Earth & Space Sciences Newsletter

From Chair Winglee

Chair WingleeAfter 10 years of service as Chair of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences, I will be stepping down on June 30, 2015. During these past 10 years, the Department moved back to the newly renovated Johnson Hall, merged into the new College of the Environment, and withstood major cutbacks of state funding during the Big Recession. It has been an amazing time of growth and success; hiring 14 academic professors and three lecturers, successfully launching the professional Master’s program MESSAGe, and nearly doubling our majors while continuing our teaching innovations.

Let us not forget all of the successful grants, papers, and initiatives accomplished by our faculty generating five to eight million dollars a year for our research program, which resulted in our achievements being acknowledged by US News and World Report as the Fifth Best University for Geosciences in the World.

The growth of our department continues as we welcome our new Glaciology hire, Assistant Professor Knut Christianson, who begins this autumn; and we are currently in negotiations with a new hire for Geobiology and Sedimentary Geology Assistant Professor.

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that the new Chair of ESS is Professor Bruce Nelson. He has done a great job as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of the Environment and we look forward to his leadership within ESS for the next several years.

Robert Winglee
Chair and Professor
Earth and Space Sciences

From Chair Nelson

Chair NelsonIt is an enormous advantage to begin my tenure as Chair of ESS in a department that is vibrant, successful, and comprised of the highest caliber of faculty, staff and students. I look forward to using the momentum of impressive growth that Robert has guided us through over the past decade to continue our progress in developing excellence in teaching and research. We look forward to Robert’s continued contributions to the department – after a short but much needed sabbatical – when he will continue research, teaching, and field work (e.g., launching rockets and blowing things up for science).

In ESS we will continue to innovate in teaching so that we are relevant to an increasing diversity of student goals and backgrounds, and effectively provide students with options to pursue a broad range of career paths. As federal funding for research in the geosciences continues to shrink, our faculty will find new, entrepreneurial ways to support research and advanced training of graduate students. We face the challenge of growing our strength in fundamental and applied research as we continue to show society that its investment in the university is returned many times over by providing expertise, knowledge and understanding of our planet that informs and guides decision makers in private and public sectors.

Our department is now within a still youthful, but also more mature College of the Environment. Over the past four years as Associate Dean for Research in the College, I have gained an understanding of the great potential for us to collaborate with the other units. Collaboration is a way to innovate in research and education, and to be more effective within the University. I look forward to working with other units in the College.

To realize our plans and ambitions, we will continue also to rely on our alumni and friends for support of students, faculty and research within the department. As a new chair I will be on a steep learning curve, but I look forward to getting to know the many of you who are also invested in the success of ESS.

Bruce Nelson
Chair and Professor
Earth and Space Sciences


Faculty Research

CAREII Rocket – Professor Bob Holzworth

Professor Bob Holzworth and Research Associate Professor Michael McCarthy have teamed together to develop the CAREII rocket payload that will be launched on a Black Brant XI rocket in a collaboration between NASA and the US Naval Research Labs. The rocket will be launched in September from Andenes, Andoya, Norway to study the properties of dusty plasmas in space. Such dusty plasmas could be formed during the impact of a meteor on the Earth’s atmosphere. In the experiment the dusty plasma will be created by the ignition of 37 small rocket motors which can be seen facing the camera on the aft payload section. In the forward section, the large booms will measure the electric field associated with the dusty plasma created by the rocket motors. These booms were built here in the UW Physics Shop and fold up into the nosecone. The actual Black Brant XI motor is not shown here. The payload is undergoing integration at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (part of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and will be shipped to Norway this summer.


IsoLab in Nature

Earth and Space Sciences faculty and students had back-to-back papers in the same issue of Nature on April 30th. Both papers were based on data produced under the direction of Roger Buick, Eric Steig and Andrew Schauer in our own IsoLab.

Read more about the exciting research below:

* Precise interpolar phasing of abrupt climate change during the last ice age, by WAIS Divide Project Members, including ESS faculty, students, and postdocs, Eric Steig, Ed Waddington, Howard Conway, T.J. Fudge, Brad Markle, Andrew Schauer, Spruce Schoenemann and Mai Winstrup.

* Isotopic evidence for biological nitrogen fixation by molybdenum-nitrogenase from 3.2 Gyr, by Eva E. Stüeken, Roger Buick, Bradley M. Guy and Matthew C. Koehler.


Departmental Happenings

Noell Bernard-Kingsley

Staff Awards

Noell Bernard-Kingsley, Director of Academic Services, won the 2015 National NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit in Academic Advising.

Faculty Awards

The 2014 Geological Society of America (GSA) held its annual convocation this past October in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Several ESS faculty were recognized for their outstanding careers and achievements.

Faculty Member Fang-Zhen Teng

ESS Associate Professor Fang-Zhen Teng was the recipient of the Mineralogical Society of America's 2014 early career award and was elected as a Life Fellow of the Society. The award is intended to recognize outstanding contributions to the science of broadly defined mineralogy by a relatively young individual before the age of 35. There was also a session held in his name entitled "Frontiers in Non-Traditional Stable Isotopes: In Honor of Fang-Zhen Teng, Recipient of the 2014 MSA Award".

Emeritus Faculty Member Eric Cheney

Professor Emeritus Eric S. Cheney was recognized for his diverse career at a session held in his honor. Several UW alumni and faculty were speakers at the session, which was followed by a reception where alumnus Tom Patton announced the initiation of a drive to fund a Chair in Economic Geology in ESS.

Faculty Member Darrel Cowan

Professor Darrel Cowan was awarded the 2014 Structural Geology and Tectonics Career Contribution Award. This award is given to an individual who throughout his/her career has made numerous distinguished contributions that have clearly advanced the science of structural geology or tectonics.

Faculty Member Dave Montgomery

Professor David Montgomery took home the prestigious 2014 James H. Shea Award, given annually by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. The award is for exceptional contributions in the form of writing and/or editing of Earth science information that is of interest to the public and Earth science teachers. The award was established in 1991 to honor Shea, the longtime editor of the Journal of Geoscience Education.

Faculty Member  Jody Bourgeois

Professor Jody Bourgeois was just notified that she will be the recipient of the Laurence L. Sloss Award. This is the Division of Sedimentary Geology’s highest honor and will be presented to Jody in November 2015 at the GSA meeting in Baltimore.

At this year’s College of the Environment Spring Celebration, two of our faculty were presented with awards. Juliet Crider received the Outstanding Teaching Faculty Award and Fang-Zhen Teng received the Exceptional Mentoring of Undergraduate Students Award.

Passings - Ghose

Professor Subrata Ghose

Emeritus Research Professor Subrata Ghose passed in January 2015. Subrata started in the Geological Sciences Department here at UW in 1972 and retired in June 2005. Fluent in ten languages, he traveled to over 50 countries across seven continents. He made important scientific discoveries such as the new mineral Ghoseite and worked on the first lunar samples from the Apollo missions. Last year he established the Ghose Foundation to support underprivileged women and children in developing countries such as Afghanistan and India.

Passings - Porter

Professor Stephen Porter

Emeritus Professor Stephen Porter passed away in California in February 2015. He began his career in the Geological Sciences Department in 1962 and retired in September 2002. During his career he directed a distinguished program of research and teaching in alpine glacial geology and geomorphology, quaternary stratigraphy and chronology, volcanology and tephronchronology, and paleoclimatology. Steve was a major inspirational figure in the department and in the Quaternary Research Center for decades, and also in the scientific world at large. To recognize his contributions to the Quaternary Research Center, the University of Washington and interdisciplinary Quaternary science, the Stephen C. Porter Quaternary Research Center (QRC) Student Research Fund has been established in his memory. This endowed fund will support student research and travel in the service of Quaternary studies.


Student Life

Student Awards

Professor Gonzalo Hernandez

Emily Newsom, a Ph.D. student in our department has been selected by The Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) as one of 85 doctoral students nationwide to receive a $15,000 academic Scholar Award for 2015-16. She was sponsored by Chapter FD, Medford, Oregon.

Emily studies the role of the ocean in moderating the climate experienced at the earth’s surface. She focuses on the way the ocean surface absorbs heat out of the atmosphere in response to climate change which will further understanding of the fundamental physics of the ocean-atmosphere system. Emily has integrated the complexity of political and social processes into her approach as a climate scientist. Congratulations Emily!

Congratulations to three of our students who received NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Awards this year. The recipients are:

Three additional students received Honorable Mentions for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Awards:

Research Gala

The Sixth Annual Research Gala was held April 2-3, 2015, which is a graduate student-organized symposium supported by the department. The Gala provides a venue for graduates and undergraduates to present their work to colleagues, academics from other departments, and professional scientists in the community. The best student presentations receive awards funded by faculty and donors. This year there were 19 talks, 24 posters and 32 photo submissions. Winners and more information can be found here.

ESS Research Gala

UW undergraduate student Nicolas Gutierrez

ESS Field Camp

Earth and Space Sciences and one of its departmental predecessors, Geological Sciences, have a long tradition of requiring a field course for our majors. In the summer of 1985, we began siting the course in southwestern Montana at the University of Montana Western in Dillon where approximately 30 students enroll into the six-week course. This location provides ready access to many field areas within a 45-minute drive in the southwestern portion of the state. Current projects include: two geologic mapping exercises and the construction of a stratigraphic section in the Late Cretaceous Montana fold-thrust belt; mapping aimed at the reconstruction of early Tertiary geologic history and paleo-topography resulting from the Laramide Orogeny; and mapping Pleistocene glacial landforms to interpret the glacial history during two successive late Pleistocene valley glaciations. A recent new six-day neo-tectonic and fluvial geomorphology project centers on an area where a creek flows across an active normal fault, beautifully illustrating how a river responds when its base level is abruptly lowered.

In 2012, ESS added another summer option for field camp for students to spend three weeks working on two projects near Dillon and three weeks in Seattle digitizing maps. This option requires students to have taken a quarter-long introduction to geological geographic information systems (GIS) at the UW campus in Seattle.

Both courses are pedagogically, physically, and intellectually challenging, but most students will judge the experience to be one of the highlights of their undergraduate careers not only in ESS but also at UW. In this capstone course, we teach more than how to make geological maps; we have our students come face-to-face with rocks and the earth’s surface in the field so they can better appreciate and understand earth history and geologic processes. We greatly appreciate our generous donors who help make field camp possible.

ESS Field Camp ESS Field Camp ESS Field Camp


ESS Annual Awards Ceremony 2015

Each year ESS recognizes our top undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff at the Annual Awards Ceremony. This May several donors were onsite for the festivities and to help present the awards, including Tucker Barksdale, Emeritus Professor Eric Cheney, Katherine Reinleitner of the Mindlin Foundation, North Seattle Lapidary and Mineral Club representatives Marcia Skinner and Rick Fogel, and others, including many members of our very own faculty.

Tucker Barksdale and Eric Cheney presented the Julian D. Barksdale Service Award to Andrew Schauer and also presented the Julian D. and Marajane Barksdale Undergraduate Student Awards to Daniel Aguilar and Guy Gisea-Wilson.

ESS Awards

Barksdale and Cheney awarding the Julian D. Barksdale Service Award to Schauer

ESS Awards

Winglee awarding the Excellence in Teaching Award to Duvall

Other award highlights included Assistant Professor Alison Duvall receiving the Robert G. and Nadine E. Bassett Excellence in Teaching Award, and Adam Campbell and Lu Liu receiving the David A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship Award for the top two research graduates.

Sarah Harbert was the recipient of the Robert and Mary Alice Crosson Graduate Student Support award; Carrie Garrison-Laney received the Vance Fellowship in Geology Science, and Emma Yan Hu received the Kenneth C. Robbins Fellowship.

Nik Midttun swept the Undergraduate Service Award and Douglas E. Merrill Prize for Excellence award categories for his outstanding enthusiasm in Geoclub and high scholastic achievement in geological sciences. Sarah Schanz was the recipient of the Howard A. Coombs Teaching Excellence Fellowship.

These are just a few of the award recipients who are supported by generous donors and faculty endowments. Many thanks to all of our supporters for their contributions which enhance the education and research opportunities within ESS.

Congratulations to our all of our award winners. Further award details and more photos can be found on our website.