Atlantic Ocean

New research from geosciences professor Ian Dalziel suggests the cause of rising sea levels and biological expansion 530 million years ago was a major
tectonic shift. 

Dalziel’s study, which was published in the November issue of The Journal of Geology, suggests that the shift resulted in the emergence of major multicellular organisms, such as fish and mollusks during this era, the Cambrian period.

According to Dalziel, he had been collecting geological evidence on various continents, primarily in Antarctica, when he discovered a link between the evidence he had been collecting and existing research that indicated the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans were once a single body of water. 

“One night, I thought there had to be a connection between the two oceans,” Dalziel said. “I’d been
concentrated on the continents and not on the ocean.”

Dalziel proposed a reconstruction of Earth involving the supercontinent called Gondwanaland that was composed of Australia, Antarctica, Africa, India, and South America and Laurentia, the geological ancestor of North America. In Dalziel’s model, Gondwanaland and Laurentia oceans were separated by the Pacific and ancestral Atlantic oceans.

“I’ve been working on the study of the Earth before Cambrian for quite a number and in Antarctica,” Dalziel said. “North America and Antarctica were
previously joined.”

Dalziel said a rift opened up between the Pacific and ancestral Atlantic oceans, which led to the rise in sea levels. Dalziel said he utilized previous research to come to his conclusions.

“We know the chemistry of the Atlantic Ocean affected the chemistry of the Pacific,” Dalziel said. “[This has made possible] the
connection between the previous, well-documented research and what’s been done recently.”

John Goodge, environmental sciences professor at the University of Minnesota who read Dalziel’s paper, said that this tectonic shift caused the buildup of oxygen in the environment, which made prime conditions for the rise of modern species.

“We have shallow seas encroaching on land,” Goodge said. “North America [had a] warm climate and nutrient-rich waters. It’s possible that that’s what set the stage for the expansion of these living organisms.”

As research on this topic continues, Dalziel said he would like for more people to piece together evidence supporting his claims.

“There are students and faculty around the world that will be able to collect evidence,” Dalziel said. “I hope they continue piecing it together and understand this far-reaching problem.”

Lauren Andrews, geological sciences graduate student, leads a research team that recently discovered a cause of glacial shifts in the northern Atlantic Ocean region.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Traveling to the icy regions of Greenland, UT researchers, led by Lauren Andrews, a geological sciences graduate student, looked at the country’s glaciers to see how they impact glacial shifts in icy regions of the Atlantic Ocean, including Greenland.

Andrews and her team published their findings in an October edition of Nature. Andrews said the melting water from the tops of ice sheets flows down to the bottom of a glacier’s bedrock during the summer, causing it to slide. 

“The surface water is getting to the bed and is interacting with the bed of the ice sheet, and the ice [melting] speeds up in the summer and starts to melt faster,” Andrews said. “The idea is that the water on top gets to the bed and can act as a lubricating layer between the ice and the sediment of bed rock.” 

Andrews said this process occurs through natural giant holes on top of the glacier, known as moulins, which act as self-sustaining drainage systems. Water drains through moulins and gets to the bed of the ice sheet, which creates what is known as a subglacial system. According to Andrews, learning about the subglacial systems can help scientists better understand how climate change impacts Greenland’s glaciers.

“Our goal with this project was to understand how that water interacts with the bed and how changes in that subglacial hydrology results in changes in ice velocity,” Andrews said. “What is the correlation between the speed of the ice sheet and the volume of water?”

Andrews’ studies include exploring how these subglacial systems evolve over time by drilling bore holes, which act as man-made re-creations of moulins, into the glaciers. Glaciologists are able to measure the subglacial pressure to help understand how the glaciers change over a certain period of time. 

“The ice velocity changes over the course of the season, and that implies and allows us to infer that there are changes within the subglacial hydrology,” Andrews said.

According to Andrews, there is still research to be done in this area of study, and glaciologists are still trying to understand the complexity of subglacial systems.

Experts called for change in the minds of Europeans and Americans as they compared and contrasted racial and religious intolerance on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during a panel discussion at UT this weekend. The European Studies department hosted a two-day conference to discuss the heavy prejudice of the American and European societies against immigrants and Muslims. Associate government professor Terri Givens organized and moderated the discussions and said she chose 12 professors, politicians, activists and journalists from the U.S. and Europe to speak at the panel. The panelists called for activism against intolerance of race, religion or country of origin. “Of course, we don’t have all the answers, but I hope we continue working toward them and pushing our own dreams, even if they are Utopian,” Givens said. Givens said it is necessary for the scholars to continue the discourse about the issue through their writings to come closer to an end for prejudice. “Women didn’t get the right to vote without campaigning and struggle. We are not going to solve this problem without getting engaged,” said keynote speaker Glyn Ford, a former member of European Parliament. “I think there is a responsibility among politicians to push the envelope as far as you can.” Participants of the panel used the term “Islamaphobia” to describe the growing fear of Muslims after Sept. 11. “Islamaphobia” has replaced the anti-Semitism of the early ’80s, Ford said. “‘Islamaphobia:’ it’s no longer a Jewish conspiracy but a threat to Western Civilization,” he said. It exists in Spain as the country encourages immigration of Catholic Spanish speakers but deters immigration of Muslims into the country, he said. Panelists also discussed historical and political aspects of immigration, including maltreatment of Chinese and Irish immigrants to the United States. The far right in Europe hold more extreme anti-immigrant views than those of conservatives in the U.S. because the latter is a country of immigrants, Givens said. Panelist and Guardian Times columnist Gary Younge said people should be free to live wherever they want around the world, but immigrants tend to face prejudice. “Do you want to mow your own lawn? Do you want to look after your own kids?” Younge asked. “Because if you don’t, then these people need to stay. I think that [what] they want to do is suppress [immigrants]. They don’t actually want them gone, but they just don’t like the idea that they may one day be equal.” Younge criticized conservatives for having racist political views on immigration but also criticized liberals for not adequately fighting against racism. “The fact of racism is probably going to be a constant fact of human life,” Younge said. “I would like to think that resistance to racism on the political level would also be a constant fact of human life, but when the left doesn’t do that, you wonder who will.”