Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • In 2009 geomicrobiologist Jennifer Macalady got a phone call from a cave diver in the Dominican Republic who told her about a cave there with amazing curtains of slime. Her first thought was, “Who is this crackpot?” but she sent him a sample kit. “The sample he sent back to us was so interesting we knew we had to mount an expedition,” Macalady told Eos Monday. Macalady discussed the findings about these slime curtains in a talk Sunday at the Geologic Society of America’s 2015 meeting in Baltimore.

    During the expedition 2 years later, Macalady, who is with Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and her colleagues enlisted the aid of divers, whose video of their underground explorations shows rust-colored fronds of slime. These fronds descend from the ceiling and walls of some saltwater-filled chambers of a flooded cave in the country’s southeast called Manantial del Toro.

    Whereas the challenge and exotic beauty of Manantial del Toro attracts explorer-divers, the metabolisms of the slime curtains’ microbes lured Macalady. The microbial communities that inhabit these fingers of slime are specialized not only for nitrogen cycling but also iron cycling. Could a previously undiscovered microbe capable of both reducing nitrate and oxidizing iron hang from the walls of Manantial del Toro?

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  • Conflict over water resources defines California internationally as much as our Hollywood film stars and Silicon Valley tech wizards.

    From the water wars that pitched residents of Los Angeles against Owens Valley farmers in the 1920s to the modern-day battles over the tunnels project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, there has been a constant struggle over how to manage California’s precious and limited freshwater.

    Up to now, the focus has been on how to manage surface water, but this is set to change as new legislation, approved in 2014, requires local water agencies to set rules to manage groundwater. Will this herald a new wave of water wars, this time taking the conflict underground?

    If we continue with current approaches to managing water, this is certainly a distinct possibility. Already new blame games are opening up as the drought has led to high levels of groundwater extraction. Parts of the state, such as the San Joaquin Valley, are actually sinking as groundwater aquifers are rapidly depleted. The State Water Resources Control Board has declared that 21 of the state’s groundwater basins and sub-basins are “critically overdrafted.”

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  • For more than a million years, the bones lay out of sight, buried under layers of sediment that had accumulated over the eons in San Timoteo Canyon in Riverside County.

    It was only through a lucky twist of fate that they came to light in 2009 when Southern California Edison (SCE) began building the El Casco Substation.

    The discovery ultimately became one of the largest collections of fossils found in Southern California for a geologic period that predates the finds at the La Brea Tar Pits by at least 1 million years.

    Now, after about a year of preparation and nearly four years housed at the Western Science Center in Hemet, the first of the more than 15,000 El Casco fossils will go on display as part of the center’s “Stories from Bones” exhibit opening on Halloween.

    “The fossils tell the story about the life of the animals,” said Alton Dooley, the center’s executive director. “The condition of these bones tell us if an animal was eaten by a predator or was injured or lived to be old and had arthritis.”

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  • Long before the Obama administration cracked down on coal-fired power plant pollution, Colorado acted by itself. The state's pollution regulations made it a leader years ago. The state's Democratic governor still favors those rules, but the Republican state attorney general is on the other side and may join a lawsuit against the latest federal steps. [...]

    HOOD: The Obama administration says the plan will save the average family money. It may turn out that the politics over clean power are more complicated than actually producing cleaner energy. Stacy Tellinghuisen is an analyst with the conservation group Western Resource Advocates. She estimates the state is already committed to meeting three-fourths of the final goal.

    STACY TELLINGHUISEN: With no additional actions that aren't already in utilities' plans.

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  • OAKLAND -- A magnitude-4.0 temblor that rattled nerves in the East Bay on Monday morning was a very shallow but routine geologic shrug in an area notorious for seismic risk -- and yet another reminder of the threat lurking from a fault that's the Bay Area's most overdue for a major quake.

    A locked-up patch of rocks a mere 3 miles under Piedmont suddenly broke loose along the Hayward Fault, triggering a wake-up call felt from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz.

    "Because it was shallower than normal, people in the vicinity felt more intensified shaking than usual for an earthquake of this magnitude," said Keith Knudsen, deputy director of the Earthquake Science Center at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

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  • Highline College will increase its support for geoscience education in community colleges nationwide, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    The NSF has awarded a four-year grant of $1.34 million to Highline College for support of the collaborative research project titled, “Faculty as Change Agents: Transforming Geoscience Education in Two-year Colleges.” The project will focus on improving geoscience education in community colleges across the country and is under the direction of Dr. Eric Baer of the Highline College Physical Sciences and Geoscience Program. Geoscience, or earth science, includes any of the sciences that deal with the earth, such as geology, geography, oceanography and hydrology. The grant award begins September 1, 2015, and ends August 31, 2019.

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  • While crews begin the arduous task of cleaning up Colorado’s Animas River — where contamination by heavy metals and toxins leaked from an abandoned hard rock mine turning the water orange — thousands of other natural sites across the American West remain at risk from similarly hazardous defunct quarries. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that there are currently 2,700 abandoned hard rock mines in need of environmental clean up. Nevada, nicknamed the “Silver State,” has the most, with an estimated 1,100 sites raising environmental concerns.  [...]

    Given how old a lot of the abandoned mines are, Kim Hannula, a geologist professor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, said it’s impossible to blame any one party for the environmental dangers they pose.

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  • SWARTHMORE, Pa. – Marian Ware Director of Physical Education and Athletics Adam Hertz has announced Karin Brown as the new head swimming coach at Swarthmore College. Brown, who will assume coaching duties for both the men's and women's swimming programs, was most recently the acting head coach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Karin stood out among a talented pool of candidates," said Hertz. "She has a firm grasp of what it takes to lead this program, and an intellectual curiosity that will complement the culture at Swarthmore. We are very excited that she has chosen to join our family."

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  • Variations in the amount of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere significantly altered global climate throughout the planet's history. Efforts to reconstruct past climates must include this previously overlooked factor, a new University of Michigan-led study concludes.

    Oxygen currently comprises about 21 percent of Earth's atmosphere by volume but has varied between 10 percent and 35 percent over the past 541 million years.

    In periods when oxygen levels declined, the resulting drop in atmospheric density led to increased surface evaporation, which in turn led to precipitation increases and warmer temperatures, according to University of Michigan paleoclimatologist Christopher Poulsen.

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  • Western Washington University’s Scott Linneman, professor of Geology and Science Education and the 2013 Washington Professor of the Year, has been named the new director for the Honors Program at Western. Linneman succeeds GeorgeMariz, who is retiring at the end of the year.

    "The WWU Honors Program is a gem," Linneman said. "It attracts outstanding students from all over the country to join the Western community of scholars, and it involves many of our best faculty doing some of their most creative teaching."

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