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Features

N.E.O.N.: Studying critical ecological issues on a continental scale

NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, is one of the most extensive ecology projects ever undertaken. Program scientists — along with members of the public — will examine critical ecological issues across North America, including the effects of climate change, invasive species, droughts, fires and floods.

22 May 2013

Why is the U.S. so insecure about its energy security? Measures of energy independence show it is increasing, not decreasing

In recent years, every time an election has rolled around, politicians have espoused the necessity of energy independence and energy security. According to them, if we are to achieve the necessary level of energy security we need to “drill, baby, drill,” develop “clean coal,” install new pipelines, develop renewable energy, make sure our cars get better gas mileage, or [fill in another sound bite of your choosing here]. A listener could easily conclude that the U.S. lacks energy security. But what do the numbers tell us about our current state of independence?

28 Apr 2013

Denying sea-level rise: How 100 centimeters divided the state of North Carolina

On the surface, it looks like America is a place where scientists and scientific achievements are held in high regard. The retired space shuttles were welcomed by flag-waving crowds; millions of people watched Curiosity’s nail-biting landing on Mars and James Cameron’s descent into the Mariana Trench. The discovery of the Higgs boson made front-page headlines and captured the imaginations of a nation. It would seem that America still loves and respects science.

21 Apr 2013

Community college at sea: Research experiences for community college students build the STEM pipeline

It’s 3 a.m., and students from two Oregon community colleges are rocking back and forth through roiling seas. Their objective is to recover an ocean-bottom seismometer that has been lying 160 meters underwater off the west coast of Vancouver Island, where it has been steadily recording seismic signals and long-period pressure trends for the past year. These students are experiencing what earth scientists do for a living, as a part of the Cascadia Initiative’s CC@Sea program.

31 Mar 2013

Spotlight on UCORE projects

The National Science Foundation-funded Undergraduate Catalytic Outreach and Research Experience (UCORE) program ran from 2007 to 2012 and involved 132 students from six different community colleges in Oregon. During the five years of the UCORE program, groups of three to six community college students from each campus spent 10 weeks in the summer on the University of Oregon campus, working on projects alongside graduate students and faculty in chemistry, geological sciences and physics research groups. Listed below are some of the projects in which the students were involved.

31 Mar 2013

Apollo science, 40 years later: Scientists reopen a lunar cold case

Today’s lunar scientists are like detectives who reopen old criminal cases and examine them anew with modern instruments and techniques like DNA analysis. Armed with data and analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, scientists are re-examining Apollo moon rocks and learning more than ever before about our nearest celestial neighbor.

24 Mar 2013

Releasing a flood of controversy on the Colorado River

Since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the once warm and muddy Colorado River has run clear and cold, with a drastically altered ecosystem. A new plan to release regular, intentional floods — to resupply sediment and restore species habitat — aims to reverse the damage done to the Grand Canyon’s natural systems over the last 50 years.

03 Mar 2013

Sinkholes: Florida grapples with the wonders of the not-so-deep

This story was printed in August 2010. In response to the tragic sinkhole event in Tampa, Fla., on March 1, we are reposting this story.

Sinkholes are a natural part of Florida’s landscape, forming when rainwater levels fluctuate. They've occurred naturally for millions of years and they haven’t been a big problem for humans until recently: Florida’s population has increased from fewer than 8 million in the 1970s to just shy of 20 million today — and farmers, snowbirds and Mother Nature have begun to engage in an increasingly acrimonious water war. The addition of humans to the landscape has made the situation increasingly volatile. Now, sinkholes open up seemingly — or literally — overnight. When a sinkhole opened up in a cow pasture, few people cared, but now if one opens up under somebody’s house or under Interstate 4, we pay attention.

01 Mar 2013

Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

Drinking toilet water: The science (and psychology) of wastewater recycling

Would you drink water that came from a toilet? The imagery isn’t appealing. Even knowing that the water, once treated, may be cleaner than what comes out of most faucets, many people are disgusted by the idea. But in places like Singapore and Namibia, limited supplies of freshwater are being augmented by adding highly treated wastewater to their drinking water. As climate change and population growth strain freshwater resources, such strategies are likely to become more common around the world, and in the United States.

28 Jan 2013

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