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The University of Texas at Austin

2016 Media Releases


  The oceanic crust produced by the Earth today is significantly thinner than crust made 170 million years ago during the time of the supercontinent Pangea, according to University of Texas at Austin researchers. The thinning is related to the cooling of Earth’s interior prompted by the splitting of the supercontinent Pangaea, which broke up…

Researchers with The University of Texas at Austin have found that incorporating snow data collected from space into computer climate models can significantly improve seasonal temperature predictions. The findings, published in November in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, could help farmers, water providers, power companies and others that use seasonal…

Frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars lies about as much water as what’s in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes, a team of scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin has determined using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region,…

A study of the massive crater that formed when an asteroid crashed into Earth 66 million years ago, wiping out all nonavian dinosaurs and most life on the planet, is giving insights into how impacts can help shape planets and possibly even provide habitat for the origins of life. The study, published in the journal…

Researchers discovered exceptionally well-preserved animals that lived in the aftermath of Earth’s most catastrophic mass extinction event, 252 million years ago. William Foster, a postdoctoral researcher at the Jackson School of Geosciences and scientist at the Natural History Museum, London, led the research.  

AUSTIN, Texas — Statoil, an international energy company based in Norway, has signed a $2.5 million partnership renewal agreement to support graduate student research focused on geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.  The $2.5 million completes a multiyear agreement with the company that totals $8 million. The renewed funding…

A strangely shaped depression on Mars could be a new place to look for signs of life on the Red Planet, according to a University of Texas at Austin-led study. The depression was probably formed by a volcano beneath a glacier and could have been a warm, chemical-rich environment well suited for microbial life. The…

The oldest known vocal organ of a bird has been found in an Antarctic fossil of a relative of ducks and geese that lived more than 66 million years ago during the age of dinosaurs. The discovery of the Mesozoic-era vocal organ—called a syrinx—and its apparent absence in nonavian dinosaur fossils of the same age…

This release was produced by MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences in Bremen, Germany. Access the original German release: http://ow.ly/mHFY30554dX In April and May, 2016, a team of international scientists drilled into the site of the asteroid impact, known as the Chicxulub Impact Crater, which occurred 66 million years ago. Sean Gulick, a research professor at The…

A newly described species of extinct reptile that roamed Texas more than 200 million years ago had a strikingly dome-shaped head with a very thick skull and a large natural pit on top that lends the appearance of an extra eye, according to a study released Sept. 22 in Current Biology. The study, led by…

Lucy, the most famous fossil of a human ancestor, probably died after falling from a tree, according to a study appearing in Nature led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. Lucy, a 3.18-million-year-old specimen of Australopithecus afarensis — or “southern ape of Afar” — is among the oldest, most complete skeletons of…

AGU Names Mohrig Fellow

David Mohrig, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, is a 2016 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Fellows are elected based on their “remarkable contributions to their research fields, exceptional knowledge, and visionary leadership,”according to AGU. Each year only 0.1 percent of AGU members are elected fellows. Mohrig’s research focuses on unraveling…

Variations in the ability of sand particles kicked into the atmosphere from deserts in the Middle East to absorb heat can change the intensity of the Indian Summer Monsoon, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin. The research was published July 28 in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the…

Dinosaurs are often depicted in movies as roaring ferociously, but it is likely that some dinosaurs mumbled or cooed with closed mouths, according to a study published online in the journal Evolution that will be in the August print edition. The research examines the evolution of a specialized way birds emit sound — closed-mouth vocalization….

Exceedingly well-preserved bird fossil specimens dating back 50 million years represent a species of a previously unknown relative of the modern-day ostrich, according to new research from Virginia Tech and The University of Texas at Austin published June 30 in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. “This spectacular specimen could be a…

Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, on June 30. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events…

In memoriam: Alan Scott

Dr. Alan Scott, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences from 1958-1984, passed away on May 29, 2016, in Round Rock, Texas. Alan was born on December 26, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois to Marvin and Prudence Scott. He spent his childhood in Lincoln, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois with a Ph.D. in Geology….

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) is honoring Scott W. Tinker, director of The University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geology, with the Michael T. Halbouty Award for Outstanding Leadership. The prestigious award—the second highest honor given by the AAPG—recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and extraordinary service to the petroleum…

An abundance of aerosol particles in the atmosphere can increase the lifespans of large storm clouds by delaying rainfall, making the clouds grow larger and live longer, and producing more extreme storms when the rain finally does come, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin. The study, published in the journal…

In Memoriam: Martin P. A. Jackson

Martin Jackson, world-renowned geoscientist and esteemed Bureau researcher, passed away early Tuesday, May 31. Martin is recognized globally for his groundbreaking work in the field of salt tectonics, with over 100 papers and 3 books on the subject. Said Bureau colleague Michael Hudec in 2013: “He’s the number one person in the world by a…

Scientists using radar data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found a record of the most recent Martian ice age in the planet’s north polar ice cap. The new results, published in the May 27 issue of the journal Science, agree with previous models that indicate a glacial period ended about 400,000 years ago,…

Research published in the journal Nature on May 19 has revealed that vast regions of the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica are fundamentally unstable and have contributed significantly to rising sea levels several times in the past. Totten Glacier is the most rapidly thinning glacier in East Antarctica, and this study raises concerns that a…

Earthquakes triggered by human activity have been happening in Texas since at least 1925, and they have been widespread throughout the state ever since, according to a new historical review of the evidence published online May 18 in Seismological Research Letters. The earthquakes are caused by oil and gas operations, but the specific production techniques behind…

Steel Wins Twenhofel Medal

Ron Steel of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences has won the Twenhofel Medal, the highest honor given by the Society for Sedimentary Geology. Steel, a professor and the Davis Centennial Chair in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, is a leader in the field of clastic sedimentology with a sustained…

Research published in the May 6 edition of Science indicates that slow-motion earthquakes or “slow-slip events” can rupture the shallow portion of a fault that also moves in large, tsunami-generating earthquakes. The finding has important implications for assessing tsunami hazards. The discovery was made by conducting the first-ever detailed investigation of centimeter-level seafloor movement at…

A new study in the April 22 edition of Science reveals that volcanic activity associated with the plate-tectonic movement of continents may be responsible for climatic shifts from hot to cold over tens and hundreds of millions of years throughout much of Earth’s history. The study, led by researchers at The University of Texas at…

Chemical weathering can control how susceptible bedrock in river beds is to erosion, according to new research.  In addition to explaining how climate can influence landscape erosion rates, the results also may improve scientists’ ability to interpret and predict feedbacks between erosion, plate tectonics and Earth’s climate. The research, led by The University of Texas…

The most comprehensive analysis to date of a series of earthquakes that included a 4.8 magnitude event in East Texas in 2012 has found it plausible that the earthquakes were caused by wastewater injection. The findings also underscore the difficulty of conclusively tying specific earthquakes to human activity using currently available subsurface data. The study,…

  New research has found that wind carved massive mounds of more than a mile high on Mars over billions of years. Their location helps pin down when water on the Red Planet dried up during a global climate change event. The research was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the…

Although years of drought and over-pumping have significantly depleted groundwater in Arizona and California, a new study shows the situation has an upside: It has created underground reservoirs where extra surface water can be stored during wet times so it is available during drought. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in March,…

Losing the ability to fly gave ancient penguins their unique locomotion style. But leaving the sky behind didn’t cause major changes in their brain structure, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin suggest after examining the skull of the oldest known penguin fossil. The findings were published in the Journal of Anatomy in February. “What…

Researchers have discovered a new species of extinct worm lizard in Texas and dubbed it the “Lone Star” lizard. The species — the first known example of a worm lizard in Texas — offers evidence that Texas acted as a subtropical refuge during one of the great cooling periods of the past. A paper describing…

A crucial skill for scientists is the ability to communicate their work to others. Conversations can turn into collaborations, questions can lead to surprising answers, and criticism can sharpen research. This talent was on display at the 5th Annual Jackson School Student Research Symposium on Feb. 6, 2016. The event brought more than 130 students…

Bridget Scanlon, a hydrologist and senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional honors accorded to engineers and scientists. “I still have difficulty believing that I was elected,” Scanlon said. “I wish the process would…

When Jack and Katie Jackson made the decision to invest their fortune in The University of Texas at Austin, they envisioned the creation of a world-class school of geosciences to help solve problems important to Texas and the world. Their vision guided a 10-year anniversary research symposium hosted by the Jackson School on Jan.22, 2016,…

Scientists have created the first map that shows how the Greenland Ice Sheet has moved over time, revealing that ice in the interior is moving more slowly toward the edges than it has, on average, during the past 9,000 years. The findings, which researchers said don’t change the fact that the ice sheet is losing…

An international team of researchers supported by the National Science Foundation will journey to Antarctica this month to search for evidence that the now-frozen continent may have been the starting point for some important species that roam the Earth today. Millions of years ago Antarctica was a warm and lush environment ruled by dinosaurs and…

On Jan. 22 the Jackson School of Geosciences will celebrate the incredible legacy of Jack and Katie Jackson and the 10th Anniversary of the formation of the school. It has now been 10 years since The University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology, Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Geophysics came together…

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