Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Southern Oregon University

“Southern Oregon University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level in the Department of Environmental Studies beginning in Fall 2010. Candidates in the geosciences, earth sciences, environmental sciences or related fields are encouraged to apply. We seek a scholar excited by problem-driven field-based research, committed to interdisciplinary undergraduate education, and enthusiastic about joining a diverse department faculty that spans the natural and social sciences. We also seek someone committed to creating and maintaining connections with community partners and conducting research on regional issues. We are looking for a scientist with a comprehensive knowledge of surficial processes: geomorphology, soils, slope stability, hydrology, water quality, and watershed science, with applied skills and facility with geospatial technologies. The successful candidate will teach introductory and advanced earth science classes and labs, integrative environmental studies courses, his/her specialty in geospatial technologies, as well as taking a prominent role in student capstone experiences. Proven teaching ability and demonstrable research potential are essential.”

CyberGIS: Empowering the Synthesis of Computational and Spatial Thinking

The National Science Foundation TeraGrid Workshop on Cyber-GIS, Feb. 2-3, 2010, Washington DC

Shaowen Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Spatial thinking and associated geographic approaches, supported by geographic information systems (GIS), play essential roles in solving scientific problems and improving decision-making practices of significant societal impact. Fulfilling such roles is increasingly dependent on the capabilities of synthesizing spatial and computational thinking (Wing 2006) enabled by cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure promises to revolutionize how science and engineering are conducted in the 21st century as computation has become the third pillar of science and engineering (along with theory and experiment) (NSF 2003). CyberGIS represent a new GIS modality comprising a seamless blending of cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis capabilities to empower computational and spatial thinking and, thus, promise to transform geospatial problem-solving and decision-making while advancing cyberinfrastructure.”

Satellite Observations Help Assess Future Earthquake Risk in Haiti

Startling images of ground motion in Haiti during the recent earthquake are helping scientists understand the risk of aftershocks and even the possibility of a major new earthquake

According to the new data, the earthquake rupture did not reach the surface—unusual for an earthquake this size. More importantly, the images confirm that only the western half of the fault segment that last ruptured in 1751 actually ruptured in the current earthquake. “We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop,” says Tim Dixon, professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

The images reveal other startling facts, “Given the plate tectonic setting scientists expected mainly sideways motion, yet there was a large amount of vertical motion during the earthquake,” says Falk Amelung, professor of geology and geophysics at Rosenstiel School. “This explains how such a relatively small rupture was able to generate such a large earthquake.”

The data shows the earthquake occurred on or near the Enriquillo Fault, where most scientists suspected but until now did not have enough evidence to prove it. “This is a relief, because it shows that our current ideas about the tectonics of the area are correct,” Amelung said.

Dixon is looking at every bit of evidence to try to understand the possibility of another major quake hitting Port au Prince in the near future.  “There’s a reasonable probability of another large quake, similar to the January 12 event, striking Port au Prince within the next 20 to 30 years,” Dixon says. “I’d like to see them re-locate critical infrastructure such as government buildings, schools and hospitals, farther north out of the danger zone.”

In 1986, at the dawn of the GPS age, scientists from the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab, including Dixon began, a set of geodetic measurements on the island of Hispaniola.  A decade later, those measurements would reveal that the Enriquillo fault in southern Haiti was a significant earthquake hazard.  “In a very real sense, those early measurements set the stage for our current understanding of this dangerous fault zone.  Scientists have been studying this fault and others on the island, ever since,” Dixon says.

Shimon Wdowinski and Guoqing Lin, professors of geology and geophysics at RSMAS; Fernando Greene, graduate student at RSMAS and Sang-Hoon Hong,  post-doctoral research scientist at RSMAS and at Florida International University also contributed to the analysis of the new images.

The work of RSMAS in active tectonics is supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP). Other institutions involved in the analysis of the images included JAXA (the Japanese Space Exploration Agency) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

[Source: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami press release]

Advanced Geospatial Training Program in Natural Resource Management and Conservation

“Advanced geospatial training program will be available at TAMU-College Station, March 29 – April 4, 2010. The purpose of the program is to improve applications of geospatial science and technology in natural resource management and conservation. It will include the following components:

  1. intensive training sessions (4 half-days) on advanced geospatial analysis and modeling approaches and their applications in natural resource management and conservation;
  2. research seminars and lab visits (2 half-days) with TAMU faculty and graduate students to discuss current research, cutting edge technology in geospatial sciences, and opportunities for graduate study;
  3. a field trip (1 day) to Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde to learn and gain hand-on experience on how to use GPS and remote sensing to study livestock and wildlife movement and resource utilization cross heterogeneous landscapes.
  4. meetings (1 half-day) with Hispanic graduate fellows and their mentors from TAMU Graduate Diversity Fellowship Program, Hispanic Leadership Program in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sloan Minority PhD Program, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and related sciences to discuss graduate study and campus life at TAMU.”

More information

Jack Dangermond Talks About GeoDesign at TED 2010

ESRI founder and president Jack Dangermond spoke about the promise of GeoDesign at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference earlier today in Long Beach, California (video).  Dangermond was part of Session 5: Provocation, and shared the session with a diverse group of speakers, including former CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson, and futurist and Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand.

Watch the video

Following is a summary of Dangermond’s TED Talk:

“Japan is famous for the master designers who harmonized the use of land and structures with the environment around them, finding the right balance between building and nature. Contrast this with the sprawling, monotonous suburbia so familiar today. It’s a kind of crime against nature.

“In his book Design with Nature, Ian McHarg showed us how we could use soils, geology, vegetation, and other data to make more rational and responsible designs—what the Japanese masters internalized during their site visits. Design with Nature inspired me to create Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), where we build the technology to implement McHarg’s vision.

Jack Dangermond at TED2010, Session 5, "Provocation," Thursday, February 11, 2010, in Long Beach, California. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

“I believe that ‘designing with nature’, or GeoDesign, is our next evolutionary step. GeoDesign is both an old idea and a new idea. It reopens our minds and hearts; it puts in our hands the means to achieve what the Japanese masters did so many years ago—designing with geographic knowledge, thus living harmoniously with nature.”

‘Supra-glacial Lakes’ are the Focus of a New Penn State Study

Rising temperatures on the Greenland ice sheet cause the creation of large surface lakes called supra-glacial lakes. Now a Penn State geographer will investigate why these lakes form and their implications.

NASA awarded Derrick Lampkin, assistant professor of geography, almost $300,000 over three years to look at these lakes.

“Learning where lakes are, how they form, and how that changes through the melt season can help us really understand a lot about important processes that control how the Greenland ice sheet responds to warming,” Lampkin said.

Supra-glacial lakes form when melting water collects in pools in the lower levels of the ice sheet in melt or ablation zones. These lakes drain rapidly through cracks in the ice channeling water to beneath the ice sheet, affecting how ice sheets move and how pieces calve off into the ocean.

Researchers assumed that the influence of basal structure — the structure under the ice at the base — controls where lakes form on the surface, but the magnitude and degree of this influence are not well known, according to Lampkin. It is important to determine how surface processes and basal conditions interact to shape the ice sheet topography.

Lampkin’s work will complement other research by glaciologists at Penn State, such as Richard Alley and Sridhar Anandakrishan, in understanding how ice sheets work and contribute to sea level. He will look at a variety of existing information, including altimeter data, to create surface topography. He will model the temperatures under the ice and, using existing ice-penetrating radar data, create the basal topography. He will also look at ten years worth of high-resolution LandSat images to map lake features.

“This is an exciting time for the study of the world of ice, but unfortunately the public is not always aware of why this type of work is important,” Lampkin said.

In an effort to involve the public in the investigation of ice sheets, Lampkin has proposed an outreach program to create Facebook and iPhone applications that will allow users to map the locations of supra-glacial lakes using high-resolution satellite imagery.

The Facebook and iPhone applications will present users with pre-selected satellite imagery and a tutorial on how to spot the supra-glacial lakes. Lampkin said users who map the locations could receive some sort of incentive through points or rewards for another Facebook game.

According to Lampkin, it is important to track the development of the supra-glacial lakes, because they form and drain quickly. More people mapping these lakes will give researchers more data to learn about them. In addition, if members of the public are able to map the lakes, they might feel they have a personal stake in the study of climate change science.

“The more the public is involved and informed, the more they will understand how climate science is conducted and may be more willing to support these research efforts,” he said. Additionally, participation of this type may be the very spark to encourage a young mind to one day become an ice scientist.

[Source: Penn State press release]