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19 May 2018

Prairie Woody Encroachment, Fire Ecology, and Implications for Regional Hydrology

Images of modern prairie burns near Council Bluffs, Kansas have been captured by venerable National Geographic photojournalist Jim Richardson. These fires aimed at maintaining prairie grassland ecology carry on a Native American practice that goes back centuries. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts an online archive of The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in which George Clark, who probably never won a spelling bee, recorded this remarkable river scene …

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8 September 2017

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Ag Programs Under Review

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) has received a two-year $750,000 grant to evaluate the effectiveness of money spent on farm conservation programs by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In addition to the GLC, Ohio State University and Michigan State University will play a role in the evaluation process. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration proposed to end funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and National Sea Grant programs. …

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18 February 2017

Keep Your Shirt On, Save Some Coral?

This is not great news, especially for those of us who like to be out in the sun but get really bad sunburns. As reported by Nature and Scientific American, Hawaii state senator Will Espero has introduced a bill to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that may pose risks to us, such as endocrine disruption, as well as to coral. The Environmental Working Group maintains lists of …

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22 December 2016

Maine Shake Map Using Surficial Geology and Crowd-Source Responses

Researchers in Maine (Marvinney and Glover 2015) have created a clever earthquake risk shake map using readily available surficial geology maps and online responses from state residents. Did you feel it? That is the name of a USGS Earthquake Hazards Program interactive website that “collects information from people who felt an earthquake and creates maps that show what people experienced and the extent of damage.” I first became interested in …

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30 September 2016

Lake Erie Algae Blooms Correlate to June Rainfall

June precipitation appears to be positively correlated to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Looking at monthly precipitation data readily-available from Weather Underground and comparing it to the Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Severity Index, I was surprised by the strength of the correlation (0.6, 0.85 with an “outlier” removed). June precipitation was the only month to correlate to the Severity Index in my data set and I was surprised that …

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31 May 2015

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

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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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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4 August 2012

A $3 Million Prize for Fundamental Physics

Let’s face it: if scientists aim to get rich, they picked the wrong profession. However, if you can hit a ball with a stick and be really good at it, you can earn tens of millions of dollars a year. Chrystia Freeland (no relation) has a nice article at Reuters about the latest $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, which was created by Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner. An excerpt: Milner, …

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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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