The Department of Geosciences presents

Geology Open Night

Fall 2007

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Did an extra-terrestrial impact over the Laurentian Ice Sheet cause the extinction of North America’s mega-fauna and the Clovis culture?

Gilbert N. Hanson
7:30 p.m. September 28, 2007


Oceans Below

Brian Phillips
7:30 p.m. October 26, 2007

The compositional diversity of the Martian crust:
The role of igneous processes

Hanna Nekvasil
7:30 p.m. November 30

Earth and Space Sciences Building 
Lecture Hall (Room 001)
SUNY Stony Brook Campus

How do I get to the Earth and Space Sciences Building at SUNY Stony Brook?

Geology Open night lectures are usually on topics in the geosciences related to the current research of the faculty, staff and students at SUNY Stony Brook. These presentations are intended for:

  • those interested in new developments in the sciences

  • earth science high school students and teachers

  • undergraduate and graduate students in geosciences

  • professional geologists

In-service Credit is available for teachers attending the Geology Open Night lectures.


You may also be interested in Astronomy Open Night lectures the first Friday of the month, The Worlds of Physics lectures the second Friday of the month and The Living World the third Friday of the month In-service credit is also available for teachers for attending these lectures.

A single point entry to all of the science open night lectures is available at this link

All of these lectures are in ESS 001 Lecture Hall

There will be Refreshments and Demonstrations after the Geology Open Night Presentations.

Admission is Free!!

Web pages describing earlier Geology Open Night presentations

Spring 1998Fall 1998, Spring 1999, Fall 1999, Spring 2000, Fall 2000, Spring 2001

Fall 2001, Spring 2002, Fall 2002, Spring 2003, Fall 2003Spring 2004, Fall 2004, Spring 2005, Fall 2005, Spring 2006, Fall 2006, Spring 2007


Did an extra-terrestrial impact over the Laurentian Ice Sheet
cause the extinction of North America’s
mega-fauna and the Clovis culture?

Prof. Gilbert N. Hanson

7:30 p.m. Friday September 28, 2007

This spring a team of 26 scientists proposed that 12,900 years ago a comet broke up and exploded over the Laurentian Ice Sheet with the force of millions of atomic bombs. This impact event would have caused the extinction of the North American mega-fauna which included animals such as mammoths and saber tooth tigers; and the disappearance of the Clovis culture.

Massive melting of the ice sheet would have produced water which entered the North Atlantic Ocean and stopped the thermohaline circulation. This would lead to a ca 1000 yr cold period known as the Younger Dryas. After the Younger Dryas event the warm Holocene Epoch, that we are presently in, began.

The extinctions of the mega-fauna would have been a result of the impacts shock wave, then massive wildfires followed by a dramatic reduction of food associated with climate change.

Evidence for the impact includes a black algal mat that overlies the latest Clovis sites throughout North America. The mat contains tiny spheres of carbon and metals, bits of diamonds, and extraterrestrial concentrations of helium 3 and the element iridium.

In this presentation we will consider the climatic and glacial setting, the timing of the events and the evidence for an extra terrestrial impact.

New Theory: Did a prehistoric comet "kill" North America?

Mammoth killer impact gets mixed reception from scientists
Comet Wiped Out Early North American Culture, Animals, Study Says

Were the Carolina Bays formed by the impact?


Oceans Below?

Prof. Brian Phillips

7:30 p.m. Friday October 26, 2007

            In the 1959 classic adaptation of Jules Verne’s “A Journey to the Center of the Earth”  Professor of Geology Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, played by James Mason, along with a very young Pat Boone as his star geology student encounter a vast subterranean ocean populated by dinosaurs and surrounding a whirlpool leading to Earth’s center.  Today, Earth scientists are studying a very different, but no less fantastic, “ocean” deep in the earth’s interior, where because of the extreme temperatures and pressures water cannot exist in the familiar liquid form.  Instead, it is stored in the form of hydrogen atoms locked up in the structures and defects of minerals, but can be released as water molecules under the right conditions.  Although the concentration of this hydrogen in the mantle is probably small, multiplication by the large volume of this region of the Earth  suggests by some estimates a reservoir of water several times the size of the more familiar hydrosphere at Earth’s surface.  Even at such small concentrations this “water” can have enormous effects on the physical and chemical processes in Earth’s interior.    

In this presentation I will discuss the evidence for this postulated “ocean below”, the ways in which this water occurs in minerals, the effects on the properties and processes of Earth’s interior, and how this water might be cycled to and from the mantle.  I will include a brief description of our own research using spectroscopic methods to discover some of the surprising ways that water reacts with minerals to become stable at high mantle pressures and temperatures.   

            Dr. Phillips obtained his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been a faculty member in the Department of Geosciences since 2002.  His research group uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study the chemical structure of minerals and mineral surfaces.



The compositional diversity of the Martian crust:
The role of igneous processes

Prof. Hanna Nekvasil

7:30 p.m.Friday November 30

 Of primary importance to the search for evidence for past/present life on Mars is the search for evidence for water, from the geomorphic features produced or affected by free-standing water to identification of sedimentary and alteration assemblages requiring water.  Evaluating the processes by which these features were produced requires understanding of pre-alteration assemblages and unaltered primary structures.  Igneous rocks on Mars not only provide a chemical substrate for weathering and alteration processes, but gaseous compounds that affect the atmosphere, volcanic features that affect the geomorphologic characteristics of the surface, and potential regions of high energy and water in hydrothermally active zones.  Combining rover data, orbiter data, the study of the Martian meteorites, and experimental data has provided new understanding of the igneous processes and products at work on Mars.  New results suggest that igneous rocks on the surface of Mars may owe much of their compositional diversity to variable amounts of dissolved water and halogens as well to the depth within the crust at which much of the crystallization takes place.  Such magmas add volatiles and heat to the crust to fuel a variety of alteration processes and to the atmosphere where they can have strong effects on the nature of surficial weathering products.  

For this presentation Prof. Nekvasil will pull together a variety of data and observations that form the basis for a new view of Martian magmatism and igneous evolution. 

Hanna Nekvasil has been a professor in the Department of Geosciences for 20 years.  During this time she has worked on a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches aimed at understanding magmas and their dissolved volatile load on Earth and on other planetary bodies. 


In-service credit available for teachers and professional geologists

If your school requires that you have a sequence of educational opportunities in order to receive in-service credit, please advise them that during the Fall Semester we will be offering one-hour of in-service credit for each of the:

Three Geology Open Nights

Four Astronomy Open Nights
Website for more information is:

Three The Worlds of Physics - 
Web site for more information is:

Two Our Environment
Website for more information is:


Geology Open Night, Astronomy Open Night, The Worlds of Physics and the Living World meet in ESS 001 at 7:30 p.m.

We will offer up to 7.5 hours of in-service credit each for the Conference on the Geology of Long Island and Metropolitan New York on April 14, 2007 and  the Long Island Geologists field trip in Spring

Information for these two events will be available on the Long Island Geologists web site at:

A more printable description of in-service credit offerings can be found at this link.

There will be Refreshments and Demonstrations after the Presentations.

Admission is FREE!

Presentations are in Room 001 ESS Building SUNY Stony Brook

How do I get to the Earth and Space Sciences Building at SUNY Stony Brook?