Emily Cummings ’12 and Laura Carver Dionne ’13 recently had the opportunity to present a paper they co-authored with Professor of Geoscience John Halfman at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo. The paper, “Nutrient Loading from the Three Major Tributaries in the Seneca Lake Watershed,” focuses on water quality degradation in Seneca Lake, specifically nutrients from the watershed getting into the lake leading to the creation of algae.
The nutrients, coming from sources such as septic systems, waste water treatment facilities, and agricultural runoff, cause the algae to grow, making the lake’s color turn green. As the lake becomes greener, it becomes less desirable for tourists, which can be a serious problem for Finger Lakes region communities that rely heavily on tourism, they reported.
Halfman, a frequent presenter at the Geological Society of America conferences, brought both Cummings and Dionne along to present the paper and listen to the presentations of other geologists. From Oct. 30 through Nov. 2, the trio was in Denver with approximately 6,000 other geologists.
“It was an amazing experience for them to go and hear other geologists talk about similar concerns; it’s really eye opening,” says Halfman. “Also, to hear professionals talk of issues the students haven’t learned of yet is very stimulating.”
Cummings and Dionne worked with Halfman over the summer as interns for the faculty-advised summer research project. Each year, interested and motivated students apply for these projects, typically within the academic department of their major. Once chosen, the students spend the summer, working either one-on-one with a professor or in a small group, on their research topic. Dionne, a geoscience major, loved the topic of research so much that she will spend this semester continuing research with Halfman as an independent study.
“The Environmental Studies program at HWS allows students to learn about environmental concerns through differing lenses,” says Cummings, an environmental studies and engineering double major, who is also enrolled in the joint engineering program between HWS and Dartmouth College. As such, upon graduation, she will receive a B.S. from HWS and a B.S. in engineering from Dartmouth.
Halfman joined the HWS faculty in 1994 after teaching earth science and civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He received his B.S. from the University of Miami magna cum laude, his M.S. from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. from Duke University. Halfman has been researching large lakes since the 1980’s, the Finger Lakes since the early 1990’s, and has done research on Lake Superior and the East African Rift Lake. His research on the Finger Lakes includes the collection of limnological and hydrogeochemical data to investigate records of environmental change, the hydrogeochemical impact of zebra mussels, the source and fate of non-point source pollutants within these watersheds and water quality variability between watersheds. In addition to being active in research, Halfman is also the founder, science coordinator and active member of the Finger Lakes Institute.