Category Archives: Science

UMass Geologists in Greenland

I’d be hard pressed to find a better way to decompress from my NASA-HERA mission than a field expedition to the Arctic. I went from 6 weeks in a 600 square foot pod to 2 weeks in the vast expanses of Greenland’s fjords and tundra. And it was wonderful. I’ll share some photos and experiences here.

A panoramic view of Sillisit and Tunulliarfik Fjord

From June 29 to July 11, 2018, I traveled with a research group from University of Massachusetts to South Greenland in a scientific campaign to calibrate paleoclimate proxies. The overarching goal of the project, which is led by UMass professors Isla Castañeda and Ray Bradley, is to test the hypothesis that climate change may have forced the exodus of Norse settlers from Greenland around the year 1450 AD. Sediment cores have already been collected, and our efforts this field season were to collect soil, sediment, and plant samples in order to improve our understanding of leaf wax and GDGT systematics in these Arctic systems. Continue reading

HERA XVII – NASA Mission Prep

Well, this is my last full week at the University of Massachusetts before I take a 2 month leave-of-absence to participate in the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) mission at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.  I will be living with 3 others in the HERA habitat for 45 days, during which time we will have very limited contact with the outside world, eat delicious freeze-dried foods, shower in a ‘hygiene module’, and simulate flying a spaceship. Weird? Exciting! Continue reading

Lindavia intermedia

This blogpost is about a complicated little diatom. We just published a short nomenclatural article in the online journal Notulae Algarum that rectifies naming problems that have plagued the centric diatom currently known as Lindavia intermedia. The diatom was originally described from samples taken in Alaska (hence my interest), but has undergone a myriad of genus changes and status changes (ie. changing from a variety to a species). In writing the article, I learned a great deal about the rules of taxonomy and how we name organisms, especially algae. A fun project, and special thanks to Mark Edlund and Phil Novis for helping get this out. For more on this diatom, refer to the article here, or to the Western Diatoms webpage.

Internal view of a Lindavia intermedia valve under SEM

Valve view of Lindavia intermedia under a light microscope

ASLO 2015 – Granada, Spain

In March of 2015 I had the pleasure of attending a scientific conference for the Association for the Science of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). This year the meeting was held in Granada, Spain. So much great science! I gave a talk on past temperature changes in Alaska and what impact that had on lake ecosystems. Lake E5 is such a wonderful model lake!

I didn’t take many pictures within the conference, but want to share these pictures from beautiful Grenada and the surrounding area. Enjoy.

US Climate: 2012 warmest in 118 years

Difference from average annual temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981–2010 average. Map by NOAA team.

NCDC Announces Warmest Year on Record for Contiguous U.S – Now that 2013 has arrived, climate scientists with NOAA’s National Climate Data Center have reported that last year was the warmest yet recorded for the continental United States.  Not only was it the warmest in the 118-year long record, but it was so by a full 3.2 degrees F over the 20th century average.  2012 also ranked 2nd in terms of extreme climate events (including drought).  You can read more details about 2012 climate and climate-related events at the NCDC website linked here.

Likewise, I urge you to take a look at the latest version of the National Climate Assessment, released last Friday for public review.  This is a more comprehensive view of the state of the climate along with how agriculture, human health, fisheries, ecosystems, transportation, etc. will be effected by climate change.  Personally, I think the 2-4 foot projected rise in sea level by the end of the century is among the scariest of climate-change impacts.  Maybe I’ll move back to Minnesota.  Since rising sea-level and other climate change impacts will likely be detrimental to the public, three chapters of the NCA document are dedicated to mitigation and adaptation strategies.  As focus continues to move further away from the question ‘is climate change real?’, academic and social resources will by necessity be directed to determining specific risks and specific ways to prepare for and manage those risks.  If the paper seems long, at least look at the bullet points at the start of each chapter, and remember – this is a preliminary version not a final draft.

Ok, sorry for a lack of pictures here, but these are new and important reports that people should be aware of.  Next blog will have lots of good Alaska pictures, I promise.