The Department of Geosciences presents

Geology Open Night

Spring 2014

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The Marine Boron Isotope Record of Late Ordovician Climate Change

Prof. Troy Rasbury

7:30  PM Friday February, 2014
ESS 001

Mineral Dust: Its importance in Climate and Human Health

Prof. Martin Schoonen

7:30  PM Friday April  18, 2014
ESS 001


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

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

Admission is Free!!

Link here to be placed on the mail or e-mail list to receive announcements.

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

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


The Marine Boron Isotope Record of 
Late Ordovician Climate Change

Prof. Troy Rasbury

Friday Feb. 28, 
7:30 PM 

The first fossil shells are found in the early Cambrian Period, where an explosion of life is recorded. The record of animal evolution shows fits and starts, with an extinction event marking the end of the Cambrian. By the Ordovician all of the invertebrates that we know today, plus some that are now extinct had evolved. In fact innovation is the story of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE). This is followed by the second largest extinction event in the Phanerozoic at the close of the Ordovician (larger than the end Cretaceous extinction which took out the dinosaurs).

Sea level was high in the Ordovician, and it appears to have been a greenhouse climate with concentrations of atmospheric CO2 values that were significantly higher than today (but this is a model to be tested). A major glaciation occurred at about the same time as the end Ordovician extinction event, and this is often credited as the perpetrator of the extinction. But what caused the glaciation? There are a variety of models including a gamma ray burst (for which there is no known test); global cooling because of major igneous eruptions, which is consistent with large ash horizons that are recognized globally at the end of the Ordovician; and increased silicate weathering due to mountain building of the Taconic Orogeny (recognized right here in New York). 

Of these models, only the increased silicate weathering predicts a decrease in the concentration of atmospheric CO2. New data from Stony Brook on boron isotopes show that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 decreased into the glaciation event. I’ll discuss why boron records marine acidity (pH) and hence atmospheric CO2 , and put the data in the context of Ordovician global climate change. Understanding past climate change is relevant to predicting future climate change; links to extinction and other perturbations in the Earth systems are relevant to policy making and planning.



Mineral Dust: 
Its importance in Climate and Human Health


Prof. Martin A.A. Schoonen

7:30  PM Friday
April  18, 2014

Mineral aerosols or fine mineral dust can be transported across oceans and exerts an influence on the atmospheric energy balance, which drives climate change.   Given the long-range transport of aerosols there is a concern on the influence of aerosols on public health.  It is well established that inhalation of aerosols can lead to lung ailments.  The chemical and mineralogical composition of aerosols is an important factor in their influence on climate as well as public health.  Determining the composition and mineralogy of aerosols, which are typically less than one ten-thousandth in diameter, is a major challenge with conventional analytical tools.   Synchrotron-based analytical techniques, such as the National Synchrotron Light Source at nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory provide unprecedented spatial resolution which can be used to determine the elemental composition of aerosols. 

Schoonen’s group has been studying the effect of mineral dust on human health for a decade and recently he has focused his research on the composition of mineral dust transported from the Sahara and China.      



You may also be interested in the following lectures:
Astronomy Open Night,

The World of Physics and
The Living World
These lectures are usually held in ESS 001 at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays during the academic year.

In-service credit is also available for teachers for attending these lectures.

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, Fall 2007, Spring 2008,
Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011,
Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013


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?