Carleton Geology Alums In The News
- November 20, 2009
Carcasses of adult crocodiles do not usually signal the return of winter in South Africa, but mass death seems to be becoming the harbinger of the season. Rangers at the Kruger National Park have found Nile crocodiles floating in the Olifants River or bloated and decaying along its banks. Investigators are rushing to figure out the cause and worry that the deaths might be signaling the presence of toxins or pathogens that could threaten not only the croc population but also the livelihoods of the people living near the river.
The Olifants River runs several hundred kilometers through three South African provinces and into Mozambique. It supplies water to industrial agriculture operations that send food to Europe and to the local rural communities, which also depend on those waters for fishing and farming.
Thus begins one of Naomi's recent articles in Scientific American.
- November 20, 2009
There have been a number of disturbing reports recently about the reduction or elimination of various geoscience organizations, including the University of Wyoming Geological Museum and now (possibly) the Department of Geological Sciences at Michigan State University. I’ve heard other stories from various colleagues at numerous academic institutions about the loss (or feared loss) of personnel, that seems to go beyond the general economic hard times.
In parallel, there has also been a general decline in geoscience student enrollments over the last 25 years (although the drop has plateaued over the last five years or so, and was actually up this year). This persistent low enrollment means that a large number of professional geoscientists will be reaching retirement age in the next 10 years, and there are not enough up-and-coming students to replace them.
Why are geoscience enrollments relatively static or dropping, and what can we do to increase them?
- November 9, 2009
Granite may be common, but it's no ordinary stone.
Even if they don't know much about rocks, most people can name at least one place they have encountered granite. As a rock, granite is speckled, sparkly, and beautiful, and it is used in products we encounter every day, including countertops, headstones, and flooring. In the natural world, granite forms random boulders in fields and many of the planet's loftiest peaks. Granite is everywhere – from Georgia to Alaska and Maine to California – most states have somewhere with granite formations. Now, with What's So Great About Granite? written by Jennifer Carey, everyone can learn more about this enigmatic stone.
- November 6, 2009
Laura Veirs' seventh album July Flame is out January on her Raven Marching Band imprint. The collection includes appearances by Karl Blau, Jim James, and Eyvind Kang, among others. It also includes 13 gorgeous songs. See, for instance, standout "Wide-Eyed, Legless." We asked Veirs about it.
"Wide-Eyed, Legless" is an evocative title. It sounds like a stage direction, a Beckett moment. What inspired the narrative? Is it an Andy Fairweather Low reference?
- November 3, 2009
Heather Macdonald, Chancellor Professor of Geology at William & Mary, has been proclaimed the winner of the Neil Miner Award by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT).
According to the NAGT Web site, the award is presented to “an individual for exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the earth sciences.”
"All of us in the geology department are so pleased that Heather has been recognized in this way,” said Brent Owens, department chair. “She has been a role model and an inspiration to us as teachers, and to countless others across the country."
- October 27, 2009
Tsunamis are among the most-devastating natural calamities. These earthquake-generated waves can quickly engulf low-lying land and bring widespread destruction and death. They can deposit sand and debris far inland from where they came ashore.
Now, for the first time, a group of scientists working in the Kuril Islands off the east coast of Russia has documented the scope of tsunami-caused erosion and found that a wave can carry away far more sand and dirt than it deposits.
The fortuitous observations resulted because the Kuril Biocomplexity Project had made detailed surveys of some Kuril Island coastlines during the summer of 2006, and then returned for additional work in the summers of 2007 and 2008. That provided a unique opportunity for before-and-after comparisons following a magnitude 8.3 earthquake and accompanying tsunami on Nov. 15, 2006, and an 8.1 quake and resulting tsunami on Jan. 13, 2007.
When the scientists revisited coastlines they had surveyed in 2006, they found that in some places the amount of sand and soil removed by tsunami erosion was nearly 50 times greater than the amount deposited.
"It was so extreme. I was really surprised," said Breanyn MacInnes, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.
- October 19, 2009
The story of the world’s first vegetarian spider appeared last week in numerous newspapers and other media, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, on BBC radio, and on dozens of science and news websites. The public’s interest in the news of the bug-eyed and furry Bagheera kiplingi (named after the panther in "The Jungle Book") revealed a healthy appetite for the novel and quirky in the 40,000-species strong arachnid universe. But the story also reveals how we sometimes miss what’s important—despite its proximity right under our noses.
The known story of B. kiplingi goes back at least to 1896, when a Wisconsin taxonomist, who never actually saw the species in its native tropical habitat, gave the multi-colored spider its name. But then the jumping spider, which relies on hydraulically powered legs to go the distance, seems to have been largely ignored. Daniel Janzen, a luminary of tropical ecology and a specialist on plant-insect interactions, collected some specimens of the spider during his groundbreaking dissertation research on ant acacia trees in Mexico, but did not note anything unusual about the spider’s biology.
Fast forward to the jungles of Central America in 2001. Brandeis biologist Eric Olson had already spent two years researching spiders and herbivorous insects, and their host plant interactions, in the tropical dry forests of northwestern Costa Rica. To build an inventory of spiders he relied on Earthwatch volunteers to go out and find specimens for him to identify. But he advised them to avoid the ant acacia plant, home to colonies of stinging ants that cause impressive welts.
- October 6, 2009
FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington Department of Geology has been awarded a $20,000 Quimby Family Foundation grant to study the effects of climate change on high elevation ponds in Maine.
This grant was awarded to Julia Daly, UMF associate professor of geology, and is one of only two Quimby Family Foundation grants to be received by a university within the University of Maine System since the grant's inception.
"I was thrilled when I received the notice from the Quimby Family Foundation," Daly said. "I knew this was a very competitive year, but I also knew the significance of this research and the answers that were possible because of it."
- September 30, 2009
Interpreting the past latitude and geography of the continents
from palaeomagnetic data relies on the key assumption that
Earth’s geomagnetic field behaves as a geocentric axial dipole.
The axial dipolar field model implies that all geomagnetic
reversals should be symmetric. However, palaeomagnetic
data from volcanic rocks produced by the 1.1-billion-yearold
Keweenawan Rift system in North America have been
interpreted to show asymmetric reversals, which had led to
the suggestion that there was a significant non-axial dipole
contribution to the magnetic field during this time1,2. Here we
present high-resolution palaeomagnetic data that span three
geomagnetic field reversals from a well-described series of
basalt flows at Mamainse Point, Ontario, in the Keweenawan
Rift. Our data show that each reversal is symmetric. We thus
conclude that the previously documented reversal asymmetry
is an artefact of the rapid motion of North America during
this time. Comparisons of reversed and normal populations
that were time-averaged over entire polarity intervals, or from
sites not directly on either side of a geomagnetic reversal, have
previously led to the appearance of reversal asymmetry.
- September 17, 2009
St. Paul, Minn. - Macalester College has completed its first long-term strategic plan to combat climate change. Among the college’s goals:
- Achieving carbon neutrality by 2025
- Eliminating waste by 2020 (zero waste)
- Integrating sustainability into curriculum and student programs
- Adopting a “green building” policy to reduce emissions in facility construction and operations
- Decreasing carbon emissions from travel
- Adopting a responsible purchasing policy
"The threats posed by global climate change to our survival are daunting," says Macalester President Brian Rosenberg. "This plan demonstrates our commitment to living our values and preparing each generation to confront the challenges they will face in the years ahead. We hope that in 2025 our first-year students will be proud to attend a college that has successfully demonstrated leadership in sustainability and is carbon neutral.”
Macalester’s plan has been submitted to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
Macalester’s strategic sustainability plan underscores its leadership among American colleges and universities in addressing climate change, explains Suzanne Hansen, sustainability manager. Only 88 of the approximately 400 colleges and universities who were to have submitted plans this week did so, and few of those plans are as ambitious and broad as Macalester’s.