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smokestacks_in_Houston_Ship_ChannelOfficials from countries around the word have met for the last two weeks in Lima, Peru to talk global climate change.   At the heart of those talks is how to limit billions of tons of CO2 that are pumped into the atmosphere every year from coal burning power plants.

But how do we keep track of the CO2 we’re releasing? And just how do we weigh something that floats in the first place?

It turns out there is a venerable history to the science of weighing smoke.

In 16th century England Queen Elizabeth made a bet over the weight of smoke with famed explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh is known for popularizing tobacco at the royal court. One day, so the story goes, he told the queen he could weigh the smoke that came from his pipe.

KUT, December 12, 2014

Featuring: Susan Hovorka, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology.


The smoke stacks at American Electric PoThe deal that the U.S. and China have struck to curb carbon emissions has been hailed as a breakthrough by many concerned with climate change, and panned by politicians opposed to President Obama. But it’s also captured the interest of a group of researchers — some in Texas — who specialize in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

KUT, November 12, 2014

Featuring: Susan Hovorka, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology.


622x350When state geologist Scott Tinker visited the Chronicle editorial board last week, he told us that industry regulators and professionals need to improve on the technique to further protect the environment. We agree.

Houston Chronicle, December 8, 2014

Featuring: Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences


Frack1Production of natural gas in the United States is climbing rapidly, and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts long-term growth. But studies by the University of Texas (UT) challenge that forecast.

The Texas team made forecasts for the four most productive shale-gas formations, or plays. Those forecasts suggest that gas production will peak soon and quickly drop, a much more pessimistic outlook than those offered by the EIA and several companies, such as Goldman Sachs.

Nature, December 3, 2014

Featuring: Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, the State Geologist of Texas, a professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences and director of the Advanced Energy Consortium


Soil moisture monitors could help predict weather patterns across Texas. Photo by Richard Casteel

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s.

“It rained and rained and rained,” he says. “Back then we raised turkeys, we lost thousands of turkeys that washed away in the creek.”

The disaster underscores an irony of life in Texas. “You hope and pray that you’re going to get a good rain, [but] on the other side of it, you hope you don’t get a flood,” says Rabke.

A quick walk from where the turkeys met their fate, some new technology that will help manage that risk is being installed — soil monitoring sensors in the ground.

Dr. Todd Caldwell and his team have dug a pit and they’re connecting wires and setting up a tripod monitoring station, but they’ve run into some trouble.

“You see the sensors have about a 15 centimeter-long tine that’s thin metal, and we have to push those into the clay when it’s dry. This is kind of set up like a concert,” Caldwell  says. “So, we have to push really hard to get them in, so we’re struggling a bit right now…”

The tines measure the how much water is in the soil. That information travels on buried wires to the tripod. It gathers more data. then it feeds it on a cellular network back to the landowner, and then to the University of Texas. That’s where Caldwell works, at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

NPR’s StateImpactTexas, November 25, 2014

Featuring: Todd Caldwell, research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, and Michael Young, associate director of environmental systems at the BEG


What are the best places to work in Central Texas? The Austin American-Statesman is helping answer that question.

After surveys of more than 22,000 workers at 159 companies, the American-Statesman’s 2014 Top Workplaces of Greater Austin project narrowed it down to 100 Central Texas employers worthy of earning Top Workplaces designation.

The Jackson School’s Bureau of Economic Geology ranked No. 15 among midsize employers.

Austin American-Statesman, November 16, 2014


James Austin, senior research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics, has been appointed to a new federal Ocean Exploration Advisory Board that will provide guidance to NOAA and the nation on the exploration of our ocean.


A new analysis from The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics suggests a deep oceanic gateway, shown in blue, developed between the Pacific and Iapetus oceans immediately before the Cambrian sea level rise and explosion of life in the fossil record, isolating Laurentia from the supercontinent Gondwanaland. Credit: Ian Dalziel

A sudden explosion of new life-forms hundreds of millions of years ago may have been triggered by a major tectonic shift, new research shows.

About 530 million years ago, the Cambrian explosion brought a surge in new species to Earth, including most modern animal groups. Recent studies suggest that, during the Cambrian explosion, life evolved about five times faster than it’s evolving today. The sudden increase in species is sometimes referred to as “Darwin’s dilemma” because, at face value, it seems to contradict Charles Darwin’s theory of gradual evolution.

Huffington Post, November 19, 2014

Eos, November 18, 2014

ABC News, November 9, 2014

Live Science, November 7, 2014

Featuring: Ian Dalziel, research professor at the Institute for Geophysics and professor in the Department of Geological Sciences


PHOTO BY U.S. COAST GUARD

Ever since an explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore rig in 2010 released about five million of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, researchers have been trying to figure out where much of the oil ended up. A new study is offering some answers.

State Impact, October 28, 2014

U.S. News and World Report, ABC News, October 27, 2014

Featuring Burch Fisher, postdoctoral fellow, Jackson School of Geosciences


Shallow-water acreage will be first up on the menu of E&P blocks being offered by Mexico following the country’s historic decision to deregulate its oil and gas industry, according to plans presented by Mexico’s top energy officials this week.

Hart Energy, October 22, 2014

Featuring: Jorge Piñon, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences


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