Intersection of Art and Science to Be Explored by Environmental Science Faculty in February 4 Panel Discussion at University Galleries

Professor Martin Becker in Alabama sifting for shark tooth samples

William Paterson University environmental science faculty members Martin Becker, Nicole Davi, and Mick Griffiths will discuss their original scientific research concerning global climate change issues that span various timescales from hundreds to millions of years during a panel discussion on Thursday, February 4 at 12:30 p.m. in the University Galleries on campus in the Ben Shahn Center for the Arts.

The discussion is being held in conjunction with the current University Galleries exhibition, Traces of Time: Photographic Explorations of the Natural World, which features works by photographers Caleb Charland, Sharon Harper, Christina Seely, and Rachel Sussman, who utilize scientific research, conduct experimental studies, or embark on expeditions to capture the passage of time through changing landscapes, organic life cycles, or celestial activity.  The three scientists will examine how their field experiences relate to the artwork on view, and consider the benefits of art and science collaborations, which have increased in popularity in recent years. Emily Johnsen, gallery manager and curator of the exhibition, will moderate the discussion.

Becker’s principal research is focused on fossil shark teeth found in locations hundreds of miles from the shoreline, and which can be used as an indicator to study ancient climate. Becker has traveled across the United States to inland areas from Arkansas to South Dakota and Utah to collect fossils, which allow researchers to develop climate timelines from millions of years ago.

Davi’s research has taken her to the remote areas of Mongolia and Central Asia, where few long-term climate records exist, and where the population is extremely vulnerable to drought and climactic change.  Her area of focus is one of the coldest regions in central Asia, where the trees are extremely slow-growing and long-lived. Using a combination of living and dead wood, she works to create millennial length records of temperature.

Griffiths travels to caves in remote mountains in Laos, Indonesia, and other countries in Southeast Asia in order to better understand the role of the tropics in global climate change over the past 100,000 years.  He collects samples of the stalagmites that develop in caves and analyzes the geochemistry, in particular isotopes of oxygen and carbon, in order to gain a better understanding of the nature and causes of rainfall variability in the past.  This information is critical to reducing the uncertainty of future projections of monsoon variability, especially in light of an ever-warming planet.

Admission is free.  For additional information, contact the University Galleries at 973.720.2654.