Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • “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.”

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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  • ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

    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.

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  • 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. 

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  • Luther College is beginning the process of raising its levee system in accordance to a recommendation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Last year, FEMA informed administration that Luther’s dike did not meet the standards necessary for accreditation from the agency. As plans for the raising develop, the school is working with experts to solidify the details of the project. [...]

    These floodplain calculations are based on recent flooding patterns and can change over time. Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Chemistry Laura Peterson explained the importance of the changing map.

    “Recently FEMA reanalyzed the flood map for Decorah [in order] to figure out what the 100 year floodplain is,” Peterson said. “Their new calculation of the 100-year flood would bring water levels higher than the dike was built to sustain.”

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  • The U.S. oil industry remains heavily dependent on state and federal subsidies to make drilling profitable, particularly as the price of crude stays at historical lows, a new study found.

    Forty-seven percent of discovered oil reserves that remained untapped by the middle of last year required subsidies to turn a profit with prices at about $50 per barrel, according to the research published Monday in the journal Nature.

    “Almost half of new U.S. oil fields would not be profitable, and would not go ahead without subsidies,” Peter Erickson, the study’s lead author and a senior scientist at the nonpartisan Stockholm Environment Institute, told HuffPost by phone. “This is an industry that’s been around for a century, so for it to still be so dependent on these tax breaks, most of which are permanent, was surprising.”

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