Dr. Brian Cousens Makes an Impact at GSA 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

By Professor Brian Cousens

The 2015 Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting was held in Baltimore from Nov. 1-4.  This meeting brings earth scientists together from across North America to share the results of their research work. 

My reason for attending was the bestowing of the Distinguished Career Award of the Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology and Volcanology Division to Dr. David Clague of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).  Dr. Clague and I have worked on several projects together, and he was also a Collins Lecturer in our department in 2001. Dr. Clague helped out on an ERTH 4807 Field Course to Hawaii in 1996 while he was Scientist In Charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO).  Two of our students have participated in MBARI research cruises and both did thesis projects in collaboration with Dr. Clague. So, there are several connections between Carleton’s Earth Sciences department and Dr. Clague.  Sunday’s highlight was a Special Session organized by two of Dr. Clague’s collaborators, Jackie Dixon and Wendy Bohrson. Presenters in the session included long-time colleagues from the HVO and US Geological Survey, as well as recent collaborators since Dr. Clague moved to MBARI (including me). I can’t think of a more deserving winner of a Distinguished Career Award – and Dave has not retired yet!

The meeting included some major highlights, including a keynote session dedicated to William Smith, who produced the first stratigraphic geological map of England, Wales and southern Scotland.  Simon Winchester, the author of several geological books, including one on the career of William Smith (The Map That Changed the World), was at the conference center to give a special lecture and sign copies of his books.

Another major event was Bridging Two Continents, advertised as a “meeting within a meeting”, a joint meeting of GSA and the Geological Society of China.  The session featured a Keynote Address by James Hansen on "Ice melt, sea-level rise and superstorms: Finding a realistic pathway to clean energy and stable climate".

Other keynote symposia included “Savor the Cryosphere” on the retreat of glaciers, “Earth-Life systems at the dawn of animals” on the Precambrian-Cambrian transition, “Similar information, different results: Fracking from state to state” that addressed shale-hosted oil and gas development, and “Appalachian Geomorphology”.

A number of presentations from the meeting received attention from the press.  They include new discoveries concerning the Permian extinction, using microfossils and subsidence estimates to study large subduction zone earthquakes, how pollen is used to track climate change during the Pleistocene in California, the link between Large Igneous Provinces Linked to Extinction Events (our own Dr. Richard Ernst!), the accuracy and inaccuracy of current earthquake hazard maps, and how tyrannosaurs may have eaten other tyrannosaurs. For more, go to: http://community.geosociety.org/gsa2015/press/pr