Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • Two senior U.S. Geological Survey officials have stepped down after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asked that they provide his office with confidential data on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska before it was released to the general public.

    Murray W. Hitzman and Larry Meinert — who had served as the agency’s associate director for energy and minerals and acting deputy associate director for energy and minerals mission area, respectively — charge that the request violated the USGS’s scientific integrity policy because such commercially valuable data should not be shared in advance. Section 3c of the policy states, “Particularly sensitive results, however, such as energy and mineral resource assessments and mineral commodity reports that typically have significant economic implications are not disclosed or shared in advance of public release because pre-release in these cases could result in unfair advantage or the perception of unfair advantage.”

    Read The Whole Story:  Washington Post       Mother Jones

  • Who's Bretwood Higman '99?

    January 30, 2018

    Dr Bretwood Higman from Seldovia, Alaska, lives a life most people can only dream of. But it all comes at a cost. Behind his studies and wilderness experiences, lies the firm desire to save the world from disasters such as tsunami.

    "We looked ahead and saw this darkness out there. I'm not sure if you've seen that old movie – The NeverEnding Story – where they have the idea that this fantastic world is dissolving into nothing. It had a similar effect. Everything was brilliant white and there was this hole in the world. It was just open water. It was so much darker than the ice. It had an apocalyptic look."

    Bretwood Higman can’t forget that sight. Though everyone talks about global warming, he saw its impact and it wasn’t pleasant at all.

    Read The Whole Story (with allowances for the writing and editing which aren't Hig's)

  • “Over the last few decades, Canada geese have been wintering further and further north, which was interesting, because the winters have gotten a little more mild over the last few years, but still it’s pretty cold out there and there’s still snow.”

    University of Illinois ornithologist Mike Ward.

    “So you would wonder why these geese are deciding to spend the winter in Chicago, when they could have the opportunity to fly down to Arkansas, Louisiana, somewhere warmer.”

    Hear The Whole Story

  • Even as climate change shrinks some populations of arctic animals like polar bears and caribou, beavers may be taking advantage of warming temperatures to expand their range. But as the beavers head north, their very presence may worsen the effects of climate change.

    The issue isn’t just that the beavers are moving into a new environment — it’s that they’re gentrifying it.

    Take the dams they build on rivers and streams to slow the flow of water and create the pools in which they construct their dens. In other habitats, where the dams help filter pollutants from water and mitigate the effects of droughts and floods, they are generally seen as a net benefit. But in the tundra, the vast treeless region in the Far North, beaver behavior creates new water channels that can thaw the permanently frozen ground, or permafrost.

    “When you start flooding areas with permafrost you immediately trigger permafrost degradation,” said Ken Tape, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who has researched the beavers. “You start thawing the frozen ground that’s holding the soil together, and that water and soil and other things are washed away.”

    Read The Whole Story

  • On Dec. 21, assuming there’s no cloud cover, Kalispell won’t see the sun rise until about 8:25 a.m., and then it’ll dive back behind the horizon by 4:45 p.m., giving valley residents a little more than eight hours to glimpse the sun.

    It’s the shortest day of the year, with the shortest period of daylight, and is now considered the official start to the winter season. [...]

    Anita Ho, associate professor of geology and geography Flathead Valley Community College, said we have the Earth’s tilted axis is to thank for the shifting length of days throughout the year, as well as the four seasons.

    Read The Whole Story

  • Deep in the dense jungle of Mexico, pools of water that dot the thick vegetation may resemble the shallow ponds found in forests all over the world. But these seemingly boring puddles are actually deep sinkholes, or cenotes as they are known locally, and form portals to another world.

    Thomas Iliffe and David Brankovits aren’t hesitant to enter these watery portals. Clad in wet suits and headlamps, and lugging multiple oxygen tanks and sample jars, the two biologists and their colleagues have plunged into the murky cenote waters many times. [...]

    “Caves are really beautiful windows into this underground world,” says Jennifer Macalady, a geomicrobiologist at Pennsylvania State University, who was not part of the Ox Bel Ha research team. There are crevices and pore spaces all over the world that probably contain similar biological processes, she explains, but caves are “human-sized voids” where scientists can actually explore and conduct experiments.

    Read The Whole Story

  • Wheaton professors Geoff Collins and Matthew Evans are steadily planning a research trip to Iceland for students this upcoming summer. Collins stated, “We’ll be helping students develop their own field research projects before we take off for Iceland.  Iceland is a geological wonderland where you can see all kinds of Earth processes happening before your eyes, and there’s no shortage of interesting projects to pursue.”

    Collins elaborated on the premise of the trip: “The idea for running the trip around student projects came from the successful field geology seminar I ran with Wheaton students in Death Valley, California, in 2014.”

    Read The Whole Story

  • Bara Raa Gregoire was throwing out some trash at the dumpster in Lutsen, Minn., yesterday morning when she discovered two pretty happy bears.

    Bara, a Cascade Vacation Rentals housekeeper, got quite the startle when going to dispose of her garbage in the CVR campus dumpster early Wednesday morning. By the time the rest of the Cascade Vacation Rentals crew arrived at their Lutsen office, the bear that Bara had spotted had indeed escaped from the dumpster and into a nearby tree. [...]

    Owner Steve Surbaugh thought it was odd that the bear was lingering so he decided to investigate the situation further. Inside of the dumpster he discovered the reason why the bear was hanging around the area- two baby bears, too small to make the escape by themselves.

    Read The Whole Story



    The committee that oversees the 1000-mile Iditarod sled dog race announced yesterday that up to four dogs tested positive for a banned substance after they finished this year's race. The dogs were all on the same team. The musher has not spoken publicly and denies knowing anything about it. Emily Schwing of the Northwest News Network has more.

    EMILY SCHWING, BYLINE: The banned drug Tramadol would allow sled dogs to run through pain. It's an opioid that can cause drowsiness. And some mushers have never heard of it.

    JEFF KING: The fact that no one's ever heard about it doesn't mean that someone wouldn't do it.

    SCHWING: Jeff King has won the Iditarod four times, and he's finished in the top 20 two dozen times. Trying to figure out exactly what happened is what he calls a double-edged sword.

    Read The Whole Story

  • Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano. It has the ability to expel more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980, which killed 57 people. That could blanket most of the United States in a thick layer of ash and even plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter.

    Yellowstone’s last supereruption occurred 631,000 years ago. And it’s not the planet’s only buried supervolcano. Scientists suspect that a supereruption scars the planet every 100,000 years, causing many to ask when we can next expect such an explosive planet-changing event.

    To answer that question, scientists are seeking lessons from Yellowstone’s past. And the results have been surprising. They show that the forces that drive these rare and violent events can move much more rapidly than volcanologists previously anticipated. [...]

    Kari Cooper, a geochemist at the University of California, Davis who was not involved in the research, said Ms. Shamloo and Dr. Till’s research offered more insights into the time frames of supereruptions, although she is not yet convinced that scientists can pin down the precise trigger of the last Yellowstone event. 

    Read The Whole Story