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2013 Releases & Features


A new study finds that in Texas, the U.S. state that annually generates the most electricity, using natural gas for electricity generation is saving water and making the state less vulnerable to drought. Even though exploration for natural gas requires significant water consumption in Texas, the new consumption is easily offset by the overall water…

As coastal communities continue to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, scientists at this week’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union offer some encouraging news: The storm did not seriously damage the offshore barrier system that controls erosion on Long Island. Long-term concerns remain about the effects on the region of sea-level rise,…

Gary Kocurek is part of a team that announced evidence from the Mars Curiosity rover of a past freshwater lake that could have sustained life.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a finding of relevance to the search for life in our solar system, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have shown that the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have deep…

In October 2013, the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Tip Meckel led a crew of 27 on a 10-day 3D seismic data collection cruise off the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico. This activity was part of a multi-year geologic characterization effort to identify potential carbon dioxide (CO2) storage sites beneath the Texas portion of…

Sediment behind milldams in Pennsylvania preserved leaves deposited just before European contact that provide a glimpse of the ancient forests, according to a team of geoscientists, who note that neither the forests nor the streams were what they are today. “Milldams were built from the late 1600s to the late 1800s in Pennsylvania and other…

A Geophysics Legend Retires

Paul Stoffa, professor and Shell Distinguished Chair in Geophysics, has retired after 30 years of service to the University of Texas at Austin. As a leader of geophysical research for 40 years, he has inspired colleagues, fellow geophysicists, and a long succession of graduate students, including over 50 PhDs. He has published over 100 research…

Michelle Stocker (PhD ’13), former graduate student in The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, has dramatically rearranged the evolutionary tree for several extinct crocodile-like animals that lived over 200 million years ago in present day Texas, Wyoming and Germany. Based on this new understanding, she has renamed one of the specimens…

A new study correlates a series of small earthquakes near Snyder, Texas between 2006 and 2011 with the underground injection of large volumes of gas, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) — a finding that is relevant to the process of capturing and storing CO2 underground. Although the study suggests that underground injection of gas triggered the…

Professor Jim Sprinkle Retires

Jim Sprinkle, First Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Yager Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, has retired after 42 years of teaching and conducting research at the University. A celebration in his honor is being planned for Friday, November 15. His research focused on Paleozoic marine communities and especially on early (and now mostly…

Jackson School scientists are contributing to more than 70 oral presentations and more than 30 poster presentations at the 2013 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver. For the complete list, see our list of JSG presenters at GSA.

Although it may not be noticeable to the naked eye, the sea is rising along the Texas Gulf Coast. This rise poses a significant risk to a Texas coast that is otherwise extremely flat. Moreover, this rise, in combination with the surge that accompanies hurricanes and tropical storms, will make more and more areas vulnerable to…

A new study suggests the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to stronger seasonal drying than projections made by the climate models used in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If severe enough, the loss of rainforest could cause the release…

Video: From Austin to the Arctic

This summer 60 graduate students and 15 professors from the University of Texas at Austin participated in Statoil’s Svalex Arctic field trip, focused on petroleum geology, petroleum engineering and geophysics.

Colleagues and former students of Wann Langston Jr., an internationally renowned vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin who died in April 2013, have produced a special volume honoring his many decades of work collecting, preparing and describing ancient reptiles. The collection of articles appeared online in September and October and will be…

Scientists using instruments on the Mars rover Curiosity have determined that a deposit of wind-blown sand and dust in Gale Crater is chemically and mineralogically similar to deposits previously analyzed by the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity at two other sites on the red planet. Sediments in all three locations were produced by the…

Each summer, scientists from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics run one of the world’s most advanced field courses for marine geosciences and geophysics, offering valuable hands-on experience for Jackson School students.  

JSG Presenters at SEG 2013

A new reconstruction of climate in the South Pacific during the past 446 years shows rainfall varied much more dramatically before the start of the 20th century than after. The finding, based on an analysis of a cave formation called a stalagmite from the island nation of Vanuatu, could force climate modelers to adjust their…

Most of the small earthquakes in the Eagle Ford region of South Texas are probably the result of extraction of large volumes of oil and associated water, according to new research by Cliff Frohlich, associate director at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics. No injuries or severe damage were reported from any…

Jay Banner has received the University of Texas System’s highest teaching honor: a Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. He is one of 26 faculty members from UT Austin to receive a 2013 award. The awards program is one of the nation’s largest monetary teaching recognition programs in higher education, honoring outstanding performance in the classroom and…

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics helped develop a blueprint for a possible future NASA lander mission to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter that has a global ocean covered by an ice shell. Europa’s large reservoir of liquid water has long enchanted planetary scientists with the possibility of harboring…

For the first time, scientists have documented an acceleration in the melt rate of permafrost, or ground ice, in a section of Antarctica where the ice had been considered stable. The melt rates are comparable with the Arctic, where accelerated melting of permafrost has become a regularly recurring phenomenon, and the change could offer a…

A team of scientists led by Ian Dalziel from the Institute for Geophysics has found geologic evidence that casts doubt on one of the conventional explanations for how Antarctica’s ice sheet began forming. The team discovered an ancient volcanic arc that might have prevented the creation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a development that will help predict potential sea level rise from the Antarctic ice sheet, scientists from The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics have used an innovation in radar analysis to accurately image the vast subglacial water system under West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier. They have detected a swamp-like…

This Article reprinted from the website Domain-b. The oldest genome so far from a prehistoric creature has been sequenced by an international team, led by scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen). The team, which included recent Jackson School postdoctoral fellow Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol, sequenced and analysed short…

Here’s a simple math problem: The demand for workers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) is growing, but the number of students going to college to study these fields is shrinking. On top of this looming workforce shortage, minorities are greatly underrepresented in STEM jobs. It doesn’t take a math degree to see…

Okay, it’s quiz time. How old is the oldest academic geoscience program in Texas? Need a hint? It’s older than the Ford Model T and the Wright Brothers airplane. It was already well established before the Texas fight song, the longhorn mascot, and the orange and white school colors. It’s even older than the University…

An international team of 34 scientists sets sail today aboard the scientific ocean drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution to collect sediments in the Gulf of Alaska and investigate the interactions between long-term global climate change and the simultaneous growth of mountain belts. The team is co-led by Sean Gulick, research associate professor at The University of Texas…

Dean’s Desk (2012-2013)

Welcome to the Dean’s Desk, which celebrates accomplishments of members of the Jackson School community during the past academic year. The length of this year’s list alone gives a sense of how dynamic and well regarded our scientists and staff are. With this many honors, there is always a risk of overlooking some. Please accept…

Leading energy faculty at The University of Texas at Austin shared an update on the innovative research and programs taking place on the Forty Acres during the first-ever UT Energy Summit in Houston. The event, held at Latham & Watkins LLP on April 18, showcased how faculty and staff from UT’s engineering, business and geology…

An all-expenses paid field trip to the Philippines: another great benefit of being an undergraduate honors student at the Jackson School.

In March 2013, the Jackson School inducted four geoscience 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. David S. “Scotty” Holland, Sr. was an integral part of UT’s geosciences community for a number of decades. He…

Peter Flemings was on a family vacation hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire when his cell phone rang. It was U.S. energy secretary Stephen Chu’s assistant. Could he join a web conference with Secretary Chu, and dozens of scientists from government, academia and industry, in a few hours? After packing up and making…

Memorial: Wann Langston, Jr.

It is with deep regret that I write to confirm that Dr. Wann Langston, Jr. passed away late on Sunday, April 7, 2013. He succumbed following a protracted battle with cancer, but he was surrounded by his children and very much at peace in his last months. Wann’s lifelong fascination with fossils spans nearly nine…

Groundwater depletion is a massive problem worldwide, but aside from hydrogeologists and farmers, how many people are aware of it? This year’s Oliver Distinguished Lecturer, Tom Gleeson of McGill University, wants to make sure both the problem and its potential solutions are well understood—so well understood, they can even be explained at a cocktail party….

The Geological Society of London, the world’s oldest and one of its most prestigious geological organizations, has announced it will award medals to two scientists working at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Martin P. A. Jackson, senior research scientist, and Christopher Jackson, senior research fellow. Martin Jackson will receive the William Smith Medal, presented for…

A new study, believed to be the most thorough assessment yet of the natural gas production potential of the Barnett Shale, foresees slowly declining production through the year 2030 and beyond and total recovery at greater than three times cumulative production to date. This forecast has broad implications for the future of U.S energy production…

This FAQ refers to the Bureau of Economic Geology Shale Gas Assessment study described in a Feb. 28 university press release: New, Rigorous Assessment of Shale Gas Reserves Forecasts Reliable Supply from Barnett Shale Through 2030. Who were the team members who conducted this study? Who funded the study? What is the Bureau of Economic…

Andrew Smith studies undersea gas vents, large volcano-like features on the seafloor that spew plumes of oil and gas into the ocean. Scientists have long been interested in them because many contain large amounts of gas hydrate, an icy substance made of natural gas and water. Gas hydrates might be mined someday as an alternative…

Researchers from Amherst College and The University of Texas at Austin have described a new technique that might one day reveal in higher detail than ever before the composition and characteristics of the deep Earth.

This past summer, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin completed the first of a series of expeditions in the Gulf of Mexico surveying potential offshore storage sites for carbon dioxide (CO2). In the process, they tested out a new type of seismic instrument designed to reveal geologic layers and structures…

AUSTIN, Texas — A rapid response science team from the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics will help map the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the beach/barrier systems off the south shore of Long Island. Follow our rapid response field blog with live updates from the ship. The team will collaborate this month with…

Memorial: David “Scotty” Holland

The Jackson School community mourns the loss of David “Scotty” Holland and extend their condolences to his family. Scotty Holland passed away this Saturday, after suffering a brain injury from which he was unable to recover.  An interment will be held in Abilene this Friday at 11 a.m. at Elmwood Memorial Park, 5750 Hwy 277…

In one of the most high-octane meetings since its launch in 2005, the Jackson School’s Latin American Forum on Energy and the Environment drew leaders from nine countries and representatives from across the Americas to Houston last March for a conference dominated by the impact of rising unconventional reserves in the southern hemisphere. Recent estimates…

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