Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences
News from DEEPS

Remembering Malcolm "Mac" Rutherford

Malcolm “Mac” Rutherford, professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences emeritus, passed away unexpectedly on October 3, 2023, in Providence, Rhode Island, at the age of 84.
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Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Uranium isotopes as tracers of serpentinite weathering

Assistant Professor Emily Cooperdock and colleagues have published new research on uranium isotopes in serpentinite rocks found both underwater and on land. The team discovered that the uranium isotope ratios in submarine serpentinites are influenced by seafloor weathering and differ from seawater ratios. Overall, the results show exciting evidence that U-isotopes can be used to measure recent weathering of ultramafic serpentinites. The findings also caution against using these systems as indicators of ancient geological events.
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Researchers used temperature and humidity data along with climate models to analyze humanity’s exposure to potentially lethal heat as the world warms. IBES Director and DEEPS Professor Kim Cobb said the study’s conclusions are “compelling” but not surprising. “Extreme heat is already responsible for countless deaths worldwide every year,” Cobb told CNN.
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Assistant Professor James W. Dottin III is featured on a recent episode of PBS's science documentary series, NOVA. In the episode, "Ancient Earth: Birth of the Sky," scientists explore the creation of Earth's atmosphere and our familiar blue sky.
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The Wall Street Journal

China Is Gaining Long-Coveted Role in Arctic, as Russia Yields

In response to economic isolation due to the Ukraine invasion, Russia is seeking help from China to develop shipping routes through the Arctic. Professor Amanda Lynch shared her perspective with The Wall Street Journal, including concerns about traversing the icy passages with limited emergency support options.
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The Brown Daily Herald featured a review of a new EEPS course exploring New England, teaching geological mapping and hands-on skills to ‘read rocks.’EEPS 1250: “New England Field Geology” is teaching hands-on fieldwork skills to 11 students over the course of nine field trips during the semester.
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News from DEEPS

Yongsong Lab watches OSIRIS-REx Return

Members of Professor Yongsong Huang's Lab gathered to watch and celebrate the historic return of NASA's Bennu sampling capsule arrival in Utah.
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DEEPS Alumna Rocío Paola Caballero-Gill '15 was selected to receive the 2023 AGU Award for Advancing Inclusive Excellence in STEM, which recognizes exemplary efforts made by an individual or team for developing programs, systems, or networks that have led to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Earth and space sciences community.
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NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security–Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission is returning to Earth carrying an estimated 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of material gathered from the surface of an asteroid. Takahiro Hiroi, DEEPS Senior Research Scientist and Spectroscopy Specialist, shared his optimism for the mission, saying, “Returned samples can additionally [preserve] microscopic, including nanophase, materials that can be evidence of space weathering or shock events, most elements and isotopes, grain density, [and] material strength.”
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University of Central Florida planetary scientist and DEEPS alumna Kerri Donaldson Hanna is counting the days until NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer mission launches from Cape Canaveral and begins its journey to search for water on the moon.
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Rice University

DOE backs Rice study of how soils store carbon

A new 3-year grant from the Department of Energy will investigate carbon storage in soil. The project is led by Rice University scientists, Assistant Professor Mark Torres and Postdoctoral Fellow Evan Ramos. DEEPS Assistant Professor Daniel Ibarra is one of the grant's co-investigators.
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DEEPS Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper and EEOB Professor Stephen Porder have co-authored a piece in TIME about the Earth's rising temperatures. "As earth system scientists, we've learned it's sometimes more helpful to look at Earth as, well, a system. In this case, the system of the air and the oceans. Understanding how they interact is the key to understanding what is, and what isn’t, unusual about this very hot year."
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Providence’s sewer systems are not prepared for the amount of rain falling on the city this year, according to Mayor Brett Smiley. And all that extra water is wreaking havoc and endangering lives. Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper commented saying it’s good that the city is taking action on upgrading its sewer infrastructure, given that we can only expect more rainfall and flooding as the climate continues to warm.
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News from DEEPS

Kim Cobb and Alberto Saal elected as AGU Fellows

Professors Kim Cobb and Alberto Saal have been elected as American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fellows. They join 53 other individuals in the 2023 Class of Fellows. AGU, the world's largest Earth and space sciences association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals for its highest honors. Since 1962, the AGU Union Fellows Committee has selected less than 0.1% of members as new Fellows.
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News from DEEPS

Karen Fischer is 2023 AGU Inge Lehmann Medal Recipient

Professor Karen Fischer was selected to receive the AGU Inge Lehmann Medal, which is given annually to a senior scientist in recognition of outstanding contributions to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth’s mantle and core. AGU, the world's largest Earth and space science association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals for its highest honors. 
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Professor Meredith Hastings discussed Providence air quality and the Breathe Providence project with the Providence Journal. Breathe Providence has set out to address what its researchers see as a gap in air quality data by investing in a network of measuring instruments that they hope will yield more detailed information that reflects a person’s actual exposure to ozone and other pollutants.
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Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

IBES Appoints Three Faculty Members to New Leadership Team

Three members of IBES faculty will join Director Kim Cobb and Director of Undergraduate Studies Dawn King to form an expanded IBES Leadership Team, as outlined in the Institute’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan. Dan Ibarra, Assistant Professor in IBES and DEEPS, has been appointed Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He sees his new role as having two aspects: promoting inclusivity within IBES and working to diversify environmental science as a whole.
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The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning

Seda Şalap-Ayça selected as 2023 Sheridan Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow

Assistant Professor of Practice Seda Şalap-Ayça has been selected as a Sheridan Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow. The Fellows program is a yearlong, cohort-based learning community that provides the opportunity for a small group of junior faculty from across the disciplines to come together to reflect upon and discuss their teaching and their students’ learning with Sheridan staff. "As an early career faculty," said Şalap-Ayça, "I strongly believe that this fellowship experience will help me to improve my pedagogic knowledge, collaborate with teaching-related projects, and more importantly apply what I learned in my courses and share with the teaching community."
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CGTN: The Agenda

Mission to the Moon

In a recent episode of The Agenda, Juliet Mann speaks to James Head, Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University, who helped select landing sites for the Apollo moon program, and Xu Yansong, Director-General of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Program.
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News from DEEPS

Looking Forward to Fall 2023

Brown University is getting ready for the Fall Semester and the new academic year, and everyone in DEEPS is looking forward to welcoming new colleagues, starting new projects, and more opportunities for growth. We asked a number of the DEEPS community to highlight what they were looking forward to this Fall, and this is what they had to say:
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The SBB Research Group Foundation named Michelle Vong a recipient of its STEM scholarship. Michelle Vong, a junior, studies environmental science at Brown University. Vong recently interned at Colgate-Palmolive to design and deliver zero plastic waste solutions for their products.
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The ancient glaciers hint at an Archaean Earth that may have looked similar in some ways to our own time. Assistant Professor Dan Ibarra commented on the researchers' work, saying that the Pongola oxygen-18 values “would be some of the highest elevations [found on Earth today] like Tibet or the peaks of the Rocky Mountains."
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“The oceans do a lot of the work in reducing the level of warming,” DEEPS Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper told CNBC. “Over 90 percent of the excess energy on earth due to climate change is found in warmer oceans, some of it in surface oceans and some at depth.”
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Seismological Research Letters

The Future of Earth Imaging

Associate Professor Victor Tsai has published a new article in GeoScienceWorld's Seismological Research Letters about the challenges with available Earth imaging techniques, and explores opportunities for improvement.
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A new technique for measuring past topography shows the Himalayas were more than halfway to their summit before a continental collision made them the highest range in the world. “Experts have long thought that it takes a massive tectonic collision, on the order of continent-to-continent scale, to produce the sort of uplift required to produce Himalaya-scale elevations,” said DEEPS Assistant Professor Daniel Ibarra. “This study disproves that and sends the field in some interesting new directions.”
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News from DEEPS

2023 Summer Undergraduate Research Highlights

From lake sediments to post-fire landscapes, many DEEPS undergraduate students are engaged in groundbreaking research throughout the summer break. We are proud to showcase some of these research projects with this photo series.
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This summer, an article was published in AGU's Geophysical Research Letters representing work from former Ph.D. graduate Aron Buffen, Professor Meredith Hastings, and other colleagues using a model to better understand how sunlight changes snow nitrate. The work was featured as the cover art for the June issue of AGU's Geophysical Research Letters.
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Assistant Professor Mara Freilich and graduate student Élise Beaudin embarked on the Submesoscale-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE) mission this past April to study the role of surface layer submesoscale eddies on climate and biological elements in the upper ocean.
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Non-native English speakers reported having their papers rejected specifically because of writing issues 2.5 times as often as native speakers. Lina Pérez-Angel, a Colombian palaeoclimatologist and DEEPS Voss Postdoctoral Research Associate, says “I have had reviewers that explicitly said that my English puts in doubt the quality of the research, or mostly gave me feedback on my English in a harsh way that made me think it was based on my Latinx/Hispanic-sounding last name.”
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F. Scott Anderson ‘90 of the Southwest Research Institute is the Principle Investigator on the mission Dating an Irregular Mare Patch with a Lunar Explorer (DIMPLE), which will investigate the Ina Irregular Mare Patch, discovered in 1971 by Apollo 15 orbital images. "Our mission," said Professor Jim Head, "is designed to land, explore, and date in situ, the enigmatic Ina D-shaped pit crater, a volcanic features whose impact crater-count age is interpreted to be an astoundingly young ~33 million years, but whose geological context suggests could be over 3 billion years."
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The Planetary Society

Comparing the rivers of Earth, Mars, and Titan

Get ready for a journey across the rivers of our Solar System in this week's Planetary Radio. Sam Birch, an assistant professor at Brown University, explores what we know about the alluvial rivers of Earth, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan.
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In late June, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson traveled to the Ocean State for a firsthand look at the research and technology that Rhode Island colleges, universities and businesses are producing to support the space agency’s mission.
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$1.5 million worth of repairs for hurricane barriers in Fox Point will start in July, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley announced on the wettest July 10 on record in the last century. Rain, and with it flooding, are only expected to increase in Providence in the future, according to Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper.
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In addition to the grueling heat of the past few weeks, wildfire smoke, the early arrival of El Niño, and shrinking Antarctic sea ice are also indicators of a global environmental crisis. "Heat sets the pace of our climate in so many ways," IBES Director and DEEPS Professor Kim Cobb commented for the Associated Press. "It’s never just the heat."
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Over the 14 years since its launch, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has produced images and data proven that have transformed our understanding of Earth's celestial neighbor. Professor and noted lunar researcher Carle Pieters spoke with Space.com about the importance of future orbital observations of the moon.
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GSA Today

Jim Russell Elected to GSA Fellowship

Jim Russell, Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, has been elected as a Geological Society of America Fellow. Society Fellowship is an honor in recognition of a sustained record of distinguished contributions to the geosciences.
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Kim Cobb, DEEPS Professor and Director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, said the week’s events embodied the “multiple stressors linked to man-made climate change” that the United Nations has warned about through its scientific panel on global warming.
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