MEAS Newsletter

Summer 2016

Department News

Marine Science
Earth Science
Atmospheric Science
In the Classroom and the Field
From Our Students


New faculty! MEAS has hired 3 new faculty this spring:

Lisa Falk will join MEAS in August as a teaching assistant professor. Lisa will teach the College of Sciences freshman orientation course in the fall, and in spring she will teach sections of MEAS introductory courses. Lisa has a Ph.D. in petrology and geochemistry from Columbia University.hyland_150

Ethan Hyland arrives in January 2017 as an assistant professor of geology. Ethan is a sedimentary geologist who studies Earth’s past climates. His Ph.D. in climate change (geology) is from the University of Michigan.arendt_150

Carli Arendt will join MEAS in August 2017 as an assistant professor of geology. Carli is a geochemist and a glaciologist who studies the chemistry of glacial and ice sheet outflow waters. Her Ph.D., from the University of Michigan, is in glaciology.

Thanks to the efforts of Laura Holland and the MEAS web team, the MEAS website has a new look with easier access and more engaging links. The team included Anantha Aiyyer (associate professor), Walt Robinson (department head), Hans Taylor (graduate student), Karl Wegmann (associate professor), and also Nate DeGraff and Scott Thompson from the College of Sciences.

As of fall, 2015, the College of Sciences (COS) has a new dean. William Ditto comes to NC State from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dean Ditto is a physicist who specializes in nonlinear dynamics and chaotic systems. There is a great article about him on the College of Sciences website. Ditto replaces Daniel Solomon, who served as the dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences for 13 years and who launched the new College of Sciences in 2013.

gwatson_thumbGerald F. “Jerry” Watson, a dedicated faculty member in atmospheric sciences for 27 years, passed away on Jan. 28, 2016. He received his Ph.D. in meteorology from Florida State University in 1971 and joined the Department of Geosciences (now MEAS) at NC State shortly thereafter. His primary research and teaching interests were in the areas of synoptic and mesoscale structure of mid-latitude weather systems, numerical methods, dynamics and atmospheric modeling.  Jerry was a strong supporter of the American Meteorological Society chapter at NC State and promoted interactions between the local National Weather Service and university meteorologists and students.  He was an amateur astronomer, co-founding the Raleigh Astronomy Club. In 1999 Jerry retired from the university as associate professor of meteorology. For a more detailed description of Jerry’s contributions to our department, see the obituary written by Al Riordan, a fellow colleague and friend, or the obituary in his hometown newspaper.

The Gerald F. “Jerry” Watson Memorial Fund has been established to honor Jerry’s memory, most notably his commitment to generations of meteorology students at NC State. Contributions are welcome, and can be made here. As of this writing, more than $9,000 has been collected, so we are well on our way to reaching our goal of $25,000. When this threshold is reached, an endowed meteorology scholarship — the Watson Scholarship — will be established. Thank you to all those who have contributed.

Karen McNealAs part of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Geoscience Education Research Division highlights the career and research of one professional in the field and asks that person to discuss current research interests and share favorite articles to read, especially for early career researchers in geoscience education. In December, 2015, the website highlighted our own, Karen McNeal, who is an associate professor in MEAS specializing in geoscience education. In the write-up, Karen discusses her research interests, which focus on the affective and cognitive domains of learning about complex Earth systems and specifically climate change phenomena.  She also highlights some of her favorite geoscience research articles as well as providing advice to early career geoscience education researchers. Karen came to NC State from Mississippi State University in 2013. See the full article.

Marine Science News

A National Science Foundation research grant for a custom-built Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) has been awarded to four marine science faculty. unmanned_300 Del Bohnenstiehl, Dave Eggleston, Chris Osburn, and Jeff Buckel recently launched their new research tool that provides a robotic, shallow-water platform for surveying the seafloor and mapping water quality. When fully equipped, the GPS-based USV will have sensors for assessing salinity, temperature, density, detailed bathymetry, subsurface sediment profiling, algal pigment abundance, ocean color, as well as acoustic receivers for monitoring the “soundscape” of coastal environments. A USV demonstration by Bohnenstiehl was conducted for the Marine Science Summer Field Course in mid-May 2016, in Bogue Sound behind the CMAST coastal facility. For a more detailed description of this new high-tech instrument, see this article in the CMAST newsletter.

Stuart Bishop, a newly arrived MEAS physical oceanographer, has had a pretty productive winter and spring. Stu, an assistant professor at NC State since November 2015, along with his colleagues from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Caltech, and Columbia University, have a new publication in the Journal of Physical Oceanography on the Stuart Bishopeffects of increasing winds over the Southern Ocean on ocean circulation and the important role oceanic eddies play in this process. This winter Stuart and colleagues from NCAR were awarded a 2-year NASA grant to understand the time- and space-scale dependence of air-sea interaction with a focus on mesoscale eddies. Stu is also excited to be purchasing an autonomous ocean glider called a Seaglider, which can take high-resolution water property measurements of the upper kilometer of the ocean every four hours for up to six months in targeted locations. Jasen Jacobsen (from Humboldt State University) will be joining Stu’s lab this fall as a Ph.D. student. Stu and Jasen plan to deploy the Seaglider off the remote and under-sampled coast of Cape Mendocino in northern California during the spring and summer upwelling season. The region is fraught with oceanic eddies. The goals of the project are to understand the role of these ocean eddies in the cross-shelf transport of heat, dissolved oxygen, and carbon using the high-resolution glider data and assimilative modeling. Stu also has been building U.S. and international support for a field campaign called Carbon Hot Spot in the western north Pacific near the Kuroshio Extension region. The goals of this project are to understand the roles of oceanic eddies in heat and carbon sequestration. The Kuroshio Extension and Gulf Stream regions are thought to be major players in oceanic carbon sequestration. More details about Stu’s research can be found on his MEAS website.

Del Bohnenstiehl and David Eggleston study underwater soundscapes, including reef ecosystems. Much of the sound created in these systems comes from “snapping shrimp” that live in reef environments, such as the oyster reefs off the North Carolina coast. The shrimp (only 1-2 inches in size) live on the ocean floor and make their sound by rapidly closing the larger of their two claws. Snapping shrimp can close their claws at a speed of about 60 miles per hour. When they do, a giant cavitation bubble, or air bubble, forms. Then water rushes back into the air bubble, generating powerful energy, and a loud snapping sound occurs. Former NC State graduate student Ashlee Lillis, now a postdoc at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is interested in patterns in oyster reef sounds, because she believes that the natural background noise of the reef could play a key role in helping organisms, including larvae, find reef habitat. For more details concerning this cutting edge research, and to hear what snapping shrimp sound like underwater, see the NC State news article.

shipwreck_300On July 12th, 2015, marine scientists from NC State, Duke University and the University of Oregon discovered a shipwreck that might date back to the American Revolution. Dave Eggleston (MEAS) and Cindy Van Dover (Duke Marine Lab) were principal investigators on a research cruise examining larval dispersal in the deep ocean, when they stumbled across the sunken ship and associated artifacts. The shipwreck was spotted while using WHOI’s robotic autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and the manned submersible Alvin during a research expedition aboard the WHOI research ship Atlantis. The find was reported to NOAA’s Marine Heritage Program, which will attempt to date the age of the shipwreck and identify the lost ship. For more information concerning this discovery, see the NC State College of Sciences newsletter article.

Earth Science News

David McConnellDavid McConnell has been named a fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA)! This honor comes in recognition of David’s many important contributions to geoscience education. David joins Ron Fodor as the GSA fellows among our active faculty. Four emeritus MEAS faculty are GSA fellows: Henry Brown, Jim Hibbard, Skip Stoddard and Chuck Welby.

Since coming to MEAS in August 2015 as an assistant professor in planetary geology, Paul Byrne has developed a new Planetary Research Group. He has recruited several new graduate students for Fall 2016 and has already introduced planetary examples into his structural geology and tectonics course. byrne-thumbPaul is also planning a new planetary atmospheres, earth surfaces, and oceans course for Fall 2016. On the research front, Paul is building a physical modeling laboratory at MEAS with which to develop and test models for crustal deformation and landscape evolution on Earth and other planets. He has also submitted two NASA proposals, participated in NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, and given three invited presentations in the U.S. and Europe since starting at MEAS. More about Paul’s research interests can be found on his MEAS website.

Researchers from MEAS and the Center for Geospatial Analytics — Anna Petrasova, Brendan Harmon, Vaclav Petras, and Helena Mitasova — have published Tangible Modeling with Open Source GIS, a new book on the Tangible Landscape, an innovative tangible geospatial modeling system powered by GRASS GIS. This first-of-its-kind book providmitasova_lab_300es an overview of tangible interfaces, describes the design and implementation of Tangible Landscape, discusses methods of digital fabrication, and demonstrates applications including landscape management, trail planning, wildfire management and coastal adaptation.

This January, Mitasova’s team of graduate students organized an interactive seminar on Serious Gaming with Tangible Landscape as part of the Coffee & Viz event series presented by NC State Libraries. Participants explored how serious, analytical games can be deployed to simulate real world problems, like tracking emerging infectious diseases and mitigating the impacts of storm surge, and helping develop innovative solutions. In the Spring 2016 semester, the group used Tangible Landscapes in the geospatial modeling and analysis class to enhance understanding of spatial concepts and algorithms.

Atmospheric Science News

The North Carolina State Climate Office took an active role in the 96th American Meteorological Society national meeting held in New Orleans in January 2016. Aaron Sims, associate state climatologist, presented results from his Ph.D. research on convective storm development and interactions in the sandhills of the Carolinas. Adrienne Wootten, a graduate student researcher, presented material from three different projects related to her dissertation research (one poster on the effects of model resolution on simulated precipitation, a talk on uncertainty in downscaled climate projections, and a second talk on the sensitivity of modeling precipitation in Puerto Rico). Geneva Gray, a graduate student researcher, presented work on the use of climate data in ecosystem modeling around Camp Lejeune, N.C. Michael Brackett, an undergraduate student researcher, presented a poster on his evaluation of several data sets across eastern North Carolina. Sam Roback, an undergraduate student researcher, presented a poster on two methods deriving precipitation type in weather models and verifying their results. For more on activities of the North Carolina State Climate Office, see their website.

The State of North Carolina and Hunan Province in China are sister states. This is all because of the sacrifice of one North Carolina-born American pilot, Robert Hoyle Upchurch, who served as a “Flying Tigers” pilot, led by General Chennault, to help the Chinese fight against the Japanese invasion during WWII. Upchurch died on a mission to Hunan Province in October 1944. No one knew what happened to him. He had been listed as MIA for over 60 years. His family members had hoped for many years that one day he could return. In 2005, his remains were found and identified and in April 2006, he was finally reunited with his parents in a graveyard behind the High Falls Methodist Church in Robbins, N.C. You can learn more about this historic and heroic event by watching the award-winning documentary: Unforgotten: in memory of the “Flying Tigers.”

For his involvement in the this story (2006 through 2013), Lian Xie, professor of marine meteorology, was awarded in October 2013 the highest state of North Carolina honor that could be bestowed upon a North Carolina citizen not born in the state. The award was made by the governor of North Carolina.

Education and Teaching: Classroom and Field Activities

The Department of MEAS is certainly “in the field” this summer with both field courses, Marine Science summer field course and the Geology field camp, active in May/June this year.  Students in the Marine Science field course start out with a five-day Outer banks field trip, followed by three weeks of hands on experiential learning with field cruises, equipment demonstrations, and lecture/labs focusing on all aspects of marine science (biological, chemical, geological and physical) in a variety of coastal environments. This year there are 17 undergraduate students, five MEAS faculty, and three graduate students participating in the coastal field course, centered out of the NC State CMAST facility.

The Geology field camp has 18 undergraduate students and three MEAS faculty participating this year.  The class focused their studies on the transition zones between the Colorado Plateau, geology_fieldtrip300Southern Rocky Mountains, Jemez Volcanic Field and Rio Grande Rift, all in northern New Mexico. The course was based out of the Ghost Ranch and Ft. Burgwin Field Stations along the flanks of the Rio Grande Rift in northern New Mexico. In this geology field course, students learn to represent the surface and subsurface geology through traditional field mapping techniques as well as cutting-edge shallow geophysics. Projects ranged from mapping out intensely deformed 1.8 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks that represent part of the early assembly of the North American continent, to reconstructing the landscape evolution as recorded in river terrace and spring deposits (travertine) resulting from ~ one million years of glacial-interglacial climate change and active faulting associated with the continental Rio Grande Rift. During the geophysics part of the course, students were involved in geo-archaeological studies of former Pueblo sites near Taos.

Fall Break 2015  – Zion National Park – Geology Field Course (MEA 599)

This past fall, 28 students (undergraduates and graduate students), one post-doc, and one alumnus joined MEAS faculty Karl Wegmann, David McConnell and Paul Byrne for the zion_300annual Fall-Break Regional Geology Field Course (MEA 599). This year’s destination was to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah and surrounding regions of the Basin and Range transition zone and Colorado Plateau. Highlights included summiting a Pleistocene cinder cone near St. George, Utah; hiking the famous Angel’s Landing Trail at Zion National Park; and exploring the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon near Page, Ariz. The Annual Regional Geology Field Course exposes students to world-class geoscience locations in North America, where they have the opportunity to learn about earth science in some of the most spectacular settings our country has to offer. For the 2016 Fall Break trip, faculty and students are headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Interested alumni are encouraged to participate and/or to help underwrite some of the costs of participation for students. If interested, please contact the course director, Karl Wegmann, at

Del Bohnenstiehl teaches an Exploration Geophysics class (MEA 471). This year the class field site was Oberlin Cemetery, an historic African American cemetery in Raleigh.oberlin1 The class used ground penetrating radar to locate unmarked grave sites in a collaborative effort with the Friends of Oberlin Cemetery to obtain recognition for and preserve this historic setting. Other NC State faculty involved in the effort include John Millhauser and Dru McGill in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Alicia McGill in the Department of History and Darrell Stover in the African American Studies Program.

From Our Students: Current and Past

Stephen Carpenter is an undergraduate Goodnight Scholar, majoring in Geology.  Stephen recently was the focus of a Goodnight Scholars interview. In this interview Stephen talks about what it is like to be a Goodnight Scholar, his greatest achievement at NC State (serving as assistant geology curator at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences), as well as his long-term career goals in geology.

Rachel Atkins, a second year Master’s student in Karen McNeal’s Geocognition and Geoscience Education Research Lab, was recently the focus of a post highlighted on the NC State News site. The post was entitled “This is What Science Looks Like at NC State” and it shows Rachel in a variety of Earth Science settings. The article describes Rachel’s graduate research interests, which are to “understand the dynamics of climate change communication as well as instructional practices in the college classroom.”

babuin_300As part of Dave Genereux’s research group, graduate student Lisa Babuin (right) and undergraduate Jessica Lowder (left) made field measurements in a study of contaminant transport from an aquifer to a stream near Wilson, N.C.

Congratulations to Olivia Caretti, who recently was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship! The NSF Fellowships are prestigious awards offered only to those students with outstanding academic achievement and potential for future accomplishments in their fields. Olivia is a graduate student studying Marine Ecology in Dave Eggleston’s research group. Her M.S. thesis research will investigate the relationship among habitat complexity, biodiversity and soundscape complexity on oyster reefs in Pamlico Sound.

rich_taylor_300Rich Taylor, a Ph.D. student in Dave DeMaster’s research group, participated in a four-week research cruise to the West Antarctic Peninsula. For his dissertation, Rich is examining the effects of climate change in high latitudes by understanding the amount and distribution of labile (reactive) organic matter in Antarctic sediments. The focus of this west Antarctic research cruise (Dave Burdige, Old Dominion University, principal investigator) was to examine the release of dissolved iron (an important micronutrient) to coastal Antarctic waters.  Some of Rich’s other dissertation research concerns the temporal change in coastal Antarctic sediments following ice shelf collapse (mainly the Larsen A Ice Shelf off the East Antarctic Peninsula).

Doreen McVeigh was the 2nd Place winner in the Eleventh Annual NC State Graduate Student Research Symposium. Poster presentations were divided into eight broad academic categories. Judges selected a first, second and third place winner in each category.

Dylan White, a graduate student in Anantha Aiyyer’s research group, recently received a SMART scholarship provided by the Department of Defense that fully funds the rest of his Ph.D. This award includes an internship at a sponsoring facility during the summer months and provides employment at the sponsoring facility for the length of time they fund the degree (2.5 years). His sponsoring facility is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Denver, Colo.

schnetzer_researchgrpGraduate students Gabrielle Corradino and Dan Wiltsie, as well as undergraduate student, Alison Fowler, all participated in the College of Sciences State of the Sciences event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Resources. All three students are part of Astrid Schnetzer’s research group. They showed live plankton images from a device called a “FlowCAM”. Gabrielle is a Ph.D. candidate who has been selected as a Southeast Climate Science Center Global Change Fellow for 2016-2017. Dan Wiltsie is an M.S. candidate whose graduate funding comes from the N.C. SeaGrant program, and Alison Fowler recently received the Senior Award in Research from MEAS at the May 2016 departmental graduation exercises.

morriss_300Matthew Morriss, who received a M.S. degree in geology under the direction of Karl Wegmann, is now halfway through his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. His research has remained focused on the geology and geomorphology of eastern Oregon; specifically, North America’s deepest canyon, Hells Canyon. Matthew has also invested some time in understanding the relationship between tectonic stresses in this region and volcanic features as he branched into a mix of volcanology and geospatial analysis. He is continuing work with Wegmann on a project trying to understand the timing of glacial advances in central Asia, integrating datasets from their own field work and several other studies. In his spare time, Matthew has taken advantage of the fantastic landscape in Oregon: rock climbing in central Oregon and climbing and skiing on the Cascade volcanoes. Matthew wishes everyone at MEAS a great year!

The MEAS Graduate Student Association gsa2hosted its annual end-of-the-year picnic on April 26th this year. The weather cooperated and a great time was had by participating graduate students, staff, faculty and some of our undergraduate majors.

MEAS May Graduation

The Graduation Exercises for the Department of MEAS were held at the Hunt Library Auditorium on May 7, 2016.  Walt Robinson, the department head, introduced the speaker and MEAS faculty participating in the ceremony.  Jared Bowden, our speaker, is the recipient of four degrees from MEAS (2 B.S., an M.S., and a Ph.D. in climate change modeling). Jared is currently a research assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Since last May’s commencement exercises, the Dept. of MEAS has graduated a total of seven Ph.D. students, 16 M.S. students and 74 B.S. students.  Congratulations to all of our graduates!

2015-2016 Academic Year Award Recipients & Special Recognitions in the Dept. of MEAS

MEAS Outstanding Seniors: Caitlin Amos (Marine Science), Jessica Lowder (Earth Science), and Michael Brackett (Atmospheric Science)
Senior Award for Outstanding Research: Alison Fowler
Senior Award for Outstanding Scholarship: Michael Brackett
CAPCA Scholarship:  Zachary Fair
Central NC Chapter of AMS Academic Achievement Award: Michael Brackett
Charles and Eleanor Welby Geology Scholarship: William Hinchliffe
Daniel Solomon Scholars: Julia Lafond
Dicky Morrison Undergraduate Scholarship in Meteorology: Luke Allen
Goudes Scholarship: Nicholas Lavoie
John Parker III Field Camp Scholarship: Emily Ayers Leible, Stephen Carpenter, and Steven Larcom
Laura Bonatz Memorial Endowment: Jessica Lowder and Anna Pascht
Paul Humphrey Meteorology Scholarship: Emma Scott
Skip Stoddard Student Research Fellowship: Julia Lafond
Virginia Rock and Mineral Scholarship: Julia Lafond
Victor Cavaroc Geology Scholarship: Alexander Ruley

Congratulations to our MEAS Award Winners and others who received special recognition!