Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • Karen Merritt, public health educator, street photographer and SEA Semester alumna (W-98), has been selected to receive this year’s Armin E. Elsaesser Fellowship award.  Karen plans to use the award to investigate and document the “invisible history” of 16th and 17th century mercury and silver mining in Spain and Mexico, which she describes as one of the “longest continuous maritime transport endeavors in history.” [...]

    Examining the cultural history and environmental legacy of mercury and silver mining and transportation during Spain’s “Silver Age,” the project represents a convergence of Karen’s interests: health, science, engineering and photography.

    Karen will travel to a former mine in Almadén, Spain where an estimated 6,500 metric tons of mercury were extracted and brought to Mexico for use in silver mining between approximately 1550 and 1700.  She will also explore the site of silver mines in Zacatecas, Mexico.  Karen is interested in the long-term environmental and societal consequences of the Spanish silver era and, through photos and text, will research and document conditions in Almadén and Zacatecas through the lens of the mining history of those locations.

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  • WASHINGTON (DTN) -- On-farm sustainability metrics have improved in a lot of areas going back to the 1980s, but also may have plateaued.

    With agricultural sustainability becoming a growing industry focus, the group Field to Market released its third report onDec. 8,looking at environmental and socioeconomic measures for commodity crops across the country. The official title of the 71-page report is the "Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On-Farm Agricultural Production in the United States." To keep it brief, that is shortened to the 2016 National Indicators report.

    The analysis looks at eight environmental and five socioeconomic indicators for 10 crops -- barley, corn for grain, corn for silage, cotton, peanuts, potatoes, rice, soybeans, sugar beets, and wheat -- from 1980 to 2015. [...]

    Allison Thomson, science and research director at Field to Market and lead author of the report, pointed out that the term "sustainability" translates into a complex mix of topics and several layers of both environmental and economic factors.

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  • Every year, trade winds over the Sahara Desert sweep up huge plumes of mineral dust, transporting hundreds of teragrams — enough to fill 10 million dump trucks — across North Africa and over the Atlantic Ocean. This dust can be blown for thousands of kilometers and settle in places as far away as Florida and the Bahamas.

    The Sahara is the largest source of windblown dust to the Earth’s atmosphere. But researchers from MIT, Yale University, and elsewhere now report that the African plume was far less dusty between 5,000 and 11,000 years ago, containing only half the amount of dust that is transported today.[...]

    “In the tropical ocean, fractions of a degree can cause big differences in precipitation patterns and winds,” says co-author David McGee, the Kerr-McGee Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “It does seem like dust variations may have large enough effects that it’s important to know how big those impacts were in past and future climates.”

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  • Between the jungle and the rice paddies, Fidel Costa struggled to find bare rock on the slopes of Mount Gede, a towering volcano near the western tip of the Indonesian island of Java. But an abandoned quarry hewn into the mountainside offered a rare chance to nab a few samples. So on a muggy day in 2011, Costa, a volcanologist at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, scrambled up the steep wall to some rocks, marbled like rye bread, which he pried loose with a hammer. Four thousand years ago, they erupted from Gede and fell out of a cloud of hot ash. [...]

    Already, the few researchers adept at using the technique have found that magma can tear through the crust at searing velocities, and that volcanoes can gurgle to life in a geologic instant. Instead of taking centuries or millennia, these processes can unfold in a matter of decades or years, sometimes even months, says Kari Cooper, a volcano geochemist at the University of California, Davis. The results help explain why geophysicists haven't found simmering magma chambers under volcanoes like Yellowstone, and why some eruptions are more violent than others. "This is something that has the potential to really be a game changer in a lot of ways," she says.

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  • Conversations surrounding climate have come to surpass the limitations of govern­ment, economy and society. Climate change and discourses surrounding sea level rise, arctic ice melt, habitat degradation and extreme weather conditions are increasingly politicized. [...]

    Chair of Earth Science and Geography Mary Ann Cunningham said, “Getting off of fos­sil fuels is inconceivable to most Americans.” Here at Vassar, there have been some efforts to adopt lower emission practices. Electricity has become the main vehicle for these efforts. The College has power purchase agreements for hy­droelectric and solar energy. New buildings are equipped with on/off light motion sensors and LED bulbs, which conserve energy. Future clean energy efforts look towards geothermal heating. Heat is a major cost and comprises 60 percent of Vassar’s carbon emissions. However, it is pos­sible to dramatically turn around campus con­sumption through sustainable renovation efforts.

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  • The standstill agreement on softwood lumber trade expired recently, leaving Canadians holding their breath for the U.S. Lumber Coalition to launch legal proceedings.

    In the calm before the storm of the next Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute, speculation about how the issue will unfold has crystallized around two options: a tax or a quota. The differences may appear merely technical, but they would mean vastly different things economically.

    While a quota would impose a cap on exports to the United States, a tax would allow the level of exports to fluctuate with U.S. consumers’ willingness to pay for Canadian lumber. In other words, as U.S. lumber prices increase, Canadian lumber would still be able to enter the U.S. market to meet demand.

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  • The Altiplano-Puna plateau is a high, dry region in the central Andes that includes parts of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, with vast plains punctuated by spectacular volcanoes. In a study published October 25 in Nature Communications, researchers used remote sensing data and topographic modeling techniques to reveal an enormous dome in the plateau.

    About 1 kilometer (3,300 feet) high and hundreds of miles across, the dome sits right above the largest active magma body on Earth. The uplifting of the dome is the result of the thickening of the crust due to the injection of magma from below, according to Noah Finnegan, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz and senior author of the paper.

    "The dome is Earth's response to having this huge low-density magma chamber pumped into the crust," Finnegan said.

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  • Emily Schwing is a journalist with a knack for mixing science and story-telling.  She's most at home in the natural environment, getting to know people who are affected by things like climate change and resource development. She's also been known to track down scientists on things like ecosystem restoration, changing environments and human/environment interactions.

    Her work in Alaska has garnered her the title of 'Mushing Correspondent.'​ She's covered the 1000 mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race since 2010 and the 1000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race since 2012. That's more than 9000 miles worth of tales from the trail!

    Schwing also produces work for National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera America, Public Radio International, Koahnic Broadcasting and National Native News and Mushing Magazine. She has contributed stories to American Public Media, Monitor Radio and Deutsche Welle.

    Here she reports on the reconciliation process with Native American nations:

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  • AMHERST, Mass. - Geomorphologists who study Earth's surface features and the processes that formed them have long been interested in how floods, in particular catastrophic outbursts that occur when a glacial lake ice dam bursts, for example, can change a planet's surface, not only on Earth but on Mars.

    Now geoscience researchers Isaac Larsen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Michael Lamb at the California Institute of Technology have proposed and tested a new model of canyon-forming floods which suggests that deep canyons can be formed in bedrock by significantly less water than previously thought. They point out that "reconstructing the magnitude of the canyon-forming floods is essential for understanding how floods modify planetary surfaces, the hydrology of early Mars, and abrupt climate change."

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  • Visitors to a world-famous fossil bed in Canada have discovered a handful of strange specimens that may likely turn out to be up to three new species of large ancient millipedes.

    The find was made by chance last year in the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which stretch several miles along the Bay of Fundy. The fossils are being analyzed now in labs in the United States and Canada. [...]

    The fossils are an exciting find, says Alton C. Dooley, Jr., a National Geographic explorer who has studied ancient life and is the executive director of the Western Science Center in California. The specimens prove that there are still plenty of relatively large animals awaiting discovery.

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