The 2015 UAlbany DAES & NYS Museum Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Symposium



Friday January 30, 2015

SUNY Albany Uptown Campus

Earth Science Building, Room 232

2:00pm – 5:30pm




Welcome and Introduction

Dr. Christopher Thorncroft, Professor and Chair – Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences



Evaluating Disturbances to Freshwater Ecosystems

Dr. Denise Mayer, Director, Cambridge Field Station – New York State Museum


Freshwater ecosystems are among the rarest on the planet; they are also among the most susceptible to human impacts.  Disturbances can include habitat degradation, modifications to water level or flow, pollution, invasive species, overharvesting of species, and climate change.  As we design studies to document changes to populations and ecosystems following disturbance, there is often a requirement for baseline data to characterize the biotic and abiotic communities prior to the disturbance.  Long term studies spanning periods before and after disturbances are extremely valuable, but are not common.  Museum collections can provide investigators with historic information, but the data provided are often patchy.  My research focuses on characterizing benthic communities as they recover from disturbance in the Hudson River in upstate New York. 



Ichthyological Research at the New York State Museum

Dr. Jeremy Wright, Curator of Ichthyology – New York State Museum


The New York State Museum’s Ichthyology Collection represents an irreplaceable, comprehensive, long-term (dating back to the mid-1800s) record of the occurrence of fish species in New York State over space and time. Our collection and its associated data are therefore suitable for use in several areas of research, including basic studies of biodiversity, effects of climate change and environmental restoration efforts on species’ distributions, spread of invasive species, and the conservation and management of species of concern and the areas where they occur. In this presentation, I will provide a brief introduction to the NYSM Ichthyology Collection, as well as our diverse research interests, including examinations of postglacial recolonization of New York’s watersheds by various fish species and resulting patterns of species diversity and population genetics, as well as planned evaluations of the recovery of biotic communities in the Upper Hudson River Watershed following efforts to remediate polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollution.




Insights into the ice ages from a modelling perspective: towards transient simulations of ice-age cycles.

Dr. Oliver Elison Timm, Associate Professor – Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences


Climate has always changed and will always change. Even the most conservative person agrees with this statement! The questions remains why it changes, and in particular why have the last million years been dominated by quasi-cycles in glacial expansions and abrupt terminations paced at 80-120,000 intervals. Paleoclimate records from the environment allow us to reconstruct the climate history with growing information on regional details. At the same time climate modelers are working on the improvements in the numerical simulation of the physical processes that played a role during the glacial cycles.

In this presentation I will describe a modeling approach that allows us to simulate glacial cycles in response to orbital variations (Milankovitch Cycles) and changes in the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. I will focus on the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets and the last glacial cycle. I will present results from early experimental phases. In the model world exists a delicate balance between temperature and snow accumulation. Low temperature anomalies added to the ice sheet model can lead to massive ice growth over the Eurasian continent.  Furthermore, the model response is very sensitive to model’s climate sensitivity with respect to CO2 doubling. I will also present results from a recent study that suggests that the synergistic effects from increasing CO2 concentrations and orbital variations were the main drivers for ending the last ice age and the transition into the warm Holocene.



Does the climate system have multiple equilibria?

Dr. Brian Rose, Assistant Professor – Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences


The geological record contains plenty of evidence for large and sometimes abrupt climate changes throughout Earth's history. Does a large climate change necessarily require a large climate forcing? Or does the Earth instead possess thresholds and tipping points, giving rise to unstable transitions between multiple climate states? How do the interactions between various components of the Earth system govern such transitions? I use numerical models of the global atmosphere, oceans and sea ice as a virtual laboratory to study these questions. I will show some examples of bistability and abrupt climate changes in these models -- mostly due to strongly coupled interactions between sea ice and ocean circulation. I will draw some connections between these idealized studies and cold climates of Earth's past -- including the ice ages and Snowball Earth.


3:30pm – Break



Bird evolution and climate change

Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Ornithology – New York State Museum


Ornithological research at the NYSM integrates DNA lab work, specimen-based work in the collection, and field work focused on the birds of the Catskills and Adirondacks. The broad goal of this work is to gain a better understanding of the recent evolution and biogeographic history of bird species.  The effects of historic and ongoing climate change are an important part of the story, and many of our projects examine patterns of genetic or morphological change within the context of climate change. I will discuss a few examples.    



South American summer monsoon reconstruction over the past millennium from isotopic proxies

Dr. Mathias Vuille, Associate Professor - Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences


Relatively little is known about the history of the South American Summer Monsoon (SASM) during the past millennium or its sensitivity to changes in external forcing. Yet such information is needed in order to put recent climate anomalies such as the 2005 and 2010 droughts in the Amazon basin in a longer-term perspective and to more accurately project future changes in the monsoon mean state and its extremes (flooding or droughts) due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing. Proxies that incorporate the stable isotopic composition of meteoric waters (speleothems, ice cores, lake sediments, etc.) provide the unique opportunity to assess such changes, as they are affected by changes in the large-scale circulation over the core monsoon region. Hence isotopic proxies offer the potential to establish a multi-proxy network along the entire range of the SASM belt from the Andes in the west to the Atlantic coast in the east. Here we will review some novel aspects of this ongoing effort to reconstruct the SASM history over the past millennium.



Mapping the Ice Age: Applications and Techniques at the NYSM

Dr. Andrew Kozlowski, Glacial Geologist, New York State Museum


From the inception of the Geological Survey, geologic maps have been used as mechanism to convey spatial relationships. Presently the Geological Mapping Program at the NYSM is being used to map, investigate and understand the three-dimensional relationships of sediments and landforms resulting from previous cycles of glaciation in NY over the last 100,000 years. From the Montezuma Wetlands to the high peaks of the Adirondacks glacial landforms contain a wealth of information pertaining to past climate, environments, and ecology. Understanding these landforms and their spatial and temporal context is crucial to managing resources and environmental issues that modern society deals with on a daily basis.




Climate Changes of the Past Two-Millennia in China Reconstructed from Historical Documents

Dr. Wei-Chyung Wang, Professor of Applied Sciences – Atmospheric Sciences Research Center


Information of pre-instrumental history of climate is needed to study past climate variations. Since 1970s, the Institute of Geography (now Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has systematically extracted the climate/weather-related records contained in the historical documents in China for climate reconstruction. The talk will describe the several decades’ collaborative effort in archiving and analyzing the climate records spanned over 2,000 years. Highlights of climate extremes and understanding of forcing-response aided by climate model simulations will be presented.



(Geo) chemistry, carbon dating and climate change: using the past to inform the present

Dr. Robert S. Feranec, Curator of Mammals & Pleistocene Vertebrate Paleontology, Interim Curator of Paleontology – New York State Museum


At present, climate change and its effects on biota are a critical research area in the sciences.  Dr. Robert S. Feranec will present current research on the hundred, thousand and million year scale investigating how climate has effected animals in the past, and what that might inform us about in the present.



5:30pm - Closing