Pete Ryan
Office
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 427
Tel
(802) 443-2557
Email
pryan@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Wednesday 10:00 - 11:00, Thursday 11:00 - 12:00, Friday 10:00 - 11:00 or by appointment

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.

Courses Taught

Course Description

Soils 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, climate, 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 instrument analysis. (any ECSC 0100 or ENVS 112, or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab (formerly GEOL 0357)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

SCI

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Course Description

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) (formerly GEOL 0500)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

SCI

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Course Description

Water: From Fish to PFAS
In this team-taught course we will focus on water in the U.S. from the perspectives of natural science and policy. Three general themes, two of which map onto major environmental laws, will guide the course: clean water (Clean Water Act), drinking water (Safe Drinking Water Act), and dams. We will examine questions of human / non-human equity concerns throughout the course, from pollutants (e.g., PFAS and lead) to aquatic ecosystem health. Students will engage in major experiential, societally-connected projects. A major goal of the course will be to demonstrate the interplay of different ways of knowing. (ENVS 0211 or ENVS 0112 or GEOL 0255) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

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Course Description

Independent Study
In this course, students (non-seniors) carry out an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member with related expertise who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, must involve a significant amount of independent research and analysis. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0500 no more than twice for a given project. (Approval only)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Independent Study
In this course, seniors complete an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. During the term prior to enrolling in ENVS 0700, a student must discuss and agree upon a project topic with a faculty advisor who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program and submit a brief project proposal to the Director of Environmental Studies for Approval. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0700 as a one-term independent study OR up to twice as part of a multi-term project, including as a lead-up to ENVS 0701 (ES Senior Thesis) or ENVS 0703 (ES Senior Integrated Thesis). (Senior standing; Approval only)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
This course is the culminating term of a multi-term independent project, resulting in a senior thesis on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. Approval to enroll is contingent on successful completion of at least one term (and up to two) of ENVS 0700 and the approval of the student’s thesis committee. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, will result in a substantial piece of scholarly work that will be presented to other ENVS faculty and students in a public forum and defended before the thesis committee. (Senior standing; ENVS major; ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, GEOG 0120, and ENVS 0700; Approval only)

Terms Taught

Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

Senior Integrated Thesis
This course is the culminating term of a multi-term independent project, resulting in a senior thesis on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment and that meaningfully integrates perspectives, methodologies, and/or approaches from multiple academic divisions (e.g., humanities/arts, natural sciences, social sciences). Approval to enroll is contingent on successful completion of at least one term (and up to two) of ENVS 0700 and approval of the Environmental Studies Program. The project, carried out under the co-supervision of two faculty advisors from different academic divisions of whom at least one is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, will result in a substantial piece of scholarly work that will be presented to other ENVS faculty and students in a public forum and defended before the thesis committee. (Open to Senior ENVS majors) (Approval Only)

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

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Course Description

Landscapes of Central America: Past, Present, and Future
Central America has been at the crossroads of the Americas since closure of the isthmus of Panama around three million years ago. In this course we will study Central America through an interdisciplinary lens of natural history and human history (prehistoric through modern), including fiction and non-fiction by Central American authors, journal articles, popular science writing, and poetry. We will explore the geological origins of Central America as well as human-landscape interactions, notably volcanism, early agriculture, and trade routes. Our readings will also require us to think about current and future socio-political systems and their relationships to landscape. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

Requirements

AMR, CW

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

SCI

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

DED, SCI

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Course Description

Environmental Geochemistry
This course examines the chemical composition of natural and human-influenced environments, with a focus on predicting the behavior (“fate and transport”) of major ions, trace elements, nutrients and organic compounds (natural and synthetic) in soil, water, rock and air. Topics include aqueous geochemistry, chemical weathering, elemental cycles, isotopic tracers, atmospheric processes, climate impact of energy resources, and remediation of environmental contamination. Students will do chemical and mineralogical analysis using a variety of analytical and instrumental techniques, including ICPMS, SEM-EDS, XRF, XRD, and synthesis experiments. This is a project oriented course. (One GEOL course and CHEM 0104 or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021

Requirements

SCI

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Course Description

Water Resources and Hydrogeology
Fresh water is the most fundamental resource sustaining life on the planet. In this course we examine all elements of the hydrologic cycle, focusing first on precipitation and surface water flow and then on subsurface flow. We study examples from across the globe to understand factors influencing water quality and availability, and apply mathematical approaches to quantify constraints on sustainable use. The consequences of climate change and other anthropogenic impacts to the hydrological cycle are examined, and current issues and policies are discussed in light of increasing demands on water resources and associated natural systems. (formerly GEOL 0255) (ENVS 0112 or any 0100-level Geology course) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

DED, SCI

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Soils 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, climate, 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 instrument analysis. (formally GEOL 0257) (any GEOL 0100 or ENVS 112, or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

SCI

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022

View in Course Catalog

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.