Emeritus Faculty Association #121 February 2007
Next Meeting: The Geology of Stony Brook
Next Meeting: Friday, February 2 (Groundhog Day), at 10:30 a.m.in the Javits Room, 2nd floor, Melville Library. After our customary informal half hour over refreshments, courtesy of the Provost's Office, Gil Hanson, Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Geosciences will discuss the geology of the Stony Brook campus area. Bring your own brown bag lunch to continue the conversation with Gil after his talk. Some of his papers relevant to his talk to us are the following:
Glacial Geology of the Stony Brook-Setauket-Port Jefferson Area
The Provenance of Erratics on the Stony Brook Campus Based on Ar-Ar ages of mica and hornblende
The Stratigraphy of the Stony Brook University Campus
Hydrology of the West Campus
Gil Hanson earned his doctorate at the University of Minnesota in 1964 and came to Stony Brook in 1966. Before focusing on local geology and hydrology, he won international recognition for his innovative employment of isotopes to date ancient rocks, to evaluate processes contributing to the evolution of the earth's crust, and to study groundwater. To promote local study, he convenes the annual conference of the Long Island Geologists. He also coordinates Geology Open Night, a monthly series of lectures by USB faculty. In 2005 the Three Village Times Herald named Gil their Man of the Year in Science, praising his ability to make "arcane information accessible to both expert and layman."
Some members may be interested in the fact that Gil himself will lead a walk through the nearby Weld preserve in Nissaquogue at 10 am Saturday 24 February. Your editor has attended a number of these walks and can recommend them. On this walk we will be looking at the development of a woodland swamp in a tunnel valley and roots of trees in place below sea level which give evidence of sea level rise. We will also see a range of erratic boulder types along the shore line and a magnificent kettle hole. All told we will walk a total of about two miles. More information can be found at
From Stony Brook go west on 25A toward St. James. Take a right onto Moriches Road. Continue about 3 miles, go right on Horse Race Lane. Go about one-half mile and take a left onto Boney Lane. Continue about one-half mile into Smithaven Town Short Beach Park. We will meet there and car pool back to the David Weld Sanctuary. The parking plot at the sanctuary is very small, so please do not park there. Note: Heavy rain cancels all walks, but drizzle does not!
Last Meeting, Friday December 1
Bob de Zafra introduced the guest speaker, David Conover, Director of the Marine Sciences Research Center to talk on the crisis in the world's fisheries. This crisis has been caused by over-fishing, damage to fish habitats, contamination, global warming, and the collapse of coastal ecosystems, all of which can be traced to the increase in the world's human population. The problem was identified as early as 1884 when the world's first global fish conference was convened. A major challenge has been how to count the world's fish population. David explains this to his forestry colleagues by saying that counting fish is as simple as counting trees, except that fish are invisible and they move. But according to today's accepted methods, the fish population since 1980 has leveled off at about 9 million tons. However, that figure obscures the fact that some species have dramatically collapsed, such as cod in Newfoundland where a fishing moratorium was imposed. These figures also obscure the fact that as the larger species have been decimated, the industry has been forced to fish further and further down the food chain. This change began hundreds of years ago. This is illustrated for example by the shallow waters of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn where oysters were once prolific but have long since disappeared. Few people now even know that this area was named after the fish called the sheepshead that used to feed on those oysters.
Global warming has also resulted in cold water fish disappearing from waters previously inhabitable, explaining the disappearance of winter flounder from New York waters. Focusing on those waters, David pointed to a 76% decline in all species from l950 to 2004. Some species have experienced a 98%-99% decline. Shellfish, e.g., lobsters, hardshell clams, and scallops, are the most commercially valuable and thus have experienced the most serious declines. Indeed, bay scallops have become effectively extinct here for commercial purposes, and now your supermarket bay scallops come from China. Yet the good news is that remedial action can result in a near-extinct species becoming again plentiful as illustrated by the recovery of striped bass after a moratorium was invoked in the early 1990's. The mitigation of the New York harbor resulting from the Clean Water Act has been sufficiently successful so that fishing off the harbor shores of Manhattan is now once again possible.
Preferential harvesting of large fish with commercial trawlers has had evolutionary consequences: the size of fish has become increasingly smaller. Four hundred years ago the average size of cod was three feet; 50 years ago it was two and a half feet; today it is one and a half feet. The problem is that smaller fish produce a smaller supply of eggs, and fewer of those survive. As a test David experimented with silverfish populations. He found that the groups that had the large fish harvested evolved to smaller fish after as few as four generations. (This mirrors the rapid evolution demonstrated with worms by our October speaker.).\ The results indicate that it would better conserve harvested biomass as well as maintain species viability if the size regulations were reversed so as to just harvest the mid-size fish. This is being lobbied for by David. Other possible recommendations include setting aside areas of the ocean where no fishing is allowed at all.
From Our Far-Flung Correspondents:
W.Burghardt ("Burg") Turner has moved from Arizona to the Riderwood Community in Maryland, where Frank and Ruth Erk also reside. "Alive and kicking and complaining about the idiots in Washington," he hopes that the academy will take an active role in redirecting public policy rather than sitting on the sidelines. Burg is looking forward to returning to Stony Brook in May for a symposium celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Turner Fellowships. Named in his honor, this program to recruit and support graduate students from underrepresented groups has produced more than 100 Master's degrees and 108 Ph.D.s, a number of whom hold academic appointments in leading institutions. Meanwhile, he would like to hear from fellow emeriti. His new address is: 3154 Gracefield Rd. Apt. 202, Silver Spring, MD 20904. Phone: (301) 847 6918.
John Gagnon reports from Nice, where he has lived the last five years, that he recently received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Glasgow Caledonian University for his work on sexuality and HIV/AIDS. His book of essays, An Interpretation of Desire (Chicago, 2004) has been translated into Portuguese (Garamond, 2006). Sexuality in the Arab World, co-edited with a colleague at American University, Beirut, is to be published this year, along with a French translation of earlier essays entitled Sexual Scripts. Michael Kimmel (Sociology) is editing another book of essays about Gagnon's work to be published by Vanderbilt Press this year or next. Not to be outdone in this "continued assault on the trees of the world," John's wife, embarking on a new career in photography, has published Alive with Alzheimer's (Chicago). Describing "best practices" in living with cognitively impaired adults, this book has been translated into German. To see more on this project and photography dealing with aging and dementia, Google Cathy Greenblat (one "t").
The U.N. Security Council has appointed Yassin El-Ayouty legal adviser and member of a four person panel of experts on the Sudan and the crisis in Darfur. Based in Addis Ababa, he will take on this assignment while continuing oversight of cases in litigation in Baghdad, Cairo, and Miami. Late this year, Sunsglow, his company providing global training in the rule of law, will convene a session in Egypt for the American Bar Association. He regrets being unable to attend our meetings.
Charlie Wurster may have moved to Seattle, Washington, but his activities there remind us of his years at Stony Brook. A recent letter from him to supporters of Environmental Defense (formerly The Environmental Defense Fund) reminds members that it was 40 years ago that he and a few of his colleagues at Stony Brook and Brookhaven Lab conceived the idea to establish that fund, which has grown into one of the most important environmental advocacy organizations in the nation. Pursuing another of his passionate interests, exploring nature, Charlie is leading an expedition to India this month including several members of our group.. Perhaps at a subsequent meeting we can get a report on this.
Members, wherever you may be, please send us your news!