Articles by author: Brock University

  • How methane nearly wiped us out – millions of years ago

    MEDIA RELEASE: R00019 – 27 January 2017

    If you’re looking for insight into the current climate change debate, travel back — way back — to around 252 million years ago, when life on Earth nearly came to a screeching halt.

    Brock University researchers Uwe Brand and Nigel Blamey have recently shown that a huge release of methane into the Earth’s atmosphere near the end of the Permian geological period was responsible for what’s been described as the “greatest natural catastrophe that’s been experienced by life on Earth.”

    The findings are very relevant today, as researchers around the world continue to explore contemporary climate change.

    While scientists focus largely on the role of carbon dioxide (CO2) in bringing about climate change, Brand says, “every once in a while, someone mentions methane.”
    “There’s so much more CO2 than there is methane, but people forget that when you add the two together, that could become a big problem,” he says.
    “And that’s what we’ve seen in the end Permian. We need to look more at how methane impacts climate change.”
    Brand and Blamey led a team of researchers from Canada, Italy, Germany and the U.S. who collected fossilized samples of brachiopods, or shellfish, from that time period. Their paper was published last month in the journal Palaeoworld.
    Using a specialized machine that Blamey developed and used in earlier research, the team tapped into microscopic bubbles in the fossil samples and measured methane levels representing the atmosphere from the end of the Permian era.
    The team found levels as high as 245 parts per million volume (ppmv) of methane in the ancient atmosphere. Methane levels on Earth today measure around 1.77 ppmv. The scientists estimate the Earth’s temperature during the era they studied may have been twice as hot as it is today, causing unimaginable havoc.
    “The end Permian is really the mother of all extinctions, yet the average person doesn’t seem to realize that was the big one,” says Blamey. “The event that gets the most attention is usually the end Cretaceous, where an asteroid struck the planet and wiped out the dinosaurs.”
    What triggered the near-extinction event was the eruption of flood basalts, coating a large stretch of land with lava and comprising the Siberian Traps in Siberia.

    Scientists estimate that a tremendous amount of greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide in particular, caused a dramatic warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. As temperatures rose, the permafrost melted, resulting in a massive spike of methane that had been trapped in the frozen ground.
    As a result, about 90 per cent of marine species, 70 per cent of land vertebrate species, 30 per cent of insect types and an undetermined number of plants on land and in water were wiped out, the recent research paper says.
    “It’s not just CO2 that’s going to be catastrophic; it has to go in combination with the methane,” Brand says.  That combination must be more carefully studied in contemporary climate change discussions, he adds.

    Brand says life on Earth “heading towards an extinction if we don’t do anything, because the proof is in the end Permian, where life almost came to an end.”

    The question that’s yet to be answered is how fast that is occurring, he says.
    “Based on our end Permian calculations, the CO2 emissions then were four times what we currently have, but that does not mean we should just continue emitting CO2.”
    Brand realizes that alarmist language could discourage people from taking action if they think the Earth is doomed, and could further polarize people into camps that accept or deny climate change.
    “The onus is on scientists to persuade others who don’t believe that, yes climate change is happening, yes we are the culprit, and yes we can do something about it. We can fix the problem.”
    What happened so long ago may motivate people into taking action, Blamey says.
    “If you look at the end Permian, we have an idea of how much CO2 there was,” he says. “If CO2 got that high today, and that’s what happened back then, we could end up with another possible catastrophic event. It’s a warning.”
    The team’s findings are published in their study, “Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction” in the December 2016 issue of Palaeoworld.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Sea of Brock red set to flood Meridian Centre

    MEDIA ADVISORY: R00018 – 26 January 2017

    Home court advantage has never sounded so good.

    More than 2,200 free student tickets to the Brock Badgers men’s and women’s basketball games Friday night at the Meridian Centre have been scooped up. That’s in addition to hundreds of tickets purchased by the community for the doubleheader in downtown St. Catharines against the Ryerson Rams. More than 200 youth basketball players from across Niagara will also be in attendance at the event, which starts at 6 p.m.

    For women’s basketball coach Ashley MacSporran, the huge crowd expected for the Paint the Meridian Red games isn’t a cause for nerves, but is a much-needed boost.

    “From the beginning of the year when we had our first home game, I’ve been telling them to enjoy the atmosphere. I think they can use so much of that energy,” said MacSporran, who will be coaching in her first game at the Meridian Centre.

    She said her roster is down to eight healthy players for Friday’s game against the 10-2 Rams women’s team, so the extra push will help.
    “As much as it’s a big game and there are more fans, the focus is on what those fans can do for us as opposed to it being a nerves thing,” MacSporran said.

    Ryerson goes into the women’s game on a two-game winning streak while the Badgers have dropped the last three, but some of Brock’s best performances have come against the toughest competition this year.

    “Containing their all-star players and making sure they don’t have big nights is the most important thing, and then making sure we play our style rather than them dictating their style of play,” she said.

    The Brock men’s team, ranked sixth in Canada with an 8-4 regular season record, comes into its 8 p.m. matchup Friday night riding a three-game winning streak. The Ryerson Rams are ranked fourth in Canada with a perfect 12-0 record.

    This will be the third game at the Meridian Centre for men’s coach Charles Kissi, who said the energy in the building for these home games is outstanding.

    “It’s electric. That building is perfect for this type of event,” he said. “It’s the right size. It’s not like the Air Canada Centre. It’s intimate and a great arena for a big game like this or even a national championship.”

    Kissi said the only way to knock off the undefeated Rams will be playing consistent basketball.

    “We have enough talent to beat anyone in our league. We played them in the pre-season and won,” he said. “It’s not about them as much as it is us. We have to play hard and stick to our script and we should be fine.”

    The Badgers men have seven regular season games left and are aiming to finish high enough in the standings to get a first-round playoff bye, or host a first-round game.

    “We have to try and win this game just like we have to win the other ones to put us in a good position as we approach the playoffs,” he said. “We’re trying to make that road to the final four as easy as possible.”

    General admission tickets and courtside options are available through Ticketmaster online. Prices are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $35 for courtside. If the games don’t sell out before Friday, tickets will be available at the door.

    In addition to the two varsity basketball games, there will be entertainment throughout the evening including giveaways, half-court shot contests and a performance by professional basketball dunker Jordan Kilganon, considered to be one of the best dunkers in the world.

    For more information or to confirm attendance:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    Categories: Media releases