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DeanMosher_SH2013_0036Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. This interview has been edited and condensed. Sharon Mosher has been dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences since 2009.

The Daily Texan: Can you tell us a little bit about the school and some of the interesting projects going on right now?

Sharon Mosher: A little bit about the school:  We have one academic department and two major research units. Two-thirds of our school are research scientists. One-third are faculty and students. We are the largest academic geoscience program in the country. We graduate the most geoscience students at every level. We work on everything from the core to the atmosphere and also the planet. We work to increase students’ knowledge. We get them involved in internships so they can see what practicing geoscientists do. We even involve undergraduate students in research projects. By doing research, they learn how to solve problems and think quickly. We have a lot different projects going on. A lot of people working on the Texas drought. Everything from soil, soil moisture, interaction between land surface and atmosphere, rivers and river flow. We have large programs in Antarctica and also in Greenland.

The Daily Texan, Feb. 25, 2015

Featuring: Sharon Mosher, Dean, Jackson School of Geosciences


With a focus on building future professionals in the energy sector and continuing academic research in earth sciences and engineering, The University of Texas at Austin (UT) Jackson School of Geosciences and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have strengthened collaborations with each other in the fields of energy, environment and sustainability.

The agreement, which is one of three new agreements recently signed in Mexico City by UT Austin Provost Gregory L. Fenves, will focus on academic research in the earth sciences and engineering. The new partnership will enhance the mutual academic opportunities created by Mexico’s recent energy reform.

Rigzone, Feb. 23, 2015

Featuring: Jorge Piñon, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program

 


todd-caldwell_jpg_312x1000_q100With each issue, Trib+Water brings you an interview with experts on water-related issues. Here is this week’s subject:

Todd Caldwell is a hydrologist and geoscientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in field investigations and numerical modeling associated with soil and vadose zone processes and its application to remote sensing of water resources. His current research focuses on soil moisture monitoring, modeling and scaling, as well as soil-plant interactions, near-surface geophysics and evapotranspiration. Caldwell is currently the principal investigator at the bureau for NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite project, or SMAP, to measure and model soil moisture.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Trib+Water: How did you get involved in this satellite project to measure the state’s soil condition?

Todd Caldwell: Soil moisture is one piece of the whole water cycle, and it has kind of always been the overlooked one, which is why SMAP came about. The measurements weren’t there. There is not very much water in the ground right now to use for this data. Until now, everything has come out of a numerical model for the last decade or so, and there are a lot of flaws in that. We showed some flaws in a 2013 paper that showed in Texas during the 2011 drought, we lost somewhere around 62 cubic kilometers of water total, which is a ton.

Texas Tribune, Feb. 10, 2015

Featuring Todd Caldwell, research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology


Image courtesy of NASA

AUSTIN — The University of Texas and the Lower Colorado River Authority will be utilizing data from a new NASA satellite to better forecast droughts and floods.

NASA launched the $900 million Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite Jan. 31. The satellite orbits the earth approximately every 90 minutes and is capable of measuring the moisture of soil in the ground. Its mission is to vastly improve forecasting for droughts and floods.

UT and LCRA will be working with NASA by working to confirm what the satellite records. The new information comes with a few obstacles.

“It’s challenging on a whole bunch of different levels. It’s challenging from the fact, this data set, that is going to be the first of its kind, and it’s at a fairly large scale and a lot of times we need these estimates, even at a finer scale, say for drought. We need to know if farmer A’s field is more prone than farmer B’s field,” said Dr. Todd Caldwell at the University of Texas.

KVUE, Feb. 6, 2015

NPR’s StateImpact Texas, Feb. 2, 2015

Nature, Jan. 27, 2015

El Paso Times, Jan. 31, 2015

Featuring Todd Caldwell, research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology


greenlandWant to know what the inside of an ice sheet looks like?

A new 3D map and animation of the Greenland ice sheet lets researchers peer into the layers of ice laid down over millennia and see how they have been warped as they flow over time and are put under pressure as newer layers accumulate above. This will help them better understand how Greenland—which holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 20 feet—will respond to current climate change by showing how it responded to similar changes in the past.

The map will “give people that gut-level feel of what an ice sheet looks like on the inside,” said Joe MacGregor, a glaciologist at the University of Texas and one of the leaders of the mapping effort.

Scientific American, Feb. 3, 2015

Alcalde, Feb. 3, 2015

Lice Science, Jan. 30, 2015

Nature World News, Jan. 26, 2015

Featuring Joe MacGregor, Research Associate, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences.


UP9A3252_jpg_312x1000_q100State lawmakers are considering a nearly $2.5 million plan to help answer a pressing question in some Texas communities: Why does the ground keep shaking?

An item hidden in House Speaker Joe Straus991-page budget proposal would fund a “TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program,” at the University of Texas at Austin, aimed at helping Texans understand the unexpected surge of earthquakes underneath their feet.

“TexNet would create an improved statewide seismic monitoring network capable of detecting and locating earthquakes more precisely than can currently be done,” said Scott Tinker, director of the university’s Bureau of Economic Geology, which would manage the project. The program “would also improve our ability to respond to earthquakes quickly, if such a response were deemed appropriate,” he added.

Texas Tribune, Jan. 23, 2015

Featuring, Scott Tinker, Director, Bureau of Economic Geology


imgresJamaica has its “Hope Zoo”, in Nicaragua garish yellow sculptures decorate the avenues of Managua called “The Trees of Life”, while Haiti has the “Hugo Chávez International Airport”.

All are monuments to the glory days when Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chávez was still alive, oil prices were high, and revolutionary Caracas, which sits on the largest energy reserves in the world, could afford to send 200,000 barrels per day of subsidised oil to 13 countries, including Cuba, in return for their political support and sometimes repayment with goods in kind — like black beans.

Today, however, with oil prices having halved in six months, Venezuela’s economy in a tailspin and protests rising at home over food shortages, Caracas is having to rethink the Petrocaribe subsidised oil arrangement in order to finance dwindling imports, rebuild foreign reserves and avoid a bond default.

Financial Times, January 14, 2015

Featuring: Jorge Pinon, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program

 


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


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