Faculty Research and Creative Activities

Professor Brad Hubeny on a boat on the Potomac River

Geology Professor Brad Hubeny

My Spring 2014 sabbatical allowed me to focus on collaborative research and publish two peer-reviewed papers. In collaboration with researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency, Brock University, and the University of Rhode Island, as well as four Salem State geology alumni, I reconstructed environmental and climate conditions for Massachusetts’ North Shore for the past 11,500 years using sediments from Sluice Pond, Lynn. 

I focused on past hydrologic conditions since hydroclimate is a major concern in light of modern climate change. By using an interdisciplinary approach that utilized geophysics, geochemistry, paleobiology, and limogeology I reconstructed water budgets for this region and was able to relate the findings to hemispheric influences over the period (Journal of Paleolimnology). 

 The North Shore has behaved in concert with previously studied locations in southern New England, but has been out of phase with hydrologic conditions in Northern New England for much of the study period. Our results have bridged a spatial gap in coverage of similar reconstructions, and assists in our understanding of hydroclimate variability as we project climate forward. Our group also published a paper in The Holocene that quantified the biologic response to climate influences over the past 11,500 years. This contribution revealed that humans are affecting the biota of Sluice Pond through eutrophication, a process that has not been seen in the pond for millennia.

On a more fun side of sabbatical I ran the 2014 Boston Marathon as part of Team Eye and Ear, and raised over $10,000 for research at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary!

Professor Alan Young

Biology Professor, Alan Young

I spent nine very enjoyable and very rewarding weeks of a fall 2014 sabbatical in Hawaii, during which time I collected beach samples that I am now sorting and analyzing for tiny bits of plastic. Once my analyses are complete I will submit a paper for publication, most likely in the peer-reviewed Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Since Captain Charles Moore first made the general public aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997, concern has grown about the amount of land-based trash that enters the world’s oceans. Plastics do not biodegrade but instead just break up into smaller and smaller pieces. In some plankton tows taken in the middle of the North Pacific, bits of plastic outnumber plankton 7:1. Some of this plastic debris washes up on Hawaii’s beaches.

I collected samples from remote Kamilo Beach on the southeast tip of the Big Island (the Hawaii Wildlife Fund transported me in a 4-wheel drive truck over a 7.5-mile unbelievably rough “road” traversing old lava fields), Kahuku Beach on the northern tip of Oahu and Ka’ehu Beach on the northern coast of south Maui.

I sieved quantities of beach sand into a tub of water and then skimmed off any floating debris to obtain all plastic bits plus, unfortunately, thousands of tiny bits of wood and seeds that also float. Since returning to Salem State last December I have been painstakingly separating the plastics from the non-plastics under a dissecting microscope. I then run them through a series of sieves to separate them into size categories and I further divide them into color groups, each of which is counted and weighed.

During my stay in Hawaii, in addition to collected beach sand samples, I observed and took photos and videos (on land and snorkeling) of a variety of geological and biological subjects. I have already incorporated videos of sea turtles and monk seals into my biological oceanography lectures.