March 12th, 2019Marine microorganisms in the Southern Ocean may find themselves in a deadly vise grip by century’s end as ocean acidification creates a shallower horizon for life, new INSTAAR-led research finds. The modeling study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, forecasts that at current carbon dioxide emission rates, the depth at which some shelled organisms can survive will shrink from an average of 1,000 meters today to just 83 meters by the year 2100, a drastic reduction in viable habitat. The steep drop, which could happen suddenly over a period as short as one year in localized areas, could impact marine food webs significantly and lead to cascading changes across ocean ecosystems, including disruptions of vital global fisheries.
January 29th, 2019INSTAAR fellow Timothy Seastedt has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Chase Faculty Community Service Award. The award is sponsored by an endowment from the Chase Corporation through the CU Foundation, and given to a full-time CU System faculty member who, in addition to university responsibilities, has provided exceptional educational, humanitarian, civic or other service in the community pro bono.
May 9th, 2018A new version of the community-based website Diatoms of North America launched today at https://diatoms.org. Previously known as Diatoms of the United States, the website is an online guide to diatoms that helps researchers identify almost 900 species.
May 1st, 2018A new study led by INSTAAR postdoc Lineke Woelders has found dramatic shifts in the ecosystem of a remote archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in response to recent climate change. The study was published May 1, 2018 in the open-access journal Scientific Reports, doi 10.1038/s41598-018-25148-7.
March 16th, 2018The Ecological Society of America (ESA) has awarded Katherine N. Suding its prestigious Robert H. MacArthur Award. Suding, fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is a leader in community ecology.
February 21st, 2017Last Month, Michael Gooseff, Principal Investigator for the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER and his team had the opportunity to host TV personality Anthony Bourdain of CNN’s Parts Unknown. Boudain, most famous for his exotic culinary exploits, sat down with Gooseff and his team to share a pizza in one of the most remote places on earth - Antarctica.
October 13th, 2016A single season of intense melting that affected Antarctica between 2001 and 2002 offers new insights into the southernmost continent's ecological future and the potential impact of climate change worldwide, according to observations collected in a series of papers and published in the journal BioScience.
August 12th, 2016Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (AAAR) has announced a Call for Papers for a special issue to be published in 2017: “Environmental Change and Impacts in the Kangerlussuaq Area, West Greenland”
July 14th, 2015Biogeochemist Eve-Lyn Hinckley, who was a postdoctoral fellow at INSTAAR from 2009 to 2011, has returned to CU as an assistant professor for INSTAAR and the Environmental Studies program. Hinckley will teach three courses annually, conduct research on sulfur and nitrogen in ecosystems, and eventually take over as director of INSTAAR’s Kiowa Lab, an environmental chemistry laboratory for the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research Program.
May 27th, 2015Scientists have developed a new theory to explain patterns in biodiversity, and tested it on bacteria in the soils of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Their study was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
December 15th, 2014INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share new research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, 15 to 19 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, air quality and fracking, polar climate change, atmospheric chemistry, flood impacts, forests and snow, plants and soils, and past climates.
September 25th, 2014A unique initiative, Sustainable Deltas 2015 (SD2015), launched today at the Deltas in Times of Climate Change II International Conference in Rotterdam. The aim of the initiative is to focus attention and research on the value and vulnerability of deltas worldwide, and enhance international and regional cooperation among scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders.
May 5th, 2014Patrick Bourgeron and Jelena Vukomanovic will convene a special symposium on “wicked problems” in coupled human and natural systems at the 2014 US-IALE Annual Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 21.
April 4th, 2014Tsegay Wolde-Georgis, of the INSTAAR program Consortium for Capacity Building (CCB), is leading a project to introduce the cultivation of apple trees irrigated by water-filled, buried clay pots to the mountainous, dry region of Atebes, a village of 4000 people in northern Ethiopia. Over the last 30 years, land degradation and climate change have exacerbated existing constraints of drought, soil erosion, deforestation, poor food supply consisting entirely of cereal grains, and lack of access to water. The goal of the clay pot project is to improve the resiliency of the community to climate-related hazards through demonstration and capacity building. So far, the project has led not only to the cultivation of high-value fruits and vegetables, but to erosion control and improved water supplies.
December 5th, 2013INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share their research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting (http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2013/) held in San Francisco, 9 to 13 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, atmospheric chemistry, geomorphology, rivers and oceans, forests and snow, plants and soils, past climates, flood monitoring, Antarctic volcanoes, coastal erosion, and emissions from energy production.
August 21st, 2013Meet the people behind the science—and art—resulting from INSTAAR research, featured in two recent EARTH Magazine interviews.
August 16th, 2013Meet two undergraduate students working in the alpine environment of the Mountain Research Station, where topics studied range from plant and animal ecology to hydrology and atmospheric science. The undergraduate experience at the station provides students with hands-on training in advanced research techniques at what is widely regarded as the best known site in the world specializing in alpine environmental science.
June 19th, 2013Using computer models, Keske and her colleagues are looking at a new crop that might help farmers in Colorado, Montana, and other high and dry regions earn extra income and achieve energy independence. Their new study asks if, and when, it would be profitable for farmers to grow Camelina sativa (camelina) as a biofuel and a high-protein meal for livestock feed. The new study evaluated costs, risks, and crop rotation to see if raising camelina can be profitable for farmers, using results from field trials at Colorado farms and agricultural experiment stations.
January 22nd, 2013Hana Fancher didn't wait for graduation to change the world. The undergraduate developed her own research project studying methane emissions from palm oil plantation wastewater ponds—a project that encouraged the plantation to build an anaerobic digester to power its processing and reduce greenhouse gases.
September 10th, 2012A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study that ties forest “greenness” in the western United States to fluctuating year-to-year snowpack indicates mid-elevation mountain ecosystems are most sensitive to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt. Led by CU-Boulder researcher Ernesto Trujillo and Assistant Professor Noah Molotch, the study team identified the threshold where mid-level forests sustained primarily by moisture change to higher-elevation forests sustained primarily by sunlight and temperature. Being able to identify this “tipping point” is important because it is in the mid-level forests--at altitudes from roughly 6,500 to 8,000 feet--where many people live and play in the West and which are associated with increasing wildfires, beetle outbreaks and increased tree mortality.
September 7th, 2012Warmer air temperatures since the 1980s may explain significant increases in zinc and other metal concentrations of ecological concern in a Rocky Mountain watershed, reports a new study led by CU-Boulder and the USGS. Rising concentrations of zinc and other metals in the upper Snake River just west of the Continental Divide near Keystone, Colo., may be the result of falling water tables, melting permafrost and accelerating mineral weathering rates, all driven by warmer air temperatures in the watershed. Researchers observed a fourfold increase in dissolved zinc over the last 30 years during the month of September.
July 6th, 2012Nitrogen compounds from power plants, automobiles, and agriculture is creating air pollution that is changing the alpine vegetation in Rocky Mountain National Park, says a new study by INSTAAR Fellow William Bowman and colleagues.
April 19th, 2012Six papers published this month in the journal BioScience report on ecological changes at 26 research sites, including INSTAAR's Niwot Ridge site, adjacent to the Mountain Research Station west of Boulder. They indicate that ecosystems dependent on seasonal snow and ice are the most sensitive to changes in climate.
March 12th, 2012Diane M. McKnight has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), among the highest professional distinctions accorded an engineer, for elucidating the interrelationship between natural organic matter and heavy metals in streams and lakes.
January 23rd, 2012Mark W. Williams has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Fellowship is conferred on less than 0.1% of the 60,000 AGU members from 148 countries in any given year and recognizes scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences. The primary criteria for evaluation are major breakthroughs or discoveries and paradigm shifts. Williams was elected "for outstanding research that has made fundamental advances in mountain hydrology and biogeochemistry."
December 19th, 2011INSTAAR graduate student Alia Khan is blogging from one of the most remote field sites in the world. She is sending posts to the New York Times “Scientists at Work” series from a campsite in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.
June 16th, 2011A $5.9 million grant for alpine ecosystem research will allow INSTAAR to continue for six years its intensive studies of long-term ecological changes in Colorado's high mountains, both natural and human-caused, over decades and centuries. The grant is the largest environmental sciences award in CU-Boulder history.
June 14th, 2011The diatom Didymosphenia geminata has emerged as a notorious invasive species in river systems around the world. Didymo is able to colonize and dominate the bottoms of some of the world’s cleanest waterways, forming thick mats. A team of scientists, including INSTAAR Sarah Spaulding, examined how high algal biomass is formed in low-nutrient conditions.
May 2nd, 2011The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme has announced that James Syvitski will chair the Scientific Committee, IGBP's main decision-making body, beginning 1 January 2012. Sponsored by the International Council for Science, the IGBP is an international research program to study the phenomenon of global change and provide the scientific leadership to improve Earth's sustainability.
April 30th, 2011New Vista High School students Kelly Muller and Remy Barrows-O’Neal won several awards at the 56th Colorado Science and Engineering Fair April 7-9 for their project “How Climate Affects the Spread of Invasive Species.” They worked with INSTAAR graduate students Janet Prevéy and David Knochel in Tim Seastedt’s terrestrial ecology lab to study the effect of varying rainfall amounts on the competitive ability of an invasive grass (cheatgrass) grown in competition with a native species (western wheatgrass).
March 1st, 2011Colorado teachers and scientific researchers joined forces with authors, illustrators, and book publishers at INSTAAR to work out next steps for the popular LTER Schoolyard Children’s Book Series, which includes My Water Comes from the Mountains, The Lost Seal, and Sea Secrets. They discussed how to develop web-accessible curricula associated with each book and move ahead with Spanish-language editions.
May 11th, 2009INSTAAR researchers have discovered the mechanisms behind blooms of an invasive alga in Boulder Creek--and a simple solution.
January 3rd, 2009Tim Seastedt and colleagues have been awarded a $500,000 grant to help reduce invasive plant species in the Boulder region. They will be employing research, modeling and outreach in partnership with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP). The project will focus on three weed species viewed as threats to the conservation goals of OSMP, including Dalmation toadflax, Canada thistle and cheatgrass.
November 5th, 2008Bill Bowman, Cory Cleveland (former INSTAAR, U. of Montana), and colleagues at the Slovak Academy of Science and the U.S. Geological survey have found that vegetation and soils already subjected to long-term acid rain could face even more stress in the form of nitrogen-laden precipitation.
September 8th, 2008A CU-Boulder team working at 16,400 feet in the Peruvian Andes has discovered how barren soils uncovered by retreating glacier ice can swiftly establish a thriving community of microbes, setting the table for lichens, mosses and alpine plants.
May 17th, 2008Alan Townsend and other members of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) North American Nitrogen Center have published a review of human influence on the global nitrogen cycle in Science.
April 30th, 2008Boulder High School seniors Anna Hermann, Kelly Lane, and Danielle Pite were invited to the prestigious 2008 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for their team project “Didymosphenia geminata: The core question,” mentored by USGS Ecologist and INSTAAR affiliate Sarah Spaulding.
January 31st, 2008Tim Seastedt and colleagues investigated ecosystem management studies from the past 12 years in an effort to determine best practices for the future. They propose that biologists and managers focus on making existing ecosystems resilient to further environmental change rather than on attempting to restore them to their original state.
November 26th, 2007A University of Colorado team led by INSTAAR Suzanne Anderson was awarded funding by the National Science Foundation for a five-year project to establish a Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) in the Boulder Creek Watershed.
November 23rd, 2007Detlev Helmig was invited to teach a course on monitoring of atmospheric volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to an international group of scientists, including participants from several eastern European countries, Algeria, Kenya, and Indonesia.
October 28th, 2007John Hoffecker and Scott Elias have produced a synthesis of environment and human settlement in Beringia, published by Columbia University Press.
August 27th, 2007Patrick Bourgeron and colleagues modeled the spread of fires in forest ecosystems in several Western states. Their study is the first to systematically look at both houses and trees in forest fire scenarios.
June 24th, 2007Gifford Miller provided commentary for Bone Diggers, a new NOVA documentary on the discovery of pristine skeletal remains of Pleistocene megafauna in remote Australian limestone caves.
April 10th, 2007NEON is the largest ecological project ever attempted by the National Science Foundation--the first national ecological measurement and observation system designed both to answer regional- to continental-scale scientific questions and to have the interdisciplinary participation necessary to achieve credible ecological forecasting and prediction.
December 12th, 2006Diane McKnight has published a children's book, The Lost Seal, that describes an unexpected encounter with a seal pup in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica, more than five miles inland from the sea.
September 30th, 2006Undergraduate Cuong Huynh (CU-Boulder) is being mentored by Natalie Mladenov and Diane McKnight on a project to uncover new ways in which sunlight affects aquatic organic matter.
May 1st, 2006Jeff Lukas and Connie Woodhouse, assisted by Henry Adams, found evidence that "witness trees" are still present at the recently established Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado.
April 4th, 2006Alan Townsend was named director of the North American Nitrogen Center (NANC), one of five centers around the world that together comprise the core structure of the SCOPE and IGBP sanctioned International Nitrogen Initiative (INI).
March 29th, 2006Karen Cozzetto was the main contributor to an educational website, 77 Degrees South, that showcases the life, times, and research of several groups of scientists working in the largest ice-free region of Antarctica: the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
July 5th, 2005Gifford Miller led an international team to discover that the diet of two flightless birds inhabiting Australia shifted soon after humans arrived ca. 50,000 years ago, coincident with a rapid and dramatic shift in the ecosystem's flora. Their discovery is the best evidence yet that early humans may have altered the continent's interior with fire, changing it from a mosaic of trees, shrubs, and grasses to the desert scrub evident today.
June 15th, 2005Rare plant species are six times more likely than abundant species to be lost due to nitrogen fertilization of soil, researchers have found through experiments conducted across nine ecosystems in North America, including on Niwot Ridge.
March 1st, 2005Sarah Spaulding, Rhea Esposito, and David Lubinski led a team of scientists, graduate students and undergraduate students to develop a dynamic web database, "Antarctic Freshwater Diatoms," that combines ecological data collected over more than a decade in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region.
January 25th, 2005Landscape burning by ancient hunters and gatherers may have triggered the failure of the annual Australian Monsoon some 12,000 years ago, resulting in the desertification of the country's interior that is evident today, according to a new study.
January 19th, 2005Tim Seastedt won the 2005 Boulder County Pacesetter Environment award from the Daily Camera newspaper for his work on biological pest control of diffuse knapweed, an aggressive noxious weed that infests about 100,000 acres locally and 3 million acres in the West.
January 12th, 2005An intensive University of Colorado at Boulder project charting long-term ecological changes in the high mountains of Colorado will continue for at least six more years as a result of a $4.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
December 13th, 2004A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered evidence of microbial activity in a rock glacier high above tree line in the Rocky Mountains, a barren environment previously thought to be devoid of life.
November 29th, 2004Bill Bowman was interviewed for the Earth and Sky radio program to help listeners better understand the science of biodiversity studies and the consequences of its loss in mountain areas.
September 5th, 2004The LTER research on alpine lake ecosystems by Diane McKnight and Rose Cory were featured in the report on Sponsored Research for the University of Colorado at Boulder, fiscal year 2003-2004.
August 12th, 2004A team of international researchers working on the North Greenland Ice Core Project recently recovered what appear to be plant remnants nearly two miles below the surface between the bottom of the glacial ice and the bedrock.
June 18th, 2004More than 100 plant and animal experts will survey 6,000 acres of publicly owned and managed grasslands in Jefferson and Boulder counties June 25 and June 26 in a 24-hour scramble to identify as many species as possible, known as a biodiversity blitz.
May 29th, 2004Alan Townsend participated in a Policy Forum in Science magazine 28 May to describe changes that are required if we hope to meet the needs and aspirations of humans while improving the health of our planet's ecosystems.
April 25th, 2004
February 15th, 2004Tim Seastedt, Bill Bowman, Nel Caine, Diane McKnight, Alan Towsend, and Mark Williams (Niwot Ridge LTER PIs) published a key conceptual paper, "The Landscape Continuum: A Model for High-Elevation Ecosystems," in volume 54, no. 2 of Bioscience. Their paper employs a new conceptual model that links terrestrial ecosystems to each other and to aquatic ecosystems.
December 22nd, 2003Diane McKnight was elected a fellow of the American Geophysical Union for her outstanding contributions to the understanding of the biogeochemistry associated with transport metals and organic substances in streams and lakes.
September 4th, 2003A new University of Colorado at Boulder study has shown that microbes living under the tundra snow pack ramp up their populations in late winter, a finding with implications for changing estimates of carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere.
August 23rd, 2003Vera Markgraf was an invited lecturer at a week-long international summer school concentrating on “Climate Change: Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems.”
June 12th, 2003Despite greatly increasing food production for humans, the growing use of nitrogen as a nutrient is affecting people's health far beyond just the benefits of growing more crops, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder-led study led by Alan Townsend
December 18th, 2002Sarah Spaulding appeared on the Court TV special "Digging for Clues" on December 14, 2002.
July 18th, 2002James Dixon and his colleagues excavated the skull and tusks of a mammoth that died more than 10,000 years ago at Lamb Spring, an archeological site that was once a freshwater spring near Roxborough State Park, Douglas County, Colorado.
July 11th, 2002Mark Williams, Graduate Student John Gartner (Advisor: Nel Caine), and their colleagues are researching water quality and erosion issues related to wildfires. Williams predicts that Colorado's record-setting wildfire season will leave behind potentially harmful conditions in water supplies.
May 28th, 2002Diane McKnight, with colleagues including several graduate and undergraduate students, studied a high alpine lake in the Colorado Rockies that shows increased algal growth thought to be caused by changing climate and atmospheric nitrogen deposition from auto emissions and agricultural activity on the heavily populated Front Range.
October 20th, 2001Tim Seastedt was officially acknowledged for his important weed control research by Representative Udall of Colorado. Udall said "Professor Seastedt's exciting and path-breaking research on using insects and soil chemistry to control the spread of noxious, non-native plants holds promise in addressing a vexing--and spreading--problem, especially on our western lands."
May 21st, 2001Tim Seastedt, Kate LeJeune, and Katie Suding have received a $280,000 grant to help unlock the mystery of how diffuse knapweed, a noxious weed that has infested more than 80,000 acres along the Front Range and 3.2 million acres in the West, has become dominant in the prairies around Boulder.
March 3rd, 2001Connie Woodhouse was cited in the recently published Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan for her dendroclimatological work showing persistent periods of drought lasting longer than droughts in the instrumental record.
December 18th, 2000
August 10th, 2000A $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to the University of Colorado at Boulder will allow scores of students from the natural sciences, social sciences and journalism fields to join forces and explore novel solutions to environmental problems.
In The News
July 10th, 2019The forecast for forests in the western U.S. calls for more burnt trees due to increased fire activity and a longer fire season. In addition, droughts stress trees, making them more susceptible to outbreaks of bark beetles and more likely to die. In their death throes, these trees give off chemicals, like ethanol, that are also attractive to some woodboring beetles. More dead trees might seem an obvious boon to woodboring beetles, but research by scientists from The Institute for Bird Populations (IBP) and the U.S. Forest Service suggest that the effects of these changing forest conditions on the beetles may not be so straightforward. Their report was published last week in the journal Fire Ecology.
June 18th, 2019In late September 1972, some 300 porters shouldered their 80-pound (36 kg) loads in the dusty eastern Nepali town of Dharan, in the lowland plain below the Siwalik Range, and started climbing uphill on a two-week trek toward Mt. Makalu, at 27,838 feet (8,485 m) the world’s fifth highest mountain. The natural history expedition they supplied spent more than a year documenting the plants and wildlife of the little-known upper Arun River Valley. Mountain ecologist Alton Byers revisited Labar in 2018, tracing the Nepali who worked with the researchers and tracing the consequences and contributions of the expedition.
June 1st, 2019The University of Colorado Boulder’s Mountain Research Station, within the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and situated just a few miles west off of Colo. 72, is the jumping-off point for some of the most important ongoing research into the nuanced and changing dynamics of alpine ecology going on anywhere in North America. The frontier of research into the effects of a changing climate, where animals and plants are living at the extreme limits of environmental tolerance at up to 12,000 feet, has continued to be expanded there—with ground-penetrating radar and drones now displacing shotguns and shovels—for well over half a century.
May 2nd, 2019A University of Colorado Boulder professor’s passion for smart land management and community engagement have earned him recognition as the 2019 Chase Faculty Community Service Award winner. Timothy Seastedt's volunteerism provides learning opportunities for Colorado middle-and high-school students.
April 4th, 2019As the planet warms and Himalayan glaciers melt, a small miracle is taking place. On the boulders and rubble that are exposed by melting ice, pioneering wildflowers are colonizing the new land. These species have special adaptations to deal with the challenging environment, such as long elastic roots, wind-proof exteriors, and an array of special enticements to attract scarce pollinators.
March 21st, 2019Thawing permafrost in high-altitude mountain ecosystems may be a stealthy, underexplored contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, new CU Boulder research shows. The new findings, published today in the journal Nature Communications, show that alpine tundra in Colorado’s Front Range emits more CO2 than it captures annually, potentially creating a feedback loop that could increase climate warming and lead to even more CO2 emissions in the future.
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