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The University of Texas at Austin

2009 Releases & Features


An extraordinary collection of gems and minerals is now a click of the mouse away after students at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences digitally photographed more than 6,300 specimens and made them available on a new, fully searchable Web site. The site will be a tool for students learning to…

Paleontologists, aided by amateur volunteers, have unearthed a previously unknown meat-eating dinosaur from a fossil bone bed in northern New Mexico, settling a debate about early dinosaur evolution, revealing a period of explosive diversification and hinting at how dinosaurs spread across the supercontinent Pangaea. A live embargoed webcast with the scientists will be held in…

The East Antarctic ice sheet, the Earth’s largest repository of solid fresh water and previously considered stable, now appears to be losing ice at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes per year, according to scientists at The University of Texas at Austin. Using gravity measurement data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission,…

The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Energy Economics (CEE), at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will assess the state of the oil and gas sector in the west African country of Ghana. The assessment will act as a map for developing the infrastructure and expertise to most effectively…

Julie Ann Pollard has spent years teaching science to 7th and 8th graders in Texas, but for two months in late 2009, she’ll get a chance to really live it – as the Onboard Education Officer for Expedition 317 of the JOIDES Resolution, the scientific ocean drilling and research vessel supported by the Integrated Ocean…

Diverting sediment-rich water from the Mississippi River below New Orleans could generate new land in the river’s delta in the next century. The land would equal almost half the acreage otherwise expected to disappear during that period, a new study shows. For decades, sea-level rise, land subsidence, and a decrease in river sediment have caused…

The Geological Society of America, in partnership with Subaru, has awarded Jaime Barnes its annual Outstanding Woman in Science Award. Barnes is an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. The award honors women who have “impacted the field of the geosciences in a major way based on their…

The University of Texas at Austin will use $6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Texas General Land Office to identify state-owned areas underlying the Gulf of Mexico where carbon dioxide (CO2) can be stored safely and economically. This study is the first in the U.S. to investigate the potential…

The University of Texas at Austin will use a $994,702 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help create a skilled workforce for the emerging carbon capture and storage industry and to build public awareness of the technology’s benefits to society. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a process that captures the greenhouse gas…

Fossil Birds & Dinosaurs in Technicolor

For much of the 20th century, the popular view of dinosaurs was that of big, drab, bare skinned lizards. But new evidence from the past couple of decades has radically altered that view. It’s now clear that some, if not many, dinosaurs had feathers and downy fuzz like birds. Unfortunately, fossil feathers don’t preserve their…

Super Size Me

The GeoFORCE program, which began in southwest Texas, has passed yet another milestone, adding a whole new pool of students from Houston and in the process nearly doubling student enrollment over the past two summers to 520. The Houston students are ethnically diverse with African Americans and Hispanics making up the majority, both of which…

GeoFORCE Grads Go To College

This fall, thousands of students are beginning their college careers at The University of Texas at Austin, among them 23 talented young people who have already completed an extraordinary journey. They are some of the first graduates of the GeoFORCE Texas program, one of the nation’s largest geosciences pipeline programs. It’s a significant moment in…

Terry Quinn, associate director of the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named director of the institute. Quinn was interim director during the national search for a director this past year. The institute, one of two research units within the university’s Jackson School of Geosciences, has a nearly 40-year…

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

It’s widely known that Lucy got her name from a Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It’s the song that paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and his collaborators were listening to around the campfire in a remote Ethiopian field camp the night of the fossil’s discovery. Its upbeat and surreal vibe must have matched the…

An estimated 210,000 people came to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to glimpse the world’s most famous fossil, Lucy, the remains of an ancient human ancestor who lived 3.2 million years ago. It was the first time Lucy had left Ethiopia in 30 years. She lay in a glass case on a pedestal in…

Hydrogeology Students Work to Save Farm

When David and Katie Pitre bought farm land east of Austin, Texas in 1993 with the idea of starting an organic farm, they were drawn in large part by the abundant water. That, and the rich soil and ready market in nearby Austin. A hand-dug well on the site dating to before World War II…

Field work on the moon (well, Canada)

  On October 23, 2008, the Jackson School of Geosciences inducted 5 geoscience legends into its Hall of Distinction at a ceremony at the new AT&T Conference Center on the university campus. While many of the 16 previous recipients made their mark in industry, four of this year’s recipients achieved distinction teaching at the university….

Sharon Mosher, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin since 2007, has been named dean of the Jackson School. The selection of Mosher, who holds the William Stamps Farish Chair, culminates a national search for a new dean after Eric Barron left…

Burning Up

NASA has set a goal of returning humans to the moon—for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972—by the year 2020. Early plans call for a new reentry capsule similar in shape to the original Apollo capsules, but larger. With supercomputers far more powerful than those available in the late 1960s, scientists now have…

“It’s tough to make predictions,” quipped baseball player and manager Yogi Berra, “especially about the future.” Scientists who use computer models to predict the future can relate. At every turn, they find themselves stymied by a little gremlin called uncertainty. They might be trying to predict what sea level will be 100 years from now,…

In parts of Australia and the western U.S., groundwater is being pumped from the ground for agricultural use faster than it can be naturally replenished. This leads to a falling water table, which means wells have to be deepened and more energy is needed to pump water. It also leads to compaction of the soil,…

Scientists struggling to understand how Earth’s climate will change in the next few decades have neglected a potential treasure trove of information—sediments deposited in the ocean by major Arctic rivers such as the Colville and Mackenzie rivers—according to geoscientists at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. The researchers’ study was published…

With a $15.5 million grant, scientists and engineers aim to provide the fundamental science for geological storage of greenhouse gases as part of an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRCs) established at The University of Texas at Austin by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The White House announced the creation of 46 new EFRCs nationally…

Pick your favorite river that flows to the sea, say the Mississippi or the Amazon. Now go to the mouth of that river and dive below the waves and you’ll notice a curious thing: the river keeps on going, skirting the bottom of the ocean. You can tell it from the surrounding water by all…

Chevron has contributed $1 million to the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. The gift will support the bureau’s core research facilities, where scientists study materials in the nation’s largest publicly available storehouse of geological cuttings and cores. The gift comes in addition to $1.2 million…

Droughts far worse than the infamous Sahel drought of the 1970s and 1980s are within normal climate variation for sub-Saharan West Africa, according to new research. For the first time, scientists have developed an almost year-by-year record of the last 3,000 years of West African climate. In that period, droughts lasting 30 to 60 years…

Mudslides that followed the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan, China earthquake, ranked by the U.S. Geological Survey as the 11th deadliest earthquake ever recorded, may release an amount of carbon-dioxide in upcoming decades equivalent to two percent of current annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, a new study shows. Mudslides wipe away plants and…

EVENT: “Nature—Not Human Activity—Rules the Climate,” a talk by environmental scientist S. Fred Singer, president of The Science & Environmental Policy Project. WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 19, at 3:45 p.m. WHERE: Boyd Auditorium, Jackson Geology Building (JGB 2.324). Map is available online. BACKGROUND: S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and…

Fighting Climate Change … by Pumping Oil?

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, in collaboration with the Ethiopian government, have completed the first high-resolution CT scan of the world’s most famous fossil, Lucy, an ancient human ancestor who lived 3.2 million years ago. Lucy is in the United States as part of a world premiere exhibit organized by the Houston…

Lourdes Ferriño says the land around her bed and breakfast was once full of life. Castilian roses grew out front next to the road that leads into the village of Cuatrociénegas. Her family sold the blooms to a company in Mexico City for perfume. Closer to town, the family’s winery cultivated their own grapes. A…

Earthquake researchers have made great strides in their quest to understand the processes that generate earthquakes and control their severity. They record seismic waves, measure ground motion, run computer simulations, and look for signs of past quakes in seafloor sediments. And of course even non-scientists see the devastating effects from shaking at the surface. But…

Focus on Students, Double Your Impact

The Jackson School of Geosciences was created through John and Katie Jackson’s extraordinary generosity. And their gift carried with it extraordinary expectations. The Jacksons bestowed their gift with the intention of advancing geosciences excellence across the nation, and quite possibly the world. One of the most remarkable features of that vision—and one of its great…

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