Modern Technology Brings Ancient History to Columbus State University

Peruvian ArtifactCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University students are busy cataloguing and analyzing one of the oldest and best-preserved Peruvian archeological collections in the world thanks to Facebook and the hard work of a tech-savvy anthropology professor.

Danielle Cook, a lecturer in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, first learned about the 6,500-year-old collection from a Facebook group called Bioanthropology News. A friend of Cook’s tagged her in a post by University of Missouri professor Bob Benfer, who was offering the collection up to any interested parties. At the time, he was cleaning out his garage, where the collection was housed.

Cook was the first to respond to Benfer’s post, and in just a month and half, eight boxes containing human skeletal remains, textiles, skin, hair, brain and even fecal matter with Peruvian toilet paper arrived on CSU’s campus.

“This collection is so unique and so rare because most archeological sites are looted, and artifacts are sold to private collectors,” Cook said. “There are no laws in Central and South America that protect these sites from theft.”

Most of the artifacts are from the La Paloma site, a coastal desert area in Peru. The site was well hidden from looters, making it one of the best collections of Peruvian artifacts in the world, said Cook.

“Danielle’s efforts in securing the La Paloma collection were really impressive,” said Clinton Barineau, chair of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. “There aren’t many universities the size of CSU that have access to a collection of this nature.”

Peruvian Artifact  Peruvian Artifact

Cook is taking a collaborative approach to put the collection to good use. Anthropology students are examining the remains to learn more about ancient Peruvian lifestyles; chemistry students are running biochemical tests on bone crystals to see if salt was used in ritualistic burials; biology students are analyzing samples of DNA; and others are testing hair for recreational cocaine use.

“Danielle spends a lot of time getting students involved in undergraduate research,” Barineau said. “Danielle and her students are already discovering new things about Peruvian culture, and I have no doubt CSU students will continue to benefit from this collection for many years to come.”

CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences offers a broad base of scientific study in anthropology, astronomy, environmental science, geology, science education, engineering, robotics and physics. Faculty members offer a diverse array of courses, degrees and student research opportunities. For more information about the department and its programs, visit https://ess.columbusstate.edu/.

 

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Columbus State University Physicist Named Georgia’s ‘Professor of the Year’

Dr. Shaw's Physics Class

A Columbus State University physicist has been recognized as the most outstanding undergraduate professor in Georgia — a first-time honor for a CSU faculty member.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) announced today Kimberly Shaw is 2015’s Georgia Professor of the Year, which is the association’s most prestigious award honoring undergraduate teaching.

“This award isn’t just mine,” said Shaw, who serves as professor of physics and co-director of UTeach Columbus, an innovative mathematics, science and education teaching program. “It belongs to all of my colleagues who work so hard to ensure our students learn and succeed. The most rewarding part of my job is always knowing I have made a difference.”

CASE honored Shaw during ceremonies Thursday in Washington, D.C. at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Shaw joined this year’s state and national award winners to celebrate CASE’s 35th year of the awards program.

“This is an impressive honor bestowed upon Dr. Shaw,” said Clint Barineau, interim chair and associate professor of geology in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. “This award acknowledges what her colleagues and students have known for a long time: Dr. Shaw is an inspiring and dedicated educator with a passion for teaching and a talent for engaging her students.”

The Professor of the Year award salutes undergraduate instructors in the country who have excelled as teachers and influence the careers and lives of their students.

 

Dr. Shaw's Physics Class“The core mission of a university is to educate students,” Shaw said. “This award is special because it’s one of the only national awards to recognize good teaching using innovative techniques and gathering evidence on what is effective.”

Shaw has dedicated 18 years to educating students.

During the past eight years, she has taught introductory-level physics, honors enrichment, interdisciplinary physical science and research methods courses at Columbus State.

“Her impact on my life is, without a doubt, substantial,” said Timothy Jones, a former student and now science teacher at Harris County High School. “She makes the material easier to understand by using neat demonstrations and effectively breaks down the material. In fact, there is an ongoing joke between my classmates about how garden gnomes were used to explain electricity. She used a princess blanket she borrowed from her daughter’s room and explained the concept of gravity. Little things like that allowed me to make better connections in physics and helped me understand it at a much deeper level.”

Just a month ago, the Southeastern Association for Science Teacher Education also acknowledged Shaw’s educational work by presenting her with the 2015 Rod Nave Award.

The Rod Nave Award is given to a supporter of the science education community. It is named after Georgia State University physics professor Rod Nave, who designated special classes for science teachers to use the latest technologies.

“Physics underlies so much of today’s technology,” said Shaw. “From the semiconductors that make computers possible to making relativistic corrections in satellite positions to developing the science behind cancer treatments, all of this affects peoples’ lives.”

Shaw also became the recipient of a Complete College Georgia STEM Innovation fund grant this year.

“This grant will afford Columbus State the opportunity to develop faculty learning communities and provide training and support to STEM faculty interested in improving students’ learning,” said Shaw.

Shaw earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. She also earned both a master’s degree in physics and doctorate in experimental condensed matter physics from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.

Shaw serves as a member of state and national organizations such as the American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, National Science Teachers Association and Association for Women in Science.

“I design class time so that students can be ‘active’ in their learning and have those ‘light-bulb moments,’” she said. “I’m privileged to work with CSU faculty and the UTeach Columbus team as we work together to bring research-based teaching techniques to the future math and science teachers of this area.”

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Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center to Host Smithsonian Curator

Earlier this year, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center was awarded a one-of-a-kind artifact from America’s Space Shuttle Program. The Quarter-Scale Space Shuttle Engineering Prototype was the largest high fidelity test article constructed in preparation for the first manned flight of the four-bodied space transport system. Valued at $9.3 million, Columbus, Georgia is now home to this remarkable piece of history.

Hailed by Robert Sherouse (iTransition Manager, Office of Infrastructure, NASA HQ) as one of the five “most extraordinary components of the Space Shuttle Program,” the Quarter-Scale Shuttle offers unique insight into the engineering challenges and testing processes involved in human space travel.

To talk more about future possibilities with this artifact, CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is hosting Dr. Valerie Neal, curator of the Space History Division at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Neal has extensive knowledge of the human spaceflight program and is one of a handful of experts versed in the role that the Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s newest artifact acquisition played in NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Neal joined the Smithsonian as a curator in 1989 and is responsible for artifact collections from the Space Shuttle era and International Space Station, most prominently the orbiter, Discovery. She led the museum’s effort to prepare the shuttle test vehicle Enterprise for public display and to acquire Spacelab, SpaceShipOne, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit for the national collection.

Neal will be presenting at the center’s VIP reception Thursday evening when the center announces plans to house the Quarter-Scale Shuttle. Additionally, she will meet with Columbus State students and area young professionals Friday morning to share her career experiences and lead an open dialogue on the museum industry, human spaceflight, and what it means to have a space shuttle in Georgia. This addition is transformative not only for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, but also for Columbus State University STEM programming, and enrichment, education, and tourism for the Columbus region and

For more information, please contact Mary Johnson, assistant director of  CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, at 706-649-1486 or mary@ccssc.org.

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EPA Awards Grant to Columbus State Student Researchers to Help Design Sustainable Technologies

water researchATLANTA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded two universities in Georgia with the People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) award Thursday. Nationally the grants were awarded to 42 teams of college and university students. The teams will design innovative solutions to sustainable challenges in the developed and developing world.

Columbus State University was one of the two Georgia universities to win an award, garnering $14,559 to create an economic model to estimate the dollar value of different configurations of algal treatment systems.

The research – being conducted by CSU students in business and environmental sciences courses – will produce realistic financial estimates to evaluate the cost-benefits of using algae to treat wastewater and create biofuel. “A thorough sensitivity analysis of the costs and benefits of algal treatment will enable us to identify economic challenges that stand in the way of wide-spread use of this promising technology,” said the proposal, which will be guided by Troy Keller, associate professor of environmental science, and Andres Jauregui, assistant professor of economics.

Former P3 teams awarded these EPA grants have used their winning ideas to form small businesses and non-profit organizations. Environmental Fuel Research, a 2008 P3 winner from Drexel University, incorporated their grease waste-trap biofuel technology into a business enterprise and won a $100,000 EPA Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award this year. This woman-owned startup, headquartered in a historically underutilized business (HUB) zone to encourage economic development, has the potential to revolutionize domestic biodiesel capacity in the United States.

In addition to Columbus State University, the 2014-2015 school year awardees included a project from Southern Polytechnic State University (now Kennesaw State University) called “Achieving increased photovoltaic panel energy collection with cell-strings that track the sun.”

Since 2004, the P3 Program has provided funding to student teams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, committing over $10 million to cutting-edge, sustainable projects designed by university students. Projects from this year’s teams include a new device for generating electricity from sunlight that could be used on exterior walls of buildings; extending the growing season for farmers by heating greenhouses with biomass; and reducing diesel emissions for vehicles while lowering costs and improving fuel economy.

Funding for the P3 projects is divided into two phases. In the first phase, student teams submit a proposal for a project, and if they are selected, they compete with other Phase I winners at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C. At the Expo, teams compete for Phase II funding of up to $75,000. This is the 11th year for the EPA P3 Program.

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Source: Troy Keller, associate professor of environmental science, 706-507-8099 or keller_troy@ColumbusState.edu

Writer: John Lester, assistant VP for University Relations, 706-507-8725 or JLester@ColumbusState.edu

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CSU’s McCarty Secures Second NASA Internship

McCarty_CameronCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Cameron McCarty, a senior astrophysics and planetary geology major at Columbus State University, has already tracked comets for NASA.

Now, he’s shooting for the moon.

On June 1, the Columbus native will begin a 10-week internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He will be doing lunar regolith analysis, which is the study of that heavenly body’s soil and rock composition.

“I’ll be working with lunar soil doing microwave analysis with it, or I’ll be doing (work with) thin sections of rock brought back from the moon,” McCarty said. “They’re testing how sunlight heats up lunar soil. Lunar soil is pointier. It’s sharper than soil here on Earth because of weathering. They think that it might heat up differently because the smaller, sharper particles can heat up faster. They’re testing that to see if that actually happens.”

Those thin sections of rock were brought back from the moon by astronauts on Apollo 15 in 1971.

”I’d be identifying different types of minerals in that rock,” he said.

And he will be looking at it in a new way as well. The usual method has been to use optical light to identify elements. This time, McCarty said, he will use X-rays to determine composition of the rock.

“With that, we will also determine the composition of the moon in a different way than we have previously done,” McCarty said. “That’s significant. Since we (astrophysicists) believe the moon was formed when a small protoplanet — a planet in the stage of formation — hit Earth about 4.6 billion years ago, the moon was sort of flung off the Earth. A protoplanet hit the Earth and then a piece smacked off and that became our moon.”

That means that, by analyzing the structure and composition of the moon, ”we can also help to figure out the composition of the Earth,” McCarty said. “There might be some minerals that are capable of holding water or minerals that we may want to mine in the future. Those are all good aspects of looking at lunar geology.”

Before his internship officially begins, McCarty will be one of four NASA interns at Marshall to represent their intern program at the Citizens for Space Exploration 2014 Washington D.C. Fly-In on May 20-23.

The Huntsville interns will be part of a larger group of people from across the country who share enthusiasm for the work NASA does. Sponsorship includes a $750 stipend to cover each participant’s travel expenses. The citizens group, which has organized the fly-ins for 20-plus years, is a coalition representing economic interests in several locales with strong NASA connections, including Cocoa Beach, Fla., and Houston, Texas.

“(The fly-in) is very exciting for me,” McCarty said. “I’ll be attending meetings with congressmen and getting a tour of Capitol Hill. During that time I’ll be talking to congressmen about the benefits of NASA and space travel.”

McCarty, who has one semester of coursework remaining before graduation, had an internship last fall doing comet analysis with Bill Cooke, NASA’s lead scientist in the Huntsville-based Meteoroid Environment Office. Second internships with NASA offices are rare. A grant helps the agency pay for a first internship, but a second internship has to be paid out of a specific office’s budget.

During McCarty first internship he was looking at different comets as they came close to the Earth. As part of their work on the near-Earth environment, they tracked Comet ISON as it approached the sun and monitored how it was shedding material.

ISON didn’t survive its encounter with the sun, but McCarty’s skills at tracking and photographing the comet enhanced his reputation. McCarty’s image of the famous comet, taken using NASA’s 20-inch robotic telescope in New Mexico, is still displayed on NASA’s website dedicated to Comet ISON (http://www.nasa.gov/cometison/).

McCarty’s ISON images were the second time in a seven-month period where his work was featured on a major NASA website. His image of a May 10, 2013 solar eclipse, taken in Australia as part of the webcast expedition by CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, was featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day  (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130511.html).

In April, at CSU’s annual Scholastic Honors Convocation, McCarty was named the top physics student in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. For more information on its astrophysics and planetary geology major, as well as other degree options, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/ess.

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Columbus State Expands Options in Science Master’s Program

COLUMBUS, Ga.  Columbus State University is renaming a science master’s degree to reflect the addition of two new program tracks for advanced study in the sciences.

The Board of Regents approved CSU’s Master of Science in Environmental Science to become a Master of Science in Natural Sciences. The university will begin advertising the new program when the appropriate approval has been secured from the SACS Commission on Colleges. Until that process is complete, the M.S. in Environmental Science will continue to operate as a standalone degree program.

“The main difference is we’re establishing two new tracks,” said Bill Frazier, chair of CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences.

In the past, students pursuing the environmental science master’s established by CSU in the late 1990s took graduate courses in biology, geology, chemistry and other areas, and could select between a thesis or non-thesis option in pursuing that M.S.

Changes recently approved by the state Board of Regents now allow for the addition of a track in biology with a thesis or non-thesis option, as well as a geosciences track, which requires the writing of a thesis.

The new overall name was requested to better characterize the new, broader nature of the degree, Frazier said.

All three degree tracks require 36 semester credit hours.

For more on degrees offered by CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, visit

http://ColumbusState.edu/ess.

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Columbus State Stargazers Track, Photograph Comet ISON

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Space sciences faculty and students at Columbus State University are among those eagerly awaiting the Thanksgiving Day fate of ISON, the most closely watched comet in recent years.

Comet ISON — a three-mile wide ball of frozen gas, water and dust — will pass through the sun’s outer atmosphere on Thursday.

“The question is, ‘What’s going to happen? The answer is, ‘Nobody knows,'” says Shawn Cruzen, executive director of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center. “This thing could break up and fall into the sun. and we won’t see another thing from it. Or, it could survive the trip through the outer atmosphere of the sun, and enough material could melt off it, that when it comes back around the sun, and it becomes visible in our nighttime sky again, it might absolutely be gigantic.”

Cruzen, a professor in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, said there is an array of options beyond those scenarios. ISON might come around the sun’s atmosphere with enough material that people can see it in their backyards with binoculars, small telescopes or similar devices. Sightings already have been reported on its way toward the sun.

“We got one shot of it with our new telescope,” Cruzen said. “No one really knows what’s going to happen with ISON when it comes back around. That first or second week of December is really going to be an interesting time to see what ISON does.”

A Columbus State University student working as an intern with NASA is being credited with one of the most widely viewed photos of Comet ISON taken so far. Cameron McCarty, an astrophysics and planetary geology major at CSU, captured the image while working with the Meteoroids Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

That office is tracking Comet ISON as it approaches the sun and monitoring the way in which it’s shedding material. NASA’s Comet ISON page, at http://www.nasa.gov/cometison/, has prominently displayed an image of the famous comet that McCarty took using NASA’s 20-inch telescope in New Mexico.

McCarty’s Comet ISON images represent the second time in the past seven months his work has been featured on a major NASA website. His image of a May 10 solar eclipse, taken in Australia as part of a webcast expedition organized by CSU’s space science center, was featured then as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day at http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130511.html.

“We are truly proud of Cameron for his hard work and accomplishments,” Cruzen said. “He is a talented astronomer with a very bright future. His experiences also demonstrate what CSU (Earth and Space Sciences) students are capable of achieving.”

Comet ISON’s progress can be monitored online at http://spaceweather.com. If it survives, astronomers believe it will be visible during the first or second week of December in the western nighttime sky, just after sunset.

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Photo: NASA photo of Comet ISON taken by CSU student Cameron McCarty.

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CSU Students Place First at Regional EPA Youth Symposium

algaeCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Environmental science graduate students at Columbus State University took first place recently at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4 Environmental Youth Symposium in Atlanta.

The nine-student team from the Ecological Methods course taught by Troy Keller, an associate professor of environmental science in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, took home a $700 first prize in scholarship money in the category of Sustainability and Building a Green Campus for their poster on growing algae in wastewater.

“It was a team effort putting this poster together,” said Seth Ailiff, who’s pursuing an environmental science master’s degree. “We worked for two weeks to make sure everything on the poster was perfect. In the end, it was something we all were proud of. We did have some good competition, which made winning all the more exciting. It was good to see our hard work pay off.”

CSU’s team competed against students and faculty from eight southeastern states.

“We really didn’t know what to expect from the other poster entries or how the conference was going to be, considering it was our first time there,” said Afton Tankersley, another graduate student. “The overall experience was great and even better when we were announced as the first place poster winners!”

The group was instructed to follow specific guidelines. Their poster needed to be designed to convey information in an easy-to-view format, conducive to walk-through traffic, and had to: 

  • Identify the green campus issue being addressed.
  • Explain the rationale for the approach used to resolve the issue.
  • Demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of the project, both in conducting the research and applying results.
  • Identify the impact that the research had or was expected to have.

“We worked hard to put the poster together and summarize the research with an emphasis on sustainability,” said Amanda Snow, another CSU graduate student. “Growing algae may not sound exciting, but it has huge potential to influence biofuels and make wastewater treatment more efficient. You will be hearing about the power of algae in the future.”   

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Columbus State Goes Green with One CSU Events

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will highlight sustainability and environmentalism during a series of events leading up to Earth Day on April 22.

The month’s centerpiece, with events clustered under the “One CSU – Creating a Sustainable YoU” theme, is a Sustainability Fair from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, April 11 at the main campus clock tower. It’s expected to attract dozens of exhibits and vendors such as Columbus Water Works, which is known for its environmentally sensitive handling of wastewater.

“It’s good that our students see this on campus as they walk by,” said One CSU chairman Bruce Frazier, also chair of CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. “They will carry away with them that the environment matters — that it’s not just a bunch of weird hippies, but that it is also businesses and organizations who want to help our environment, and to embrace that.”

Previous years have also included participation by Trees Columbus, Coalition for Sound Growth, Chattahoochee RiverWarden, CSU’s Master of Public Administration program, CSU’s environmental science master’s program, CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, Jay Toyota, Zipca, Big Dog Running, Outdoor World, Ride on Bikes, CSU’s Cycling Club, Clean Air Campaign, River Valley Regional Commission, CSU Geology Club and the CSU Honors Program’s organic gardening class.

Anyone interested in participating in the fair with a display table should contact keller_troy@ColumbusState.edu. Volunteers are encouraged to attend.

Another major event this month is the third annual Cocy’s Run 5K Race starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 13. Register online or by visiting CSU’s Student Recreation Center or contacting coffield_lori@ColumbusState.edu. The race is a part of an ongoing Couch to 5K Program.

For more information on all of the month’s  events, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/sustainable.

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CSU Researchers Produce New Evidence Related to Giant Croc

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Ancient bite marks and fossilized feces discovered in Georgia are providing new details about a giant crocodile that roamed the Southeast United States about 79 million years ago.

The giant reptile, called Deinosuchus, reached at least 29 feet long in Georgia and preferred living in a shallow water environment and could take down dinosaurs its own size, as new findings show.

“We’re sure (Deinosuchus) ate a lot of sea turtles, but it’s evident it sometimes preyed on dinosaurs too,” said Columbus State paleontologist, Professor David Schwimmer who recently completed two studies on the giant croc with one of his students, Samantha Harrell.

Schwimmer and Harrell gave a combined presentation on the bite marks and the fossilized dung, called coprolites, at the March 13-16 Geological Society of America Northeastern-Southeastern annual meeting in Baltimore. Additionally, the coprolite study is being published as “Coprolites of Deinosuchus and other Crocodylians from the Upper Cretaceous of Western Georgia, USA” in a special symposium volume of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin, a publication of international interest.

The studies detail how bite marks on dinosaur bones discovered in various locations around the country, and large fossilized dung droppings discovered near Columbus, Ga., have been linked to the Deinosuchus.

The dung fossils are the first such documented samples from the Deinosuchus and help confirm the giant, ancient croc preferred living in the marine shallows. Meanwhile, the separate bite mark findings reveal aspect of the creature’s eating habits.

“In some cases we’re talking about a 29-foot Deinosuchus taking down a 29-foot dinosaur,” Schwimmer said.

A likely victim, Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis — a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex — was discovered near Montgomery, Ala., and named in 2005 by Schwimmer and a pair of colleagues.

Schwimmer is regarded an expert on both the Deinosuchus and the Late Cretaceous paleontology of the southeastern United States. The status was affirmed with his 2002 book, King of the Crocodylians: The Paleobiology of Deinosuchus.

In spring 2009 Schwimmer asked Harrell to take command of a project as an independent study course to gather and analyze fossilized feces he had started to recover from a fossil hot spot along the banks of the Hannahatchee Creek in Stewart County, a major tributary of the Chattahoochee River, south of where the Piedmont meets the Coastal Plain.

Harrell, a senior geology major from Girdler, Ky., worked with 20 samples of fossil crocodylian dung. She attributed six of the large spindle shaped masses, 8-13 centimeters long, to Deinosuchus.

Harrell explained coprolites are studied in order to convey information about the lifestyles of the dead and buried. She discovered sand and lots of shell fragments, signifying the crocs lived in a shallow, brackish, warm-water environment — likely near the mouth of a river where it opened to a sea with sandy shoreline and an abundance of sea turtles for its diet.

The unusual nature of Harrell’s project drew the attention of Georgia Public Broadcasting, which highlighted Harrell’s research as part of its Dinosaur Week series last September. The series also featured Schwimmer in a pair of separate stories.

Harrell plans to pursue graduate study in paleontology. Schwimmer said Harrell is already off to a fast start in her field. “It’s a rare and outstanding accomplishment for an undergraduate to be the lead author of a study in an international journal.”

Harrell also will present her coprolite research as part of the March 27 Georgia Academy of Sciences annual meeting hosted by Columbus State University.

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Columbus State Hosts Middle Eastern Environmental Experts

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will host alumni of a premier environmental teaching and research institution in the Middle East, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, as part of a presentation and panel discussion on trans-boundary water issues 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 at CSU’s International House.

The program is free and open to the public.

Arava Institute alumni Roee Elisha and Ghadeer Khoury will join in the discussion that also will involve local experts, including retired Columbus Water Works President Billy Turner, now a CSU scholar-in-residence, and Columbus State environmental science professor Troy Keller.

Affiliated with Ben Gurion University on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Arava Valley, the institute prepares future Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders to cooperatively address the region’s environmental challenges, including energy issues and water and air quality.

The Arava Institute brings together university-level students from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and beyond, to live, study and work together. The objective is to develop trust, respect and understanding that not only advances environmental sustainability but can also serve as building blocks for peace.

For more information, call 706-568-2061.

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CSU Poised to Make Mark Preparing Math and Science Teachers

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Buoyed by a recent grant of more than $400,000, Columbus State University is developing plans in a variety of areas to create a niche for itself in the preparation of science and math teachers.

Citing a desperate need in Georgia, the University System Board of Regents is making a statewide push to increase the numbers of both students pursuing an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and teachers prepared to teach courses in these fields in the public schools.

Columbus State has already been a leader in this area with educational outreach centers such as Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and the Columbus Regional Math Collaborative.

With a $420,000 grant from the Board of Regents, CSU is making even greater strides to combine the expertise of its colleges of education and science to make a real mark in preparing teachers of science and mathematics, said Cindy Henning, acting associate dean of CSU’s College of Science.

“We’re one of very few institutions in the University System of Georgia that already lead to teacher certification in those fields,” Henning said. “I’d like CSU to become an institution of choice if you have an interest in teaching science.”

To support that goal, several new initiatives are under way, including:

• A Math and Science Learning Center. Planned for the third floor of University Hall (formerly Fine Arts Hall), the center will provide tutoring, hands-on demonstrations, and learning resources for CSU students and host innovative workshops for teachers-in-training.

• A Future Teacher Academy Camp. CSU faculty will open their labs to high school students to engage them in creative science and math activities at a free two-week camp. Students can later share their enthusiasm for science by volunteering to help at K-8 camps at Oxbow Meadows, the Space Science Center Mathematics Collaborative, or CSU’s TSYS Department of Computer Science.

• A new academic minor in physics. All 19 teacher-preparation institutions in the University System of Georgia produced only three high school physics teachers in 2006. CSU hopes to help change that figure.

• Designing new courses in the Earth and space sciences such as “Natural Disasters: Our Hazardous Environments” that look at contemporary issues with a scientific lens.

Henning and her colleagues say there’s no time to waste in implementing these initiatives.

“The University System is graduating so few students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that Georgia is in danger of not having what it takes to compete in today’s world economy,” said Carl Patton, president of Georgia State University.

Patton, along with Jan Kettlewell, the Regents’ associate vice chancellor for P-16 initiatives, presented the regents with a report on the system’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics President’s Initiative. Henning and Kimberly Shaw, CSU associate professor of physics, said the efforts need to focus on children.

“Little kids are natural-born scientists,” Shaw said. “Somewhere between elementary school and high school, they lose that interest.”

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CSU Participates in Nationwide Global Warming Teach-In

COLUMBUS, GA. — Columbus State University is joining more than 1,500 U.S. colleges and universities in a “Focus the Nation” teach-in on global warming and potential solutions during the week of Jan. 28.

A flagship event will take place 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 in Stanley Hall 203, where participants will view and discuss the “2% Solution” Webcast, from a video produced by the National Wildlife Federation and aired by the Earth Day Network. Afterward, student-led roundtable discussions will address potential ways for CSU students to respond. This program is free and open to the public.

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, a “Climate Matters” faculty lecture will feature a presentation titled “Snowball Earth: Life Without Global Warming,” by CSU physics professor Zodiac Webster, and CSU Mead Observatory Director Rosa Williams will present “Alien Atmospheres — Lessons from Venus.” This 11 a.m.-noon program in the Davidson Student Center auditorium also is free and open to the public.

Focus the Nation is a nationwide initiative to engage educators, students, local leaders and citizens in discussing global warming. Organizers at the national level tout the upcoming event as the largest teach-in in U.S. history.

Environmental science professor Troy Keller, who is coordinating the program at CSU, said several professors representing various disciplines will discuss climate change during their classes through the week in cooperation with the national teach-in.

Student groups also are participating. The Student Government Association has initiated a “Go Green’ committee, which plans to stay active beyond the week of the national teach-in. The group, plus other student organizations, will stage a “Sustainability Fair” in the Stanley Hall lobby from 7:30-8 p.m., before the Wednesday night event, and will feature information on local environmental organizations and recycling.

“We’re trying to create a groundswell of student activity,” Keller said. “Our long-term goal is for faculty to incorporate global warming as ‘a real issue’ in the curriculum and in class discussions,” he added.

The final piece of the initial teach-in will be a “Choose Your Future” online vote at http://www.focusthenation.org by participants through Feb. 12 to determine top five global warming solutions.

Vote results will be presented nationally in mid February. All students who vote on the Choose Your Future ballot will be eligible to win a $10,000 leadership scholarship for a project to be completed by end of August 2008.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this nationwide initiative. This effort is grass roots education and activism at its finest,” said Keller. “Our youth have enormous power shape the future and create a healthy planet for their kids and generations into the future.”

For more information on Focus the Nation, go to http://www.focusthenation.org. For more on the program at CSU, call 706-507-8099.

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Regional Students to Compete in Science Olympiad at CSU

Middle and high school science students from the greater Columbus area and Georgia at large will compete in a regional, Division B (grades 6-9) Science Olympiad competition on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Columbus State University.

The event opens with registration at 7:30 a.m. in Arnold 104. Competiton displays and judging will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at various campus locations. The day will conclude with a 4 p.m. awards ceremony in the Lumpkin Center.

The overall mission of the Science Olympiad is to promote student interest in science and to improve the quality of k-12 science education throughout the nation.

More specifically, the event promotes teamwork and cooperative learning strategies among students and serves to elevate science education and learning to a level of enthusiasm and support normally reserved for varsity sports, said CSU physics Professor Zodiac Webster, regional co-director for the event with CSU faculty colleagues Noella DCruz, Anil Banerjee, and Kenneth Gafford.

Additional CSU professors will supervise events and act as judges. CSU student volunteers will work with events individually, as well as the Science Olympiad as a whole.

Among the 24 presentations are Mystery Architecture (8:45 a.m. Lumpkin Center), Food Chemistry (11:15 a.m. Lenoir 310) and Balloon Race (12:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. Woodruff Gym).

Winning teams will advance to a March 25 state finals at Augusta State University. The Science Olympiad 2006 national finals will be May 19-20 at Indiana University.

For more information, contact Webster at 706-568-2332, Gafford at 706-562-1471 or visit the Web site, which includes a complete schedule, at http://scienceolympiad.colstate.edu.

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Prestigious Journal Publishes Review by Astronomy Prof

Columbus State University astronomy professor Shawn Cruzen has contributed a book review on planetarium history for Nature, regarded as the worlds elite publication of multidisciplinary science.

Nature, a weekly, British-published journal, solicited Cruzen to review the book Theaters of Space and Time: American Planetaria, 1930-1970 (Rutgers University Press; 2005, 266 pp.) by Jordan D. Marche II.

Cruzen’s review, titled An Inside View of the Universe, appears on page 563 in Nature’s Dec. 1 issue. Cruzen describes Marche’s work as a meticulous and colorful exploration of the evolution of the planetarium, from the concept’s inception in Germany to its proliferation across the United States.

Cruzen, executive director of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, explained his selection by Nature for the piece: This is a case of the journal’s editors recognizing me not as an astronomy expert, but as the director of one of the most cutting-edge planetariums in the world. It’s a distinction the university, as a whole, should take pride in.

The book, said Cruzen, covers both technical aspects and social significance of the planetarium phenomenon that became widespread during the 1960s and helped change the cultural complexion of science, and shape public attitudes toward the U.S. space program.

Cruzen said he was particularly drawn to Marches composite profile of a successful industry professional: part astronomer, educator, technician, artist and entertainer At CSU weve established a team of space center professionals which individually reflects each aspect of Marche’s profile and drives the success and popularity of our planetarium.

Cruzen said Marche’s epilogue references the future of planetarium projection systems, including the Digistar 3 Laser System that will make its world-planetarium debut in March 2006 at CSU. Powered by 16 computers, the system will produce the highest resolution, single-lens video projection system in a public venue. While the installation is in progress, visitors to the CSU planetarium are experiencing a stunning, 180-degree full-dome view of productions from the current Digistar 3 CRT system.

Cruzen’s article in Nature can be accessed via the Schwob Library periodical collection. Nature also is published online at www.nature.com. Paid registration is required for full article access.

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CSU Professor Co-Names New Dinosaur

What we now know as Alabama and Georgia was home 77 million years ago to a newly discovered dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex, reports a Columbus State University professor and coauthors in the March Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

David R. Schwimmer, of Columbus States Department of Chemistry and Geology, worked with the dinosaurs fossils collected in 1982 from a road cut in Montgomery County, Alabama. He had also worked with specimens that turn out to be from the same animal collected in southwest Georgia. He and colleagues named the new dinosaur Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, which means the Appalachian lizard from Montgomery County.

We’ve been finding teeth and odd bones from this animal for 20 years, and its nice to finally have a name for it, Schwimmer said. A couple of regional museums will have to change the labels on their displays.

To study and write about Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, Schwimmer collaborated with Thomas D. Carr of the Department of Biology at Carthage College and Thomas E. Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

The researchers report Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis was buried in 77.8 million-year-old carbonate muds at the bottom of a shallow sea after being carried out by currents before it was fossilized. The primary fossils of the species are stored in the McWane Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Appalachiosaurus belongs to the lineage of giant meat-eaters called tyrannosaurs, and it was an early relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, Schwimmer said. It differed from T. rex in that it is a smaller animal, about 25 feet long. Appalachiosaurus also had slender upper jaws, which is different from the more advanced, deep-snouted western relatives such as Albertosaurus. This difference suggests that Appalachiosaurus shows us what the first tyrannosaurs looked like before they evolved massive upper jaws.

The tyrannosaur fossil record is thought to extend back to the late Jurassic, about 154 million years ago, a period from which only partial tyrannosaur fossils are known. Appalachiosaurus lived at a time when North America was divided by a seaway and Alabama was east of the seaway. Therefore, its presence in the east suggests that tyrannosaurs were widespread across North America before it was split into two subcontinents, about 100 million years ago.

For more information, contact David Schwimmer at 706 569-3028 or by e-mail at schwimmer_david@ColumbusState.edu

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CSU Hosts Science Olympiad Saturday

Columbus State University will host a regional competition for middle school students competing in Science Olympiad 2005 on Saturday, Feb. 19. Fifteen teams representing area schools will compete in events such as Robo-Billiards and Meteorology.’

Parents will not be left out though. During the Science Olympiad, parents of the competitors and other guests can participate in a CSU Admissions workshop Getting to College at 10 a.m. in the Davidson Auditorium. This free event will cover what parents need to know in helping their children prepare for college. For more information on this workshop, call 568-2035.

The Science Olympiad opens Saturday with registration at 7:30 a.m. in Howard 101 and closes with a 4:30 – 6 p.m. awards ceremony in the Lumpkin Center. Winning teams will qualify for the state finals to be held April 16 at Georgia State University. The national finals will be held May 20-21 at the University of Illinois.

Among the goals of the Science Olympiad is to elevate science education and learning to a level of enthusiasm and support that is normally reserved for varsity sports programs, said CSU Physics Professor Zodiac Webster, regional director of the Science Olympiad.

In Robo-Billiards (8 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. Lumpkin Center), each team constructs a modified billiards ta ble and a radio-controlled robot that shoots the cue ball in a subsequent billiards competition. Meanwhile the Meteorology competition (1:45 – 2:45 p.m. Stanley 205) will test the students skills in analyzing and forecasting severe weather. This is very appropriate given the hurricanes and ice storm that affected us this year, said Webster.

Other competitions will include Science Crime Busters (11:15 a.m. Lenoir 359), and Bottle Rocket (Plant Operations parking lot), Bridge building (Lenoir 110), Naked Egg Drop (Lenoir 106) and Storm the Castle (Lumpkin Center), which will all run continuously from 8a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

COMPETING MIDDLE SCHOOLS INCLUDE:
Arnold Magnet Academy
Blackmon Road
Double Churches
East Columbus Magnet Academy (two teams)
Flint River Academy (Woodbury) (two teams)
Fort
J.C. Booth (Peachtree City) (two teams)
Midland (two teams)
Richards
Rothschild
Shiver School (Pelham)

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Contact: Zodiac Webster, 568-2332; E-mail: webster_zodiac@ColumbusState.edu

 

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CSU Biologists Establish Water Quality Guidelines for State DNR

Environmental Science Professor James Gore and a graduate-student research team recently established a set of guidelines by which Georgia’s rivers and streams will be monitored and protected over the next several years or more.

The CSU team has published a 400-page, region-by region analysis of the ecosystems for approximately 1,000 rivers and streams – the core of a four-year, $1.45 million project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

More, specific details will be presented by four members of the CSU team before an international gathering of leading aquatic biologists. Michele Brossett, Duncan Hughes and Jodi and George Williams (wife and husband) have been selected to present their findings individually at the June 6-10 North American Benthological Society annual conference in Vancouver, B.C.

‘This selection is prestigious and reflects the project’s importance and quality of their work,’ said Gore who will present at the conference his own separate research on how natural gas drilling is impacting rivers and streams in Wyoming and Montana.

The new guide will be referenced for water protection measures by both land developers during planning and local and state officials in evaluating subsequent permit applications.

About four years ago, the State Department of Natural Resources acted upon a national Clean Water Act provision that called for a new set of procedures to rapidly evaluate and more effectively monitor all rivers and streams.

An undertaking of such size and scope typically goes to large research institutions. However, the state turned to CSU’s Environmental Science program – a graduate study program – to execute the project.

‘The students have done the lion’s share of the work,’ said Gore. ‘Over three years, they sampled and profiled about 400 sites throughout the state.’

Among the primary conclusions, said Gore, the study has revealed Georgia terrain as definable by ’27 separate ecoregions – each with a unique biological signature for its rivers and streams.’

Upon returning from Vancouver, George and Jodi Williams, Brossett and Hughes will complete their master’s degree requirements this summer along with their other colleagues in the project who include Tracy Ferring, Salini Pillai and Uttam Rai. Two other research team members, Amanda Middleton and Ashley Scott, will graduate in 2005.

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Contact: James Gore, (706) 568-2067 (until Friday, June 4); E-mail: gore_james@ColumbusState.edu

 

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CSU Professor’s Work Featured in National Geographic

Columbus State University archaeologist Warren Church is featured in the June issue of National Geographic magazine, for his work to learn the secrets of the hill tribes that in the tenth century began carving settlements out of the dense cloud forests in the mountains between the Maran and Huallaga Rivers in Peru. Inca contemporaries called the mountainside people Chachapoya, the Cloud People.

To see the story online, please go to http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0406/resources_cre.html

For more information, please contact:

Warren B. Church, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology
Dept. of Environmental Sciences
Columbus State University
4225 University Ave.
Columbus, Georgia 31907-5645
Phone: (706) 565-7874
Fax: (706) 569-3133
e-mail: church_warren@ColumbusState.edu
Visit: http://psysoc.colstate.edu/church/CSUAnthro.htm

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Students Unearth Unique Dinosaur Fossils

Two Columbus State University students have discovered a horde of 85 million-year-old marine and terrestrial fossils in east central Alabama, including feathers dating back to the last era of the dinosaur age.

The fossils were discovered by Sean Bingham, 33, and Terrell Knight, 28, while engaged in undergraduate research at a small research outcrop they unearthed.

The CSU seniors presented their findings to more than 1,000 international geoscientists during a joint meeting of the northeastern and southern sections of the Geological Society of America March 25-27 in Virginia.

‘Their discovery is considered significant in the paleontology community for many reasons, including the fact that the feathers are preserved in shale, a geological term for a form of sedimentary rock,’ said David Schwimmer, professor of paleontology and environmental geology at CSU.

Even though a dinosaur feather from this same time span was found in New Jersey in 1996, it was conserved in amber, not shale. The difference – and significance – between the fossils is that because amber securely encloses a fossil, preservation is almost guaranteed. Equivalent to the size of a fingernail, the dinosaur fossils faced a greater challenge of exposure from nature because the feathers are conserved on the surface of the shale.

‘For one thing, it is significant because it is there,’ Bingham said. ‘But more importantly, the preservation that was required for this fossil feather to have remained there for almost 85 million years is pretty incredible.’

After the first feather was discovered a few months ago, Schwimmer consulted colleagues at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual October conference in Minnesota for verification of the feather fossil. But questions persisted over whether the feather came from a 85-million-year-old bird or a non-flying feathered dinosaur.

Besides the feathers, Bingham and Knight also have found an unusual mix of fossils from saltwater, terrestrial and fresh water habitats including plants, a shark tooth, crabs, insects and seeds. The odd assemblage supports the geological hypothesis that the site was once right at the shoreline.

‘Finding all that in one layer is pretty incredible,’ Knight said. ‘But we do not yet know what all these fossils were doing there together.’

What they do know is, as a result of their findings, the Alabama site is a ‘lagerstatte’ – a German word that is borrowed by scientists to describe places of unique fossil preservation. Lagerstatten are rare localities noted either for the diversity of fossils or the quality of preservation. Only a few hundred are scattered through the Earth’s geologic record; yet they offer a window into the earth’s past.

Schwimmer and the students believe the one-and-a-half foot thick outcrop may yield other significant fossils.

‘It’s exciting because we are working in a pioneer type of situation,’ Knight said. ‘There have not been a lot of things studied in this region prior to the last few decades.’

Bingham and Knight are only two of the CSU presenters at the March geology conference. Also presenting their own research are Schwimmer and geology professor Tom Hanley.

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Contact: David Schwimmer, 569-3028: E-mail: schwimmer_david@ColumbusState.edu

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