Faculty Research


James R. Ebert James R. Ebert

Dr. Ebert’s research comprises two areas: Sedimentary Geology (sedimentology, stratigraphy, biostratigraphy, sedimentary petrology) and Geoscience Education. Current research in sedimentary geology focuses on the sequence and biostratigraphy of the Siluro-Devonian limestones of the Helderberg Group in NY, PA, MD, WV and VA. Research in geoscience education addresses development of physical models for large scale and abstract Earth processes and increasing flow in the geoscience workforce pipeline via dual enrollment courses.


Les Hasbargen
Les Hasbargen

As a geomorphologist, I am interested in the broad range of processes which change the shape of the land, and these include sediment movement in rivers and on hillslopes, chemical reactions between natural waters and rocks, glacial action in erosion-transport-deposition, and biologic interactions with landscapes. I enjoy using geophysical tools to explore surficial depositional environments, as well as photogrammetric and surveying tools to measure landforms.  My current research projects include:

  1. Water chemistry in wells and surface waters across the Upper Susquehanna river basin, which includes the Marcellus shale;
  2. Fracture mapping in bedrock outcrops in Otsego County;
  3. Database generation and spatial mapping of geologic data;
  4. Lake sediments as records of climate and big storm events; and
  5. Measurement of bank erosion of Otsego County streams.

All of my research seeks to integrate collected data into accessible, share-able, mappable, digital forms. Most recently, I have started exploring the use of Google Fusion tables as a way of sharing information, and providing a way for others to explore it.
In addition to these projects, I also oversee student research projects. These include geophysical exploration of archeological sites; detailed mapping of dinosaur trackways; Martian geomorphology; and geomorphic mapping in Otsego County. Students have played an extremely important part in my research. Since 2007, more than 20 students have worked with me on diverse projects, and many of these students have presented their work at national geoscience conferences.For more information about me and my research, please visit my web site: http://employees.oneonta.edu/hasbarle/ 


Keith A. BrunstadKeith A. Brunstad

My primary area of research is in Physical Volcanology and Volcano-tectonics in which I’m interested in the generation, accumulation, transport, and eruption and emplacement processes associated with volcanic systems. Thus far I have concentrated on the regional volcano-tectonic processes associated with plate-boundary environments such as the Cascade volcanic arc and intraplate environments associated with rifts like the Rio Grande of New Mexico and Hot Spots such as Hawaii. I employ a multidisciplinary approach by combining Sequence Stratigraphy, Geochemistry, Structure and Tectonics, and Geophysics to understand the genesis, evolution, and emplacement processes of both moderate and large volume Cenozoic volcanic systems. Volcanic rocks are analyzed by various analytical techniques including XRF, ICP-MS, SEM-EDX, EMPA, and Light Microscopy, most of which are available in the WSU Geoanalytical Lab and SUNY Oneonta. Currently, the main focus of my research is the generation, storage, and emplacement and eruption of the high-silica rhyolites associated with the most recent caldera forming eruption from Valles caldera, NM. In addition, I’m characterizing the subunit stratigraphy of the Tshirege Member of the Bandelier Tuff associated with this caldera-forming event.

Closer to home, I currently have students Duncan Macrea working on laboratory experiments envolving the biomineralization of Gold and heavy metals from mine waste waters from the Berkeley Pit Lake, Montana, and William (B.J.) Oakes on regional jointing patterns and how they may influence natural gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing and groundwater quality in Central Upstate New York.


Todd D. Ellis

My research interests are in improving geoscience education, improving how we communicate science to the public, and in understanding the energy balance of the planet and how it is affected by global climate change.  I have three active research grants at this time.  The first is a National Science Foundation grant written with Dr. Blechman to study ways to improve the use of real-time meteorological data in the undergraduate classroom.  As part of this grant, I installed a new 10-seat meteorology computer lab that is used in classes from Introduction to Meteorology all the way through the Senior Seminar course.  I've also developed a new style of computer course that is required for 3rd semester students, which we believe will help students be better prepared for careers in meteorology by getting them used to using data throughout their careers.  I also have a grant with NASA to develop new techniques for helping current and future Earth Science teachers to use authentic data from NASA and the GLOBE program to allow their students to conduct their own science inquiry.  My research team plans to offer workshops across the country with this program.  I am also a member of the NOYCE Scholars program at SUNY Oneonta, which seeks to recruit talented science students to become talented science teachers in high needs school districts. 

In addition to this research, I am also the Education and Public Outreach Leader for the NASA CloudSat mission.  CloudSat is satellite with a unique cloud-penetrating radar that helps us to learn a great deal about the inner workings of clouds around the planet.  As part of my duties, I oversee a network of schools around the world who take observations when CloudSat passes overhead, which in turn helps us to validate the satellite’s functions.  My outreach team also works to help share the results of the scientific community’s research on clouds into educational products that can be used by schools and the general public.  I try to involve undergraduate students in this this work while also helping them to conduct their own research using CloudSat data.  Education and outreach are my passions, and the fact that I get to do this work while teaching the subjects I love are why I’m so happy here at SUNY Oneonta.


Leigh M. FallLeigh M. Fall

Marine Invertebrate Paleontology, Paleoecology

I became a paleontologist because of my fascination with the natural world and the questions that can be answered using fossils and other geological data to understand the evolution of our biosphere.  I enjoy learning how organisms respond to each other and their environment.  I am especially interested in understanding the factors that govern species diversity.  Preserving biodiversity in the face of environmental changes requires that we understand how diversity remains stable and responds to perturbations (such as climate change).  One way to evaluate how organisms respond to biotic (e.g., competition, predation) and abiotic (e.g., climatic conditions, physical disturbance) processes is to use fossils.  A benefit to using the fossil record is the temporal perspective (that is, time scales of millions to hundreds of millions of years) not unavailable when studying modern ecosystems.

My Ph.D. research focused on understanding the ecological processes that govern the diversity, composition, and structure of brachiopod fossil communities.  I primarily work with marine invertebrates.  Brachiopods are a group of bivalved organisms with an appearance similar to clams, but they are not closely related to them.  I used Middle Permian (~265 million year ago) brachiopods from Guadalupe Mountains National Park to address my hypotheses.  The results from my research provided fundamental information on what happened to brachiopod fossil communities disturbed by sea-level changes. 

My research involves collecting data from the field in many areas within North America, museums (such as, the Paleontological Research Institution), and The Paleobiology Database (PBDB.org).  I plan to continue my research in investigating the diversity of fossil communities right here in New York.  The fossils contained in the Devonian-aged rocks have provided many interesting results to help broaden our understanding of ecological and evolutionary processes acting on ecosystems as well as generating more questions for further research. 


Melissa L Godek
Melissa L Godek

My main area of research within the atmospheric sciences falls in the broad scope of climatology. I am currently investigating the relationship between large oscillatory patterns, like the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the day-to-day variability of United States winter temperatures. I hope to extend this research to all regions in North America and to include an examination of ENSO and the NAO influences on  liquid and frozen precipitation variability. One facet of this research that I am particularly interested in involves distinguishing these impacts from the evident global climate change signal present in the temperature record since the mid 1970s. On the side, I have spent some time researching interesting meteorological phenomena known as atmospheric singularities (including the popular January Thaw and Indian Summer). Both projects involve students in all aspects of the research examination process (from data assimilation to crunching numbers to creating graphics to writing it all up!). I have also conducted work with students that focuses on air mass dynamics related to significant meteorological events like severe droughts and flooding.