March 17, 2004
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

A $330,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation will help California State University, Bakersfield’s Geology Department study the climate history of the Southern San Joaquin Valley and support geoscience education in Kern County. Coupled with some matching money from the university, the total package is for about $400,000 over three years.

Geology professors Dirk Baron and Rob Negrini, together with Manuel Palacios-Fest of Terra Nostra Earth Science in Arizona, prepared the grant, which will support research designed to understand the regional climate history and flooding of the Kern River and its tributaries. The grant also provides significant funding to improve geoscience education in local middle schools and high schools, and at CSUB.

The grant provides summer research participation opportunities and stipends for K-12 teachers and high school students. Teachers and students will work with CSUB faculty collecting cores from Buena Vista Lake and analyzing them in the Geology Department’s modern laboratory facilities. The grant also provides scholarships for new geology students at CSUB.

Baron said the grant’s object is to provide “opportunities for enhancing diversity in the sciences. We want to provide opportunities for not only teachers to enhance their knowledge through first hand experience, but also for high school students who may be interested in geology career opportunities. The grant will also provide scholarships for geology majors at CSUB; it will pay all their fees plus provide a small stipend. All told, it adds up to about $4,000 a year.”

Applications for both the teacher and high-school student summer positions are being accepted now, as well as applications from CSUB students for the scholarships. The grant also provides funds for outreach activities to attract minorities to the geosciences, he said.

Baron said the research project will be for four weeks in the summer, and involve 10 high school students and six teachers. The teachers will receive a $3,000 stipend for the four weeks, and the high school students will receive $500 stipends for the same period. Applications are currently being accepted, he said. “We have a lot of interest from teachers,” he said. “They need additional training in the sciences, so this is a great opportunity for them to get that.”

Negrini said that the “proposal was developed in collaboration with the Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools with the purpose of creating a project that supports teachers in the implementation of the new California Science Standards; it is relevant to students, and is a window into a significant research project. The research project is will provide a real-life experience for the student and K-12 teachers.”

For the research project, Baron said, “We decided to do something with local relevance, something that affects peoples lives. We plan to collect a series of cores and from dry lakes in the area, Buena Vista, and Kern Lake. Those cores preserve a climate record, and allow us to look at the climate changes over the past 100,000 years or so. We can study flooding events, which would also be preserved in the sediments of those dry lakes. We can look at flooding frequency. So if the climate going to warm up due to global warming, we hope to be able to project what will happen. So those are the kinds of scientific questions we’re looking at.

“Those sediments preserve a really nice record of what’s gone on in the past,” he said. “We can tell how deep the water was in those dry lakes. There are indicators of how warm the water was, or how much salt or fresh water. We can really figure out a lot of things from these sediments. So trying to use the past to project the future.”

Negrini said the department has been able to purchase a drilling rig, which they will use to take the cores.

For more information about the program, or to apply, please call Baron at (661) 664-3044, or visit the website at http://www.cs.csubak.edu/Geology/nsf_grant.htm.