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Down to Earth With: Volcanologist Scott Rowland

When Scott Rowland returned to his home on Oahu after earning a bachelor’s degree in geology at Oregon State University, intent on heading to graduate school, he was torn between studying volcanoes or groundwater. Ultimately, he chose to study Hawaii’s basalt lavas as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

14 Aug 2018

Mineral Resource of the Month: Tin

The main source of tin is cassiterite (SnO2), a tin oxide mineral; cassiterite has been the primary source of tin throughout history. Most of the world’s identified tin resources occur as placer deposits, a large number of which are located along the Southeast Asian tin belt. The remaining resources occur as hydrothermal hard-rock veins. In the United States, tin deposits are rare; there are no known extensive tin placer deposits and the few hard-rock deposits are currently not economically exploitable.

12 Aug 2018

Benchmarks: July 29, 1958: The Birth of NASA

Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., meant that my house was often frequented by guests who wanted to visit our nation’s capital. Without fail, this meant my family and I would be taking a trip to one of the Smithsonian’s most popular attractions, the National Air and Space Museum. I can’t count the number of times I visited the museum before I left for college, but it was a lot. Although glimpsing the museum’s collection of aircraft and spacecraft was cool at first, I would much rather have spent those afternoons wandering the halls of the National Museum of Natural History.

29 Jul 2018

Down to Earth With: Paleobiologist Rowan Lockwood

In 1608, Captain John Smith noted that oysters “lay as thick as stones” on the floor of the Chesapeake Bay. The shell reefs — built up by hundreds of years of oyster generations — were so large, ships wrecked against them. And each oyster was so massive, to eat one, you had to cut it into pieces — like a steak.

27 Jul 2018

Geomedia: Books: Revisiting the Galileo affair

Galileo’s commitment to Copernican cosmology — with Earth orbiting the sun — despite his 17th-century inquisition and imprisonment by Roman Catholic authorities remains a pivotal moment in the history of modern physics and astronomy, and in the history of tension between science and religion. Though today we take the fundamentals Galileo espoused for granted, in his day, the scientific debate among proponents of different celestial models remained hotly contested.

19 Jul 2018

Benchmarks: June 15, 1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts

Twenty-seven years ago this month, the calm in central Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, turned to chaos. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo disgorged 5 cubic kilometers of material over a few hours, and ash clouds soared 35 kilometers into the atmosphere. The substantial eruption — the second largest of the 20th century — burned itself into memories and history books.

15 Jun 2018

Mineral Resource of the Month: Chromium

Although chromium is a metal, it does not occur naturally in metallic form. Chromium can be found in many minerals, but the only economically significant chromium-bearing mineral is chromite. Chromite has been mined from four different deposit types: stratiform chromite, podiform chromite, placer chromite, and laterite deposits. Most of the world’s resources, however, are located in stratiform chromite deposits, such as the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The economic potential of chromite resources depends on the thickness and continuity of the deposit and on the grade of the ore. Many of the major stratiform chromite deposits also contain economic levels of platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium and ruthenium.

13 Jun 2018

"Greening" stormwater in Philadelphia

When environmental geologist David Wilcots joined Sci-Tek Consultants in 2014, he became involved with the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure project. Sci-Tek’s goal was to redesign certain areas of the city’s urban landscape so that “less stormwater goes into the sewage system” and more goes into the ground, explains Wilcots. 

29 May 2018

Down to Earth With: Geologist and paleontologist David Wilcots

When David Wilcots was 4 years old, his parents took him to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City where he encountered his first giant dinosaur skeleton: a roughly 27-meter-long sauropod named Apatosaurus (though at the time it was still popularly known as Brontosaurus). “That just blew my mind,” he remembers. His passion for paleontology grew, branching from dinosaurs into early mammals, and led him to major in geology at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1988, he earned a master’s in geology at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. But then, things didn’t go as planned. “When I got out of grad school, I looked for jobs in paleo, but couldn’t find any,” he recalls. “Environmental geology was the next best thing.” He began consulting with business and government agencies, and as time went on, his second choice of career grew on him.

29 May 2018

Geomedia: Books: "Quakeland" spotlights seismic risk

I was flying to Seattle when I finished Kathryn Miles’ 2017 book, “Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.” I shut the book with a shudder of dread. There’s trouble brewing below the myriad coffee shops, not just in Seattle, but also across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle and the surrounding region sit atop the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), where the diminutive Juan de Fuca Plate dives eastward beneath the sizable North American Plate, producing a chain of stratovolcanoes arrayed along the coast like pearls on a string — an explosive geohazard.

16 May 2018

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