Taxonomy term


Energy Notes: June 2012-2013

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

19 Oct 2013

Down to Earth With: Kirk Johnson

In 1967, at a family picnic in Casper, Wyo., 6-year-old Kirk Johnson stumbled across a fossil that looked to him like an ancient rattlesnake tail (it turned out to be a brachiopod). Not long after, while hiking in his home state of Washington, he accidentally knocked over a piece of shale, fortuitously discovering a fossil leaf. The ensuing epiphany that he had a knack for finding fossil treasures led to what he now calls his “paleo obsession.”

16 Oct 2013

Mineral Resource of the Month: Hafnium

Hafnium is a ductile metal with a brilliant silver luster. It does not exist as a free element in nature; it is always associated with zirconium. Its existence was predicted as early as 1869 by Dmitri Mendeleev, but it wasn’t discovered until 1923 when it was found in the mineral zircon by X-ray spectroscopic analysis. Hafnia is the Latin name for Copenhagen, the city where hafnium was discovered.

13 Oct 2013

Benchmarks: Sept. 26, 1912: Birth of Preston Cloud, geologist who deciphered banded iron formations

Banded iron formations (BIFs) represent some of the earliest, and most controversial, evidence that the early Earth was devoid of oxygen. These deposits were recognized for their economic value in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s when Preston Cloud focused his intellect on  the origins of (BIFs).

26 Sep 2013

Energy Notes: May 2012-2013

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

19 Sep 2013

Down to Earth With: Tanya Atwater

When Tanya Atwater began graduate school in marine geology in 1967, it was considered unlucky for women to be aboard ships. Undaunted, Atwater signed up to work on the first research cruise to take a close look at a seafloor spreading center. Voyage after voyage, she and her mentors fought for her right to work on oceanographic vessels, and it is fortunate they did. Atwater has since had a remarkable career studying plate tectonics and was instrumental in piecing together the evolution of the San Andreas Fault plate boundary.

16 Sep 2013

Mineral Resource of the Month: Lithium

Lithium, the lightest of all metallic elements, has unique properties that have led to its use in a diverse array of applications. For many years, most lithium was used in the production of ceramics, glass and aluminum. More recently, the market for lithium has shifted toward batteries for consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

13 Sep 2013

On the web: Mount St. Helens goes online to reach the masses

If you’ve ever felt the mysterious allure of volcanoes — both terrifying and spectacular — you can now experience the infamous eruption of Mount St. Helens from the safety of your computer. The new Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center website ( offers exciting interactive experiences and more to volcano enthusiasts and earth science students with just a few clicks of a mouse.

25 Aug 2013

Mineral Resource of the Month: Kyanite

Kyanite and the related minerals andalusite and sillimanite are anhydrous aluminum silicate polymorphs with the same chemical formula, but with different crystal structures and physical properties. These minerals form during metamorphism of clay-bearing sedimentary rocks or in pegmatites. In the United States, where kyanite is prevalent, these three minerals comprise the kyanite minerals group. It is also known as the “sillimanite group” where sillimanite is more common, particularly in India. The three minerals form under slightly different conditions and rarely occur together. They are composed of about 63 percent alumina and 37 percent silica. When “calcined,” or heated to 1,250 to 1,500 degrees Celsius, they convert to about 88 percent mullite and 12 percent silica (the percentages depend on grain size, impurities present and rate of temperature increase). 

13 Aug 2013

Down to Earth With: Neil Armstrong: First astrogeologist on the moon

One year ago this month, Neil Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 82. Armstrong will be forever remembered for that historic first step he took on the moon on July 20, 1969, but he also held another distinction: He was the first person to explore the geology of another planetary body.

President John F. Kennedy mandated in his famous 1961 speech at Rice Stadium in Texas that the primary goal of the Apollo program was to land humans on the moon and return them safely to Earth before the end of the decade. The science mission was an important, but secondary, goal.

04 Aug 2013