Raquel Aguirre, Geology and Geography
Geology Underfoot - A Detailed Look at the Geology Under the Mount Holyoke Campus
Project Advisor: Alan Werner
In support of Mount Holyoke’s goal of becoming carbon neutral, the college commissioned the drilling of an 800 ft feet by 6 inch borehole to evaluate the geothermal potential of the geology beneath our campus. The drilling of this borehole occurred in the summer of 2020 and during this drilling the Geology Department collected drilling cuttings from the 800 ft well at increments of 5 ft. The collected cuttings were then washed and studied. During the summer of 2021 my advisor Alan Werner directed Monica Geraldes and I in analyzing the bedrock stratigraphy to better understand its environment of deposition. The stratigraphy shows the deposition of the lake shale during the Triassic Period, part of the Portland Formation in the Hartford Basin. We described the cuttings and analyzed the Magnetic Susceptibility (MS) and Loss of Ignition (LOI) of the cuttings collected. Our work showed alternating black, grey and red shales previously interpreted in Holyoke as lake level changes (Olsen et al, 2003) We did fieldwork on campus and studied the exposed bedrock at Project Stream and the Waterfall by Kendall and collected them for further study. Monica Geraldes has further investigated the geophysical changes in the borehole and has studied the geochemistry of the cuttings for her thesis work. I have put my efforts into creating a visual display of the research project. You are invited to learn more about this project by visiting a display case on the third floor off Clapp. Not only did the well demonstrate the underlying bedrock is conducive for sustainable geothermal production but it also provided a valuable glimpse into the geology underfoot.
Monica Geraldes, Geology and Geography
Geology Underfoot - Milankovitch Orbital Forcing on the South Hadley Falls Member of the Long Meadow Shale Acquired from a Borehole on the Campus of Mount Holyoke College
Project Advisor: Alan Werner
During the summer of 2020, Mount Holyoke College commissioned a geothermal company to drill a 6-inch diameter, 800-foot-deep borehole on campus grounds to measure the geothermal potential of the underlying geology. Professor Al Werner took advantage of this opportunity and collected cuttings during the well drilling operation. These samples were collected every 5 ft, and document the detailed stratigraphy of the Portland formation, a Mesozoic lacustrine shale deposit of the Hartford basin. Geophysical data and imaging provide cm-scale stratigraphic changes and rock cuttings provide samples of the various units. These rocks record environmental conditions during the late Triassic, when dinosaurs roamed the area, and the Connecticut River Valley was at near the equator and contained a freshwater lake. Based on previous age dating, the 800 ft stratigraphy reflects 200 thousand years, with a sedimentation rate of 1m/1000 years1 . The record, the rock sequence is made up of shales and siltstones, but alternates in color (red, gray, and dark gray).
These visible, abrupt shifts in color suggest changing environmental conditions But what kind of environment produced these shifts? Previous literature suggests that Milankovitch cycles (astronomically forced periods that affect the wobble and orbit of the Earth around the sun) caused cyclic changes in the summer monsoon near the equator and resulting in the water depth of the lake2,3 . By gathering physical and chemical proxies and finding statistical power between them and Milankovitch cycles, this study supports previous interpretations that orbital changes were the cause of the borehole stratigraphy. Using these proxies, I describe the paleoenvironment of the South Hadley area and provide a better picture of the place the dinosaurs roamed 200 million years ago.
1 Olsen, P.E., Whiteside, J.H., and Huber, P., 2003, Causes and consequences of the Triassic Jurassic mass
extinction as seen from the Hartford basin. in Brady, J. B. and Cheney, J.T. (eds.) Guidebook for Field
Trips in the Five College Region, 95th New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference, Department of
Geology, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, p. B5-1 - B5-41.
2 Van Houten, F., 1962. Cyclic Sedimentation and the Origin of Analcime-Rich Upper Triassic Lockatong
Formation, West-Central New Jersey and Adjacent Pennsylvania. American Journal of Science, v. 260, p.
3 Olsen, P. E. and Kent, D. V., 1996, Milankovitch climate forcing in the tropics of Pangea during the Late
Triassic. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology, v. 122, p. 1-26
Lucy Manlick, Geology and Geography
Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification Potential Assessment of Neustonic Plastic Along the Eastern Seaboard Using Zooplankton to Plastic Ratios, and Identification of Regional Sources of Plastic using Opendrift Modeling
Advisor Name: Alan Werner
Ziploc bags, cups, and your clothes are all sources of plastic you use every day. But what happens after you throw out your used sandwich bag, or that t-shirt that tore? Plastic waste contaminates our terrestrial, atmospheric, and marine environments. It may magnify through the food web after ingestion by marine organisms, even impacting humans. With plastic having possible endocrine disruptive and carcinogenic effects1 , it is important to evaluate the availability and sources of plastic in the environment. This study uses both ecological and physical oceanographic analyses to do so.
This study develops a baseline for analyzing the abundance and sources of plastic in Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) along the Eastern Seaboard of the US using samples collected along SEA Semester cruise C-297MBC. By investigating the point at which plastic enters the food web, this study fills gaps between previous studies that quantify the amount of plastic in the study region2,3 and those investigating effects of plastic ingestion on organisms1 . This study is novel in determining a plastic to zooplankton ratio in the Atlantic Ocean following previously established methodology4,5,6 . Results show that each LME in this study has different abundance amounts and variability, indicating different regional risks of ingestion by marine organisms. Hindcast modelling is used to determine likely plastic origin locations. Results indicate tourism-heavy, urbanized, and estuarine regions as likely sources of marine plastic. This approach may be useful in the future for identifying plastic sources for remediation.
1 Godswill, Awuchi Chinaza, and Awuchi Chibueze Godspel. Physiological Effects of Plastic Wastes on
the Endocrine System. vol. 4, 2019.
2 Law KL (2017) Plastics in the Marine Environment. Annual Review of Marine Science 9:205-229. DOI:
3 Law KL, Moret-Ferguson S, Maximenko NA, Proskurowski G, Peacock EE, Hafner J, Reddy CM (2010)
Plastic accumulation in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Science 329(5996): 1185-1188. DOI:
4 Moore CJ, Moore SL, Leecaster MK, Weisberg SB (2001) A comparison of plastic and plankton in the
North Pacific Central Gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42:1297-1300.
5 Moore CJ, Moore SL, Weisberg SB, Lattin GL, Zellers AF (2002) A comparison of neustonic plastic and
zooplankton abundance in southern California’s coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44: 1035-1038.
6 Collignon A, Hecq J-H, Glagani F, Voisin P, Collard F, Goffart A (2012) Neustonic microplastic and
zooplankton in the North Western Mediterranean Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 64(4):861-864.
Bree Thompson, Geology and Geography
Assessment of Strain Rates in Southern California Fault Zones in Relation to Earthquakes by Examining GPS Station Data
Project Advisor: Michelle Markley
Earthquakes are a common and intense occurrence throughout California because of frequent tectonic activity. The state is divided by two major plate boundaries: The Pacific Plate to the West, and the North American Plate to the East. Tectonic activity in the Southern California region is seen by the presence of several major faults, including the San Andreas Fault, the San Jacinto Fault, the Elsinore Fault, and the Imperial Fault. Significant earthquakes in Southern California have been historically recorded along these major fault zones1 . Multiple earthquake clusters have occurred in the Brawley Seismic Zone (BSZ), which contains the San Andreas fault, Imperial fault, and cross faults surrounding the Salton Sea in Southern California2 .
GPS stations are distributed throughout Southern California because of intense tectonic activity. They collect data on the change in distance and elevation over a period of time. The velocities of these stations have been used to observe crustal deformation, compression, and strain rates along multiple fault zones3 . In this case, the analysis of data from GPS stations are used to determine the change in strain over time, as well as the distribution of normal and shear stress.
For this project, I produce strain ellipses showing deformation occurring before and after earthquakes in the Southern California region using GPS station data from the University NAVSTAR Consortium (UNAVCO)4 and the strain rate calculator generated by Cronin and Resor (2021)5 . I hypothesize that the impact of significant earthquakes along fault zones is visible in GPS station data. From my results, velocity graphs from GPS station data show an immediate and significant change in movement after an earthquake. This data has potential to show several different aspects relating to the relationship between earthquakes and strain rates.
1 Rockwell, Thomas K., et al. “Dates of the Two Most Recent Surface Ruptures on the Southernmost San
Andreas Fault Recalculated by Precise Dating of Lake Cahuilla Dry Periods.” Bulletin of the
Seismological Society of America, vol. 108, no. 5A, October 2018, pp. 2634-2649.
https://doi.org/10.1785/0120170392. Accessed 25 March 2022.
2 Haukkson, Egill, et al. “Evolution of seismicity near the southernmost terminus of the San Andreas Fault:
Implications of recent earthquake clusters for earthquake risk in southern California.” Geophysical
Research Letters, vol. 44, no. 3, 16 February 2017, pp. 1293-1301.
https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL072026. Accessed 25 March 2022.
3 Shen, Zheng-Kang, et al. “Crustal Deformation Across and Beyond the Los Angeles Basin from Geodetic
Measurements.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 1996.
4 UNAVCO, “NOTA Realtime GNSS/GPS Data,” 23 May 2014.
https://www.unavco.org/instrumentation/networks/status/nota/realtime. Accessed 25 March 2022.
5 Cronin, Vince; Resor, Phil. “Unit 4: GPS and infinitesimal strain analysis.” GETSI, 5 October 2021,
https://serc.carleton.edu/getsi/teaching_materials/gps_strain/unit4.html. Accessed 25 March 2022.
Piper Lacy, Environmental Studies
Creating a Food Justice Internship for MHC Students at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Farm
Project advisor: Alan Werner
College farm programs provide a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to intimately interact with food production and the land. These programs enrich students’ liberal arts education and influence their greater world view by promoting an analytical, sustainable, and interdisciplinary approach to agriculture. Throughout the past year I have been working on building a partnership between Mount Holyoke College and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to start a student farm program at the new Food Bank Farm in Hadley, MA. This program will create new experiential learning and community engagement options for Mount Holyoke students and will strengthen the relationship between the Food Bank and Mount Holyoke College.
A central goal for this program is to empower students whose identities are underrepresented in the mainstream alternative/organic food movement and to explore potential for land-based reparations for BIPOC farmers. By emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion through BIPOC mentorship and student leadership, this farm program presents an opportunity to combat racism within the food system. This proposal stems from literature on college farm programs and material from Mount Holyoke Professor Olivia Aguilar’s Food Equity and Empowerment course. Conversations with MHC students and faculty, farm directors at Amherst and Hampshire Colleges, and Amanda Reynolds, director of the Food Bank Farm in Hadley, MA have provided fundamental insights for the writing of my funding proposal and program design.
I have determined two models for this program that I will present for both the academic year and the summer. During the spring and fall semesters Mount Holyoke College's Community-Based Learning (CBL) department will partner with the Food Bank to connect students with the Farm and fund their work. In the summer students will apply to the Food Bank Farm externally and can apply for Lynk funding through Mount Holyoke’s Career Development Center. This program will become available to students starting in Summer 2022. Interested students can contact myself or the CBL department for more information.