Earth & Planetary Sciences

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Department News

EPS Course "Natural Resources and the Global Economy" for Non-Majors Highlighted in Rutgers Today

Rutgers students got a first-hand look at how geology works in the real world - from fossils to toothpaste and kitty litter - in a course designed for non science majors.

Paul G. Falkowski has been appointed by Rutgers Board of Governors as first holder of the Bennett L. Smith Chair in Business and Natural Resources

Paul Falkowski

Rutgers University Board of Governors today (December 14, 2011) appointed Paul G. Falkowski, a professor of geological and marine sciences, as the first holder of the Bennett L. Smith Chair in Business and Natural Resources. The university established the endowed chair – which resides jointly in Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences – to support a university faculty member whose research has contributed to understanding the Earth and its climate and who has been instrumental in shaping energy policy internationally.

The anonymous gift establishing the endowment is part of the university's fundraising campaign, Our Rutgers, Our Future: A Campaign for Excellence. A Rutgers faculty member since 1998, Falkowski, who is the founding Director of the Rutgers Energy Institute,, has been recognized for his contributions to the understanding of the role of the oceans in the co-evolution of life and biogeochemical cycles."Paul Falkowski is recognized internationally for his far-reaching scientific vision that is of tremendous value to the understanding of biological oceanography and climate change," said Richard L. McCormick, president of Rutgers University. "His leadership and collaborative efforts toward energy independence through scientific and technological advances exemplify Rutgers' role in New Jersey and beyond."Falkowski is a Board of Governors Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences in the School of Environment and Biological Sciences. He is the lead investigator of the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program.

At the Rutgers Energy Institute, he works to foster innovative research and educational programs in science, technology and economic policies aimed at developing sustainable energy production compatible with economic growth and environmental vitality.A renowned teacher and scholar, Falkowski has received recognition and many distinguished awards and for his work including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Huntsman Medal, the Hutchinson Award and the Verndsky Medal from the European Geosciences Union. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a private nonprofit society of distinguished scholars chartered to advise the government on science for the general welfare of the nation. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Academy of Microbiology.Falkowski, who earned his doctoral degree in Biology from the University of British Columbia in 1975, lives in Princeton with his wife Sari Ruskin and two daughters, Sasha and Mirit.

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Congratulations to Etikha

 Congratulations to Etikha who presented and successfully defended her MS Thesis "Postrift Deformation of the Scotian Basin, Offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada: Insights from 2D and 3D Seismic-Reflection Data.  (Tuesday, December 20th, 2011).  For those of you not there, Etikha gave a nice presentation and handled questions quite well... from the audience and as I understand from her committee as well. Advisors: Martha Withjack and Roy Schlische, committee members Vadim Levin and Don Monteverde.

Once Etikha dots a few i's and crosses a few t's, she will be off to work with Exxon Mobil Indonesia


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Postrift deformation of the Scotian basin, offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada: Insights from 2D and 3D seismic-reflection data


Thesis Directors:

Dr. Martha Oliver Withjack and Dr. Roy W. Schlische

The Scotian basin is one of a series of postrift basins located on the eastern North America passive margin. Using 2D and 3D seismic data, I have identified a variety of folds and faults that developed after rifting. Folds include secondary fault-related folds (e.g., fault-bend folds, fault-propagation folds, and fault-displacement folds) and folds associated with shallow salt structures. Folds associated with shallow salt structures are subparallel to the strike of deep-seated, basement-involved faults. Folded strata above salt structures is thick. The upward buoyancy force alone is not enough to cause the salt to pierce the thick overburden. Deep-seated deformation weakened the overburden and triggered salt movement.

Faulting in the study areas are related to the reactivation of deep-seated faults, salt movement, and non-tectonic deformation. Reactivation of deep-seated faults resulted in faults at shallow levels with normal and reverse separation that, respectively, were active from Cretaceous through middle Cenozoic (Miocene?) time and after the deposition of Early Cretaceous strata. Faults associated with deeper salt movement were active during the Early Cretaceous and again during the Cenozoic until Miocene time. Faults associated with shallow salt movement were active from late Early Cretaceous through middle Cenozoic (Miocene?) time. Other faults associated with shallow salt structures have reverse separation at depth and normal separation at shallow levels. Faults with reverse separation formed during early Early Cretaceous time. Faults with normal separation were active from Late Cretaceous time through early Cenozoic time. Polygonal faults are non-tectonic faults and associated with lithological changes. They were active from Late Cretaceous time through early Cenozoic time.

            In the Penobscot study area, episodic normal faulting during Late Cretaceous time and the presence of polygonal faults with a preferred orientation indicate NW-SE extension during Late Cretaceous-Early Cenozoic time.

            The NW-trending anticline along the Laurentian Channel resulted from reactivation of deep-seated faults. Faults with reverse separation formed beneath the anticline. Miocene channels are deflected from the anticline, whereas Pliocene-Pleistocene channels directly overly the anticline, indicating that the anticline was active during Miocene time. The anticline and subsidiary structures are subparallel to modeled seafloor displacement from the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake.

Congratulations to Zuhal Seker

Congratulations to Zuhal Seker, who presented and successfully defended her MS Thesis on January, 5th, 2012, on Cretaceous Well-log and Sequence Stratigraphic Correlation of the Outer Continental Shelf and Upper Slope off of New Jersey. 

Cretaceous Well-log and Sequence Stratigraphic Correlation of the Outer Continental Shelf and Upper Slope off of New Jersey

  Thesis Director: Dr. Kenneth Miller

Committee members: Dr. Greg Mountain and Dr. Donald Monteverde



Distinct, regionally continuous Cretaceous sand bodies are present beneath the outer continental shelf and upper slope off of New Jersey that encompasses much of the basin known as the Baltimore Canyon Trough (BCT). These sand bodies are possible candidates for liquid CO2 sequestration. This thesis aims to delineate and correlate four distinct sand units (Middle Sandstone, Upper Logan Canyon, Lower Logan Canyon Sand units, and Missisauga Unit) and their suitability for CO2 sequestration that requires sufficient depth, porosity, permeability, spatial continuity and presence of cap rock. I have analyzed geophysical logs and biostratigraphic data from 11 wells to identify the lithostratigraphic units of the BCT and established three well log transects to demonstrate the spatial continuity of the target sand units.


The correlation of lithostratigraphic units along the dip profiles reveals the stratigraphic patterns of the target sand units. The Middle Sandstone Unit has a progradational pattern throughout the basin, spanning the Coniacian through Santonian. Weak continuity and presence of hydrocarbon-bearing intervals indicate that this unit is not suitable for sequestration. The Upper Logan Canyon Sand Unit has a progradational pattern, spanning the Albian through Cenomanian. This sand body has a spatial continuity in the northeastern part of the BCT area and includes thick porous sandstone beds sealed with impermeable rocks above, suggesting potential for sequestration. The Lower Logan Canyon Sand Unit follows a retrogradational pattern, spanning the Aptian through Albian. The Lower Logan Canyon Sand Unit promises more continuity towards the south, unlike the upper unit. The Lower Logan Canyon Sand Unit is more favorable as a sequestration target. The Missisauga Unit has a progradational pattern, spanning the Hauterivian through Aptian. This unit is very thick and continuous throughout the basin, including abundant porous sand beds sealed with impermeable beds. However, many gas-bearing intervals are present within this deeply buried unit, and the age control is ambiguous, thus, making it a less favorable to unfavorable sequestration target.



Congratulations to Morgan Schaller

Ph.D. candidate Morgan Schaller presented his thesis Large Igneous Provinces and Earth's Carbon Cycle: Lessons from the Late Triassic and Rapidly Emplaced Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (11/21/2011)Morgan defended his thesis with flying colors and his committee commented on the completion of a superb dissertation.  Morgan will be in short, filing his dissertation with the graduate school. Congratulations Morgan, job well done!

Dissertation Abstract:

Using stable isotopes of soil carbonates, I demonstrate that the eruption of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) resulted in a transient perturbation of atmospheric pCO2 in the Late Triassic. I show evidence of a discrete pCO2 pulse (roughly a doubling) immediately after the first CAMP flow-unit preserved in the Newark rift basin, followed by a ~200 kyr falloff toward pre-eruptive concentrations, a pattern repeated above the second and third flow-units. Observations from the Hartford basin indicate that pCO2 had fallen to concentrations well below background by 400 kyr after the final eruptions in the earliest Jurassic.  I use a simple geochemical model to demonstrate that this decrease below pre-eruptive background is most easily accomplished by the extrusion of ~1.12 x 107 km2 of basalt into the equatorial humid belt, which effectively amplified the increase in global continental weathering rate by perhaps as much as 50%.  These results indicate that LIPs can be overall net sinks for CO2.  A test of the Late Triassic equilibrium state from a 33-My record of pCO2, broadly shows a ~3-fold decrease in pCO2 from the Carnian through the Rhaetian.  This decrease is most consistent with the hypothesis that a Late-Triassic increase in continental area within the tropical humid belt, as a result of the slow northward migration of the Pangean Supercontinent, lead to increased rates of continental weathering and CO2 consumption.  A significant implication of this finding is that changes in degassing rates from variable ocean crust production are not driving this long-term decrease in pCO2 since crustal production rates show little variability through the Late Triassic.  Together the results of this work lay the foundation for a revision of our understanding regarding the driving mechanisms behind Earth’s long-term carbon cycle toward a greater emphasis on weathering processes.


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