University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Geology

Faculty Research & News Updates continued ...

Andrea Lini, Associate Professor (Stable isotopes, Limnology and Climate Change): Greetings from the world of stable isotopes, lake mud, and tree rings, and dangerous predators!

The UVM Mudslingers have been busy trying to wrap up the project on the trophic history of Lake Champlain. Some of our results appeared in the Journal of Great Lakes Research this past spring (The eutrophication of Lake Champlain's northeastern arm: Insights from paleolimnological analyses. Journal of Great Lakes Research 38 (2012) 35–48). Another manuscript discussing study sites from the Main and South Lake sections will be submitted by the end of the year.

Work on the long sediment cores (up to 10 feet) collected by two of my graduate students in St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays in winter 2010, has been completed. These cores span 9,000 years of Lake Champlain’s history and have allowed us to extend our study of the processes that have affected the lake’s chemistry, biology, and sedimentary patterns well beyond the European settlement period. Copies of Drew Koff’s and Joanna Palmer’s MS theses are available on the Geology Department’s Graduate Student Research and Theses web site. As soon as the two bays freeze over this winter, I will be collecting even longer cores (15-20 feet) with help from a new graduate student, Ashliegh Kollmer. We hope to be able to hit the Champlain Sea-Lake Champlain transition. Wish us luck!

Tropical Storm Irene, which hit Vermont very hard in August 2011, provided us with the rare opportunity to evaluate the effect of extreme hydrological events on lake sediment records. As part of a study conducted in Lake Rescue, Ludlow, VT we were able to collect sediment cores before and after Irene (see photos). Our preliminary results indicate that a substantial amount of new sediment was delivered to the lake during the storm event.

The dendroclimatological work that Shelly Rayback (UVM Geography) and I have started two years ago is progressing very well. During the past 12 months, dedicated undergraduate students have processed hundreds of tree ring samples. It is a rather time consuming (and painstaking) process, but the results will allow us to reconstruct northern New England climate variability for the past three centuries. Very little is known about past climate in this region from tree rings.

In the previous newsletter I briefly mentioned bear and wolves… Well, the hair samples, along with samples from a variety of other critters, have finally arrived to the lab. Although this project has nothing to do with Geology, it is an exciting one and I will be reporting on it in more detail in the next newsletter.

Char Mehrtens, Professor (Stratigraphy, Sedimentation, Carbonate Petrology):

Hi all! It’s a good thing that Jack agrees to do the newsletter every year as it forces me to sit down and think about what has gone on in the past year. It always makes me feel better to remember what happened (and it’s my annual check on my memory health!). Work things: Along with new grad student Steven Gohlke (from UT Austin) I accompanied Hamilton College colleague Barb Tewksbury and others to southern Egypt to help Barb on a structure project she’s doing involving Cretaceous and Tertiary limestones. Barb needed to confirm that the stratigraphy in the geologic structures she can see on satellite imagery. We spent a week in the western desert at an oasis (Farafra) and rented the locals 4 wheel drive vehicles to take us “off roading” to outcrops of chalk and marl. I got to see (and measure and collect) the K/T boundary there. After a quick return to Cairo we headed south along the Nile to Aswan, to Steven’s field area south of there. Steven is studying the deformation bands associated with the Seiyal Fault, and using the burial history to help constrain their timing of formation.

The entire experience was unbelievably awesome, from spending time in the Sahara Desert, to working in Cretaceous stratigraphy to meeting and getting to know Egyptians and their culture. A second field season in Egypt is planned for this winter, and this time I’ll be going with two undergrads, Tony Haigh and Jacob Vincent. Things are still a bit dicey in terms of unrest over there, so send positive vibes for political calm! Some abstracts of this work in progress appear somewhere in this newsletter.

New grad student Ryan Brink (SUNY Potsdam) is working with me on a comparison between the newly identified Altona Formation in upstate NY and our local Monkton. Recent fossil finds have identified that a portion of the sandstone below the Potsdam SS is actually much older and partially age equivalent to the Monkton. Ryan is measuring section and doing petrography to see how similar these units are.

Fun things: Jack and Ruthie Drake continue to be good golf buddies. Occasionally, I torment Barry Doolan with my golf game (Jack can hang in there with “almost a golf pro” Doolan, but not me!). I spent some time at my cabin in the Adirondacks but the summer’s big adventure was a week long paddle in Quetico Provincial Park (north of the Boundary Waters in MN). This was an awesome trip with unbelievably beautiful paddling. The 18 portages, not so much fun.

Please keep sending news of your activities. It is ALWAYS great to hear from everyone.

k-t boundary.jpg

Steven, Dr. Assiz and Char at work

char meets sphinx.jpg

Char meets the sphinx

JHughes1x1John M. Hughes, Professor (Mineralogy, Crystallography, Crystal Chemistry):

It has been a wonderful and productive year. First and foremost, Susan and I celebrated the birth of our first grandchild on October 15. Belle Halladay Hughes is a beautiful, curious and active child, and the apple of her Papa’s eye. Belle Halladay is named after the schooner her great, great grandfather captained off Cape Cod in the 1800s, the Belle Halladay. Belle Halladay lives in Brooklyn, so it is easy to get to see her.

The rest of the family is doing well, and we get to see them often as Gareth. Amy and Belle Halladay, as well as Rebecca, all live in Brooklyn. Rebecca continues in her work as a developmental economist working for an NGO out of Yale, and gets to travel the world a lot; we are really proud of the work she is doing. Gareth continues at CBS Sports, and the documentary he worked on about the Army-Navy game, A Game of Honor, aired on Showtime in December, and he won Emmies #2, 3, and 4 for the show, including Best Documentary; quite the haul! Apparently the custom is to give your parents your first Emmy Award, so it now graces our home in Essex Junction. The entire family got together for almost two weeks this summer at our home in Charleston, SC, and it was delightful to see Belle Hallady take to the beach; never knew sand tasted so good!

My research using the new diffractometer continues, and numerous papers have come out in Canadian Mineralogist, American Mineralogist, and European Journal of Mineralogy. The work continues with new graduate student Jacob Menken, and a lot of exciting experiments are underway. I take over as President of the Mineralogical Society of America in November, which is a humbling and time-consuming task, but one I look forward to greatly. I submitted probably the last proposal of my career this summer, and look forward to even more experiments on apatite. So it has been a busy and extremely rewarding year… stay tuned.

Just getting ready to identify another new mineral

Paul_colorPaul Bierman, Professor (Geomorphology, Geohydrology, Isotope Geology Applied to Landscape Change): It's been a busy year in the lab, in the field, and writing. In May, I travelled to Brazil with Veronica-Sosa Gonzalez (UVM MS, 2012) and Josh Farley (RSENR) to study the effect of agriculture on erosion. Then, soon after went to Greenland with UVM MS Candidate Alice Nelson to collect samples of stream sediment as part of our NSF grant to understand the evolution of the Greenland Ice sheet over the last 5 million years. Soon after returning, I taught for my 17th year in the Governor's Institute, a program for talented Vermont High School youth. Then, in August I travelled to the International Geologic Conference in Brisbane, Australia. In September, I was back in Greenland finish up some survey work that we couldn't get done in June because thick fog grounded our plane. One more trip abroad, to France finished up the fall. These I presented work we did on the basal silty ice of the GISP 2 ice core - we found soil that likely predates ice sheet formation more than 2 million years ago. In terms of publications, there were several on a variety of topics. The most wide ranging was led by Eric Portenga - a summary and critical evaluation of all extant 10Be data in GSA Today. The data set quantifies the effect of tectonics, climate, and topography on rates of erosion worldwide. I spent many long weekends revising my chapters for the Pipkin et al. Environmental Geology textbook; it should be published by the time you read this. The fun of this revisions was the photos; we were given access to the National Geographic photo archive; they are some truly phenomenal images. I am finally in the home stretch of our new Geomorphology textbook. Dave and I have the first 8 chapters done and with the publisher after an average of a dozen reviews for each chapter. The last 6 chapters are on my desk and should be gone to the publisher by New Years!

Below are some websites related to my activities and recent publications.


Paul in Kulusuk, East Greenland, skiing to out crop to collect sample for dating post glacial uplift.


Veronica Sosa-Gonzalez and Brazilian colleagues sampling a stream

in Brazil heavily impacted by both debris flows and agriculture.

Marika, Quincy, Christine Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

AndreaLini_colorAndrea Lini, Associate Professor (Stable isotopes, Limnology and Climate Change): Greetings from the world of stable isotopes, lake mud, and tree rings! Our research project on the trophic history of Lake Champlain is moving along very well. Our group (the UVM Mudslingers), which also includes faculty and students from the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, has recently published a manuscript titled “The eutrophication of Lake Champlain's northeastern arm: Insights from paleolimnological analyses” in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. An additional manuscript discussing study sites from the Main and South Lake sections will be submitted soon.

Work on the long sediment cores (up to 10 feet) collected by two of my graduate students in St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays in winter 2010, is almost complete. These cores span 9,000 years of Lake Champlain’s history and have allowed us to extend our study of the processes that have affected the lake’s chemistry, biology, and sedimentary patterns well beyond the European settlement period.

Shelly Rayback (UVM Geography) and I very recently submitted a research proposal to NSF that aims at reconstructing northern New England climate variability from tree-ring records. Very little is known about past climate in this region from tree rings. Many existing climate records rely on lake sediments, which, although being excellent recorders of climate variability, do not possess the fine time resolution needed for successful correlation to historical climate records and for climate modeling. This is a very exciting new research direction for Shelly and I, and it has kept us, along with several undergraduate students, very busy this year.

It is quite possible that soon we will start analyzing bear and wolf fur samples in my lab… more on that next time!


Comparison of pre- and post-Irene sediment in Lake Rescue.

Two inches of storm-related deposits are clearly visible in the core on the right.


Collecting a core from frozen Lake Rescue, Ludlow, VT. Note manual drill.

Keith1x1Keith Klepeis, Professor (Structural Geology and Tectonics)


This past year has been a great one for me personally and for Vermont geology. It represents the 12th consecutive year I’ve supervised student research projects on geological problems in Vermont with colleagues at UVM, the Vermont Geological Survey (VGS), and Middlebury. This year seemed as busy as ever. Undergraduate Abigail Ruksznis (class of 2013) presented the results of her research project relating the bedrock geology of the Plainfield, Vermont to various groundwater problems at Northeast GSA in Hartford. Abi also worked closely with Jon Kim and Marjorie Gale from VGS, and Laura Webb. At the end of the meeting she decided she wanted to pursue similar topics in graduate school, so we thought the meeting was a success! At the moment I am helping her work on her Honor’s thesis for the 2012-13 academic year. While working with Marjorie, Abi discovered a fantastic new outcrop near Route 2 in Essex Junction that promises to reveal how certain types of foliations are related faulting and folding events. She’s using some great new methods to study the fabrics, including a GigapanTM, which allows her to analyze stitched field photographs using deep zoom techniques.

Another student Eric Weber (class of 2013) also began a new summer a project with the VGS and I on the structure of the southern end of the Hinesburg thrust fault near Bristol. Eric is already making great headway and is cutting up samples and mapping out microstructures. Two other undergraduate students (Doug MacLeod and Jeff Tinklepaugh) also are working with me on Vermont geology theses and two graduate students I’ve been engaged with are almost finished (Christine McNiff and Megan Scott).

In addition to mentoring students, we ran a field trip from Lake Champlain across the Champlain and Hinesburg thrusts in August. Larry Becker, Marjorie Gale and Jon Kim (VGS) and Peter Ryan (Middlebury) and I ran a trip for people who work in various state agencies around New England, including the EPA, Health Department, and Water Department (see photo). Unlike last year, we finally had superb weather!

I’m also proud to report that one of my graduate students, Jeff Webber, completed a superb Masters thesis on fabric analysis in igneous rocks from coastal Chile. Jeff has just started working on his PhD with Mike Williams at Umass, Amherst. His field area is in a remote part of Canada (the Athabasca granulite terrane of the Canadian Shield), which is perfect for Jeff! I also accepted three more graduate students who are just getting started. With the new State geology map, running field trips, and all the student interest in doing field geology, it’s been a great year for geological research in Vermont.

With best wishes,




(802) 656-0247

Group photograph on a field trip stop at the famous “oven” outcrop in North Ferrisburgh. Photo by Marjorie Gale.

Steve_colorStephen Wright, Senior Lecturer (Glacial geology, Geomorphology, Environmental Geology): I’ve been on sabbatical this fall and have spent many nice September field days working in the Killington area trying to better understand ice flow patterns across this part of the Green Mountains. I’m also planning on using the fall to finish several other field projects in northern Vermont as well as to investigate some areas that are normally too far away to work on during the school year.

I spent the first part of the summer mapping the northern half of the Pico Peak quadrangle, a continuation of the mapping in the southern half of the quadrangle I completed last summer. Part of this work involved following an esker system up the Ottauquechee River valley and then down the Tweed River valley. An outgrowth of this mapping was to outline the extent of a small glacial lake that occupied the Tweed River valley between Pittsfield and the Killington golf course. This relatively high-elevation lake (1,350 ft above sea level) was relatively short-lived, but its catastrophic drainage into those parts of Glacial Lake Hitchcock that occupied the northwestern branches of the White River may be responsible for a huge influx of sediment into that part of the lake over the course of several years. I will be leading a Vermont Geological Society field trip to this area during the summer or fall of 2013.

I brought another group of nine students out to Colorado during the first three weeks of August with the help of graduate student Ben DeJong. We had an excellent group that was both academically curious and a great joy to work with and camp with for 3 weeks. We took advantage of the warmer weather and lack of high-elevation snow (I’m usually out there with students in late May through mid-June) to visit areas well above tree line that are normally inaccessible. Our last long hike was into one of the small Front Range glaciers. Several of the students had been in my glacial geology class the previous spring semester and it was exciting to see, albeit on a small scale, evidence of some of the glacial processes we’d worked on in class and labs.

I’ll be at the Northeast GSA meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel this coming March and will hope to see at least some of you there. The trails at the Bretton Woods Nordic ski center are wonderful, so bring your skis!


Students descend a large snowfield on their way back to camp

Text Box:






Ollie Olliver, Ryan Stredny, Abi Ruksnis, Hank Ainley and Doug MacLeod relax on lower Plaeozoic rocks after ascending a very steep cirque headwall.

Webb1x1Laura Webb, Assistant Professor (Igneous petrology and Geochronology)

Hello UVM Geology alumni and friends:

It’s been a busy year and we’re now rocketing through another semester. Since our last newsletter, I completed the inaugural run of a new course in our curriculum, Field Methods in Geophysics. With funding from NSF-DUE, we acquired ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction profiling equipment. Students in the class focused on using this instrumentation to investigate the bedrock geology and hydrogeology of the Christiansen farm in East Montpelier. We had glorious weather, beautiful fall foliage, and a great time. The project was designed in collaboration with the Vermont Geological Survey and Abi Ruknzis (Geology BS student) went on to work in more detail with the class data set and present those findings at the NEGSA meeting.

Last year I also participated in the 2012 UVM Sustainability Faculty Fellows Program. While my research focus is hard rock oriented, I’ve had growing interests in infusing sustainability concepts in my teaching. I also participated in the Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences Workshop at Carleton College over the summer. This workshop is part the InTeGrate project, a five-year, NSF-funded STEP Center grant. I had a great time participating in both programs and hope to remain active in collaborative, interdisciplinary curriculum development efforts.

The 40Ar/39Ar geochronology laboratory is coming along. In the last year we completed construction of the noble gas extraction line and are now under ultrahigh vacuum. We now have a diode laser system built by UVM alumnus Jeremy Hourigan (Assistant Professor, UC Santa Cruz; Santa Cruz Laser Microfurnace). Over the summer we finally took delivery of the Nu Noblesse noble gas mass spectrometer, which was no small feat to get it safely in the building. We’re still in the process of commissioning the mass spec, but hope to soon be on our way playing the dating game.

Two of my students defended their MS theses in the last year. Merril Stypula is now off working for the oil and gas industry and Christine McNiff is pursuing her PhD at University of South Florida. Patrick Dyess is in his second year working with me on the titanium-in-quartz thermobarometer project. He may win my prize for largest number of analytical techniques (and abbreviations) combined into one MS thesis (EMP, CL, SIMS, EBSD, XRF...). I’m still active in research in on the tectonics of Papua New Guinea and Mongolia. Both are the focus of current writing efforts and targets for new research grant proposals in the coming year.

Best regards,


Collage of photos from the 2011 Field Methods in Geophysics class. From left to right across the top and then the bottom: Emily Siegel collects an electromagnetic induction profile. Abi Ruksznis takes location data with the Trimble GeoExplorer. Doug MacLeod pulls the 400 MHz antenna while Abi monitors the ground-penetrating radar data collection. Parker Richmond pulls the antenna while Doug monitors the GPR field computer, and Eric Webber records survey data. Students relieve tension by taking turns being the seismic source for refraction experiments.

Delivering the noble gas mass spectrometer through the second floor window of Delehanty Building.

Not pictured: Laura Webb breathing into a paper bag.

Laura, having breathed a huge sigh of relief!!

Andrew Schroth, Research Assistant Professor (Low Temperature Geochemistry, Limnology and Oceanography)

Hello! I am a new Research Assistant Professor, and I am excited to be a part of UVM and the Department of Geology in particular. I come to the department after 5 years at U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, MA, where I was a postdoctoral scholar and then a research geologist. Since I began working within the department this past July, I have felt immediately at home due to the friendly faculty, staff and students here at UVM. My primary area of expertise is in low temperature geochemistry and environmental mineralogy, but I also have teaching and research interests in soil science, hydrology and hydrogeology. I am particularly interested in the transport, fate and speciation of metals in surface waters, soils and sediments. I have come to UVM to lead a team of Vermont-based scientists and students in an NSF EPSCoR-funded research effort that aims to better understand nutrient dynamics and algal blooms in Lake Champlain and its watershed, generally in the context of climate change and adaptive management. Our team has been extremely busy this summer establishing an exciting network of sites for time series sample collection (water, sediment and biomass) and sensor deployment on Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay and at select sites within the Missisquoi and Winooski watersheds. Over the next few months, we will be conducting laboratory analyses of these samples as well as processing and interpreting data collected over the field season, while also establishing a winter sampling plan. We will continue to collect data from these sites over the next 4 years in an effort to better characterize and quantify inter and intra annual variability within the system and, more importantly, understand the environmental parameters that control nutrient/algal dynamics within the system. I also have active projects in Alaska studying trace metal speciation and cycling in watersheds, dusts and coastal marine waters that I hope to involve UVM undergraduate and graduate students as soon as possible. In the future, I look forward to developing new projects in the montane watersheds and soils of the nearby Green and Adirondack ranges, as these were the systems that I studied as a graduate and undergraduate student of geochemistry. I am also looking forward to teaching coursework in geochemistry and possibly other subjects through the Department of Geology. I am always keen to meet geologically-inclined alumni and current students! Please do not hesitate to shoot me an e-mail or stop by my office to chat!

Missisquoi Bay Microbiological Sampling Platform

Kasey Kathan , Lecturer (Palaeolimnology, Environmental Geology)

I’m very pleased to be joining the department for this coming year and to be teaching Environmental Geology and Geology 001. I’m sure we all remember the introductory course that ‘hooked’ us on geology, captured and engaged us and ultimately developed our passion. It is this inspirational moment that I hope to share with at least a few of the students here at UVM. So far, the fall term Environmental Geology class is an enthusiastic and keen group of students who have been blessed with nothing but beautiful fall weather on each of our field trips as we explore the region together.

I am coming to the department, most recently, from Queen’s University in Ontario where I am completing my PhD. My research interests lie in interpreting sediment archives for climate and hydrologic reconstructions of the recent past. It is only possible to understand the current status of our natural systems if we have some historical context to place them in. I am particularly interested in understanding the linkages between the hydrological system and sediment delivery in the High Arctic. This sensitive environment is known to be changing rapidly in response to climate variability, yet we still need to determine the range in sensitivity on the landscape. My work specifically uses lake and marine sediment cores to perform high resolution geochemistry and sedimentological interpretation over the last several centuries. The ultimate goal is to link my observations in the sedimentary archive to the modern process studies completed during active summer field work programs in the region. My work has ranged across the north from Alaska, Norway and the Canadian High Arctic. This work is inherently interdisciplinary and I look forward to discussing it with the UVM community.


Last modified November 15 2012 11:30 AM