M 5.7 Oklahoma earthquake and aftershocks. Maya was a Brother of the Alpha Delta Phi Society and tutored elementary school math.

Jocelyn West graduated with an AB in Geological Sciences and an AB in Education Studies. She received a Royce Fellowship for Sport and Society-Dominica. While at Brown, Jocelyn did an UTRA in Summer 2011 with Professor Karen Fischer, and follow-up research during 2012-2013. She was a TA for GEOL 0010, a mentor for the Matched Advising Program for Sophomores, co-organized a GISP on Science Literacy, attended a January field geology course run by University of Nevada-Las Vegas, was a WiSE mentor, and ADOCH STEM volunteer for four years. Jocelyn also participated in Varsity Track and Field in the high jump and was a sports photographer for the Brown Daily Herald in 2010.

Master's Degree Recipients:

Back row (l-r): Catherine Booth, Kenneth Ramsley, Michael Beach, Tabb Prissel, William Longo. Front row (l-r): Rebecca Fahringer, Samantha Bova, Stephanie Spera, Lauren Jozwiak, Stephanie QuintanaBack row (l-r): Catherine Booth, Kenneth Ramsley, Michael Beach, Tabb Prissel, William Longo. Front row (l-r): Rebecca Fahringer, Samantha Bova, Stephanie Spera, Lauren Jozwiak, Stephanie Quintana

PhD Recipients:

Back row (l-r): Mark Salvatore, David Hollibaugh-Baker, John Roma Skok. Front row (l-r): Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Heather Ford, Shannon LoomisBack row (l-r): Mark Salvatore, David Hollibaugh-Baker, John Roma Skok. Front row (l-r): Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Heather Ford, Shannon Loomis

Desert RATS

Graduate Students Debra Hurwitz and Mark Salvatore Participate in NASA Technology Development Study in NASA Houston Mission Control

Graduate students Debra Hurwitz (now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston) and Mark Salvatore (now a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Arizona State University) were invited to participate in the NASA-run Desert Research and Technology Studies (colloquially known as “Desert RATS”) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, through Professor Jim Head’s long-standing participation in NASA Astronaut Training program.  Set up in the renowned Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center, Hurwitz and Salvatore were two of 22 scientists tasked with planning and participating in geologic activities of astronaut crews at a field site north of Flagstaff, Arizona, where the majority of RATS activities occur.  The two were also responsible for providing geologic interpretations of the field site and for developing protocols to be used on future human exploration missions throughout the solar system.

NASA is committed to researching and developing methods, techniques, systems, and technology necessary to prepare for the future human exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit.  “The technologies and protocols being developed at Desert RATS are not for if NASA sends humans back to the Moon, on to Mars, or beyond, but when”, says Salvatore.  “Developing these systems now will ensure that the astronauts, engineers, scientists, and flight controllers will be ready to proceed with human exploration when the time comes.”  In pursuit of human exploration in space, NASA announced the design for the new Space Launch System that will be used to propel humans beyond lower Earth orbit on September 13, 2011, and NASA contractors began assembling the first space-faring Orion capsule that sat on top of the rocket on September 9, 2011.

This year’s Desert RATS activities were designed to test the capabilities of human exploration on an asteroid.  “It’s very different than working on the Moon or Mars”, says Hurwitz.  In particular, the astronauts will be challenged with working in extremely low gravity and with potentially crippling communications and mobility constraints.  “We worked with a 50-second one-way delay between Houston and the field to simulate data and communications restrictions, although 50-seconds is likely an underestimate of the actual delays that we would be facing.”  Hurwitz added that these delays prevented the field crews and Mission Control from engaging in conversational exchanges and put severe limitations on camera and GPS-tracking capabilities.

The teams only received one full day off during the two week operations test period and spent most of their free time interpreting images, generating hypotheses regarding the regional geology, and organizing sample and image data for use during future investigations.  The crew often worked more than 12-hours per day, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying their time working with fellow scientists and NASA astronauts.  “Working in Mission Control is as amazing as it sounds,” Salvatore added.  “We’re just honored to have been given the opportunity to help out.”

Debra Hurwitz focus on her work in Houston Mission Control as the Science Geological Samples LeadDebra Hurwitz focus on her work in Houston Mission Control as the Science Geological Samples Lead






Mark Salvatore and Debra Hurwitz sit at the Apollo Mission Flight Director’s console in the Apollo Mission Control Center, at the Johnson Space Center, HoustonMark Salvatore and Debra Hurwitz sit at the Apollo Mission Flight Director’s console in the Apollo Mission Control Center, at the Johnson Space Center, Houston

Faculty Updates

Welcome new faculty!

Ralph Milliken, Assistant Professor








Ralph arrived July 2012. He received his PhD from Brown under the guidance of Prof. Jack Mustard. He comes to us from the University of Notre Dame. His current and future research interests focus on the use of spectroscopic techniques for quantitative determination of surface composition on the Earth and the surfaces of other planetary bodies.

Baylor Fox-Kemper, Assistant Professor







Baylor joined the Department in January 2013. He received his PhD in physical oceanography from the MIT/WoodsHole Joint Program. Baylor teaches an Introduction to Physical Oceanography in the spring and a first year seminar in the fall, as well as launching his ocean-modeling program at Brown.

Jung-Eun Lee, Assistant Professor




The Department welcomed Jung-Eun in July 2013. Her graduate study from University of California, Berkeley focused on the interpretation of Antarctic temperatures during the glacial time using stable isotope signatures (measured by other scientists) and a climate modeling.

Congratulations, Professor Jim Head! Professor Head has been named the N.L. Bowen awardee for 2013. The N. L. Bowen Award is given annually by the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology Section of the American Geophysical Union to recognize outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry, or petrology. The award will be presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December, 2013.

Professor Amanda Lynch recently traveled to SE Australia to build on the research and collaboration with the Yorta Yorta Nation of SE Australia. The team conducted a community gathering to make plans for further research on improving water management in the Murray River region. The focus of the discussions were on ethical standards, knowledge building and sharing, and the relationships between culture, technology and science. Around 60 people attended the on-country meeting at Yielima, on the banks of the Murray River, including new collaborators from the Gunditjmara Nation, Parks Victoria and Parks NSW, the Department of Sustainability and the Environment, and the University of Hawaii.

Yorta Yorta elder Denise Morgan with Hawaiian visitor and elder Kekuhi KealiikanakaoleohailiYorta Yorta elder Denise Morgan with Hawaiian visitor and elder Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaili







Professor Jack Mustard
received the NASA Exceptional Public Service Award Medal at the NASA Agency Honor Awards ceremony on August 2, 2012, at the James E. Webb Auditorium, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. The award was presented by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Congratulations, Jack!

Please join us in welcoming Apollo 15 Commander David Scott to the Department! Commander Scott has been appointed a Visiting Professor. Commander Scott will continue his long collaboration with the Department by participating in the teaching of GEOL 0050, and to continue research on the Moon with Brown's Planetary Geoscience group.

Professor Jim Head introduces Commander Scott at the Department's Commencement exercises in May 2011 when he received an honorary degree from the UniversityProfessor Jim Head introduces Commander Scott at the Department's Commencement exercises in May 2011 when he received an honorary degree from the University









Geo Club T-Shirts For Sale!

More information here.

All proceeds from the sales of these shirts go to the Brown University Geological Science’s Geo Club.

The Third Moscow Solar System Symposium

October 8-12, 2012 
Space Research Institute, Moscow, Russia

by Ken Ramsley

A science meeting that attempts to present topics that cover the entire solar system in plenary sessions from the points of view of the planetary sciences, space mission planners and national funding priorities is reminiscent of kabobs skewered, cooked and served steaming hot last Sunday at Moscow's Vernissage flea market.  At the Third Moscow Solar System Symposium meeting -- with more than 800 exoplanets discovered to date -- we were reminded of how many planets there might be in the Universe (perhaps as many as there are stars!), and from this perspective, several papers focused on planetary system formation as universal processes where own solar system is now more often viewed as a well-studied case rather than an archetype for what we might expect to find in other systems.

The Third Moscow Solar System Symposium, 2012The Third Moscow Solar System Symposium, 2012


Rather than equations, the Universe produces phenomena, an with the discovery of phenomena and its correlation to theory as a major goal, we were privileged to witness presentations on proposed spacecraft missions to the Moon, Venus, Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter, each at various stages of planning.  Russian Federation Roscosmos head, Vladimir Popovkin, emphasized mission plans in cooperation with the European Space Agency including the ExoMars orbiter/lander (where NASA had once been a partner), and also ambitious plans for two lunar landers, a Mars sample-return mission and a reconstituted attempt to return samples from Phobos after the deeply-felt failure of Phobos Grunt, which was lost last year (to be relaunched in ~2022).

In a poster session I presented my own research on Phobos which focuses on the proportions and distribution of martian impact ejecta that might be observed in the regolith of Phobos.  Research on this moon is largely driven by how we have answered so few of the big questions even after spacecraft data in hand going back 36 years.  We know the bulk density of Phobos (~1.86 g/cm3) and its shape (average radius ~11.08 km).  But we don't know where it was formed, how it was formed, why it orbits within the synchronous altitude of Mars, if it is desiccated or potentially a huge source of frozen water.  Planetary researchers often lament a lack of data, and in the case of Phobos, we are clearly lacking at least one key piece of the puzzle.  Adding to the mystery, Phobos is raked and cross-cut by hundreds of ancient grooves produced by unknown forces > ~3 Gyr ago, according to the presentation of Schmedemann et al.  Shi, Willner and Oberst presented a poster that maps surface gravitational forces where today some of the grooves trace gravitationally through uphill and downhill tracks, whereas when Phobos orbited at higher altitudes from Mars the uphill and downhill distributions were vastly different due to the slower orbital and tidally-locked rotational angular velocity.  In conversations with Dr. Oberst, I learned, to my relief, that the three-dimensional model of Phobos produced by Peter Thomas from NASA data two decades ago (and often at the center of my research on Phobos) has been refined more recently with only minor improvements in localized surface detail, and the Thomas model is still a valid shape for simulations of the interaction of Phobos with ejecta from Mars, debris trapped in orbits of Mars and other physical intersections.

Beyond the meeting, our five-day visit to Moscow included scheduling kabobs where we managed to squeeze in a visit to Red Square and to Gum (pronounced "goom"), one of the most opulent shopping places on the planet where common people are still welcome, that also predates shopping malls built in the USA by at least 50 years (if the "first mall in America" claim of the original Shopper's World in Framingham, MA is true).  We also visited the State Historical Museum adjacent to Red Square, which has endured two revolutions since its construction, and where the 20th Century housed on the third floor is not currently open for inspection.  On Tuesday evening of our visit we attended the Kremlin Theater ballet for a rousing performance of Sleeping Beauty, and the evening prior to our departure we enjoyed a newly opened musical which places a slight spin on the trials and travails of Catherine the Great, who was apparently far more inclined to hand out trials and travails than accept or tolerate those directed at her by others.