By Joshua Rhodes Parsons
The PEcAn Project, headed by Associate Professor Mike Dietze, will be holding a workshop this week from May 9th -11th on Terrestrial Model Informatics. Starting in the afternoon on the 9th and ending in the evening of the 11th, it will primarily take place in Room 453 of the Stone Science Building.
Eleven representatives from different ecological/land surface modelling teams will be attending to identify informatic, analysis, and cyber-infrastructure bottlenecks in the current workflows of the terrestrial ecosystem/land surface modeling community. In addition, the PEcAn team will soliciting their feedback to outline a development road-map so that the project can better provide the tools and analysis the community needs.
More information will be posted on the PEcAn Project website (http://pecanproject.github.io/) and all are welcome to attend.
Each year, Earth & Environment Professor Duncan Fitzgerald and his ES 142 Beaches and Shoreline students take an annual trip to Cape Cod.
This year’s trip took place this past Saturday where students boarded buses at BU at 8:00 am and made the hour-long journey to the Cape. After arriving, students were provided with guidebooks and headed for Humarock Beach in Marshfield where they viewed an eroding drumlin cliff, a boulder retreat platform, and various types of protective engineering structures. This particularly spit system is sediment-starved and severely impacted during winter storms.
The trip included six stops covering dunes, marshes, tidal inlets, beach processes, and glacial landforms. Students learned about the 15 ka evolution of Cape Cod and examined the present-day effects of sea-level rise. The trip ended after climbing the 30-m high parabolic dunes in the Province Lands of the outer Cape (see below).
An article titled “Greening of the Earth and its Drivers” has been published on April 25th 2016 reporting carbon dioxide as the major reason for greening of our planet. All related materials can be found at
Earth & Environment Associate Professor Sergio Fagherazzi is giving an invited talk at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday April 28th.
The title of Prof. Fagherazzi’s talk is “Gradients in water surface drive coastal ecosystems and determine the resilience of shorelines against extreme events.”
Earth & Environment Professor Duncan FitzGerald recently traveled to Brazil to study former shoreline processes. The coast of Brazil is an ideal area to study former shoreline processes because sea level has dropped 2.5 to 4 m during the past 6,000 years (far-field effects). FitzGerald and Chris Hein (former BU-PhD, Assistant Professor at Virginia Institute of Marine Science) and colleagues Dr. Ioannis Georgiou (University of New Orleans) and Dr. Antonio Klein (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil) are studying Chenier (sand ridges within mud coast) development using instrument deployments at mouth of the Tijucas River and by dating and determining the stratigraphy of the ancient onshore chenier plain through coring, ground-penetrating radar, RTK, and LiDAR surveys. This group is also studying the double Holocene (5.8 ka) and Pleistocene (~ 120 ka) high stand shorelines in the landward section of the Tijucas strandplain. These two sea-level highstands are somewhat unique as they are separated by only 0.4 km but a hundred thousand years.
By Rick Reibstein
Seven students this semester participated in a new directed study course performing research tasks related to climate change for state agencies. Each week they met and went over progress, reporting to each other on their work. They were supervised by Rick Reibstein, lecturer in environmental law and policy, who used his contacts from his career in state government to arrange the projects. On April 19, three of the students made an extended presentation to officials at the Department of Environmental Protection, and on April 25, all seven students will present their work to Matt Beaton, (a former student of this program), who is now the Commonwealth’s Secretary of the Environment.
Celia Simpson and Tara Moore used the “Tier 2” database, which includes information about chemical storage, to identify facilities in areas of high flood risk. Their work will be of help to the state’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), which is now engaged in training fire departments in how to reduce the vulnerability of communities to contamination from chemicals dispersed by more frequent and intense storm events. Qiyuan Fu and Sophia Xiong searched out reports of net-zero building projects and produced an analysis of the range of construction costs for the specialist at the Department of Energy Resources in charge of promoting net-zero buildings. Zach Schmidt, Sam Campbell and Sari Klein sorted through various approaches to determining the cumulative impact of environmental and health threats to communities, and mapped the vulnerability of communities to the increased risk of storm events disrupting ongoing cleanups at already contaminated sites. Their work will help DEP to evaluate approaches to identifying at-risk communities and their presentation was very well received.
In our last meeting the students shared these comments on their experience. Zach noted that it was an opportunity to understand how the government of Massachusetts works, and to get to know what is expected of you when working in the environmental field. The topics they covered were “very real topics facing state governments now”. Sari said that it was the “first professional experience in the environmental field” that she had participated in thus far at BU, and Sam noted how valuable it was to work with the state employees, and that the experience allowed for a lot of freedom in how they could approach the problem, while the advice received helped to maintain focus.
The students learned about waste sites and waste cleanup, chemicals used and stored in the state, flood risk, environmental justice, existing environmental information, relevant laws, and how buildings can become zero-energy and the practical aspects of that effort. They know a good deal now about how state governments do their work and they have had a taste of how good it can feel to contribute to the effort to protect the public, because their work will be used for that purpose. They made a real contribution. Celia and Tara learned how hard it is to download and access the Tier 2 data. This may help explain why fire departments have largely failed to use it, and how OTA can focus its efforts. Qiyuan and Sophia have done pioneering work, as it appears that no one else has pulled together the information that they found, and they have come up with some ideas for standardizing such reports. Zach, Sam and Sari showed DEP how they could use Google Earth in conjunction with the department’s GIS system to produce maps correlating information. Mark Smith, Director of DEP’s Office of Research and Standards, has thanked the Earth and Environment Department for the help given to DEP, noting that the students’ “work and presentations to MassDEP were fabulous and very helpful. I look forward to continuing collaboration with your Department and exploring other ways for students to do similar projects.”
Students interested in participating in this directed study course next year should contact Rick Reibstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be in contact with state agencies through the summer and ready to describe potential projects relating to environmental topics, at the beginning of the Fall semester. Contact him to be on a list to be notified of specific information about these topics. They will likely include continuing some of the work described above, as well as new research tasks.
The article titled “Assessing the potential additionality of certification by the Round table on Responsible Soybeans and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” is first authored by Garrett and her colleague Kim Carlson.
The full article can be accessed at this link.
Earth & Environment Assistant Professor Anne Short Gianotti will be participating in a “Science by the Pint” outreach event tonight, Wednesday April 20th, 2016, as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.
This “Science by the Pint” event is titled “In a Haze: Studying Marijuana.” As part of the event, Short Gianotti will be talking about the challenges of researching and governing the environmental effects of cannabis cultivation.
The event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Aeronaut Brewing Company at 14 Tyler St. in Somerville. Click this Science by the Pint link or this Cambridge Science Festival link for more information.
The event description is included below:
In a Haze: Studying Marijuana
Wednesday, April 20, 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Aeronaut Brewing Company, 14 Tyler St, Somerville
It’s 4/20, so Harvard’s Science by the Pint is teaming up with the Aeronaut Brewery and the Cambridge Science Festival to learn about the science of marijuana! Our researchers are here to discuss with you the challenges of studying a (mostly) illegal substance, and get into their research on the effects of marijuana on the brain, the environmental issues around growing weed, and how America’s relationship with the drug has evolved. So grab a beer and get talking!
Earth & Environment Professor Bruce Anderson and PhD candidate Dan Gianotti along with collaborators from Georgia Tech and the University of Oklahoma have published a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters. The paper is titled “A decadal precession of atmospheric pressures over the North Pacific.” It can be downloaded here.
In the paper, Anderson and Gianotti reveal a previously undocumented mode of atmospheric variability—termed the Pacific Decadal Precession (PDP)—that consists of a slow (~10 year) progression of atmospheric pressure variations around the North Pacific basin. Importantly, this evolution is accompanied by persistent, multi-year shifts in atmospheric circulations and concomitant changes to regional climates that can impose significant pressures on physical, biological and socio-economic systems, recent manifestations of which include the extended droughts across California, record fire seasons across western Canada, and destabilization of marine ecosystems in the North Pacific. Given the potential of the PDP to impact these and other systems, enhanced predictive understanding of its behavior leading to improved forecasts of its subsequent evolution could benefit a wide range of scientific, practitioner and user communities.
Gianotti is a PhD candidate in Earth Sciences who is jointly advised by Anderson and Professor Guido Salvucci.
To learn more about Prof. Anderson’s work, you can visit his website here.
E&E Professor Bruce Anderson and BU Center for Remote Sensing Research Associate Professor Magaly Koch, along with School of Education Professors Peter Garik, Donald Derosa and Evangeline Stefanakis, were recently awarded $3 million as part of a $10 million multi-institutional NASA project called “MISSION EARTH: Fusing GLOBE with NASA Assets to Build Systemic Innovation In STEM Education.”
The project seeks to leverage the resources of both NASA and Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) in order to develop a K-12 progression of activities to get students out taking observations that they can compare with NASA satellite imagery and use to do real, hands-on science about their local environment within a global perspective. The unique contribution of the project will be to develop these activities such that they build upon each other as the students complete each grade so that the students are eventually able to use GLOBE and NASA resources to propose and answer their own original research questions.