New ENVS Laboratory Space is Taking Shape

the new ENVS lab space

The latest addition to the ENVS research space is taking shape. ENVS took over an old photo lab from Ann Lehman and, over the past weeks, it has been converted from a darkroom into a bright work space. The lab will be available as dedicated research space to our postdoctoral fellow. That means the postdoc doesn’t have to fend off intruders from his or her two square feet of bench space in McCook 119, and Prof. Geiss can make his usual mess again when subsampling sediment cores.

The lab has been painted and sports new lighting (really bright 6500K lamps). One side of the room is taken up by a gigantic stainless steel sink, the other side offers counter space. We plan on installing a second counter top and some shelving, but will wait with these upgrades until Cameron Douglass, our new postdoc arrives on campus.

Farewell Dinner for Dr. Sarah Gray

ENVS faculty at El Serape

Dr. Gray has been the first McKenna Meredith Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Science, and has spent the past two years teaching courses in environmental science, oceanography and chemistry. At the end of the month Sarah and her husband Scott will move to Savannah, Georgia, where Sarah will continue her career as an assistant professor of analytical chemistry at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Sarah, we wish you all the best!

Stephani Roman Wins Senior Prize in ENVS

Stephani and Prof. Geiss on honors day

The ENVS faculty voted unanimously to award the ENVS senior prize to Stephani Roman (’13), and a very proud Prof. Geiss met Stephani on honors day to present her with her first coffee table book (Ice by James Balog)for her brand new post Trinity apartment.

The Environmental Science Senior Prize is given to a graduating senior majoring in environmental science who, by the vote of the faculty of environmental science, is recognized for academic excellence and significant contributions to the Environmental Science Program.

Congratulations, Stephani!

From Tree to Handsome Bench

The silver maple on the west side of the Mather Quad - just days before it was cut down and salvaged by City Bench

This morning Ted Esselstyn from City Bench dropped off a wonderful wooden bench for us. The bench seat is made from a slab of silver maple and is supported by a mixture of other salvaged woods from Hartford and West Hartford. The silver maple had to be cut down for the redesigned Mather Quad. Now part of it lives on in the downstairs hallway of McCook, where it sits between Jon’s and Christoph’s offices.

The bench in it's new place in the McCook hallway.

The bench seat is made from salvaged silver maple, the legs come from various salvaged trees in Hartford, the stretcher originated from a salvaged trunk from West Hartford.

Chemists Crash ENVS Poster Session

Well, we tend to agree - ENVS posters are way more fun than analytical chemistry :-)

Quite a few of our majors presented their research at the annual Science Fair this afternoon. The turnout was astounding with over 150 posters on display and the isles crowded with presenters, students and faculty. It was a great way to learn about our student’s research, chat with fellow faculty members and fill up on candy from the Interdisciplinary Science Center‘s candy bowl. Below are some of our students and their posters.

Justin and Dan presenting their summer research plans: sampling soils in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Linnea presenting geochemical research from the Park River. This time without the chemists crashing the party.

A very proud Dr. Gourley with his research student Renee. Renee presented her interpretation of earthquake data from Indonesia.

Lia talking science to one of her friends. Lia analyzed ground temperature data from Trinity's soil temperature well.

Billy with his posters on using students as free labor (to analyze wildlife images)

Dr. Gray with Sarah who presented her analysis of the home-range of urban redtail hawks.

Record Turnout for Last McCookout of the Semester

the last McCokout of the 2012-2013 Academic Year

Promises of dinosaur cake, lots of food, the new ENVS T-shirts and a cheese cake drew record crowds to this week’s McCookout. Some ENVS 149 students chose to take the third (optional) exam while most others joined the party early. Jon excelled in cooking up brats and hamburgers (including the meatless kind), and the rest of us excelled in eating them as fast as they came off the grill.

Jon cooking up burgers and brats.

Dr.Gray added to the celebration by providing leftover sparklers from her environmental chemistry class where they were (supposedly) used for some science experiment. Turns out that even some measly sparklers provide a lot of excitement if you ignite them five at a time…

Dr. Morrison and Jenna conducting a science experiment.

ENVS Senior Seminar Field Trip to Cape Cod

by guest blogger (novelist) Joan Morrison

See what too much fresh air can do to you?

The final event of the Spring 2013 ENVS senior seminar, which focused on aquaculture, was a trip to Cape Cod to learn about shellfish production there.  All senior ENVS majors and minors, along with ENVS professors Morrison and Gray drove to the Cape on the last weekend in April.  Our host was Ryan Burch, a Trinity alum (’98) and shellfish specialist who now lives in and works for the Town of Brewster, MA.

Dinner at Ryan and Juliet's house. Thank you!

Upon our arrival on the Cape on Friday night, Ryan and his wife Juliet generously hosted us at their home, for a wonderful dinner of tortilla soup.  And the fruit-dip dessert was extra special because of the secret ingredient (we know but are not telling)!  Some of the older ENVS sleeping bags proved to be less than sufficient during our cold night at Sweetwater Forest Campground, but when we awoke, Sam and Saam quickly took care of the morning chill by successfully starting a roaring fire despite really damp wood.  Breakfast was eagerly consumed by cold and hungry students.

Frosty breakfast at Sweetwater Forest Campground.

Everyone was so efficient that we were already packed and ready to go when Ryan arrived at our campsite at 0700 on Saturday morning.  First stop, the tidal flats at the Town of Brewster to visit the town’s shellfish farm, which Ryan oversees.  The beach and tidal flats were spectacular at that hour and given the really low tide.  Ryan showed us the cages where larger oysters were growing out, students marveled at the variety of interesting creatures present on the tidal flats, and Ned scared us all with a giant sea worm.

Across the tidal flats.

After the tidal flats the java and breakfast sandwiches at Brewster’s premier coffee shop, Jomama’s, were mighty welcome.  From there we drove out of Brewster for a tour of the hatchery at the Aquaculture Research Center.  This facility produces most of the shellfish used in aquaculture on Cape Cod, as well as the small shellfish used by towns for seeding operations.  Manager Dick Kraus showed us tanks where oyster larvae were growing and explained how the largest and most complicated part of their business was growing the food that the shellfish larvae eat. Those little guys go through enormous amounts of diatoms and phytoplankton, daily!

Tanks with oyster larvae - Aquaculture Research Center (ARC)

The sobering complexities of a local environmental issue really hit home when Dick told us about the controversy over ARC’s desire to erect a wind turbine to provide power.  A turbine would help reduce the hatchery’s current $5000 per month electric bill, which Dick said is really putting pressure on their business.  However, to date, local residents have prevented the wind turbine mostly because of concerns about having to look at it.  Local shellfish producers are really concerned about the future of ARC as the main supplier of oyster and quahog seed on the Cape; “No more ARC would mean the end of aquaculture on Cape Cod,” one local fisherman said. “It’s really an essential thing for aquaculture.”

Oyster food - ARC

on the beach again


Sam taking notes for the non-existent final exam

oyster cages

Following a short drive along the beautiful southern Cape beaches, we stopped at the harbormaster’s facility in Chatham, where the Aquaculture Specialist for the Town’s Shellfish Department provided information about the next step in producing shellfish – the land-based upwellers.


After a delicious lunch of clam strips and onion rings, we visited the final stop on our tour – the Wellfleet Shellfish Company.  There, manager Ron gave us an overview of what happens to all the clams, oysters, and scallops that are brought to his facility and amazed us with his mastery at keeping track of who brought in what, who ordered shellfish and when they wanted delivery, and the ever changing prices.

Watching shellfish in a monitoring tank - Wellfleet Shellfish Company

The clam sorter was particularly cool – as random clams were fed into the contraption they were sorted, by size, by several whirling cylinders of different diameter (go figure how THAT works!) and dropped unceremoniously into various bins – little necks, cherry stones, top neck, and quahog.  Wonder who invented that one but it sure is efficient!  Finally, after a hard day of watching oysters grow, we made a welcome stop at Coast Guard Beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore, where students took advantage of the sun and warm sand.  What a great trip!  Aside from learning about all steps involved in raising shellfish on the Cape, we sure had fun!

All pooped out!