Past Meetings

September 2021

Speaker: Brian Partington

Topic: Developing and Implementing a Robust, Deep Nested Groundwater Monitoring Program in Southern Los Angeles County, CA!

When: Monday, September 13th (5:00PM – 7:30PM)

Abstract: The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) manages groundwater for nearly four million residents in 43 cities of southern Los Angeles County. The 420 square mile service area uses about 220,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of groundwater, which equates to over 40 percent of the total demand for water. WRD ensures that a reliable supply of high quality groundwater is available through its clean water projects, water supply programs, and effective management principles.

For years, water supply well data was used to evaluate the overall water quality within two adjudicated groundwater basins in southern Los Angeles County (Basin). However, using data from long screen intervals common to the water supply well industry often results in a blended water quality from multiple aquifers compared to actual water quality and a limited understanding of the various aquifers present within the Basin. In the 1990s, WRD began an effort to better understand the water quality of each aquifer and continues to implement a robust groundwater monitoring program using over 335 deep nested groundwater monitoring wells installed in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Groundwater samples are collected semiannually from each major aquifer with screen intervals installed up to 2,900 feet below ground surface (ft bgs). More than 100 water quality constituents are analyzed, resulting in over 60,000 individual data points to help track water quality throughout the Basin. Groundwater elevation data are also continuously tracked using pressure transducers and key monitoring wells are used to evaluate water level trends throughout the basin including a monthly assessment of storage change within the Basin. Advanced geophysical logging tools were also used during drilling to collect additional geologic data to better understand subsurface soils and when combined with oil industry geophysics, a sequence stratigraphy model was developed to better understand the structure of the basin (also in collaboration with the USGS).

This talk will present an overview of our groundwater monitoring program and the benefits of having a robust, depth specific monitoring network for evaluating water quality conditions in a complex basin and how additional data resulted in a better overall understanding and water management for two adjudicated basins in southern Los Angeles County. 


Speaker Bio: Brian Partington manages the hydrogeology department at the Water Replenishment District. He is responsible for providing technical analysis, review, and oversight for various projects related to artificial recharge, seawater intrusion, groundwater quality, conjunctive use, computer modeling, recycled water, and groundwater production in one of the most heavily utilized groundwater basins in California. He has 25 years of experience in groundwater management and received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from California State University Fullerton. He is also a California Professional Geologist and Certified Hydrogeologist (PG/CHg).

July 2021

Speaker: Dr. Jingmai O’Connor

Topic: The Multiple Evolutions of Dinosaurian Flight!

When: Monday, June 5th (5:00PM – 7:30PM)

Abstract: Most of us are only just wrapping our minds around the fact that birds are living dinosaurs. But are birds the only flying dinosaurs? New specimens from China reveal a startling diversity of dinosaurs that flew in a diversity of ways.

The idea birds descended from dinosaurs dates back to the 19th century but only became widely accepted following the discovery of feathered dinosaurs in Cretaceous aged deposits in northeastern China in the late 1990’s, more than a century later. Discoveries from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota, and later from the Upper Jurassic Yanliao Biota, have continued unabated for the late 20 years, revealing not only a huge diversity of birds only younger than Archaeopteryx but also four winged dromaeosaurids and even more unexpected – an enigmatic group of theropods with membranous wings. These discoveries strongly suggest that birds are not the only flying dinosaurs – that flight evolved multiple times in Maniraptora, together revealing a startling degree of experimentation with volant behavior that we are only just beginning to understand.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Jingmai O’Connor is currently the Associate Curator of Fossil Reptiles at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Previously, she was a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing where she worked for over ten years. O’Connor was introduced to paleontology by Dr. Donald Prothero while at Occidental College (Class of ’04). O’Connor did her PhD studying Mesozoic birds at the University of Southern California (2009) with Drs. David Bottjer and Luis Chiappe (Los Angeles Natural History Museum). Her research explores the evolution of flight in the Dinosauria, the dinosaur-bird transition, and the biology of stem-avians, not through any one aspect but exploring Paraves through feather origin and function, aerodynamics, reproduction, respiration, trophics, anatomy, systematics, ontogeny, taxonomy, histology, and other topics as exceptional specimens arise. She has published over 120 papers some of which have appeared in top journals including Nature, Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and Current Biology. In 2019 O’Connor was awarded the Schuchert Award by the Paleontogical Society which honors a paleontologist under the age of 40 who demonstrates excellence and promise. O’Connor has conducted field work in the US, China, Mongolia, Romania, Canada, and South Africa. She serves as an editorial board member for Scientific Reports and is a Research Associate of both the American Museum of Natural History and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. O’Connor has been invited to give several keynote lectures, helped to organize several symposia, has trained numerous Master’s and PhD students, and lectured at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

June 2021

Speaker: Travis Clow

Topic: Long Term Coastal Cliff Retreat in Del Mar, CA!

When: Monday, June 7th (6:30PM – 8:00PM)

Abstract: Eroding coasts make up the majority of the coastlines on Earth, including the west coast of the United States, and host critical infrastructure like roads, railways, and residential structures. The precarious siting of infrastructure is particularly true for Del Mar, California, where a major railway between Los Angeles and San Diego sits within just a few meters of a cliff edge that is closely backed by dense housing subdivisions. Coastal cliff retreat presents a danger to these communities that is potentially amplified under rising sea level conditions, among other factors, yet constraints on retreat rates are most often limited to those derived from historical imagn ery and maps dating back 10-100 years. These modern retreat rates are then used, in conjunction with multi-model ensembles, for forecasting cliff retreat over the next 50-100 years in order to gauge future impacts to coastal communities. Managers and policymakers make decisions for mitigation efforts based on these results, however they may not capture the full picture of cliff retreat, and the factors that influence it, over time. While nearly all of the existing forecasting models explicitly account for projected sea level rise, the majority of them ignore other factors (e.g. subtidal and subaerial weathering) that may also play a large role.

Speaker Bio: Travis Clow is currently a PhD Candidate at Stanford University working with Dr. Jane Willenbring on resolving rates and dates of landscape evolution in North and Central America using cosmogenic nuclides. He received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 and 2014, respectively. His main research interests involve unraveling the interplay of climate and tectonics as drivers of Quaternary geomorphological landscape change from coasts to mountain belts, as well as active tectonics and critical zone science. Outside of the lab and field, Travis spends his time hiking, skateboarding, and relaxing anywhere with a nice view.

May 2021

Speaker: Dr. Justin Hagerty

Topic: Astrogeology!

When: Monday, May 3rd (6:30PM – 8:00PM)

Abstract: The presentation will describe the history and vision of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, beginning with its origin as key player in the Apollo missions and leading up to the support of NASA’s efforts to land humans on the Moon by 2024. The USGS participation in lunar exploration missions has made it possible to better understand how the Moon formed and evolved over time and the presentation will present the latest views of lunar evolution.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Justin Hagerty received his BS (1998), MS (2001), and PhD (2004) degrees in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Hagerty joined the USGS in 2006 as a Research Geologist at the Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. Dr. Hagerty’s research has focused on combining compositional information from rocks, with compositional data from remotely sensed observations of planetary surfaces, to investigate the geologic evolution of planetary surfaces. Dr. Hagerty was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by President Obama in 2012 for his work using the asymmetrical distribution of lunar thorium abundances to model the formation and evolution of the Moon. Dr. Hagerty is now the director of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, which was established in 1963 to support the geologic training of the Apollo astronauts. The USGS Astrogeology Science Center, which serves the Nation, the international planetary science community, and the general public’s pursuit of new knowledge of our Solar System by conducting innovative, fundamental research that advances the fields of planetary spatial data infrastructure, geoscience, and remote sensing.

April 2021

Speaker: Brenna Quigley

Topic: Connections between Geology, Soil, and Great Wine

When: Monday, April 5th (6:30PM – 8:00PM)

Abstract: Terroir is a French word that describes a wine’s ability to reflect a unique sense of place, whether from one wine region to another, or from individual sections within the same vineyard. The term is one of the most mysterious concepts in the world of wine, with heated debates on the topic more common than not amongst groups of experienced tasters. The Oxford Dictionary defines terroir as “the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate”, as well as “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced”. Geology plays an important role in controlling these factors, and many wine experts believe that the bedrock geology of a region imparts a distinct fingerprint on its wines. However, there are many nuanced variations of this concept, with a major distinction being whether or not to include the human aspect (local wine culture and heritage including farming practices and vinification styles) involved in the production of the wine. This talk will introduce the history of terroir and how the concept has shaped wine regions in both the “old” and “new” worlds of wine. We will review the major geologic factors that impact a site’s terroir, as well as the human factors that can either enhance or obscure these qualities. We will also comment on the research that is currently underway on how these factors affect the physiology of the vine and the characteristics of the final wine. Throughout this discussion we will relate these concepts to the local wine regions of Santa Barbara County, and discuss some general characteristics of each of Santa Barbara’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

Speaker Bio: Located in Napa, CA, Brenna is committed to thoughtfully applying the science of geology to the world of wine through both education and hands-on vineyard investigations.  She works with wine professionals in all areas of the trade, from growers in France to importers and buyers in the US, in order to precisely define the most impactful elements of their terroirs in a relevant and approachable manner. She is also the founder and host of Roadside Terroir, a podcast program that drives you through the wines, geology, and culture of your favorite wine regions. The first season covers Santa Barbara County and is out now.
Brenna received her Bachelor’s Degree in Aquatic Biology and Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012, where she stayed on to earn her Masters in Geology with Dr. Phil Gans in 2015. Her research focused on geologic mapping and structural geology (how and why rocks deform). She has also worked extensively in the mining industry where she further developed her skills in geologic mapping and interpretation, soil sampling, and geophysical surveying. During her time at UCSB, Brenna spent her free time exploring the wine country of Santa Barbara, and began working at her favorite tasting room on the weekends. It was there, working with Seth and Magan Kunin that she fell in love with the wine industry and the complex concept of terroir.
Recently, Brenna has had the great privilege of working with growers, producers, sommeliers, and importers all over the world. From her backyard in the Napa Valley, to diverse regions in the old world including France, Italy, Austria, and Spain.

March 2021

Speaker: Dr. Andrea Balbas

Position: Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach

Topic: The Missoula Floods!

When: Monday, March 1st (6:30PM – 8:00PM)

Speaker Bio: Dr. Balbas is an Assistant Professor at California State University Long Beach. She is a multi-method geochronologist whose research has focused on paleomagnetism, cosmogenic nuclides, lava chronologies and megafloods. She is a passionate educator and advocate for increasing diversity and opportunity in the sciences. Currently, her research involves determining the timing and origin of non-hotspot related intraplate volcanism along the Northwest Hawaiian Ridge and wider Pacific Plate. She also aims to develop a sediment coring program of the Santa Monica and San Pedro basins to understand fire and anthropogenic environmental impacts in Southern California in the late Holocene. She is happy to discuss how to create more job and research opportunities for CSULB geology students, all ideas and support are welcome.

Abstract: The Missoula Floods are perhaps the most well-known cataclysmic flooding events from the geologic record. The destructive power and mind-bending proportions of these floods have provoked awe and disbelief as tenacious geologists meticulously pieced together the natural impacts and causes of the floods. The floods were sourced by Glacial Lake Missoula that formed when an ice dam held back the Clark Fork River in what is modern-day Montana. Estimates of the lake indicate it measured about 7,770 km2 and contained about 2,100 km3 of water, half the volume of Lake Michigan. Once unleashed, this massive amount of water swept over Idaho and Eastern Washington in a 3-day window at a highest estimated flux of 2.7 million m³/s, 13 times the Amazon River. While the Missoula Floods remain one of the most shocking abrupt events known in the geologic record, it is perhaps the human behavior of geologists that worked to prevent the acceptance of cataclysmic flooding that remains the greatest cautionary tale associated with the unraveling of the Missoula Floods story.

January 2021

Speaker: W. Paul Burgess

Position: Engineering Geologist in the California Geological Survey’s Regional Geologic and Landslide Mapping Program

Topic: Shallow landslide and debris flow activity in San Diego County, early April 2020! 

When: Monday, January 20th (6:30PM – 8:00PM)

Speaker Bio: W. Paul Burgess is an Engineering Geologist in the California Geological Survey’s Regional Geologic and Landslide Mapping Program, where he arrived in October 2018. Prior to joining the CGS, Burgess worked in the geotechnical engineering world in Los Angeles. He earned a MS in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles focused on studying active faulting and tectonic geomorphology in the northeastern Indian Himalayan foothills. Prior to his time at UCLA, he earned his BS in Geology at the University of Houston in Texas, where he first became fascinated in geology after participating in geologic expeditions traversing the far northwestern Nepal Himalaya. Since coming aboard the CGS, Burgess has been especially grateful to steadily grow his knowledge of mapping landslide geomorphology and processes. In his spare time he enjoys riding his bicycle.

Abstract: In early April 2020, a large regional storm-induced landslide event affected multiple communities in northern San Diego County. In particular, early on the evening of Friday April 10, a large debris flow impacted a beloved local tennis club, residential community, assisted-living facility, and charter school in Encinitas and caused upwards of $1 million in damage. In late April, Burgess traveled to the impacted area and made field observations. UAS-based imagery was obtained from the tennis club, and subsequent work with Alex Morelan (Engineering Geologist, CGS) was essential for performing change detection and slide volume calculations within the inundation zone of the debris flow. Approximately 2,500 cubic meters of debris traveled approximately one kilometer from its source; luckily the bulk of the debris (approximately 2,000 cubic meters) was contained by tennis court fencing, which saved the downstream area from more significant damage. The importance of characterizing the debris flow and other landslides as completely as possible led to the additional gathering of meteorological data for the storm event. Stefani Lukashov (Engineering Geologist, CGS) provided analysis of available regional and local precipitation data for the storm event, which successfully documented triggering rainfall conditions responsible for the landslide and debris flow activity. In all, more than 40 separate landslide events, including the debris flow, occurred within an approximate 48-hour period of time during and immediately following the largest recorded rainfall on record in northern San Diego County. The cataloging of these landslide events has added a robust collection of new data to the CGS Recent Landslides database, demonstrating the utility of this innovative data product.