Middlebury

 

Peter Ryan

Professor of Geology

Email: 
Phone: work802.443.2557
Office Hours: Monday - 11 to 12 (MBH), Tuesday - 11 to 12 (MBH), Thursday - 8:30 to 9:30 (Hillcrest)
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As a member of the Geology Department and the Environmental Studies Program, I teach courses in both geology and ES and advise senior research projects in both areas. The focus of my teaching here at Middlebury is low-temperature geochemistry, including courses in hydrology, soils, sedimentary geology and interdisciplinary environmental science. Primary areas of research include (1) the mineralogy and geochemistry of soil evolution in the moist tropics of Costa Rica with a focus on reaction pathways, mechanisms, kinetics and geological implications, and (2) the relationships among trace metals and phyllosilicates (clay minerals) in soils and bedrock; recent projects have focused on origins of naturally-derived arsenic, uranium and other trace metals in bedrock water wells in Vermont. Please visit my website for more information.

 

Courses

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

ENVS 0112 - Natural Science & Environment      

Natural Science and the Environment
We will explore in detail a series of current environmental issues in order to learn how principles of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics, as well as interdisciplinary scientific approaches, help us to identify and understand challenges to environmental sustainability. In lecture, we will examine global environmental issues, including climate change, water and energy resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services, human population growth, and world food production, as well as the application of science in forging effective, sustainable solutions. In the laboratory and field, we will explore local manifestations of global issues via experiential and hands-on approaches. 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab.

SCI

Spring 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013

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ENVS 0401 - Environmental Studies Sr Sem      

Environmental Studies Senior Seminar
A single environmental topic will be explored through reading, discussion, and individual research. Topics will vary from semester to semester, but will focus on issues with relevance to the local region and with interdisciplinary dimensions, such as temperate forests, lake ecosystems, or public lands policy. The class involves extensive reading, student-led discussions, and a collaborative research project. (Senior standing; ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, and GEOG 0120) 3 hrs. sem./3 hrs. lab

Fall 2010

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ENVS 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
A one- or two-semester research project on a topic that relates to the relationship between humans and the environment. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member with related expertise, must involve a significant amount of independent research and analysis. Students may enroll in ENVS 0500 no more than twice for a given project. (Approval only)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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ENVS 0700 - ES Senior Honors Work      

Senior Honors Work
The final semester of a multi-semester research project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. Students may enroll in ENVS 0700 only once. (Previous work would have been conducted as one or two semesters of an ENVS 0500 Independent Study project.) The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member, will result in a substantial piece of writing, and will be presented to other ENVS faculty and students in a public forum. (Senior standing; ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, GEOG 0120, and ENVS 0500; Approval only)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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GEOL 0170 - The Dynamic Earth      

The Dynamic Earth
Sea-floor spreading and continental drift, earthquakes and volcanoes, origin and evolution of mountain systems, and concepts of plate tectonics are viewed in light of the geology of ocean basins and continents. Modern processes such as river, coastal, wind, and glaciers will be studied and their effect on shaping the geologic landscape. Laboratory: field problems in Vermont geology; interpretation of geologic maps, regional tectonic synthesis. 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab/field trips

SCI

Fall 2010

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GEOL 0221 - Geology of Climate Change      

The Geology of Climate Change
In this course we will discuss how external forces and internal feedbacks within the Earth system govern climate. Specific topics will include orbital variability, changes in ocean circulation, CO2 uptake in terrestrial ecosystems, and molecular vibrational controls on infrared absorption and Earth's heat budget. We will then examine climate change through Earth's history as evidenced by a number of geologic proxies including the sedimentary record, ice cores, isotopic records, glaciers, soils, and tree rings. Ultimately our improved understanding of past climates will provide a context within which to discuss future changes to come. (one Geology course)

SCI

Spring 2012

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GEOL 0255 / GEOG 0255 - Surface & Ground Water      

Surface and Ground Water
Fresh water is the most fundamental resource sustaining life on the continents. This course is an introduction to the study of water and its interactions with the geologic environment. Basic hydrological processes such as precipitation, stream flow, and the subsurface flow of ground water are analyzed by quantitative methods. Climatic and human-induced changes in the hydrological cycle are examined, and current issues and policies are discussed in light of the increasing demands and impacts of a technological society on water resources and associated natural systems. (ENVS 0112 or any 0100-level Geology course) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab

DED SCI

Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014

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GEOL 0257 - Soils, Geology & Environment      

Soils, Geology, and the Environment
Soils constitute the fundamental link between atmosphere, water, biota, and rock. Knowledge of the physical, chemical, and biological processes operating in soils is essential when assessing natural cycles as well as anthropogenic alterations to those natural cycles. In this course, we will analyze a wide range of issues, including soil formation, soil mineralogy, soil fertility and nutrient cycling, sediment pollution, soil contamination, water pollution, sediment erosion and deposition, and implications for land-use planning. Labs will be project-oriented and will consist of a combination of fieldwork and instrumental analysis. (ENVS 0112, any GEOL course, or waiver)

SCI

Fall 2014

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GEOL 0321 - Sedimentary Rocks      

Sedimentary Rocks
An overview of the tools used in determining depositional environments and tectonic settings of sedimentary rocks. Lectures cover depositional systems and facies relationships, stratigraphic principles, origin of sedimentary structures and textures. Labs and field trips include methods in sedimentary basin analysis, sedimentary petrology. (GEOL 0201 or GEOL 0211) 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab/field trips

SCI

Spring 2010

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GEOL 0323 - Environmental Geochemistry      

Environmental Geochemistry
This course will address the origin, transport, fate, and analysis of chemicals in the environment. Topics will include aquatic chemistry, rock weathering, elemental cycles, atmospheric processes, and energy resources. Both naturally occurring and anthropogenic compounds/elements will be considered. The course will introduce students to a variety of analytical and instrumental techniques, including ultraviolet-visible-spectrophotometry, atomic absorption spectrometry, and high-performance liquid chromatography. The labs willbe project oriented. Major ions, nutrients, trace metals, and organic compounds will be studied in a variety of systems, including natural waters, soils, and air (CHEM 0104 or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect.

SCI

Fall 2011, Fall 2013

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GEOL 0400 - Senior Thesis Research Seminar      

Senior Thesis Research Seminar
This seminar will focus on methods and strategies for completing advanced geological research and provides a springboard for senior thesis research. Topics will include field and laboratory techniques, primary literature review, and scientific writing. Students taking this course are expected to be simultaneously working on the early stages of their senior thesis research. During the semester students will present a thesis proposal and the seminar will culminate with each student completing a draft of the first chapter of their senior thesis. GEOL 0400 is required of all geology majors. 3 hrs. disc. or lab

Fall 2014

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GEOL 0500 - Readings And Research      

Readings and Research
Individual or group independent study, laboratory or field research projects, readings and discussion of timely topics in earth and environmental science. (Approval only)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Winter 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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GEOL 0700 - Senior Thesis Research      

Upon completion of GEOL 0400, all senior geology majors will continue their independent senior thesis research by taking one unit of GEOL 0700. This research will culminate in a written thesis which must be orally defended. (Approval only)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Winter 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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Recent Publications

  1. Ryan, P.C., Kim, J., Wall, A.J.*, Moen, J.C.*, Corenthal, L.G.*, Chow, D.R., Sullivan, C.M.*, Bright, K.S.*, 2011, Ultramafic-derived arsenic in a fractured bedrock aquifer. Applied Geochemistry 26, 444-457.

  2. Kim, J., Klepeis, K., Ryan, P., Gale, M., McNiff, C., Ruksznis, A., and Webber, J., 2011, A bedrock transect across the Champlain and Hinesburg thrusts in west-central Vermont: integration of tectonics with hydrogeology and groundwater chemistry, in West, D.P., Jr., editor, Guidebook for Field Trips in Vermont and Adjacent New York: New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference Guidebook, C5-1-23.

  3. Ryan P.C., Huertas, F.J., 2009. The temporal evolution of pedogenic Fe-smectite to Fe-kaolin via interstratified kaolin-smectite in a moist tropical soil chronosequence. Geoderma 151, 1-15.

  4. Ryan P.C., Hillier S, Wall A.J.*, 2008, Stepwise effects of the BCR sequential chemical extraction procedure on dissolution and metal release from common ferromagnesian clay minerals: a combined solution chemistry and X-ray powder diffraction study. Science of the Total Environment 407, 603-614.