22 April 2016

It’s Mud Season on Lake Erie

It's Mud Season on Lake Erie

This (above) is a MODIS satellite image of Lake Erie taken April 15, 2016. It clearly shows sediment entering the lake from major rivers and tributaries. The brownish hues on the land surface indicate “leaf off,” dead or dormant plant cover, and bare-ground agricultural fields. Later in the summer, the tawny sediment plumes of spring will give way to verdant swirls of nuisance algae blooms, like this: Between mud season …

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18 April 2016

A Journey on the Dirt Road

A Journey on the Dirt Road

When I was seven years old, my family moved from Dearborn, a modern suburb of Detroit, Michigan and the home of Henry Ford, to a much smaller and older town in Northwest Ohio, called Defiance. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Defiance was that it was built at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers and regional folklore had it that the meeting of these two rivers protected the …

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29 February 2016

Lead, Plumbosolvency, and Phosphates in the Environment

What’s happened to the water supply in Flint Michigan is especially ironic considering the state is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, which make up 95% of the surface fresh water in the United States. If Michiganders can’t have safe public water, who can? Plumbosolvency The problem, briefly summarized here, boils down to variable source water chemistry, plus common chemicals added at the water-works, interacting with outdated lead plumbing components …

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1 January 2016

Agricultural Runoff and Ohio’s Senate Bill 1

Agricultural Runoff and Ohio's Senate Bill 1

In response to the August 2014 shutdown of Toledo’s water supply due to microcystin contamination, the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which regulates fertilizer and manure application to farm fields. Essentially, the new regulations prohibit spreading manure or fertilizer in the Lake Erie Watershed when soils are frozen, snow-covered or saturated, or if there is a more than 50% chance of at least one-half inch of rain in the …

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16 November 2015

Field Drain Tile and the “Re-Eutrophication” of Lake Erie

Field Drain Tile and the "Re-Eutrophication" of Lake Erie

Algae Blooms, Microcystin and Phosphorus It’s been over a year since Toledo, Ohio and surrounding communities shut down public water supplies due to an algae bloom and microcystin contamination in western Lake Erie. Was the trouble a “one-off” or can we expect more of these events in the future? While attending a seminar this year hosted by the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, my interest was …

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28 August 2015

North is Not Up, Nor is South Down

North is Not Up, Nor is South Down

I can’t count the number times I’ve heard a TV weather person make a statement akin to “this line of thunderstorms will pass below New York by Thursday afternoon.” Yes, and while it’ll be sunny up top on the street, if you’re working all day in the subway, or on underground utilities, you’ll need an umbrella. Be prepared to seek safety in daylight as those storms may produce lightning and …

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28 June 2015

The World’s Beaches (Book Review)

The World's Beaches (Book Review)

For your summer reading edification, this is a wonderful book to take to the beach. Or, if you can’t make the trip, it’s a vicarious journey to beaches around the globe, and an invitation to appreciate their beauty, idiosyncracies, and vulnerability. The full title is The World’s Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline by Orrin H. Pilkey, William J. Neal, Joseph T. Kelley, and J. Andrew …

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14 June 2015

Art in Science: Kubiena’s Soil Profiles in Watercolors

Art in Science: Kubiena's Soil Profiles in Watercolors

Photographs of soil profiles are often disappointing. Usually the subject is a hole in the ground where light is dim and the surrounding ground surface is light. Getting a good, representative photo of a soil profile can lead to acres of frustration. W.L. Kubiena worked as a soil morphologist in the last century and from a practical standpoint, probably only had access to black and white photography. He opted for …

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31 May 2015

Uncovering a Soil Mystery Using Micromorphology and Petrography

Uncovering a Soil Mystery Using Micromorphology and Petrography

This is the second in a series (link to 1st) about the genesis of the Success soil, which was the topic of my master’s research. This part has to do with using petrography to identify soil constituents and examine soil fabric to help understand soil forming processes in a particular case. Soil fabric consists of soil plasma and skeletal grains, which can be distinguished under magnification. W.L. Kubiena was an …

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16 March 2015

Unearthing a Soil Mystery Using Differential Solution Analysis

Unearthing a Soil Mystery Using Differential Solution Analysis

Some years ago while in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire, I was presented the opportunity by my advisor, Dr. Chris Evans, to solve a hard soil mystery resting mostly unnoticed except to those who had to work in it. Found on steeper slopes under coniferous forest, for builders, the Success series can be troublesome. It’s effort enough to dig any soil, but the Success soil is especially …

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