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timothy oleson

Bare Earth Elements: Rim Fire Roundup

The devasting Rim Fire has been torching a growing patch of California for the last week and a half. The latest update from Cal Fire reports that the fire has burned about 726 square kilometers (~179,000 acres), currently making it the 7th largest fire by burn area in the state's history. EARTH offers a roundup of sites where official information can be found, as well as some of the many recent news reports covering the fire.

27 Aug 2013

Mapping field camp's past and present: Exploring a mainstay of geoscience education

Every spring, troops of geoscience students set out to observe firsthand the minerals, rocks, folds, faults, unconformities, ore bodies and other features that populate the geological landscape. And by this time each summer, they (and the instructors brave enough to have accompanied them) have mostly returned home, sporting unkempt hair and sun-tanned limbs. These students — after putting knowledge and skills learned over several years to the test — are the latest group to have survived the rigors of geology’s enduring rite of passage: field camp.

22 Jul 2013

Home sweet home for field campers

With a few exceptions — including available meal choices and entertainment options for when students have limited free time — accommodations at today’s field camps haven’t changed all that much, at least in the last few decades. Depending on the camp, however, lodging ranges from log cabins to college dorms to motels to the occasional traveling camps that still live and work out of “tent cities.”

22 Jul 2013

Location, Location, Location

Although field camps based east of the Mississippi River do exist, and a handful of American schools run camps abroad in places like Ireland, Italy and parts of Africa, the vast majority of camps in the U.S. are still  conducted out West. From the Black Hills and the Great Plains, across the Rockies and other mountain ranges, to the Desert Southwest, the western U.S. offers much in the way of beautifully exposed outcrops, distinctive landscapes and transects through long stretches of geologic time.

22 Jul 2013

Bare Earth Elements: The field camp experience in photos

For the August issue of EARTH, I wrote about some of the ways in which geology's longstanding rite of passage — field camp — has changed over the years, as well as how it has remained the same.

22 Jul 2013

Droning on for science

Unmanned aerial vehicles take off in geosciences research

Despite some controversy, scientists whose work involves imaging, monitoring or otherwise investigating the outdoor world have gradually been turning to unmanned aircraft in recent years, touting drones’ versatility, affordability and safety compared to manned flights. The possibilities for drones in the natural sciences are almost boundless.

13 Jun 2013

Bechmarks: June 1, 1873: The Modoc-Lava Beds War Ends

Under the banner of manifest destiny and with the enticements of natural resources and vast unsettled lands, the western United States saw explosive population growth in the latter half of the 19th century. People flocked to California, especially, following the mid-century dawn of the gold rush. Between 1850 and 1870, the state’s population ballooned six-fold to roughly 560,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. And with the increasing number of non-native settlers came increasing contact and, often, conflict with Native Americans.
03 Jun 2013

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science

 

Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Cool time-lapse shows movement of ice and animals in Antarctica's Ross Sea

Has anyone else been obsessed with Antarctica lately? As an erstwhile scientist with a lasting interest in the life that inhabits what we think of as extreme environments (not to mention the physical environments themselves), I’ve been gleefully soaking up details from the myriad news reports, blog entries and scientific studies coming out of the icy continent of late. The latest bit of fodder for my Antarctophilia is a 5-minute time-lapse video (below) taken from the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer during a recent two-month stint in the Ross Sea.

14 May 2013

Lofted by hurricanes, bacteria live the high life

With cold temperatures, low humidity and high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, conditions 10 kilometers above Earth’s surface may seem inhospitable. But next time you’re flying, consider this: The air outside your airplane window might be filled with an array of microscopic life that affects everything from weather and climate to the distribution of pathogens around the planet.

05 May 2013

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