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UNH Professors and Student Present Research at Geological Society of America Conference

Release Date:
10/3/2011 12:00 AM
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University of New Haven: Blue hole, 500px

A "blue hole" in the Bahamas

Oct. 3, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. –  Three University of New Haven researchers have been selected to present papers at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America on Oct. 9-12 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The three, Robert Patalano, a master’s degree candidate in environmental sciences; Carmela Cuomo, associate professor and head of the UNH marine biology program; and Paul R. Bartholomew, practitioner-in-residence, will present their research findings at the meeting which 6,000 scientists are expected to attend. The three are members of UNH’s Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences.

Patalano’s work examined whether acids generated by bacteria rather than carbon dioxide solution dissolve limestone in island settings such as the Bahamas.  Limestone is dissolved by a source of acid, which many scientists had thought to come from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Recent research, however, shows that acid generated by bacteria has created acids that are primarilly responsible for creating the huge (hundreds of meters in scale) “blue holes” found on a number of Bahamian islands.

Patalano’s research tested that hypothesis at the small (centimeter) scale.  He found that acids generated by both carbon dioxide solution and bacteria are responsible for creating the blue holes on Andros Island, the largest in the chain of islands that forms the Bahamas. Patalano’s work was conducted at the Gerace Research Centre on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. UNH is one of 16 schools affiliated with the field station. Patalano conducted his research in conjunction with UNH biology Professor R. Laurence Davis.

Cuomo’s research looked at the formation of hypoxic (shortage of oxygen) and anoxic (without any oxygen at all) bottom waters in Coastal New England. The occurrence of hypoxic/anoxic water during the summer has increased over the past two decades as the result of increased nutrient loading, warming temperatures and water stratification.

Cuomo’s work found that there is a series of complex and dynamic coupled sediment-bottom water events unrelated to hypoxia development in the upper water columns of coastal waters.  Her work clarifies the important role that sediments play in coastal hypoxic development not just in New England but also in other coastal regions such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It also has implications for the formation of black shale deposits – many of which are oil source rocks – throughout geologic time.

Bartholomew’s research tested the success rate of two distinct technologies – Raman Spectroscopy and Power X-Ray Diffraction – for mineral identification. While Powder X-Ray Diffraction is a long established and trusted method for mineral identification, Raman Spectroscopy offers the advantage of being non-destructive and requires smaller samples, less sample preparation and less analysis time.

Bartholomew found the mineral identification success rate of Raman Spectroscopy comparable to that of Powder X-Ray Diffraction if Raman Spectroscopy technology could be improved to avoid fluorescence interferences. He was able to test both technologies in the UNH forensic sciences department.

Established in 1888, the Geological Society of America (GSA) is a global professional society with a growing membership of more than 24,000 individuals in 97 countries.

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