Fifth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference






















What Every Naturalist Should Know About the Geologic History and Glacial Geomorphology of Long Island

Dr. J Bret Bennington, Department of Geology, Environment, and Sustainability, Hofstra University

The Long Island that we know came into existence around 20,000 years ago
at the peak of the Wisconsin Glaciation. All of Long Island’s natural landscapes are in some way a product of the glacial and peri-glacial environments and processes of deposition at the margin of the Laurentide ice sheet. Recent investigations of Long Island’s geomorphology based high resolution digital elevation data coupled with new observations from the field have significantly extended our understanding of the processes that produced Long Island’s various landscapes and geomorphic features and led to modifications of our understanding of the formation of Long Island. New findings include the role of subglacial meltwater tunnels in carving the valleys of the western necks and depositing the intermorainal outwash plain, the incorporation by ice-thrusting of allochthonous blocks of coastal plain strata in the Harbor Hill moraine, the role of permafrost in the erosion of stream valleys south of the Ronkonkoma moraine, and the evidence for a true terminal moraine on the continental shelf south of the shoreline of Long Island.  This presentation will review the most interesting and significant new findings about the geologic history and geomorphology of Long Island coming from a number of geoscientists, naturalists, and teachers on Long Island. I will also emphasize the connections between glacial features and modern habitats and ecosystems around Long Island.

Dr. J Bret Bennington is currently Professor of Geology and Chair of the Department of Geology, Environment, and Sustainability at Hofstra University where he has been teaching since 1993.  His B.S. degree in biology/geology is from the University of Rochester (1985) and his Ph.D. in geology is from Virginia Tech (1995). His research in paleontology includes the quantitative analysis of the fossil record to learn about the evolution of ecological communities over long intervals of time, as well as the statistical analysis of fossil invertebrate assemblages and fossil footprints. Other research interests include the glacial history and glacial geomorphology of Long Island and the record of past hurricane and major storm events preserved in the marsh and bay sediments of southern Long Island. Bennington’s teaching activities include courses in physical geology, historical geology, dinosaurs, hydrology, geomorphology, paleontology, and Charles Darwin and evolution.  Dr. Bennington also co-directs a study abroad program in the Gal√°pagos Islands and Ecuador.  He is a member of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, the Society for Economic Paleontology and Mineralogy, and a former board member of the New York State Council of Professional Geologists.