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down to earth with

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

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

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

Down to Earth With: Cave scientist and paleoclimatologist Kathleen Johnson

Paleoclimatologist Kathleen Johnson has some advice for anyone interested in tropical cave science: befriend experienced cave guides and beware of venomous snakes, ubiquitous bats and Frisbee-sized spiders.

24 Feb 2017

Down to Earth With: Mountain biking geologist Kurt Refsnider

Growing up in Minnesota, Kurt Refsnider spent a lot of time exploring old clay and limestone quarries along the Minnesota River, where he collected marine fossils. While on a camping trip with his family at age 8, he visited the Burgess Shale in Banff, Canada, and learned about the exquisitely preserved soft-body fossils of Precambrian marine fauna. The experience initially made him want to become a paleontologist. But as he grew up, the glacial landscapes of the upper Midwest drew his attention and he decided to study geology instead.

09 Feb 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleoclimatologist Raymond S. Bradley

When 21-year-old Raymond S. Bradley left England in 1969 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), he thought he’d be studying Denver’s urban climate. But on arrival, a funding mix-up delayed the work and Bradley found himself in search of a new project. While his doctoral work would ultimately involve studying the precipitation history of the Rockies, a new opportunity came his way in the summer of 1970 when his officemate needed a field assistant for a trip to the Arctic. So, Bradley headed to Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic on a three-month excursion that would prove to be just the first of dozens of Arctic expeditions to come over the course of a distinguished career.

04 Jan 2017

Down to Earth With: Underwater cave explorer Jill Heinerth

Jill Heinerth has trekked farther into caves than any woman in history and logged more than 7,000 dives across every continent and up to roughly 140 meters underwater — recreational divers only reach depths up to 40 meters. She has dived inside icebergs in Antarctica, beneath the Sahara Desert, and in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas.

02 Dec 2016

Down to Earth With: Volcanologist Kayla Iacovino

When Kayla Iacovino enrolled as a freshman at Arizona State University in 2005, she thought she might become an astronaut. But, after a field trip to outcrops in northern Arizona during her first semester, she became hooked on geology.

28 Oct 2016

Down to Earth With: Fossil preparator Bob Masek

When paleontologists unearth a fossil and rock still entombs part of it, they take it to someone like fossil preparator Bob Masek, who cleans and prepares the fossil for scientific study, and sometimes for display in a museum. In the 1990s, Masek helped prepare “Sue,” the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered, which now stands in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

 
30 Sep 2016

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