Carleton Geology Alums In The News

Posts tagged with “Alumni” (All posts)

  • The strange pillar-like formation emerged after Crowley Lake reservoir was completed in 1941: stone columns up to 20 feet tall connected by high arches, as if part of an ancient Moorish temple.

    They had been buried and hidden for eons until the reservoir's pounding waves began carving out the softer material at the base of cliffs of pumice and ash.

    In the ensuing decades, the columns were regarded as little more than curiosities along the eastern shore of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reservoir, which is best known as a trout fishing hot spot about 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes.

    But now answers are emerging from a study at UC Berkeley. Researchers have determined that the columns were created by cold water percolating down into — and steam rising up out of — hot volcanic ash spewed by a cataclysmic explosion 760,000 years ago

    "These columns are spectacular products of a natural experiment in the physics of hydrothermal convection," Noah Randolph-Flagg, 25, a PhD candidate and lead author of the study, said in an interview.

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  • Warming Climate, Shifting Habitats - University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Ken Tape recently published on shifting habitats for moose and hares on the North Slope.

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  • 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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  • Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process. 

    Huge stores of organic carbon in permafrost soils ­­— frozen for hundreds to tens of thousands of years across high northern latitudes worldwide — are currently isolated from the modern day carbon cycle. However, if thawed by changing climate conditions, wildfire, or other disturbances, this massive carbon reservoir could decompose and be emitted as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, or be carried as dissolved organic carbon to streams and rivers. [...]

    "What this study adds is that we show what makes permafrost so biodegradable," said Travis Drake, the lead author of the research. "Immediately upon thaw, microbes start using the carbon and then it is sent back into the atmosphere." Drake was both a USGS employee and a master’s degree student at the University of Colorado during the investigation.

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  • National Park Service ecologist David Swanson explains the Arctic Network Inventory & Monitoring team's use of remote cameras to study seasonal changes across Alaska's northernmost national parks. Each camera is part of climate monitoring station that records weather conditions at locations across Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Noatak National Preserve. In doing so, we can identify long and short-term trends, provide reliable climate data to other researchers, and participate in larger scale climate monitoring and modeling efforts beyond park boundaries.


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  • Can Earth’s ice ages be seen in the undulating fabric of the sea floor? Earlier this year, a pair of papers suggested that long-term cycles of glaciation and melting trigger pulses of lava that harden into sea floor hills. But now, a new study throws cold water on that hypothesis, finding that these climate-driven pulses did not significantly shape the sea floor. Instead, they say, the underwater hills likely come from faulting action and steady—rather than climate-driven—magma eruptions.

    “The main point is that the crustal bathymetry is complex,” says David Lund, a paleoceanographer at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point, who was not involved with the study. With so many processes shaping the sea floor, he says, climate-related signals are extremely difficult to detect.

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  • Herbs are a connection to the natural world, says Heather Borkowski, yet too often, modern life severs that connection. As an herbalist, educator, and wellness coach, Heather Borkowski seeks to reestablish those links to nature, both for herself and for her clients.

    “We’re inside so much, sitting at desks, staring at computer screens,” she says. “But humans need tactile experiences and connections with the cycles of the seasons. I love creating sensory experiences that bring joy, grounding, and wonder into your life.”

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  • Two geology professors at Appalachian State University, Jamie Levine and Gabe Casale, were recently awarded a $139,895 grant by the National Science Foundation to study dome formations in the Tallulah Falls area in Georgia and the Toxaway Gorge area in Western North Carolina.

    Mountains are formed by the collision of tectonic plates. Dome formations are elliptical features found in some mountain ranges across the globe, where the ranges seem to be compressing or extending. Casale said this is counter-intuitive to their very nature. [...]

    “If these domes do in fact form from shortening, they’d be different from a lot of other domes around the world,” Levine said. “So if that were the case, the Appalachians would be unique in some way.”

    There are a number of techniques Casale and Levine will use when conducting their research. Samples of rocks are taken from the sites and then studied. They look at how the rocks moved over millions of years, use radiometric dating to determine the age of the rocks, and they measure the temperatures of the rocks.

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  • In this summer of record heat, roughly 30,000 firefighters and their staffs are battling wildfires across the country. Fires have incinerated 3,000 acres of Washington’s North Cascades National Park, 4,000 acres of Montana’s Glacier National Park, and 5,000 acres of the Sequoia National Forest, which borders John Muir’s beloved Sequoia National Park. Climate change is fanning the flames with early snowmelt, hotter summers, and historic drought. Today, fire season lasts 78 days longer on average than it did in 1970.

    In years past, wildfires have wreaked havoc on the budget of the Department of the Interior and, by extension, the National Park Service. For national parks, that has meant reduced funding for maintaining trails, restoring habitats or aquiring new lands. Parks all over the country have been affected. “You might be borrowing funds from a trail maintenance project in New York that has nothing to do with a fire in Montana,” said Ani Kame’enui, Director of Natural Resource Policy at the National Parks Conservation Association. As a result, nature lovers have been left with less healthy, less expansive, less well-maintained parks.

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