Media releases

  • Brock geologist leads effort to update Earth’s geologic time scale

    MEDIA RELEASE: 20 July 2018  – R00146

    It’s official. More than 8,000 years ago, a vast amount of water from melting glaciers flooded North America and caused havoc with the currents and atmosphere of the North Atlantic.

    That significant event, during the Middle Holocene Northgrippian Age, was followed by droughts and cold temperatures in various parts of the globe that wiped out several civilizations during the Late Holocene Meghalayan Age more than 4,000 years ago.

    Scientists have long known about this history. What’s now official are the geological time periods in which these events occurred.

    Late last month, the International Union of Geological Sciences officially approved three ages of the Holocene epoch: Early Holocene Greenlandian Age; Middle Holocene Northgrippian Age; and Late Holocene Meghalayan Age.

    Laying the groundwork for this sub-division was the International Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy — Quaternary referring to the period under which the Holocene epoch falls.

    Brock University Professor of Earth Sciences Martin Head chairs the subcommission, made up of geologists around the globe. He is also co-author of the academic article that reports these changes to the time scale along with lead author Professor Mike Walker of the University of Wales.

    Head says his group debated a proposal by international Earth experts to sub-divide the Holocene into three ages and determine where to place the so-called “golden spike” at those points where these three sub-divisions occur.

    The golden spike — technically known as the Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point, or GSSP — is an internationally agreed upon reference point that determines the lower part of a stage, which are rock layers laid down in a single age.

    Now, the Early Holocene Greenlandian Age; Middle Holocene Northgrippian Age; and Late Holocene Meghalayan Age have their own individual golden spikes.

    “The terms early, middle and late Holocene have long been in use, but they’ve never been formally defined,” says Head, adding that a lack of formal definition created some confusion among experts.

    “This is the job of the subcommission, to provide order where none existed before,” he says.

    The Holocene Epoch stretches back to about 11,700 years ago in Earth’s history. It is characterized by events of both warming and cooling temperatures and the resulting changes to sea levels and land masses.

    Rock layers in the Holocene contain sediments from ancient sea floors, lake bottoms, glacial ice and a mineral called calcite, giving researchers many clues as to the occurrence of climate-change related events during the Holocene’s three sub-divisions.

    Head says his subcommission’s formalizing of the three ages solidifies scientists’ knowledge of the Holocene and explains in particular the fall of several civilizations some 4,200 years ago.

    “This event brings together the convergence of global climatic change, archaeological evidence, historical records and societal evolution,” he says. “We’re bringing all this together to form a coherent story that is now reflected in formal geological time. We’re revealing the whole picture here.”

    Head says the Geological Time Scale not only “reflects a narrative of how we understand Earth history,” but also illuminates “the history of humans, and so their story also becomes entwined with the geological record and geological time, and that’s very exciting.”

    The past also sheds light on present trends. Head says the massive flooding that took place 8,200 years ago at the start of the Middle Holocene Northgrippian Age serves as a “warning shot” of how contemporary human-induced climate change can exacerbate melting of ice in the high northern latitudes, causing ocean currents to shift and extreme weather to result.

    Brock Professor of Earth Sciences Martin Head is available to speak about the issue.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

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

    Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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    Categories: Media releases

  • High school students encouraged to ‘test drive’ Brock University

    MEDIA RELEASE: 17 July 2018 – R00145

    If Kailene Jackson could go back in time, there’s one part of her Brock University journey she would do differently.

    Though her time at the University has been full of meaningful experiences, the Political Science and Sociology student wishes she had taken advantage of the types of programs offered to students before beginning their first year of classes.

    “I didn’t do any of the summer orientation programs and because of that my first year was tougher,” said the 20-year-old St. Catharines resident, who recently completed her third year. “I just went to class and then went home. I now know how differently it could have gone if I put myself out there and got more involved before classes started.”

    Having become more active in the University community throughout her studies, Jackson is now serving as the Events and Programs Assistant in the Student Life and Community Experience department. Through her role, she’s doing everything she can to encourage new students to get connected by participating in the LEAP program, which she facilitates.

    “I just want to tell students to take the first step,” Jackson said. “We want them to succeed and LEAP can help them get ahead before they arrive here in the fall.”

    LEAP brings new students to the University for a day or overnight stay where they take part in campus-wide activities, a variety of seminars and workshops from on-campus services and a community outreach experience with a local community organization to become more familiar with the University and city as a whole.

    “The LEAP program allows these incoming students to test drive Brock services in a small group setting and make new friends before starting their University careers,” said Sheena Erhardt, Student Transitions Co-ordinator for Brock’s Student Life and Community Experience department. “By connecting with upper-year students, they’re able to get a better understanding of how to make the most of their Brock experience.”

    For second-year Concurrent Education student Lia Strazzeri, the LEAP program provided a familiarity that made the transition to post-secondary studies seamless.

    “I was nervous to come into Brock for the first time,” she said. “But LEAP offered a lot of resources to help me feel more comfortable, especially being able to stay in residence for a night.”

    LEAP sessions begin July 24 and run until Aug. 23. Visit the LEAP website to learn more and register.

    Brock University Student Transitions Co-ordinator Sheena Erhardt is available for interviews about the LEAP program.

    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