News and Outreach Events 2012

Ancient microbes found living beneath the icy surface of Antarctic lake. Seth Young, a Department of Geological Sciences Research Associate, is a Co-Investigator on this work.
Lake Vida microbe

Quoting a Desert Research Institute press release: This week a pioneering study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) and co-authored by Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) reveals, for the first time, a viable community of bacteria that survives and ekes out a living in a dark, salty and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in one of Antarctica’s most isolated lakes.

Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. A briny liquid that is approximately six times saltier than seawater percolates throughout the icy environment that has an average temperature of minus 13.5 degrees centigrade (or 8 degrees Fahrenheit).

"This study provides a window into one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth," said Murray, the report’s lead author, and molecular microbial ecologist and polar researcher for the past 17 years, who has participated in 14 expeditions to the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent. "Our knowledge of geochemical and microbial processes in lightless icy environments, especially at subzero temperatures, has been mostly unknown up until now. This work expands our understanding of the types of life that can survive in these isolated, cryoecosystems and how different strategies may be used to exist in such challenging environments."

Other links for this study:

  • Microbial life at −13°C in the brine of an ice–sealed Antarctic lake (PDF)
  • Desert Research Institute Press Release (PDF)
  • Oldest, coldest bacterial colony on Earth found in Antarctica (Video)
  • Isolated patch of water, trapped under ice, sustains bacterial community. Salty, ice covered lake may help us model life elsewhere in the Solar System.
Jeff White is appointed as the first Director of the Integrated Program in Environment (IPE) for the Bloomington Campus.

From Lisa Pratt, Departmental Chair: Please join me in warmly welcoming Jeff White as the first Director of the Integrated Program in Environment (IPE) for the Bloomington campus. Jeff’s selection by Dean Singell of the College and Dean Graham of SPEA bodes well for the scientific integrity and curriculum coordination of IPE. As an Adjunct Faculty member in Geological Sciences, Jeff has been actively involved in numerous PhD committees and as a co–principal investigator on externally funded projects.

Quoting the IU News Room: July 3, 2012. "The Center for Research in Environmental Sciences (CRES), established at Indiana University Bloomington in spring 2008, is merging into the new Integrated Program in the Environment.

The program is a joint effort of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences and School of Public and Environmental Affairs. It is being formed following recommendations of the New Academic Directions report approved by the IU Board of Trustees in April 2011.

The Integrated Program in the Environment, involving about 60 IU Bloomington faculty members from multiple departments and schools, will offer students opportunities to obtain joint degrees from the College and SPEA in environmental sciences, environmental and sustainability studies, and environmental management.

IU Bloomington geologist Doug Edmonds calls for new attention to restoring sedimentology of river deltas
Doug Edmonds

Quoting an IU News Article: "Rapid advances in the new and developing field of restoration sedimentology will be needed to protect the world’s river deltas from an array of threats," Indiana University Bloomington geologist Douglas A. Edmonds writes in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The commentary, published this week in the November issue, addresses the fact that land is disappearing from river deltas at alarming rates. And deltas are extraordinarily important: They are ecologically rich and productive, and they are home to about 10 percent of the world’s population." Research Website

CheMin team member, Geosci Professor David Bish comments on the latest mineralogical findings on Mars

Quoting an IU News Room article: "Initial experiments completed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have shown the mineralogy of Martian soil to be similar to that of weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii. Investigators with Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment, including Indiana University Bloomington geologist David Bish, discussed the results Tuesday."

"Much of Mars is covered with dust, and we had an incomplete understanding of its mineralogy," said Bish, CheMin co-investigator and the Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy in the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We now know it is mineralogically similar to basaltic material, with significant amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine, which was not unexpected."

Other News Links
November 4-7: GSA Annual Meeting

The Department presented talks and posters at the annual Geological Society of America meeting in Charlotte, NC more


The 2nd annual Oktoberchess Results are in.

Sam Blazey defeated Simon Brassell for a second year in a row. The tournament succeeded in raising $100 for the Middle Way House.

Results so far: Jeremy Maurer defeated Kevin Webster in Game 2, Rebecca Caldwell won game 3 over Steve Emenheiser, and Sam Blazey defeated Zach Catlin in Game 4. Michael Bramnik had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Simon Brassell won against Rebecca in Game 5, and Sam Blazey outlasted Jeremy Maurer in Game 6.

Simon Brassell has advanced to face Samuel Blazey for the championship game of this year’s Oktoberchess. This is a rematch of last years championship game which was close, but ultimately won by Blazey. Good luck to both competitors.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists sponsors FREE geology tutoring sessions.

Are you struggling in your geology class and need extra help? The American Association of Petroleum Geologist (AAPG) is sponsoring FREE tutoring for ALL geology classes. Monday evenings 6:30-8:30, in room GY 221.

If you have any questions about the program feel free to email Sarah Spencer.

NASA’s Earth Observatory releases glacier research by Michael Prentice and Peter Sauer

In the last few decades, the climate of the tropics has changed significantly, disrupting global weather patterns that impact billions of people. To provide perspective on these changes, a group in the department and the geological survey (Prentice, Sauer, Letsinger) is studying climate change on the island of New Guinea. New Guinea was selected because it neighbors the sprawling western Pacific warm pool, the single largest source of heat and moisture to the global atmosphere, and has tremendous topographic relief. The team is working on records along a vertical transect from the coastal ocean to mountains that reach above 14,000 feet, where ice fields still exist. Records from such an altitudinal transect constrain vertical gradients in atmospheric and oceanic properties that reflect the state of convection over the warm pool, a major component of the tropical circulation.

The IUB group studies fluctuations in New Guinea ice caps, which were surprisingly extensive, over the last several millennia using a variety of records (photo 1). Changes in the ice caps unambiguously reflect temperature changes, a first-order climate variable affected by convection from the warm-pool below. The group also analyzes lake (photo 2) and shallow-marine sediment records in order to understand such properties as sea-surface temperature and hydroclimatic changes at various altitudes on the transect. The program involves collaboration with scientists from the Australian National University, the Institute of Technology at Bandung (Indonesia), the University of Washington, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the University of Maine, and the Bishop Museum (University of Hawaii).


glaciers around Mt. Jayawijaya
Photo 1. The glaciers around Mt. Jayawijaya (upper left corner, 4900 m above sea level) in Papua Province, Indonesia, during the 1970s.
Lake Gwam
Photo 2. Lake Gwam at 3530 m above sea level on the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea
August 5 - NASA Rover Curiosity Lands on Mars

Professors David Bish and Juergen Schieber are living on Martian time at Mission Control, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Quoting IU Newsroom: David Bish, Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy, and Juergen Schieber, Professor of Geological Sciences, helped develop and are now analyzing data from two of the 10 instruments included in the Curiosity mission’s science payload. Both are faculty in the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Schieber, an expert in sedimentary geology, will analyze data from the Mars Hand Lens Imager, a focusable color camera on the turret at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm, which will take close-up photographs of rocks, soil and, if present, ice. Named for the small magnifying lens used in geological field work, the instrument will send back detailed images geologists will analyze to read the environmental history recorded in the rocks and soils of Mars. Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems is the principal investigator for the project.

Bish is co-investigator for CheMin, short for Chemistry and Mineralogy. A powder X-ray diffraction instrument that will identify and quantify the minerals present in Mars rocks and soil, CheMin data will allow assessment of the involvement of water in the formation, deposition or alteration of minerals. more

The Department welcomes new faculty member
Doug Edmonds

Doug Edmond’s office will be on the 5th floor in the Geology building after office renovations are complete. Cody Kirkpatrick is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Atmospheric Sciences, and he will be teaching Atmospheric Science courses this fall.

We anticipate a search in 2012/2013 for two new faculty members in the atmospheric sciences who can help build research and teaching strength in the general areas of hydrometeorology and dynamic meteorology.

Researchers Lisa Pratt and Jeff White, along with Graduate Students Kevin Webster and Sarah Cadieux prepare to deploy to the GETGAMM field site in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. website

On June 27th, the first group of researchers from Indiana University will depart from the New York Air National Guard base in Scotia, New York aboard a C130 cargo plane. They will travel to the town of Kangerlussuaq where they will stay at the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support center (KISS) which is run by members of CH2Hill Polar Services and the KISS management team. Post Doctoral Fellow Seth Young will join the team in early July and stay through the month. The IU researchers will be joined at various times throughout July by collaborators from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Honeybee Robotics, Inc, and Princeton University.

June 21st: Redtail Hawk visits MSBII building.

MSBII Building Manager Ed Bitner writes, "This morning I was advised of a special visitor to MSB-II. His name is Redtail Hawk and if you get a chance you might say hello if you see him. He seems to be hanging around Flynn Picardal’s area a lot this morning which is where I was able to make contact. If you see him you might stop to say hello too."
Photo credit: Jacob Benson


May 8: PEPP Workshop hosted students from 2 area high schools

For the past 12 years, the Indiana University Department of Geological Sciences has led a high-visibility science outreach program called the PEPP Earthquake Science Program. The PEPP program brings research-quality seismic instruments to schools around the state and country. IU has been working with a group of about 20 middle and high schools in Indiana and surrounding states to operate an educational seismograph network, which records everything from local earthquakes and quarry blasting to distant earthquakes from around the globe. Some additional details on the PEPP program are available at

On May 8, we hosted a group of ~30 high school teachers and students from three area high schools for a "PEPP Student Research Symposium", an annual event that allows students to present their own research work, to share their research with peers, and to do a little hands-on training on state-of-the-art seismic data analysis with IU faculty and grad students. The all-day event included presentations by IU Professor Michael Hamburger, Indiana Geological Survey Outreach Coordinator (and IU grad student) Walt Gray, and seismic station tours and seismic exercises led by IU grad students Greg Nelson and Kim Shoemaker. Students from Floyd Central High School in New Albany wowed the audience with two excellent presentations.

  1. The First Prize award went to Michael Bolton, Pete Lamm, Chase Dyer, and Pearce Decker (Floyd Central HS, New Albany), for their presentation, "Pressure Effects on Tornado Seismic Signals."
  2. Second Prize award went to Jessica Sherek, Zak Wright, Abner Miralda (Floyd Central HS, New Albany), for their presentation "Fracking Correlation to Local Earthquakes."

The group also included a teleconference connection with Penn High School students from Mishawaka. All told, it was a great way to "share the wealth" of seismology research with teachers and students from across the state.

May 1: OIINK seismic experiment website launched

OIINK = Ozarks, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky seismic experiment. "Unraveling the secrets of North America’s continental interior." Dr. Michael Hamburger and Dr. Gary Pavlis, project directors.

The OIINK experiment is the product of a collaborative research effort between Indiana University, Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Indiana and Illinois state geological surveys. The project seeks to apply state–of–the–art seismic monitoring and data analysis techniques to understand the deep geological structure and seismic activity in North America's continental interior. The project will help us to better understand the basic geological processes that were involved in the assembly and evolution of our continent, as well as the processes that are continually modifying its structure. Ultimately, the research will help us better understand– and better prepare for– the hazards associated with future earthquakes in our region. The project is part of a national scientific initiative, dubbed "EarthScope", which includes the deployment of "USArray", the largest seismic network in the nation's history.

April 6: "Cutting Through Ancient Evidence of Human Tool Use"
Jackson Njau

GeoSci Researcher Jackson Njau's article, published April 6, 2012 in Science, titled "Reading Pliocene Bones," prompted an interview by Chris Gorski with Inside Science News.

Quoting Mr. Gorski: "The earliest evidence of human tool use may be written on the bones of other animals, but in order to produce reliable conclusions, researchers are calling for improved tools and analysis, including an easy-to-access large collection of sample specimens and more unified standards. Archaeologists and anthropologists look beyond the fossils of ancient human relatives to interpret the presence of our ancestors, including the items associated with day-to-day life, from discarded tools to the ashes from fire pits. The marks made by crude stone cutting tools on the bones of animals that early humans ate are another piece of evidence."

April 6

From the IU News Room: "IU Bloomington researcher: Analytical standards needed for 'reading' Pliocene bones"

Quoting the news release, "BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Researchers studying human origins should develop standards for determining whether markings on fossil bones were made by stone tools or by biting animals, Indiana University faculty member Jackson Njau writes in an article this week in the journal Science.

Njau, a co-director of field research at paleontological sites in eastern Africa’s Olduvai Gorge, notes that the lack of agreement on interpreting such marks is leading to great uncertainty over when early hominids began using tools to kill and butcher animals – a fundamental step in human evolution. "

Indiana University 2012 Spring Energy Challenge, April 2-23
Green Team

Once again, the Department of Geological Sciences and the Indiana Geological Survey are participating in the 2012 IU Spring Energy Challenge. This is a 3-week challenge, beginning Monday April 2 and ending April 23, to reduce energy and water consumption in our building. We are in the Academic Buildings Division. This year, we are determined to take the trophy back from those SPEONs (who stole it from us last year)! By the way, this is REAL MONEY. IU annually spends over $20 million in utility bills, and every dollar saved is one that can be used for some other good academic purpose (like Cody Zeller's scholarship!). Past energy challenges have saved the University in excess of $20,000.

How Does It Work?

In essence, we are competing against our own past record. A baseline has been established for our building based on the 2-week period prior to the start of the challenge. The goal is to have the highest, combined percentage reduction of electricity and water. Readings will be taken once a week, tallied, and posted on the IU Energy Challenge website:

What Can You Do?

We are asking you to show your commitment to greening our workplace by following the suggestions below. We ask you to choose which ones are most attainable for you- we do not expect everyone to be a purist. Everyone’s effort, small or large, will make a difference. Encourage your co-workers and give them gentle reminders when you see them engaging in unsustainable activities.


We have been told that the way to ’win’ is to turn off the lights! So:

  • We are open for business, but we don't need every light on in the building
  • Hallway lighting can be reduced to every other light
  • Don't turn on office/lab lighting unless entering the room for a span of time
  • The sun is a great source of light – use it if possible
  • Turn off your lights when leaving any room for longer than 5 minutes
  • Disable your screen saver
  • Put your computer on standby, turn off your monitor and peripherals when you leave the office
  • Unplug your appliances (space heater, coffee pot, microwave, mini-fridge, chargers) – appliances use energy even when sitting idle
  • Fire the elevator! Take a walk up, get some exercise, make some new friends in the stairwell.

We will be posting signs around the building to inform visitor to the building of the challenge and our goals. We will have additional signs for staff, as well as emails, to serve as friendly reminders and to provide some facts, tips, and tricks for greener living.

If you have any questions about the Energy Challenge or general green activities, please feel free to contact me, Michael Hamburger (, G415) for the Department, or Marni Karaffa (, S-325) for the Survey.

The Energy Challenge has been highly publicized across campus and throughout the Bloomington Community. This gives us a chance to show the community what we are capable of as an organization and that we are invested in sustaining our environment for the future. Moreover, this challenge can help us refine the habits that we developed through past practices.

March 30-31: Crossroads Geology Conference

The Crossroads Annual Geology Conference March 30th and 31st, sponsored by ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and IUSA. For those of you unfamiliar with Crossroads, it is a regional conference hosted by SGE and AAPG to give graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to present their research. There will be representatives from various companies to meet with students and act as judges for presentations. Cash prizes will be awarded for the best poster and oral presentations.

Retired faculty still pursuing research activities

Emeriti professors Enrique Merino (Geosci) and David Dilcher (Biology/GeoSci) have both applied for Retired Faculty Grants-in-Aid of Research from the IU Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

David Dilcher, a member of the National Academy, studies the anatomy and morphology of fossil plants, specifically ancient flowers, so he has strong research ties to both geologists and biologists.

Enrique Merino's Cuban project is aligned with his long-term interest in the uneven weathering of limestone bedrock that creates a landscape punctuated by sinkholes, caves, and pinnacles. This project was awarded $2,000 from the Retired Faculty Grant-in-Aid of Research to provide assistance for his project, "Field trip to, and genesis of, the tower karst landscape at Vinales, Cuba".

IU scientists detect seismic signals produced by tornado activity

Quoting the IU News Room: "An Indiana University geophysical experiment detected unusual seismic signals associated with tornadoes that struck regions across the Midwest last week -- information that may have value for meteorologists studying the atmospheric activity that precedes tornado disasters. " more

Geology Faculty Chen Zhu and Claudia Johnson co-author a course about geologic time.

Quoting the IU News Room: Their article, "Looking Back to Move Ahead: How Students Learn Geologic Time by Predicting Future Environmental Impacts," was published in the current issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching. link to the article

USGS Director visits IU

Quoting the Indiana Daily Student: "As a kickoff to the 175th birthday of IU's Geological Survey, U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt was invited to campus to give a lecture titled "Earthquakes Near and Far: A Study in Community Resiliency," which took place Monday afternoon in the IU Fine Arts Auditorium. The event was organized by the Department of Geological Sciences and IU Geology Professor Michael Hamburger." more

USGS Director Empnasizes Earthquake Preparedness at IU

Quoting WTIU News: "The nation's top geologist told an audience that Hoosier's should be prepared for an earth and for a growing transition to renewable energy. Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Marcia McNutt says cities can best prepare for earthquakes by enforcing smart building standards." here and on YouTube here

Announcement of G420 Field Trip to Newfoundland
Trip departs ~May 17th, returns ~June 3rd.

IU Geology will join a 5-day, regional geology/tectonics field excursion across Newfoundland associated with the Geological Assoc. Canada/Miner. Assoc. Canada (GAC/MAC) conference in St. Johns, Newfoundland led by Cees van Staal.

Seminars meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Fridays beginning March 2nd will prepare participants for this transect across Laurentian rocks, and rocks that provide evidence for the Taconic, Salinic, and Acadian orogenies. Each student will be responsible for writing a part of our field trip guide and for preparing an oral presentation for the seminar. Credit can be given for Spring semester G420, or 6-weeks summer term, both 3 credits.

Grades will be based on class/field participation, oral and written guidebook contributions, and in-field exercises. Trip is limited to no more than 12 students, so make your interest known to Bob Wintsch as soon as possible. We will also participate in GAC/MAC conference May 27-29; IU participants are encouraged to submit an abstract. See;

Prerequisites: Required: G222, Petrology. Highly Recommended, G323. Structural Geology. Expenses: participants will provide all of their own food, and should expect to contribute $200 to the cost of room and transportation.