2017 Chair’s Note

Greetings from the Geology Department! My first year as department chair saw lots of exciting advances in our collective research endeavors and continued excellence in training our students in/out of the classroom for jobs and graduate school. This fall, we’d like to welcome two new faces to the department. Mason Stahl is an environmental engineer who has joined the faculty in the ESPE program, but he will also be supported by the Geology Department and teach courses in hydrology and environmental analysis. Mason comes to Union from environmental consulting after obtaining his PhD at MIT, with work based in SE Asia. His experiences both in the field and consulting will give our students a great new perspective and resource. Jacquie Smith joins us as a research associate and is a former geology faculty member from nearby St. Rose College. Jacquie has worked with Don Rodbell in Peru in the past and published several articles on cosmogenic nuclide dating in the Andes. Her recent work is studying the abundance and impact of microplastic pollution in the Mohawk River. She was recently awarded funding by the DEC for the project and hopes to get some Union students involved.
John Wold ’38, passed away in February at age 100. As many of you know, Wold was a very successful businessman and geologist and great benefactor to both the college and the department. Generous donations from the family helped to establish the Geology Field Fund, which supports our students’ participation in field activities and research, which are such a vital and invigorating part of our curriculum. Wold also created a scholarship for high achieving geology majors in the department and established the John and Jane Wold Professorship in Geology.
On the research front, a significant development for the department was receiving a NSF Major Research Instrumentation award to acquire a new ICP-MS. The new instrument will be installed in November, replacing our 17 year old ICP-MS. It will allow us additional analytical capabilities, with lower detection limits and interferences. One of the projects we will be pursuing in the Union College Water Initiative (UCWI). The goal of the UCWI is to provide free analysis of drinking water to the campus and wider Capital District community. We test for several heavy metals, including lead. The initial phase of the project was spearheaded by Alex Dolcimascolo ’17, and supervised by Kurt Hollocher and Holli Frey.
Our faculty continue to be very research active. John Garver received a NSF grant to continue his work on provenance in Alaska, while Holli Frey directed a Frontier Keck Geology Project in Dominica. Don Rodbell continues his NSF-funded project on Lake Junin, while Dave Gillikin continues to work with Don in Peru and with a number of different colleagues on bivalve and speleothem projects. Kurt Hollocher is continuing his work in western Massachusetts and Norway. The faculty and student research efforts are supported by Matt Manon, who oversees the SEM, LA ICP-MS, and IC labs and Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin, who manages the stable isotope lab.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter! We all (faculty, staff, and students) truly love what we do and hopefully we can convey that passion to you. Part of what we love is the connections we’ve made over the years with students. If you’re an alum, drop us a note or a paragraph to include in the next newsletter. We’d love to hear from you!

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