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The University of Texas at Austin

2011 Releases & Features


Teaching at Its Best

The University of Texas at Austin’s commitment to exemplary teaching was on display Thursday night, as seven faculty members were inducted into the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Among the inductees was Jay Banner, director of the Environmental Science Institute and professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences.

Watch animation of how lakes form inside Europa’s icy shell. In a significant finding in the search for life beyond Earth, scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have discovered what appears to be a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes locked inside the icy shell…

A $3 million gift from David Scott “Scotty” Holland and Jacque Nell Holland of Houston will allow The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences to complete a new student center. Video: Tribute to David Holland Sr. An integral part of the school’s strategic plan, the Holland Family Student Center will create a…

Preliminary findings from a study on the use of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas development suggest no direct link to reports of groundwater contamination, the project leader at The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute said Wednesday. “From what we’ve seen so far, many of the problems appear to be related to other aspects of drilling…

Visions of sugar plums they were not, but you could forgive Jamie Austin for feeling as if he were dreaming. On his screen he saw what looked like big glass bowls sparkling in the headlamps of the remotely operated vehicle (ROV). At another site, he saw rows of partially buried clay jars, some with eel heads…

Explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1985, is partnering with scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions to webcast a live scientific expedition to the eastern Mediterranean Nov. 10-18. People around the world will be able to view live video feeds and submit questions 24…

JSG Unveils New Website

Dear JSG Community: The new Jackson School website is available for review in its test, beta format. The link to the homepage is below, along with links to a feedback form and a form that faculty and research scientists can use to update their expertise guide entries. These two forms are also linked to the…

International energy company Statoil has signed an agreement with The University of Texas at Austin to fund $5 million of research over five years focusing on geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering. This is Statoil’s largest research agreement with a university outside Norway and its first in the United States. “We are very pleased to enter…

Remembering Bill Muehlberger

The Jackson School community mourns the loss of Bill Muehlberger and extend their condolences to his family. He died of natural causes on Wednesday, September 14. An emeritus professor in geology, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin for nearly 40 years before officially retiring in 1992. He also taught geology to multiple…

  Shell and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) today signed a five-year agreement to invest $7.5 million to address short- and long-term challenges facing the growing worldwide unconventional oil and gas industry. “This agreement marks an important milestone in Shell’s commitment to continually research and develop innovative technology that will help to meet…

Do you ever dream of taking a few days off and getting away from it all? Burying your toes in some warm sand and just staring out at the ocean? Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, is about as far as you can get. “With its jagged peaks and deep valleys,…

Researchers have found the strongest evidence yet that North America and Antarctica were connected 1.1 billion years ago. ”I can go to … West Texas and stand next to what was once part of Coats Land in Antarctica,” said Staci Loewy, a geochemist at California State University, Bakersfield, who led the study. “That’s so amazing.”

Earlier this summer, researchers at UT Austin hosted a presentation and question-and-answer session about hydraulic fracturing that was open to students, faculty and invited members of the media. The goal of the presentation was to provide a better understanding of the concerns – both real and perceived – about hydraulic fracturing.

An international team of geoscientists has discovered an unusual geological formation that helps explain how an undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004 spawned the deadliest tsunami in recorded history. ”The results suggest we should be concerned about locations with large thicknesses of sediments in the trench, especially those which have built marginal…

What began as a postmortem on the worst oil spill in history has turned into a blueprint for safely extracting the maligned fossil fuel from some of the most challenging and environmentally sensitive regions on earth, areas that hold unequaled potential for new discoveries in oil and gas. “The BP spill was a real wake-up…

Ron Steel, professor and the Morgan Davis Centennial Chair in the Jackson School of Geosciences, has been named chair of the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School at The University of Texas at Austin starting Aug. 1. Steel received his Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow, Scotland in 1971. Before coming to The…

Scientists from the U.S., U.K. and Australia have used ice-penetrating radar to create the first high- resolution topographic map of one of the last uncharted regions of Earth, the Aurora Subglacial Basin, an immense ice-buried lowland in East Antarctica larger than Texas. The map reveals some of the largest fjords or ice cut channels on…

A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The University of Texas at Austin urges the U.S. to accelerate efforts to pursue carbon capture and storage (CCS) in combination with enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a practice that could increase domestic oil production while significantly curbing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). For decades the oil…

Mammals first evolved their characteristic large brains to enable a stronger sense of smell, according to a new study published this week in the journal Science by paleontologists from The University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. This latest study is the first to use CT…

A research team at The University of Texas at Austin will conduct a comprehensive review of the science, policy and environmental issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing of shale gas, it was announced today. The project will for the first time combine an independent assessment of alleged groundwater contamination and seismic events ascribed to ‘fracing’ of shale…

Students from the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences won the top 3 prizes in the Student Poster Competition at the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in Houston last month. It was the first time a single university has had that distinction since the awards were first…

Traces in Time

When Peter Flaig returned home from Antarctica, he found it pretty amusing that the city of Austin was shut down by an inch of snow, a little bit of ice, and low temperatures in the 20s. The university was closed, as were public schools and many businesses and government agencies. But in what can be…

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues will use a three-year, $1.5 million grant from NASA to develop computer models to study how changes in climate and land use affect watersheds and coastal ecosystems, seeking to improve understanding of the Texas coast, including dead zones that form in the Gulf of Mexico….

A team of geoscience students from The University of Texas at Austin beat finalists from 11 global regions to win the Imperial Barrel Award, the world’s largest and most prestigious competition in petroleum geosciences hosted annually by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). The team of students from the university’s Jackson School of Geosciences-Ashley…

With a $1.5 million grant from the Sloan Foundation, a team of energy scientists, engineers and economists at The University of Texas at Austin will conduct the first detailed, comprehensive assessment of the country’s fastest growing major source of energy, natural gas from shale formations, or shale gas, likely to be one of the country’s…

Six assistant professors at The University of Texas at Austin received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards totaling nearly $3 million from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER awards recognize promising young faculty and supports their research with five years of funding. The recipients are: Amit Bhasin, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. The…

A team of geoscience students from the University of Texas at Austin has taken first prize in a regional round of the Imperial Barrel Award, an international competition hosted by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). Their winnings included a $3,000 prize for the UT-AAPG Student Chapter and a chance to represent the Gulf…

Teacher at Sea

Julie Pollard, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher from Watauga, Texas used a video-enabled laptop to take students on virtual tours of the ship. At one stop, a micropaleontologist was explaining how she and her colleagues were sampling cores to find nannofossils and she told the kids how many could fit across one human…

Craig Fulthorpe was a grad student when his advisor walked into his office and asked if he would like to be part of the first scientific expedition organized by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). As luck would have it, a sedimentologist who had been scheduled to be on that cruise had to back out just…

The history of the Institute for Geophysics is to a large extent the history of the big three scientific ocean drilling programs. Multinational collaborations focused on scientific ocean drilling began with the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) in 1968. DSDP begat ODP, which in turn begat the current effort, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP)….

Energy and Earth Resources (EER) graduate student Kristine McAndrews placed second in the student paper competition at the SPE Americas E&P Health, Safety, Security, & Environmental Conference in Houston, Texas on March 21, 2011. She presented her paper “Consequences of Macondo: A Summary of Recently Proposed and Enacted Changes to U.S. Offshore Drilling Safety and…

Highlights of Paleontology at UT Austin

2008: Early hominid Lucy CT-scanned 2001: Fossil fetus of an Elephant bird CT-scanned and reconstructed without breaking egg shell 1999: Non-vertebrate Paleontology Lab established 1997: High Resolution XRay CT Lab founded 1994: FAUNMAP, database of North American mammals for the last 40,000 years (E. Lundelius) 1971: Discovery of the largest known flying animal, Quetzalcoatlus, in…

Fossil Treasure Troves

Despite a shift over the past century from a focus on invertebrate research and education to mainly vertebrates, the university retains a world class collection of 4.5 million invertebrate specimens, many collected by graduate students, others as part of early state geologic surveys. Of those, 20,000 are type specimens, those used to define the characteristics…

Why Do We Need Paleontology?

Paleontology has been a central part of geology since British scientist William Smith first showed that geological strata could be identified based on the fossils they contained. Because they change through time, fossils put a date stamp on a particular layer of Earth in which they occur. “We are the time keepers for the Earth…

At a time when university paleontology programs are being downsized or eliminated, The University of Texas at Austin’s is thriving. The program recently added Julia Clarke, a rising star studying the evolution of birds and dinosaurs, and Matt Brown, a fossil preparator who honed his skills at Chicago’s Field Museum. Brown and others are pioneering…

The following geophysicists, engineers, and social scientists with expertise in earthquakes, some specifically regarding Japan and the Pacific Rim, are available to talk on today’s earthquake in Japan, the tsunami affecting the Pacific region, impacts of earlier earthquakes and tsunamis on Japan, and safety issues related to construction and nuclear engineering in Japan. Earthquakes &…

March 3, 2011 The Jackson School established its Hall of Distinction in 2005 to recognize individuals who are or were strongly affiliated with the school and who achieved exceptional standing in industry, government or academia. This spring, we induct four extraordinary geoscientists into the Hall of Distinction. They join 21 previous inductees. If you would…

The University of Texas at Austin has selected the winner of its first annual Student Employee of the Year Award: Brandon Okafor, Student Associate in the Jackson School of Geosciences. Okafor, a senior geology major who has worked on campus since his freshman year, was selected out of a field of 78 eligible nominees. Okafor…

Let’s say you’re a budding young paleontologist looking to make your mark. The first thing you have to do is pack up your shovel and pick, head out into some remote badlands, and find yourself a bunch of fossils that no one has ever seen before. Let’s say that doesn’t pan out. You might have…

Memorial: Thomas D. Barrow

  The Jackson School community mourns the loss of Thomas D. Barrow and extend their condolences to his family. Dr. Barrow died Thursday, January 27. He was a Distinguished Alumnus and a life member and former Chairman of the Geology Foundation. Sharon Mosher, dean of the Jackson School writes, “Tom was one of our strongest,…

Hands-on Learning: Lease Sale Competition

When the 125 geoscience and engineering students in the course Petroleum Geology: Basin and Trend Analysis returned from Spring Break last year, it was to what can only be described as the mother of all Monopoly games. The students were asked to form imaginary oil and gas companies and conduct a hydrocarbon assessment of an…

Haiti still at risk of large earthquake

A year ago Wednesday, one of the five deadliest earthquakes in recorded history struck the island nation of Haiti. Paul Mann, a senior research scientist at the university’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) and expert on Caribbean tectonics, was there just weeks after the quake to study the geological causes and determine what, if any, risks remained…

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