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Researchers find new cause of strong earthquakes

A geologic event known as diking can cause strong earthquakes -- with a magnitude between 6 and 7, according to an international research team.
Categories: College of EMS e-News

Deluge: Climate change, sea level, and the growing threat of coastal floods

As the planet warms and sea levels rise, storm surges are becoming more destructive. How will coastal towns adapt? The first step is accepting that disasters really can happen here.
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Geosciences Colloquium Series - February 9, 2016

College of EMS Headlines - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 08:04

On Tuesday, February 9th, Colloquium Speaker (and Geosc Alum) Jocelyn Sessa, Postdoctoral Fellow in Paleontology and Education, American Museum of Natural History, presents "Using Mollusks to Elucidate Ecological and Climatic Changes in Mesozoic and Cenozoic Marine Environments" at 4 PM in 022 Deike. A pre-talk Coffee & Cookies Speaker Reception takes place at 3:45 PM in the EMS Museum on the ground floor of Deike. All are welcome.


Ph.D., Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University

M.S., Geology, University of Cincinnati

B.A., Geological Sciences, State University of New York at Geneseo

Research Interests

Dr. Sessa’s research focuses on the evolution of shallow marine ecosystems through time. She employs the fossil record as a natural laboratory through which to study how organisms responded to environmental perturbations. Mollusks are the primary focus of her research because they are well preserved and abundant in fossil and modern assemblages. Additionally, the chemistry of mollusk shells records seasonal temperature variations, which she uses to reconstruct past climates. Jocelyn has tracked the response of marine organisms to the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction and to climatic fluctuations, including the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. The latter is one of the best geological examples of a rapid global warming event. She has recently begun working to reveal the diversity and community structure of mollusk assemblages from the ancient tropics of southern Africa. Prior to joining the American Museum of Natural History, Jocelyn was a Post-Doc Fellow with the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Article from the Christian Science Monitor (November 18, 2015)

What were ammonites' lives like? Isotope study reveals clues.

Using isotopic analysis, researchers have revealed new ecological data about ancient mollusks.

By Joseph Dussault, Staff Writer


In medieval Europe, ammonite stones were believed to have divine powers. In Nepal, Hindus have long interpreted them as manifestations of Vishnu.


To Jocelyn Sessa, they’re a window to the past.

At Mississippi’s Owl Creek Formation, researchers are using isotopic analysis to reconstruct the habitats of these ancient mollusks. Armed with new data, they hope to piece together details about prehistoric climates. Their study, which was published Monday in PNAS, was led by Dr. Sessa, a paleontological fellow at the American Museum of Natural History.

Ammonites were a group of marine mollusks, closely related to the octopus and squid of today. They first appeared in the Devonian period, more than 400 million years ago, and group persisted until the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that ended the Mesozoic period. Thanks to their sturdy calcium composition, ammonites' distinctive shells, most of which were simple spirals, tend to be well-preserved and quite common.

And because of their ubiquity, ammonites are considered excellent index fossils. Geologists and paleontologists alike use them as reference points when dating rock layers. But while the “when” is abundantly clear, relative little is known about “how” these mollusks lived.

To read the entire article and view the video, go to:

Article and video at this link:

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Researcher pursues sustainable energy through carbon dioxide conversion

Seeing carbon dioxide as a raw material rather than a waste produce could lead to a more sustainable future for the energy sector and chemical industry. Penn State researcher Chunshan Song is pursuing this goal and has seen results that indicate carbon dioxide conversion could be the best long-term solution to reduce excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
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Penn State In The News: January 2016

In a monthly feature, Penn State’s Office of Strategic Communications will feature national and international news coverage of the work and expertise of Penn State’s faculty, students and staff.
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EMS student among first in world to earn society’s sustainability certification

Mike Reichart is passionate about sustainability, and he is part of the first cohort of individuals worldwide to receive professional sustainability certification through the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. A student in Penn State’s Energy and Sustainability Policy online degree program, Reichart received the ISSP’s Sustainability Professional Certification Jan. 7.
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Extracting rare-earth elements from coal could soon be economical in U.S.

The U.S. could soon decrease its dependence on importing valuable rare-earth elements that are widely used in many industries, according to a team of Penn State and U.S. Department of Energy researchers who found a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract these metals from coal byproducts.
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Geosciences-Sponsored Talk - February 5, 2016

College of EMS Headlines - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 15:26

On Friday, February 5th, Geosciences hosts a talk by Kimberly Ennico-Smith, NASA Deputy Project Scientist for the New Horizons Mission (fly-by Pluto and its moons), entitled "New Views of the Pluto System -- Far From Being Boring, Cold, Dead Worlds."  The talk begins at noon in 541 Deike.


More Information About Kimberly Ennico-Smith



Ph.D., Astronomy, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University, England

B.A., Physics, Johns Hopkins University

Research Interests

In her capacity as the New Horizons Mission's Deputy Project Scientist, Dr. Ennico-Smith leads the calibration activities and compositional mapping of Pluto and its moon Charon with color imagery and spectroscopy. Among a number of research activities, she is also a Principal Investigator developing innovative telescope designs using small satellites and actively working to mature low-cost, quick turn-around suborbital and balloon payloads that deliver focused science measurements and promote broader hands-on experiences.

Meet Three Scientists Behind the Pluto Mission

By Megan Hickey, PBS Broadcasting, July 24, 2015

Shortly after the July 14 fly-by of Pluto and its moons, we spoke with three members of the New Horizons mission team: Alice Bowman, the mission operations manager, and Cathy Olkin and Kimberly Ennico-Smith, deputy project scientists...about working on a deep space mission, their reaction to the first round of Pluto images, and how to pronounce the name for Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.



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Quantitative X-ray imaging facility is moving big bytes across the network

Scientists use Penn State’s ‘Big Data’ Research Network and the Center for Quantitative X-ray Imaging facility to help make new discoveries.
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Free screening of climate change documentary 'This Changes Everything' Feb. 3-4

Free screenings of the climate change documentary "This Changes Everything" will be offered 7-9:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 and 4 at the State Theatre. The documentary is based on the book "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" by Naomi Klein.
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Kasting receives NAS Early Earth & Life Sciences Award

James F. Kasting, Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences, will receive the 2015 National Academy of Sciences Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences. The award will be presented with the Stanley Miller Medal.
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NSF RAPID funding awarded to study erupting Momotombo volcano

When Nicaragua's Momotombo volcano, which had been dormant since 1905, erupted on Nov. 30, 2015, Peter LaFemina saw a chance to investigate the volcano in more detail to better understand how and when volcanos erupt. He and two other Penn State researchers -- Christelle Wauthier and Maureen Feineman, both assistant professors of geosciences -- were awarded a grant for just over $40,000 from the National Science Foundation to closely monitor the volcano using a multifaceted approach to assess eruption progress and whether more eruptions might occur. They are working closely with Nicaraguan scientists and communities to provide information on the potential hazards of eruptions.
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Geosciences Colloquium Series - February 2, 2016

College of EMS Headlines - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 07:42

Colloquium Speaker Laura Wallace, Research Scientist, Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin, and 2016 GeoPRISMS Distinguished Lecturer, presents "Sticky or Slippery? Controls on Subduction Megathrust Behavior at the Hikurangi Subduction, New Zealand" at 4 PM in 022 Deike. A pre-talk Coffee & Cookies Speaker Reception takes place at 3:45 PM in the EMS Museum on the ground floor of Deike. All are welcome.

Because the GeoPRISMS Distinguished Lectureship Program is sponsoring Dr. Wallace's participation in our Colloquium, we are looking for good turn-out by the department. GeoPRISMS is an NSF-funded program that supports interdisciplinary and shoreline crossing activities that combine marine and terrestrial approach to study the margins evolution and their dynamics. GeoPRISMS' Distinguished Lecturer is an honor reflecting the quality and impact of the research done by the person selected.

Research Interests, Activities, and Awards

Laura Wallace studies various aspects of tectonic plate movement and subduction zones in New Zealand, including slow slips. She is a specialist in the use of global positioning systems data in this kind of work.

Prior to joining the University of Texas, Dr. Wallace spent ten years working as a geophysicist at GNS Science in New Zealand, one of the best places in the world to study plate tectonics. Much of her scientific career has focused on investigating plate boundary processes at the Hikurangi subduction zone beneath New Zealand's eastern North Island. In 2015/2016 she led the Hikurangi Ocean Bottom Investigation of Tremor and Slow Slip (HOBITSS) project. HOBITSS is an international project that uses seafloor instruments to detect deformation of the seafloor during large slow slip events. 

Global Positioning System (GPS) data is one of the main types of data used by Dr. Wallace in her research. The GPS data collected at permanent survey marks around New Zealand (and elsewhere in the western Pacific) track the movement of the Earth’s crust at tectonic plate boundaries. Her work using GPS data to track crustal movements has produced new insights into where large subduction “megathrust” earthquakes are most likely to occur on the Hikurangi subduction plate boundary beneath the North Island. 

Dr. Wallace discovered the first slow slip event recorded on New Zealand’s GPS network, near Gisborne, in October of 2002. She hopes her research will further the understanding of the relationship between slow slips and earthquakes and tsunamis that have occurred off Gisborne in the past.

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Penn State senior wins prestigious Churchill Scholarship

Penn State senior Ramya Gurunathan has been selected to receive a prestigious Churchill Scholarship, a highly sought-after program that allows American college students to pursue graduate studies in engineering, mathematics or the sciences at the University of Cambridge. Gurunathan is only the second Penn State student to win the Churchill Scholarship since its inception in 1963.
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EMS undergrads research energy, explore regions of Europe through science course

A group of earth and mineral sciences undergraduates explored several regions of Europe through a science course to research energy and learn about different cultures.
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Odds are overwhelming that record heat due to climate change

Record-setting temperatures over the past century and a half are extremely unlikely to have occurred without human-caused climate change, but the odds of that happening are not quite as low as previously reported, according to an international team of meteorologists.
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Student enriches education through study abroad in Ecuador

From the day she first became a Penn State student, Janki Patel knew she wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. A senior double-majoring in energy business and finance (EBF) and Spanish, Patel chose Ecuador for its diverse landscape, the opportunity to improve her Spanish language skills, and to learn about the country’s energy sector.
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Storms, ozone may play pivotal role in rainforest cloud creation

Some storms transport ozone molecules to the canopy of the rainforest, influencing chemical processes that ultimately affect cloud formation, according to an international research team led by Penn State. The team conducted a nine-month study in the central Amazon rainforest of Brazil and their findings could be used to improve climate prediction models to more accurately gauge the Amazon's impact on future global weather patterns.
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Mining social media can help improve disaster response efforts

Leveraging publicly available social media posts could help disaster response agencies quickly identify impacted areas in need of assistance, according to a Penn State-led team of researchers. By analyzing the September 2013 Colorado floods, researchers showed that a combination of remote sensing, Twitter and Flickr data could be used to identify flooded areas.
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Scientists: Ocean warming has doubled in recent decades

Half of the global ocean temperature increase since 1865 has occurred over the last two decades, according to a new study.
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