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Geomedia: Books: Earth faces challenges, but are they tipping points?

The 2016 book, “Tipping Point for Planet Earth,” by paleoecologists Anthony D. Barnosky and Elizabeth A. Hadly, is a serious book on a serious topic, and a well-written, one-stop resource for anyone who wants to understand a host of looming problems. The book focuses on the alarming number of worrisome planetary trends now underway, mainly as a result of the convergence of population growth and human-induced global warming. Chapters cover people (population growth), “stuff” (increased purchases of material goods), storms, hunger, thirst (failing water supplies, clean or not), toxins, disease and war. These trends have merited serious attention from environmental scientists and deserve the same from politicians. Whether they are tipping points, however, is a point of contention.

27 Jul 2017

Benchmarks: July 15-24, 1975: Apollo-Soyuz mission launches space collaboration

The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union spurred innovations and historic firsts for humankind from Sputnik to the moon landing. However, much of the drive to break through those technological barriers and explore the vast, starry landscape of space was rooted in a desire to display military dominance in space amid the competition and animosity of the Cold War.

15 Jul 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleoclimatologist Gifford H. Miller

“Hope for the unexpected.” This motto has pulled paleoclimatologist Gifford H. Miller to remote corners of the world to conduct fieldwork for more than half a century. Miller, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) and associate director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, thrives on the pursuit of knowledge, asking tough questions about the global climate system whose answers have far-reaching implications. But it’s the thrill of unexpected discoveries — of which he’s made many — that keep him returning for more. His discoveries, including the extinction timing of giant birds in Australia, the existence of “zombie mosses” that document the life-cycle of Arctic ice caps, and the finding of lake sediments that tell the story of Iceland’s deglaciation, have led to advances in our understanding of Earth’s climate history and the role humans have played in it.

30 Jun 2017

Geomedia: Mixed media: Geo-art collaboration shifts perspectives on earth materials

“Arts and Sciences.” The phrase is familiar to students and faculty on most campuses, often serving as the moniker of colleges or other curricular subdivisions within universities. While the pairing suggests a joint enterprise of some sort between the two fields, it might more aptly be termed, “Arts or Sciences,” as curricula rarely encompass both.

23 Jun 2017

Geomedia: Books: Looking at the World Anew in "The Planet Remade"

Geoengineering, the deliberate large-scale modification of environmental processes on Earth, is often proffered as a solution to climate change. The transfer of carbon long sequestered in geologic repositories to the atmosphere has raised greenhouse gases to levels unprecedented in the history of our species. As a result, the average surface temperature and the heat content of the oceans have both increased.

02 Jun 2017

Benchmarks: June 1977: First Excavations at Nebraska's Ashfall Fossil Beds

In the spring of 1971, paleontologist Mike Voorhies was mapping rock exposures on a farm in northeastern Nebraska when he wandered into a small ravine that recent heavy rains had swept clean of debris. High on the gully wall, a change in the color of the rock caught his eye, so he decided to scramble up and take a closer look.

 
31 May 2017

Down to Earth With: Biogeochemist Stephen MacAvoy

Stephen Mac­Avoy is an associate professor and chair of the environmental science department at American University in Washington, D.C. MacAvoy specializes in the urban environment found in his own backyard, studying urban water problems like stormwater overflow, which contributes to sewage and nutrient pollution, and the geochemistry of the degraded Anacostia River. He recently spoke with EARTH about how living “green” roofs can help reduce pollution in waterways, his surprising love of teaching and his advice for young scientists.

26 May 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleontologist Gerta Keller

The mass extinction that did in the dinosaurs is one of the best-known events in geology. It’s also one of the most contentious.

27 Apr 2017

Benchmarks: April 24, 1990: The hubble space telescope is launched

Five hundred and eighty kilometers above Earth, orbiting at more than 27,000 kilometers per hour, is a 12-ton, bus-sized eye on the universe: the Hubble Space Telescope. When Hubble launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, scientists hoped it would provide answers to many of the great unknown questions of the day. How old is the universe? How fast is it expanding? What lies between galaxies?

24 Apr 2017

Down to Earth With: Planetary geologist James W. Head III

In the late 1960s, as James W. Head III was finishing his graduate degree in geology at Brown University in Providence, R.I., he decided one day to take a look at a college placement annual, a phone book-like publication that listed prospective employers according to the types of jobs they had available. When Head looked up geology in the index, he saw several consecutive pages of related listings, as well as one separate page number. Curious about the outlier, Head flipped to it — and never looked back. Covering that entire page was a photo of the moon, a D.C.-area phone number, and a single line of text: “Our job is to think our way to the moon and back.”

29 Mar 2017

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