HWS Geoscience and Environmental Studies Students Deliver Research at GSA Conference – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Geoscience and Environmental Studies Students Deliver Research at GSA Conference

At the 119th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Colorado, five current or former HWS students presented their research results based on the continued research of former students. The conference was held between Saturday Oct. 27 and Wednesday Oct. 31, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, where an estimated 6,300 geoscientists were in attendance.

HWS alumna Megan Crocker ’07, a geoscience major, delivered a presentation on her research of Seneca Lake and the formation of erosional surfaces around the perimeter of the lake, 20 meters below the surface. Working with Assistant Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtin, Crocker explored two proposed hypotheses as to the reason for the erosion.

Gwendolyn Wheatley ’09, who also worked with Curtin, recently analyzed currents in Owasco Lake over the past 16,000 years, finding evidence for significant changes in the strength of lake circulation. They determined that the deep water lake currents appear to have decreased significantly in strength over the past 16,000 years and prevailed during the global transition from warm to cool climates around 5,600 years ago.

With the help of Professor John Halfman of the Department of Geoscience and Environmental Studies Program, Evan Brown ’08 analyzed the water in Owasco Lake and its decline in quality. Over the course of two years, Brown and Halfman tracked the changes in nutrient sources of the lake and the declination of the water quality. They found that the water had improved between 2006 and 2007, possibly due to the smaller amounts of rain in 2007, which minimized the runoff of potentially harmful nutrients into the lake. Therefore, they concluded, if the nutrient sources to the streams were decreased, the quality of the water would improve.

Rachael Dye ’10 examined the salinity of Seneca Lake and its decrease over the past decade. Through her research with Professor Halfman, she found that the reduction of the use of road salt, salt mining activities, or closure of salt pathways through the sediment column are likely causes of the decrease of the lake’s salinity.

In researching the water quality of Seneca Lake, through the investigation of the quality of its tributaries and their trends over time, Casey Franklin ’10 and Professor Halfman found that the quality has decreased over the past decade. Because of their findings, they emphasized the need to correct this deterioration of the water quality before it becomes more serious.