Wellesley College Faculty and Students Present Scientific Research

CONTACT: Molly Tarantino

Mei Ai Khoo field work
Mei Ai Khoo '08 (left), collects samples

WELLESLEY, Mass. – Wellesley College faculty and students presented their research findings at the 42nd annual meeting of the Northeastern Section of the Geological Society of America, March 12-14 at the University of New Hampshire. About 700 geoscientists attended.

Rachel Erdil ’07, who is majoring in environmental chemistry, presented “Deciphering the Geochemical History of Lake Waban, Wellesley, Massachusetts.” Her research, produced with Nolan Flynn, chemistry, and Daniel Brabander, geosciences, looks at how Lake Waban sediment appears to preserve a geochemical record of the Charles River watershed’s complex history.

“I feel that I have been extremely lucky to be able to develop a project from its infancy because I have experienced many of the highs and lows of science research – from making incredibly interesting discoveries and seeing results come together to tell a story, to realizing that samples were contaminated, hence all collected data and analyses were useless,” Erdil said.

Erdil will also present her findings during the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting and Exposition in Chicago, March 25-29.

Mei Ai Khoo ’08, a geosciences major, presented “Characterization of Toxic Metal Transport Processes Downstream of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.” Her co-researchers include Kathleen McCarthy ’08 and Brabander. The project looks at mine waste at the Tar Creek Superfund Site in northeast Oklahoma, which is a major source of metal contamination to the area.

The site is part of the tri-state mining district, which was one of the world’s largest lead and zinc mining areas and includes areas of Kansas and Missouri. Mining activity in this area began in 1891 and continued up until the 1970s, during which time an estimated 1.7 million tons of lead and 8.8 million tons of zinc were produced.
“If I had not visited the Superfund site in Oklahoma, I would have never understood the extent of the mining’s impact on the surrounding ecosystem and human community,” McCarthy said. “Mine shafts have collapsed leaving gaping holes filled with groundwater of an eerie green color. The whole grassland area looks like it was painted at the tips with orange from the iron oxides that cling to grasses, trees and at the banks of rivers.”

James Besancon, geosciences, will describe his research on “Blue Hills Igneous Complex: Model Analysis by X-Ray Diffraction.”

“I study the Blue Hills south of Boston, the site of an ancient volcano and also the area of the famous Quincy granite quarries,” he said. “My research involves x-ray powder diffraction as an improved method for analyzing the quantities of minerals present, and tests of its efficacy as a method of differentiating various rock units.”

Margaret Thompson, geosciences, made two presentations, “The Geological Case for Avalon Off North Africa at 595 MA” and “Paleomagnetic Overprinting as Evidence of Neoacadian Tectonism in Northern Appalachian Peri-Gondwanan Terraces.”

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.