New Site: Quake and Quiver

Heads up to those who follow this blog: I am upgrading to a self-hosted website at All my old posts and media will be available there, and I will be setting this site to automatically redirect to the new address in the next week or so. I’m migrating subscriptions to this blog over to the new site, so you shouldn’t miss a thing!

Thanks for reading!


What has the EPA done for NY23?

Last week, as Scott Pruitt tried to defend the proposed decapitation of the EPA in front of the House Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans made it clear that the elimination of 50% of the EPA’s programs and 31% of its budget wasn’t going to fly. Lawmakers on both sides cited the damage to their home districts that would be done by removing federal support for environmental protections and programs. Projects countering chemical contamination, water pollution, and ecological degradation are popular, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multi-state program which was slated for elimination earlier this spring. A bipartisan group of representatives from districts around the Great Lakes signed a letter calling for the GLRI’s continued funding, but missing from the list of signatures was Tom Reed of my district, NY 23rd. Reed, a well-entrenched and vocal supporter of 45, has a long history of opposing environmental protections in favor of industry (more at the New NY 23), and of opposing his constituents’ best interests in favor of his own.  In light of this, it seems like an appropriate moment to take stock of what the EPA has done in this district.

The map above shows the grants disbursed in the NY 23rd since 2007. In the last ten years, grants from the EPA to cities, towns, school districts, tribal nations, and universities in our district have totaled almost $40 million. Continue reading “What has the EPA done for NY23?”

Excavating the News 5/27: Jupiter Rising

This week, in the middle of the shoving contest between headlines and/or world leaders, there were a number of important science news items that came out. Even with the international antics and new developments in the Russia collusion story, one of the biggest stories all around was the new budget released on Tuesday, which proposes deep cuts to Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security disability benefits. The president’s wishlist for chopping domestic programs also includes severe cuts to science and health research funding. NIH, NSF, USGS, EPA, FDA, the CDC, and practically everything else in the science-agency alphabet soup face budget cuts, while other programs would be eliminated entirely, like ARPA-E, the Dept. of Energy’s energy research group; NOAA’s grant and education program; and NASA’s Office of Education. The proposed cuts even reach as far as California’s earthquake early-warning system, which would lose its federal funding, killing the project. Continue reading “Excavating the News 5/27: Jupiter Rising”

Excavating the News

Reading the torrent of news this week feels like fishing in a firehose. It’s difficult to pick out any but the biggest stories from the stream when every hour brings a new exposé from the NYT or WaPo, but as Sen. Schatz of Hawaii puts it:

I want to do a better job keeping track of the science and environmental attacks  “issues” going on around us, so I’m going to start putting together a roundup of the main science-related news stories from the week, focusing on the ones having to do with the current political situation, and posting summaries here. I won’t pretend to be comprehensive, but I will put funny stories from the NY DEC newsletter at the end in case the rest of the stories are too depressing. Continue reading “Excavating the News”

Lake Effect: Restoration Efforts in the Great Lakes

[originally appeared on The Earth Story]

In any map of North America, the Great Lakes draw the eye to their irregular shape, stamped on the continent like an aquatic Rorschach test. Formed after the last glacial period, the five lakes straddle the border between the US and Canada and contain centuries of history in their shipwreck-studded depths. Erie, Ontario, Huron and Michigan, and the largest of them all, Superior, together make up the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, providing drinking water for 40 million people around their shores and generating billions of dollars in revenue from tourism and recreational or commercial boating and fishing.

Lake Ontario, Erie, and Huron from space, reflecting the sunlight towards the viewer. The Finger Lakes in New York are also visible.


Continue reading “Lake Effect: Restoration Efforts in the Great Lakes”

Seismic Drift

For those who don’t know, last summer I decided to switch from the PhD program in geophysics to a masters. I will be starting in the PhD program in the communications department here at Cornell come August. It’s a less jarring change than it might seem at first glance; I’ll be studying science/risk communication and working on the same projects as before – earthquakes and energy development – but I’ll do it by looking at how people understand, learn about, and respond to seismic risks.

I spent much of last summer thinking about where I saw myself going with my current program, and the answer kept coming that, well, I didn’t. A large part of the clarification came from a couple chances to get out of the lab (in a non-hectic, non-racing-through-Oklahoma capacity) – a field trip to Wyoming with the Energy Institute at Cornell, and a quick trip to Italy, returning to the field school that I went to as an undergrad for a few days to help out as a staff member. On the Wyoming trip, in between visiting Yellowstone and uranium mines, I remembered some of what had always drawn me to geology in the first place. It was more of a classical geology trip than I done since early in undergrad – stopping at highway-side roadcuts and scrambling up outcrops, puzzling out relationships between layers and formations – and I loved it, but it showed very starkly that the things I like about geoscience aren’t really the parts that would help me sustain a research career.

Continue reading “Seismic Drift”

On being Irish-American under Trump

Michael Flatley performed at Inauguration. More accurately, Michael Flatley had his troupe from Lord of the Dance perform at one of the Inaugural Balls.

If you aren’t part of the Irish dance world, you might think of Flatley as a respected and talented performer, at least on par with Three Doors Down (in the rare event that you think of him at all, of course). If you are a dancer, your feelings are probably mixed. Sure, he jump-started modern Irish dance into the stratosphere with Riverdance in the ’90s, but since then his shows have tilted too far towards cyborgs and shirtless floor crawling to be taken seriously. Once you think about it, it really shouldn’t be altogether a surprise that he supported Trump; they do after all share a similar taste for understated,  minimalist aesthetics, spray tans, and diverse roles for women (We come in two types: blond and dainty or brunette and slutty).

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Continue reading “On being Irish-American under Trump”

“To Midwife Revolutions”


I drove down to DC last Friday night with a couple of friends, through fog on highways that were surprisingly quiet even near the city. Saturday morning, we took the Metro in from an outlying station around 7am. There was a trickle of other pink-hatted riders, and scattered others on the sidewalks around Farragut Square, but the streets were as subdued as I have ever seen them in the district. We were heading for a pre-march coffee meetup at the Association for Women in Science, but were early, so we walked a loop down to Lafayette Square, still blockaded with fences and stands from inauguration, to glimpse the White House. Other than the security fences and the leftover concrete barriers shuffled awkwardly to the side of the street, there were few signs of the activities the day before.

Continue reading ““To Midwife Revolutions””

Indivisible NY23

The “Indivisible” guide (A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda) emphasizes that changing the political scene starts with small, grassroots groups communicating with congressional representatives. The following is about one political action that is taking place at Rep. Reed’s Geneva Office by a Yates County woman that fits Indivisible’s criteria. Heather Cook of Dundee heard of […]

via A simple, replicable political action — New NY 23rd

Rumblings against Reed already getting going around the district.

Field Notes: The Hats of Yellowstone


A spate of reports on irresponsible meddling and mishaps in Yellowstone National Park this spring set the stage for my visit there last month. It’s easy to laugh when tourists face the consequences of their determination to get the perfect bison, bear or moose selfie. Less entertaining  was the group who, having spotted a lone bison calf, decided that it looked cold and put it into the back of their SUV. The calf later had to be euthanized when its herd refused to accept it back. All this had me braced to witness misbehavior in the park, with humans proving a danger to themselves and the wild park inhabitants. Just prior to my visit, though, two more incidents  highlighted the dangers of the park itself: in the hydrothermal areas, where geysers and hotsprings bubble up through the ground, a man and his son slipped and were burned, and in a separate incident, another man fell into a thermal pool and died.

My trip took place after the end of a department field trip to Wyoming, and as we got ready to split from the group to head to Yellowstone, everyone, from professors to grocery store cashiers to hotel clerks, repeated the headlines back to us and warned us to be careful, to not leave the trails. At the park, signs everywhere warned the same things: Do not leave the boardwalk. Bear selfies? Not ever. Do not approach within 100 yards of bears or wolves, 25 yards for other animals. Less than a week after a fatal accident, you might think these cautions would be in the front of everyone’s minds, but we still saw people stepping off the boardwalks onto steaming ground, posing for the perfect snapshot. Continue reading “Field Notes: The Hats of Yellowstone”