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Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

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February, 2011

ODU Scientists join an UK-based Arctic Expedition

Master's student, Meredith McPherson awarded the Kelley Scholarship.


An abstract on her research:

Utilization of CO2 for photosynthesis differs between seagrasses and other marine autotrophs, which is likely responsible for disparities in δ13C.  Seagrasses obtain nearly 50% of their inorganic carbon from dissolved aqueous CO2 (CO2(aq)), while marine algae obtain only 20% from CO2(aq).  The carbon isotope signature in seagrass leaves can be influenced by a variety of environmental and physiological conditions including:  (i) the source and concentration of inorganic carbon; (ii) water temperature altering the solubility of CO2 in seawater; (iii) viscous boundary layers affecting diffusion of CO2 across the leaf-water interface; iv) internal recycling of CO2 in the lacuna; and v) light availability.  Boundary layers have been explored very little with respect to δ13C in seagrasses and studying this effect may provide insight for understanding the dynamics of carbon isotope fractionation in seagrasses in leaves, and scaling them up to whole populations.  This study investigated the influence of CO2 permeability, controlled by biochemical ([CO2(aq)]), physical (light, temperature, and diffusion boundary layers), and physiological (photosynthesis) mechanisms, on photosynthesis and δ13C composition of Zostera marina L. (eelgrass) from the Chesapeake Bay using an integrative approach between theoretical calculations, laboratory measurements and in situ measurements for light, [CO2], and environmental conditions.  We scaled photosynthesis to Pmax providing a dimensionless value between 0 and 1 for photosynthesis (P­).  The linear relationship between modeled productivity and measured stable isotope fractionation provided a simple calculation to model δ13C for Z. marina.  The ability to accurately model productivity and δ13C of a seagrass population suggests a comprehensive understanding of the influence of light, carbon acquisition and environmental conditions on photosynthesis.

For more news, check out archives.

March, 2011

Dr. Oliver Wurl, Post-Doc. in the department, is on the UK-based Arctic Expedition. He is posting updates at http://catlinarcticexpedition.blogspot.com/ Follow him on this expedition.

April, 2011

Dr. Larry Atkinson, an Eminent Professor in the department, was an author, "Prepare for rising sea", in the opinion section of the Savanna Morning News.

June 2011

OEAS Scientists, Dr. Victoria Hill and David Ruble are featured in BBC Documentary, "Burning questions in the freezing cold."


In this episode there is one question that is explored - Are melting ice sheets and glaciers disrupting global oceanic circulation? This is also known as the 'thermohaline' effect. If the answer is 'yes', the weather patterns in many countries could change. A team of scientists sets out to the Arctic to try and gather vital data with a plethora of theories to test. Among them, Dr Victoria Hill is going to gather evidence for the first time in seven years thanks to a novel way of doing science - a team of polar explorers who have set up a special research base on the Arctic ice. To view the video, please click here. There is also a CNN documentary on the life and science at the Catlin Ice Base.

July 2011

OEAS student, Kerby Dobbs wins Virginia Lakes and Watershed Association Scholarship Award.

Dr. Richard Whittecar's master student, Kerby Dobbs has been awarded the $1,000 Virginia Lakes and Watershed Association Scholarship Award.Kerby's research is to evaluate the groundwater availability in Piedmont valley bottoms, which will help determine water budgets for planned (constructed) wetland sites on Piedmont floodplains or terraces.

Dr. Victoria Hill featured in "Article in the Times of London Magazine"

The ODU piece on this can be found here.

OEAS graduate student, Meredith McPherson's article, "Shedding Light on Water Column Optical Properties and Seagrass Beds in Florida Bay", was selected as a featured article in Coastal Estuarine Science News (CESN).

August 2011

Dr. Jennifer Georgen quoted in two articles in regards to the extraordinary Earthquake event in VA on August 23rd.

To read the articles please select the news source below:

Virginia Pilot

Daily Press

(Posted: 9/15/2011 9:29)

Listen to Dr. Victoria Hill talk about her Arctic research on the Within Good Reason program on NPR.

(Posted: 8/25/2011 9:37)

Dr. David Burdige is the new Graduate Program Director for the OEAS department.


(Posted: 8/23/2011 17:31)


Dr. Victoria Hill is the new Graduate Student Coordinator for the OEAS department.


She will be the point of contact for prospective new graduate students.
(Posted: 8/23/2011 17:31)

Dr. Victoria Hill's research featured in OurAmazingPlanet Article

Dr. Hill is quoted in "Arctic Expedition Gleans Clues to Warming" where she talks about her CDOM research and how her research may shed light on the role CDOM has in the Arctic Ice melting.  

Departmental Scholarships Awards

Dr. Fred Dobbs's master student, Wenda Li has been awarded the Kelley Scholarship.

Dr. Richard Whittecar's master student, Kerby Dobbs has been awarded the Entsminger Scholarship.

Dr. Richard Zimmerman's Ph.D. student, Malee Jinutuya has been awarded the Zaneveld Scholarship.

October 2011

Darby is Tracing Climate Cycles with Help of $1.2 Million Microprobe

OEAS faculty, Dennis Darby is featured in OEAS News article on his climate cycles research.

(Posted: 10/6/2011 17:13)

OEAS undergraduate student, Phillip Bailey is on board the R/V Atlantis for a research cruise.

The main research focus is "Testing Models of Magma Movement along the East Pacific Rise Using Combined Geodetic and Numerical Experiments". Posts about his experience will be available here

(Posted: 10/6/2011 16:50)

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January, 2010

Dr, David Burdige, professor and eminent scholar in the department, was co-author of a paper in the journal Geology that was ranked the #12 discovery of the year in Discovery magazine. See the link at http://discover.coverleaf.com/discovermagazine/20100102?pg=36#pg36. This paper provided evidence for the existence of animal life 850 million years ago, almost 200 million years before previous evidence in the fossil record for animal life. The other authors of this paper are Fritz Neuweiler (Laval University, Quebec, Canada) and Elizabeth Turner (Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada).

November, 2010

OEAS 320 Sedimentology & Stratigraphy Field Trip
View pictures from the field trip to western Virginia taken by students of OEAS 320 here.

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August 2007

Dr. Dennis Darby Participates in Lomonosov Ridge Off Greenland (LOMROG) Expedition

Due to his experience and expertise in matters of the Arctic, Dr. Darby was invited to participate in this scientific expedition to map the seafloor in the region north of Greenland. This sea floor mapping will hopefully show areas of grounded ice from past ice ages and other features leading to a better understanding of geologic processes in the Arctic. Sediment cores will be collected from several sites to help better understand past climate changes in this area and to show ice drift patterns off Greenland in the past. Dr. Darby will also be in charge of collecting dirty sea ice samples from the drifting pack ice. These samples can be analyzed for small grains that, like a fingerprint, can be traced back to their source and thus determine where the ice originated. Related to the scientific goals of this expedition is the hotly contested matter of mapping the Arctic for future drilling rights among Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States as outlined in this article.

Dr. Darby is also keeping a daily log of events as they unfold on this important expedition.

Dr. Darby sampling a patch of sediment on the ice at about 88 deg N, his closest position to the North Pole on LOMROG.

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May 2006

Paper by OEAS Professor Highlighted in Science

Dr. Nora Noffke and her assistants recently published a paper in the journal Geology (Vol 34, page 253, 2006). Here is a summary of their work in the Science magazine:

GEOCHEMISTRY: Wrinkles of Life
A variety of geochemical evidence implies that life evolved on Earth roughly 3.5 billion years ago, yet more direct evidence--specifically, fossils or fossil-derived structures such as stromatolites or alteration pits--is still sparse or disputed in rocks dating several hundred million years closer to the present. Most of the evidence has been found in siliceous oozes or sediments, carbonate rocks, or altered basalt from deep oceanic or hydrothermal settings.

Noffke et al. have discovered fossil microbial mats in another environment, South African tidal sandstones, dated to ~3.2 billion years ago. These rocks display wrinkles, layered roll-up structures, and carbon-rich laminations that resemble features seen in modern intertidal sandstones and commonly preserved in much younger rocks. Such structures form as ductile microbial mats are buried. Analysis of the carbon isotope compositions of the laminations further supports their bacterial origin. Concentration of these features at the top of sedimentary sequences formed in shallow water environments suggests that the microbes in the mats may have derived their energy through photosynthesis.

June 2006

Bio-Optical Group Sets for Florida

As part of the NASA funded research into the development of algorithms for seagrass primary productivity, Dr. Richard Zimmerman and his Bio-Optical research group are heading off for their second field season. Five personnel from this group (Dick, Victoria, David, Mandy and Jasmine) as well as four people from Dr. Heidi Dierssen's COLORS lab at the University of Connecticut are leaving for Florida this year. [Details]

October 2006

Dr. Margaret Mulholland Funded by NOAA to Study Red Tide

Margaret Mulholland, assistant professor of oceanography at Old Dominion University, has been awarded a $500,000 grant to help determine the nutrient triggers causing deadly red tide blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. [Details]

Dr. David Burdige publishes new book "Geochemistry of Marine Sediments" (Princeton University Press)

Click here for an introduction of this book and here for an interview with Dr .Burdige from The Courier.

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April 2005


Publisher Elsevier, Editor Nora Noffke/a>
The book introduces the variety of aspects of the new research discipline - geobiology.

OEAS contributors have been David Burdige and Greg Cutter.


Sofie Jonsson has recently returned to Kalmar University in Sweden following a five-month stay here as part of her undergraduate honors' thesis. On her return, she successfully defended her thesis research on phytoplankton in ships' ballast water. Portions of her thesis will be included in a manuscript that considers the efficiency of open-ocean ballast-water exchange. Sofie plans to return to OEAS in the fall as a graduate student.

Silvia Rondon Delgado returned to Bogata, Colombia earlier this week, ending a several-month stay in Norfolk. Here she took English courses, counted inumerable virus-like particles, and prepared growth curves for bacteria. Silvia also plans to start as a graduate student here next fall.

We say hello to Dr. Yingzhong Tang, a post-doctoral research associate newly arrived from the National University of Singapore. His research efforts there at the Tropical Marine Science Institute included monitoring seawater quality, testing the killing efficacy of a ballast water treatment system, and developing molecular probes for rapid identification of bacteria. Here he will combine those skills in a study of cell viability (bacteria and dinoflagellates) following simulate ballast-water treatments.

Finally, it was our pleasure to host Prof. Hugh MacIsaac as our departmental seminar speaker on 7 April. Find out more about his work at our .



Chester Grosch, professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences and computer science, was named ODU outstanding faculty member in the area of research at "Portal to New Worlds: Research Exposition" on Wednesday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. [LINK]


Students taking Ocean 441-442, Ocean and Earth Sciences Field Study, won Second Place for Undergraduates at the 2005 ODU/NSU Research Day with their poster entitled "Nutrient Exchange Between the James River and Hoffler Creek". [LINK] The students are (l - r in picture): Brian Belmont, Lisa Strange, William Ashley, Catherine Flynn, and Albert Sanford.

May 2005


Global warming is a hot topic. Not only are researchers trying to pin down what's contributing to our planet's warming, but they also want to anticipate the impact it's having... [FULL STORY]

July 2005


Dr. Fred Dobbs and Nova University colleague Andrew Rogerson recently published a "viewpoint" paper in Environmental Science and Technology that considers microorganisms in ballast water--their
ecology, the impending regulations concerning their discharge from ships, and how technology might deal with them [article link]. For a related view of the issues involved, see also a piece by ODU science writer Jim Raper.

One of the "Red Tide" microalgae that can be transported through ballast water operations (Photo by Dr. Martina Doblin)

 Gymnodinium catenatum

Ballast and harbor water sampling (Photos by Dr. Fred Dobbs)

Preparing to enter ballast water tank

Lowering sampling gear

Sampling harbor water

October 2005


HOTRAX (Healy-Oden Trans-Arctic Expedition) just completed a highly successful expedition to the Arctic. This expedition involving the USCGC Healy and the Swedish icebreaker Oden was historic in that it was the second only surface crossing of the central Arctic Ocean. Over 4,000 nautical miles of breaking ice that was as thick as 12-15 feet in places. This expedition collected more sediment core material than any other to the central Arctic (nearly 500 meters) and was the first to map mud waves on the Arctic seafloor. These waves extended for kilometers and were several meters high. HOTRAX was the first Arctic coring expedition to use multibeam swath mapping and chirp seismic, which shows the upper 50 meters below the seafloor, to locate core sites and interpret the geologic context of each core. The cruise also collected 2,200 km of multi-channel seismic profiles with a 300meter long towed array of hydrophones. These profiles show the sub-bottom down to several kilometers below the seafloor and will be instrumental in interpreting the origin of the North American half of the Arctic Basin known as the Amerasian Basin. Also of note is the fact that this expedition visited the North Pole later in the year than any previous surface ships. The Arctic winter begins in early September and the expedition nearly did not make it out of the ice due to an early cold spell and freeze-up that made progress away from the Pole a struggle. At one point, we made less than four miles in as many hours. The expedition also was historic in that it was the first surface vessel to collect continuous ice thickness data across the central Arctic. Over 20 polar bears were spotted during the expedition, including two rarely seen seal kills, both within a few hours of each other. Visit HOTRAX website.

November 2005

Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth Family Academic Conference on Ocean Science at ODU

On November 5th, 2005, ODU's Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (OEAS) collaborated with The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program to present a Family Academic Conference on Explorations in Marine and Ocean Sciences on the campus of Old Dominion University as part of CTY's Science and Technology Series. Elizabeth Smith of the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO) coordinated this event together with Amanda Renwick, Outreach Coordinator for OEAS. The event attracted 35 talented middle-school students and their parents from around the Mid-Atlantic region to participate in keynote talks and hands-on workshops about all aspects of Marine Science.

The CTY Science and Technology Series is geared for academically talented eighth- and ninth-grade students and their families. It introduces students to prominent and pioneering scientists, mathematicians and graduate students and provides a venue for these researchers to talk about their work. At the Family Academic Conference held in November, CTY presented math and science concepts within the framework of a Marine and Ocean Sciences theme. Smith and Renwick, in cooperation with JHU CTY, planned, designed, staffed, and scheduled activities, using the expertise, resources, and facilities available among the faculty, students and staff of the Department of OEAS and CCPO.

Two plenary presentations by outside experts began and ended the day. Christopher Nelson, representing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spoke about "The Science Behind Fighting Pollution in Chesapeake Bay." Passionate about spreading the message of saving Chesapeake Bay, Mr. Nelson's opening talk set a positive tone for the day. In the afternoon, Susanne Grieve, assistant conservator at The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, rounded out the day with her talk entitled "An Icon of Maritime Archaeology: The Recovery, Conservation and Exhibition of the U.S.S. Monitor."

For most of the day, students followed one agenda and their parents another. Student workshops focused on topics such as "All About Sharks", presented by OEAS Marine Electronics Technician Chris Powell; "A Day in the Life of an Oceanographer," by George Boneillo, a graduate teaching assistant in OEAS; and "Living With Ancient Oceans and Modern Water" by OEAS Professor Richard Whittecar. Parents heard speakers on "Chemical Oceanography; A Crucial Component of Earth's System" by OEAS Professor Greg Cutter and "Preparing for a Career in Marine Science" by Dr. Carol Hopper-Brill of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Also, students had the unique opportunity to experiment with the Chesapeake Bay Interactive Modeling Project (CHIMP) in a workshop lead by CCPO Oceanography, Olga Polyakov. CHIMP is a new computer model of the bay developed by ODU oceanographers and modeling and simulation engineers. By changing variables such as wind speed and river discharge, the model simulates changes in the bay that hold special significance for scientists and environmentalists. Other ODU oceanography faculty and graduate students participating in the program together with Smith and Renwick included: Victoria Hill, post-doctoral research associate; and Amy Hansen, graduate teaching assistant. Oceanography graduate student ambassadors worked closely with the visiting students throughout the day. These students included: Jenny Ambler, Matt Botzler, Xinping Hu, Nick Nolasco, Danna Palladino, Andrea Rocha, Carrie Snyder, and Mandy Stoughton.

Also participating were Terri M. Mathews, assistant dean of the ODU College of Sciences and Carol Hopper-Brill, marine educational specialist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

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