Taxonomy term

march 2017

Maui reef degradation linked to contamination in coastal groundwater

Submarine groundwater discharge — the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land to sea — can transport contaminants to coastal ecosystems. But little is known about the direct impacts of this process on marine communities. In a new study published in PLOS ONE, researchers examined links between land use, water quality and coral reef health at coastal sites around Maui, finding that anthropogenic contaminants delivered via submarine groundwater are a source of chronic stress to nearshore marine ecosystems.

31 Mar 2017

Dental plaque reveals later start date for hominin cooking

Ancient teeth have long been a source of information about ancient diets, mainly through analyses of isotopic compositions and wear patterns. In a new study published in the Science of Nature, researchers studied microfossils of food particles extracted from the teeth of a 1.2-million-year-old unidentified hominin found at the Sima del Elefante site in northern Spain. The microfossils include traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules from grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine tree and insect fragments. The lack of charring of the recovered fibers and an absence of micro-charcoal suggest the bearer of the teeth neither cooked his or her food nor spent significant time around a fire source.

30 Mar 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

Seafloor volcanism linked to glacial cycles

Eruptions from seafloor volcanoes and cycles of global glaciations may seem unrelated, but new research suggests otherwise, indicating that pulses of volcanism at mid-ocean ridges might have influenced glacial and interglacial periods during the latter half of the Pleistocene.

28 Mar 2017

Travels in Geology: Easter Island's enduring enigmas

Easter Island, a lonely island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, is steeped in mystique — and not just for its famous, perplexing statues and controversial story of societal collapse. How the island formed has also baffled geologists for decades.

27 Mar 2017

Getting there and getting around Easter Island

Easter Island has just one gateway, tiny Mataveri International Airport (IPC), to which only one airline, the Chilean carrier LATAM, offers regular service. This includes one flight weekly from Tahiti, as well as daily service from Santiago, a five-hour flight. Airfares are high, ranging from about $400 to $1,500 round trip. The island’s unusually long runway once served as an emergency U.S. space shuttle landing site; today, it allows LATAM to land large Boeing 787s there, a rarity among small islands.

27 Mar 2017

El Niño gets animated

In the winter of 1997 and 1998, a powerful El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean caused billions of dollars in damage from flooding and extreme weather worldwide. Now, a new animation of the event is highlighting the complex feedbacks that conspired to create such a devastating climate cycle.

24 Mar 2017

White Cliffs of Dover on the retreat

England’s iconic White Cliffs of Dover tower 100 meters over the English Channel and, historically, were often the first and last view of England for sea-faring travelers. New research investigating the erosion history of the steep chalk cliffs suggests that they have been retreating far faster over the last 150 years than they once did.

23 Mar 2017

Geomedia: Radio: "The Infinite Monkey Cage" takes listeners to the edge of the universe and beyond

“Science is not about finding the right answer, it’s finding the least wrong answers,” quips physician and science writer Ben Goldacre, a guest on “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” a BBC radio show and podcast that casts an irreverent eye on big scientific questions. Goldacre was commenting on the definition of science, but this philosophy — that science is a constantly evolving pursuit, in which all ideas are valid until data and time prove them wrong — is also the refreshing and approachable premise of this witty show.

22 Mar 2017

Tectonics trigger underwater volcanism

In 2006, a large eruption occurred on the seafloor about 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Mexico. Geochemical dating of the erupted lava suggested the event went on for up to 10 months. Now, researchers taking a closer look at seismic and audio recordings made during the event have found that the eruption likely occurred over a much shorter period — a matter of days instead of months. The findings shed light on the sequence of events leading up to the event, as well as on the mechanisms of such seafloor eruptions.

21 Mar 2017

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