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30 June 2019

“Fairy Rings” or “Hexinringe” and the Role of Fungi in Weathering and Soil Fertility

As our three-year old chocolate-golden Labrador mix looks happiest when he’s running, we try to get him out to a park once or twice a day. While he’s chasing noisy killdeer and attacking discarded plastic water bottles, I have a chance to look at the land and sky and assess the progress of the new growing season. In springtime, at one of the parks near our home in Lenawee County, …

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22 April 2017

Toledo March for Science

Off to Toledo to March for Science! Updates later this morning!

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18 April 2016

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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28 August 2015

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)

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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23 August 2014

Dirt Bucket Challange is a Bad Idea

Apparently, in the interest of saving water in drought-stricken California and calling attention to the crisis there, two men dumped dirt over their heads. This is a bad idea, in support of a good cause, in my view. The video has gone viral and shows a dry-land adaptation of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Soil is not only where plants grow, but is also host to many kinds of bacteria …

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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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4 August 2011

With Asimov’s Help, A City Library Survives

Tuesday was an opportunity for Michigan voters to set up contests for the November election and settle a lot of local issues, many of which were angry attempts to recall officials. In Troy, Michigan, an affluent suburb in Oakland County of about eighty thousand citizens, voters had the choice to decide whether or not their public library would be funded another five years, or would close this Friday. Michigan Radio …

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8 March 2011

Introducing Jessica Drake

One of the best parts of being an earth scientist is exchanging perspectives with others who share our subject interests, and live and work in far-away places much different than our own. Since elementary school, I’ve been interested in Australia, so when I found and read Jessica Drake’s blog, Soilduck, I added it to Terra Central’s sidebar right away. Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate at the Fenner School of Enviornment …

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