Conference Covers Flooding and Geological Issues

Geologists from across the North-eastern U.S. gather at the Geological Society of America conference every spring to share their research.

Students and professors of the SUNY New Paltz Geology department gave presentations at the 49th North Eastern Geological Society of America (GSA) conference in Lancaster, Pa. from March 23 to 25. Professors John Rayburn, Alexander Bartholomew, Shafiul Chowdhury and six students represented New Paltz.

Charles Garin, a fourth-year student, worked together with Bartholomew, Rayburn and fourth-year student Emily Bowles to map out Pompey’s Cave, the longest cave in Ulster County.

“We used Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to map it out,” Bartholomew said. “What we’re able to tell [with the data] is how the cave formed.”

Stretching three-fourths of a mile, half of the cave is submerged in water, normally impossible to map.

“The science behind it is amazing,” Garin said. “There’s a bottleneck in the cave where the water pressurizes and breaks the limestone [in the cave] apart, which forms the cave.”

Garin also gave presentations on the recent flooding in the area from Hurricane Irene. His presentation included information on green infrastructure practices implemented on campus, such as the bio-swale garden near the Student Union Building and the porous parking lot extension on Route 32, which help manage runoff from storms and water quality.

Bartholomew presented his own research at the conference.

“I work on the rocks in the Catskills,” Bartholomew said. He presented research on the Acadian Orogeny, a mountain building event which effectively created the Catskills.

Bartholomew also talked about marine fossils, and the evolution of paleoecology. Paleoecology is the study of fossils which aims to reconstruct ancient ecosystems. Bartholomew focused on ancient ecosystems during the Devonian Era, which occurred about 416 million years ago.

This talk focused on the massive expansion of life during the Devonian era, which Bartholomew said began with small plants, and maybe millipedes, but ended with massive trees and flourishing wildlife.

Overall, the conference was a success for the professors and students who attended.

“It was great to see a representation of the field, to meet and hear the people in the profession,” Garin said.

The GSA also hosts international conferences, the last of which was held in October in Vancouver, Canada. A quick recap of this event can be found at in the news section.