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2012 Releases & Features


The 2010 Earthquake in Haiti, 2000 Years Ago

Scientists have discovered underwater evidence that Haiti’s unusual 2010 earthquake may not have been the first of its kind in the region. They took core samples from the seafloor that reveal a 2000-year-old sequence of sediment layers closely resembling landslide deposits triggered by the 2010 quake, indicating an older event of similar violence and other…

GeoFORCE Expands Into Alaska

The country’s biggest geosciences pipeline program just got bigger. This past summer, 16 incoming high school freshmen from native villages on the North Slope of Alaska joined the inaugural class of GeoFORCE Alaska. Students set out on a week-long field trip through some of Alaska’s geological hotspots, including Denali National Park, Earthquake Park in Anchorage,…

El Tatio: Science for Society

Last year, Suzanne Pierce was selected as one of the first 20 Fulbright Nexus Scholars, a group of early to mid-career experts working to bridge the gap between science research and the needs of society. The program is the newest initiative of the U.S. Department of State. Pierce’s project focused on helping indigenous communities in…

Scientists have discovered the cause for an observed slowdown in the Walker Circulation (WC) over the past 60 years, and in the process boosted their confidence in atmospheric models. The WC is a wind pattern in the tropical Pacific that, as it changes from year to year, spawns floods and droughts in North America and…

Eavesdropping on the Secret Lives of Fish

Marine scientists are using “earthstones” from Southern flounder to determine the age, growth history and migration patterns of fish. Nate Miller’s geochemical analyses are a critical part of the process.

As a PhD student in isotope geochemistry at Stanford University, Mike Osborne (BS ’07) found himself working alone in the lab a lot. He spent a lot of time listening to podcasts such as This American Life, Fresh Air, and WTF, becoming a self-described “audio junkie.” A career counselor told him he should start his…

Alexandria, VA – The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is pleased to announce Dr. Sharon Mosher as its 2013 President. She will be inducted at the Friends of AGI Reception held during the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 5, 2012. Mosher is currently Dean and the William Stamps…

Using a combination of traditional and innovative model-building techniques, scientists in the U.S. and a specialist in Denmark have created a lifelike reconstruction of an ancient mollusk, offering a vivid portrait of a creature that lived about 390 million years ago, and answering questions about its place in the tree of life, as described in…

Recap: “Hasta La Vesta” Online Event

On September 8, 2012, NASA’s Dawn mission held Hasta La Vesta, a celebration of the successful exploration of giant asteroid Vesta. As part of the event, Dawn mission scientists and engineers shared mission stories and answered questions in a live, interactive Google+ Hangout video event moderated by Dawn science team liaison, Dr. Britney Schmidt, research…

Perhaps the only positive thing about the 2011 drought in Texas, the state’s worst single-year drought in history, is that it ended up being the mother of all teaching moments. The lessons learned are not pleasant, but addressing them will give the state a fighting chance when the next major drought comes around.

Most earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region of North Texas occur within a few miles of one or more injection wells used to dispose of wastes associated with petroleum production such as hydraulic fracturing fluids, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin. None of the quakes identified in the two-year study…

With the rapid disappearance of its protective buffer of wetlands, New Orleans is becoming more vulnerable to storms every year. But recent research has revealed important clues about how to shore up these vanishing wetlands and generated new optimism about saving the delta.

After successfully reentering the wellhead 4.3 miles below the ship, we began drilling towards the fault that unleashed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

How do you insert a drill bit into a 20-inch well head 7 kilometers below your ship? Read Patrick Fulton’s second post from aboard the drill ship Chikyu near Japan.

Greetings from the scientific deep sea drilling vessel Chikyu. Our focus is to quickly drill into and study the fault that caused the March 2011 Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Funded entirely with private support from more than 355 donors, the Jackson School of Geosciences’ new Holland Family Student Center opened June 15 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Jackson School on the central university campus. “We are here today to celebrate something amazing that all of you have done,” Dean Sharon Mosher told the…

The nation’s food supply may be vulnerable to rapid groundwater depletion from irrigated agriculture, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere. The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paints the highest resolution picture yet of how groundwater depletion varies across…

Researchers from Harvard University, The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have found evidence that the evolution of birds is the result of a drastic change in how dinosaurs developed. Scientists have long understood that modern birds descended from dinosaurs. Rather than take years to reach sexual maturity, as many dinosaurs did, birds sped…

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected a team of four students from The University of Texas at Austin to compete against seven other university teams in the 2012 National Geothermal Energy Student Competition. Three geothermal industry experts selected the winning proposals from a pool of national candidates. The DOE is awarding $10,000 in…

The European Space Agency recently announced that it will send a space probe to Jupiter and its large icy moons Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, including Don Blankenship, senior research scientist, are part of the science team designing and operating a radar instrument for the…

Using ice-penetrating radar instruments flown on aircraft, a team of scientists from the U.S. and U.K. have uncovered a previously unknown sub-glacial basin nearly the size of New Jersey beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) near the Weddell Sea. The location, shape and texture of the mile-deep basin suggest that this region of the…

The ExxonMobil Foundation has given a record $1.19 million to The University of Texas at Austin as a match of gifts made by the company’s employees and retirees during the past calendar year. The donation is the largest matching gift the university has ever received and the largest that the ExxonMobil Foundation gave to any institution…

International energy company Statoil has awarded fellowships to eight graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin, funding their research in geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering. Fellowships will last two to three years, depending on the length of the student’s degree program. Statoil will contribute a total of $5 million to the work of…

See shipwrecks, deep sea life and gas seeps in the Gulf of Mexico during an expedition led by University of Texas at Austin scientist Jamie Austin. Live video feeds from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with high-definition cameras put anyone with an Internet-enabled computer right in the middle of the action.

How many live viruses can your cup of water have in it before you decide not to drink it? In the Netherlands, the law requires that municipal drinking water must be so clean that the theoretical risk of viral infection is less than one in 10,000 people per year. That translates to no more than…

A new study examining nearly 40 years of satellite imagery has revealed that the floating ice shelves of a critical portion of West Antarctica are steadily losing their grip on adjacent bay walls, potentially amplifying an already accelerating loss of ice to the sea. The most extensive record yet of the evolution of the floating…

The Geological Fingerprint of War

Earle McBride and Dane Picard were traveling across France doing geologic field work in 1988 when they took time out to play tourists at Omaha Beach, site of one of the most ferocious battles during the D-Day invasion more than 40 years earlier. It was a miserably cold and blustery day. They tarried just long…

A team of American and Chinese researchers has revealed the detailed feather pattern and color of Microraptor, a pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur that lived about 120 million years ago. A new specimen shows the dinosaur had a glossy iridescent sheen and that its tail was narrow and adorned with a pair of streamer feathers, suggesting the…

Carey King, research associate at The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, has been awarded the Rosenfeld plaque in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of energy economics published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (ERL). This one time award was presented to King for his paper titled, “Energy intensity…

This spring, the Jackson School proudly inducts three legends into its Hall of Distinction. They were selected for their high-level accomplishments in academia, industry or government, as well as a strong affiliation with the Jackson School. Art Maxwell, a leader in deep sea drilling and marine geophysics, served from 1982 to 1994 as the first…

Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas has no direct connection to reports of groundwater contamination, based on evidence reviewed in a study released Thursday by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded The University of Texas at Austin and six other universities $3 million to establish the Delta Dynamics Collaboratory (DDC), a network of researchers working to build a comprehensive set of computer models that can reliably predict the physical and ecological evolution of river deltas. Deltas, which host highly…

Dean Mosher writes: “It was an amazing day filled with excellent science, very high quality presentations, and opportunities to learn about different science and possibilities for future projects and collaborations.”

Jackson School graduate students will present their research at the 1st Annual JSG Research Symposium Feb. 4 sponsored by the Graduate Student Executive Committee and ConocoPhillips.

Archaeopteryx had (some) black feathers

A team of scientists announced the first evidence of feather color in Archaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur that has also long been considered one of the earliest birds. The first fossil remains, consisting of a single feather, were discovered in 1861. It’s this single feather that was analyzed using a technique developed by Jakob Vinther, a…

Scientists have discovered a new type of hot spring along the banks of a volcanic lake in the Philippines. These “terrestrial smokers” are cousins to submarine black smokers, hydrothermal vents on the seafloor that spew plumes of hot, nutrient-rich water and often support rich communities of life. Terrestrial smokers might represent a missing piece of…

Traditionally, geothermal energy has been associated with regions of intense volcanic or hydrothermal activity, like Iceland. For decades, however, scientists have wondered if the less volatile subsurface in areas such as Texas could provide economically viable locations for geothermal power. Bruce Cutright, a research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, and colleagues are helping answer that question through several…

Lecture Recap: The Latest on Martian Ice

by Thomas Minor Jack Holt, research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), is currently researching Amazonian ice deposits on Mars, both at the polar caps and at the middle latitudes. Holt offered an update on his research in the Nov. 22, 2011 UTIG weekly seminar, “A New View of Ice on Mars: Viscous Fluid,…

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