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.

 

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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.

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AGU2014: Frack Quakes, Black Riders and Failing with Grace

Like wildebeest through the Serengeti, the common Homo geologicus make their way through San Francisco International Airport in droves, identifiable by ever-present poster tubes, hiking boots, and a tendency to flannel. It is once again that time of year, for the long migration known as the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

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Or rather, it was that time of year, since the conference was before Christmas. About 25,000 geoscientists come to this every year, including myself this year; I was presenting a poster on my undergrad research in Tanzania. The posters and talks available are innumerable, so the first challenge is figuring out what to go to first, but the main themes I followed this year were energy, climate, and induced earthquakes related to energy projects.

Continue reading “AGU2014: Frack Quakes, Black Riders and Failing with Grace”