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Skidmore College
Geosciences Department

Lester W. Strock Lecture Series

Skidmore's annual Lester W. Strock Lecture was endowed by renowned geochemist and friend of Skidmore Geosciences, Lester Strock. Strock, a well-known authority on Saratoga's mineral springs, spent much of his career in research at MIT and at the Sylvania Electric Co. Click here for more on Lester Strock (1906-1982).

2016 Strock Lecturer: Maya Tolstoy

Pulses of Seafloor Volcanism:
Exploring Links to the Rhythms of Long-term Climate Change

Maya Tolstoy
Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Columbia University

Far from sight, the deep seafloor contains the largest volcanic system on Earth, responsible for creating two-thirds of the surface of our planet.  This massive volcanic chain wraps around the planet and slowly churns out new seafloor in a largely unobserved, but assumed to be steady, conveyor belt.  Advances in technology allow us to peer through the dark waters overlying mid-ocean ridges by listening for the sounds of tectonic plates breaking apart.  We find that, in fact, the seafloor breaks in rhythmic stops and starts as various forces act upon it, on time scales from days to years and well beyond.  Most surprising are the signs that very long-term orbital and sea-level changes may drive pulses of volcanism on the seafloor.  Because volcanoes are a potent source of greenhouse gases, these pulses may actually feedback into Earth’s long-term climate system, helping contribute to the abrupt warming that marked the end of past glacial periods.  The story illustrates how our planet delicately balances its different systems from the solid earth to the oceans to the atmosphere.  

Biographical Sketch:  Maya Tolstoy is a marine geophysicist and associate professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  She has participated in over 30 research cruises, 18 of which she led, collecting geophysical data throughout the world’s oceans.  Field work has long been her favorite part of the job, and she considers it great experience for one of her ultimate goals: having NASA send her to the Moon, Mars or any part of space where rocks can be found.   

Earth Magazine Profile, 5/2015:   
Women Oceanographers:

2015 - Paul Mann - University of Houston, “Tectonics and Geology of Lake Nicaragua:  Potential Impacts on the Nicaraguan Canal Project”

2014 – Darby Dyar – Mount Holyoke College, “A Year in the Life of Curiosity on Mars: New Discoveries from the Red Planet”

2013 – Jason P. Briner - University at Buffalo, “The response of ice sheets to abrupt climate change”

2012 – Chuck Ver Straeten – New York State Museum – “Geology of the Marcellus “Shale”: Dynamic Deposition in an Oxygen-Poor Devonian Sea”

2011 – Ellen Wohl – Colorado State University, "Seeing the forest and the trees: wood in streams of the Colorado Front Range”

2010 – Steven Squyres – Cornell University "Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet”

2009 –

2008 –

2007 – Milan J. Pavich - United States Geological Survey, “Some Inconvenient Truth about Predicting Climate: A Geologic Perspective”

2006 – Robert Young - Western Carolina University, "Atlantic Hurricanes: Hot New Science, Same Old Policy”

2005 – David Finkelstein – Indiana University – “Life on the Edge of Hydration – Using alkaline lakes and geothermal springs as possible analogues for paleolakes on mars?”

2004 – Paul Bierman – University of Vermont, "15,000 Years of New England Landscape History - From Glaciers to Clear-Cuts and Mega-Storms"

2003 - Ellis Yochelson – United States Geological Survey – “Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927) An Empire State Boy Makes Good: Discovery of the Cambrian Burgess Shale fossils of British Columbia and investigations into the Paleontology of Saratoga Springs, New York”

2002 - Arthur Palmer – SUNY Oneonta – “Hydrogen sulfide as a geologic agent: Effect on cave origin, petroleum reservoirs, aquifers, and ore deposits”

2000-2001 – John Holloway – Arizona State University – “Mid-Ocean Ridge Black Smokers: Biogeochemical Cauldrons on the Seafloor”

1999-2000 – John B. Reid, Jr. –Hampshire College – “Enslaved Africans From the New York African Burial Ground: Using Tooth 87SR/86SR to Reconstruct Their Birthplaces and Migrations”

1998-1999 – Reinhard A. Wobus – Williams College – “Tracking Ancient Bolcanic Rocks by Their Geochemical Footprints”

1997-1998 – Craig A. Johnson – US Geological Survey - “Finding Ore Deposits, Tracking Past Climates, Fingering Polluters: Stable Isotope Applications in Geological and Environmental Science”

1996-1997 – Anthony R. Philpotts – University of Connecticut “Can Basaltic Magmas Differentiate, And If So, How?”

1995-1996 – Donald I. Siegel – Syracuse University – “Wetlands and Congress: The National Controversy In Their Characterization and Control”

1994-1995 – Philip C. Whitney – New York State Geological Survey – “Wollastonite and the Mystery of the Adirondack Mountains”

1993-1994 – Nancy Rodrieguez Black – University of North Carolina – “Fluid Seeps and the Geology of the Atlantic Continental Margin”

1992-1993 – Lauret E. Savoy – Mount Holyoke College – “Imagined Territory: Encounters With American Landscape”

1991-1992 – P. Jay Fleisher – SUNY at Oneonta – “Glaciation in New York State: Perspectives from Southeast Alaska”

1990-1991 – Charlotte J. Mehrtens – University of Vermont – “The Cambrian of Northwestern Vermont: An Ancient Analogue of the Bahamas Platform?

1989-1990 – Yngvar W. Isachsen – New York State Geological Survey – “Geology of the Adirondack Mountains: Their Birth, Death and Resurrection”

1988-1989 – Richard P. Major – Texas Bureau of Economic Geology – “Marine Diagenesis of Inorganic Calcite: Examples From the Upper Quaternary of the Florida-Bahamas Platform”

1987-1988 - William B.F. Ryan – Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory – “New Imagery of the Ocean Floor”

1986-1987 – George W. Putman – SUNY Albany – “The Mineral Springs of Saratoga”

1985-1986 – William B. Heroy, Jr. – Southern Methodist University – “Adventures in Applied Geophysics”

1984-1985 – Gerald M. Friedman – Rensselaer Center for Applied Geology – “Recognition of Reefs: An Experience in Frustration”

1983-1984 – Marion E. Bickford – University of Kansas – “Radiogenic Isotopes in Petrogenesis and Geochronology”

1982-1983 – Steven R. Bohlen – SUNY – Stony Brook – “Pressure, Temperature and Fluid Composition of Adirondack Metamorphism: A Model for Petrologic Processes in the Lower Crust”