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March 31, 2016

NHS teams up with Union College for geology study

Above: Dr. Gillikin lectures students on the chemistry behind stable isotope analysis.
Left: Dr. Rodbell shows students a sediment core that spans the past 15,000 years, showing when trees first re-entered the area after the last ice sheet retreated.

While analyzing data from a joint Niskayuna High School and Union College study on stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes involving student hair samples, Honors Earth Science students from Jeremy Lundy's class learned how geology can be about more than just rocks.

The class visited Union College's Geology Department on March 29 where they met geochemist Dr. Dave Gillikin and geomorphologist and climate scientist Dr. Don Rodbell.

Dr. Gillikin discussed topics ranging from geochemistry to biology, mass spectrometry and climate change. Dr. Rodbell gave students a tour of Union's sediment core lab that houses samples from local lakes. They discussed how core studies are used to help give information about the last ice age and modern climate change.

"It really opened up my eyes to a whole new aspect of geology and a possible path for me in the future," student Molly Mason said.

"This was the first of hopefully many collaborations with Union's Geology Department," Lundy said. "The collaboration promises to offer Niskayuna's earth science students a unique opportunity to practice real science through cutting-edge technologies and partnerships with local experts."