News & Events

Research Theme: Soils & Sediments

News

Investigating water and wine: Former postdoc returns to INSTAAR as biogeochemistry prof, researcher

Investigating water and wine: Former postdoc returns to INSTAAR as biogeochemistry prof, researcher

Biogeochemist 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.

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Explaining biodiversity patterns: An Antarctic case study

Explaining biodiversity patterns: An Antarctic case study

Scientists 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.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR 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.

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Sustainable Deltas 2015 launches in Rotterdam

Sustainable Deltas 2015 launches in Rotterdam

A 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.

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CWEST: A new partnership between CU and the USGS pushes collaboration, houses Hydro Sciences program

INSTAAR is pleased to announce the establishment of the Center for Water, Earth Science, and Technology (CWEST), which will promote increased collaboration between researchers at the University of Colorado–Boulder and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Apples in Atebes: Cultivating climate resilience in an Ethiopian village

Apples in Atebes: Cultivating climate resilience in an Ethiopian village

Tsegay 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.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR 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.

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Students conduct alpine fieldwork on effects of climate change and air pollution

Students conduct alpine fieldwork on effects of climate change and air pollution

Meet 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.

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Increase in metal concentrations in Rocky Mountain watershed tied to warming temperatures

Increase in metal concentrations in Rocky Mountain watershed tied to warming temperatures

Warmer 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.

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Too much of a good thing: Alpine plants under threat in Rocky Mountain National Park

Too much of a good thing: Alpine plants under threat in Rocky Mountain National Park

Nitrogen 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.

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New climate study may answer long-standing questions about Little Ice Age

New climate study may answer long-standing questions about Little Ice Age

A new study led by INSTAAR Fellow Gifford Miller appears to answer contentious questions about the onset and cause of Earth’s Little Ice Age, a period of cooling temperatures that began after the Middle Ages and lasted into the late 19th century. According to the study, the Little Ice Age began abruptly between A.D. 1275 and 1300, triggered by repeated, explosive volcanism and sustained by a self-perpetuating sea ice-ocean feedback system in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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NSF awards INSTAAR largest environmental sciences award in CU-Boulder history

NSF awards INSTAAR largest environmental sciences award in CU-Boulder history

A $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.

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James Syvitski elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

James Syvitski elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

James Syvitski was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for "bringing new insights to the disciplines of oceanography, river and fjord processes, and sediment transport". Fellowship is bestowed on less than 0.1% of the total AGU membership of about 58,000 in any given year and recognizes scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences.

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Diane McKnight elected AAAS fellow for 2009

Diane McKnight elected AAAS fellow for 2009

Diane McKnight is one of three CU-Boulder faculty members who have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for 2009. McKnight was honored for her outstanding contributions to coupled biogochemical and hydrologic processes.

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Portions of Arctic coastline eroding, no end in sight

Portions of Arctic coastline eroding, no end in sight

Researchers have found that the northern coastline of Alaska midway between Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay is eroding by 30 to 45 feet a year because of a "triple whammy" of declining sea ice, warming seawater and increased wave activity. The 12-foot-high bluffs topple into the Beaufort Sea during the summer months, where the coastal seawater melts them in a matter of days, sweeping the silty material out to sea.

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Arctic lake sediment record shows warming, unique ecological changes in recent decades

A team of researchers discovered that biological and chemical changes occurring at a remote Arctic lake in recent decades are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years and the result of human-caused climate change. Their record of past environments goes back in time 80,000 years before the oldest reliable ice cores from Greenland and captures three interglacial periods, including the Holocene. But changes seen in the sediment cores since about 1950 show that expected natural climate cooling and related changes in the lake environment are being overridden by human activity like greenhouse gas emissions.

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World’s river deltas sinking due to human activity

James Syvitski, Albert Kettner, Irina Overeem, Eric Hutton and Mark Hannon, along with colleagues from six other institutions, have shown that most of the world's low-lying river deltas are sinking from human activity, making them increasingly vulnerable to flooding from rivers and ocean storms and putting tens of millions of people at risk.

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Recent warming reverses long-term Arctic cooling

An international team of scientists have reconstructed past climate in the Arctic over the past 2,000 years in unprecedented detail. The team found that Arctic temperatures have reversed from a long-term cooling trend and are now the warmest they have been in at least 2,000 years, bad news for the world’s coastal cities facing rising seas in the coming decades.

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New supercomputer for earth modeling research

New supercomputer for earth modeling research

James Syvitski led the effort to install a new supercomputer at INSTAAR that will vastly extend the ability of scientists across the globe to model and predict many important aspects of Earth's surface processes, from glacial melting and flooding to coastal erosion and tropical ocean storms. The new computer cluster is the heart of the NSF-funded Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS).

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Beyond aluminum: New extreme of soil acidification found in Tatra Mountains

Bill 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.

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Video of Alaska’s eroding Arctic coast

Andy Revkin has posted a time-lapse video of Alaska’s rapidly eroding Arctic coast by INSTAAR and USGS researchers on his New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

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As Andean glacier retreats, tiny life forms move in

A 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.

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Humans continue to transform the global nitrogen cycle at a record pace, study finds

Alan 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.

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Boulder High School students present study at Intel International Science Fair

Boulder 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.

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Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory established

A 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.

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James Syvitski to lead new NSF earth-surface modeling effort

Syvitski will be the executive director of a new NSF initiative, the Community Surface Dynamic Modeling System (CSDMS), which will study how landscapes and seascapes change over time, and how materials like water, sediments and nutrients are transported from one place to another. These studies will allow better predictions about areas at risk to phenomena like deforestation, forest fires, land-use changes and the impacts of climate change.

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No pervasive Holocene ice-rafted debris (IRD) signal in northern North Atlantic?

John Andrews, Anne Jennings, and colleagues have assembled marine core records of ice-rafted debris (IRD) off North Iceland, East Greenland, and Labrador that are at odds with an earlier and oft-cited study showing a pervasive ~1.5 thousand year periodicity of IRD delivery during the Holocene (last ~11,400 years).

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Tropical forest CO2 emissions tied to nutrient increases

Cory Cleveland and Alan Townsend have completed a study of tropical forest soils showing that even small changes in nutrients could have a profound impact on the release of CO2.

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Alan Townsend named director of North American Nitrogen Center

Alan 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).

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Grad student pens educational diary about science in Antarctica

Karen 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.

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New marine substrates database for U.S. Atlantic continental margin

Chris Jenkins and colleagues at the USGS released the first regional coverage of the usSEABED database, a large compilation of samples data on marine substrates for the US Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles out from the coast), for the Atlantic margin.

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Environmental engineers study pollution of Colorado mountain streams by mines

Diane McKnight (INSTAAR & CEAE) and Jeff Wong (CEAE) spoke with KUNC's Gavin McMeeking about the pervasive pollution of Colorado mountain streams by mining and the potential for remediation by environmental engineers.

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Humans have drastic effect on sediment transfer to world’s coasts, according to CU-Boulder study

A new analysis of data from more than 4,000 rivers around the world indicates humans are having profound and conflicting effects on the amount of sediment carried by rivers to coastal areas, with consequences for marine life and pollution control, according to INSTAAR scientist James Syvitski.

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NSF awards CU-Boulder $4.9 million for alpine ecosystem research

An 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.

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Millenial-scale changes in Pacific surface temperature, Patagonian ice extent studied

Joe Stoner participated in a German-led study of marine sediments from the Chilean continental margin that show a clear "Antarctic" timing of sea surface temperature changes.

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A better radiocarbon clock improves understanding of Earth’s carbon cycle and geomagnetic field

Researchers have constructed a new high-resolution calibration of the radiocarbon time scale back to 50,000 years before the present.

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Diane McKnight named fellow of American Geophysical Union

Diane 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.

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Contaminated water from abandoned mines threatens Colorado ski areas

The ability of several of Colorado's prime ski areas to respond to winter drought is threatened by acidic runoff from abandoned mines, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. Contamination known as acid-rock drainage enters waterways, such as Summit County's Snake River, that are used for making artificial snow. When the snow melts, the water can run into streams not previously polluted, further spreading the contamination, said the research team.

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Changing global nitrogen cycle impacting human health, says study

Despite 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

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John Andrews honored with special sessions at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

The Geological Society of America honored John Andrews' tremendous impact on the Quaternary sciences at the annual meeting with two special sessions entitled "Quaternary Sciences from Land to Sea: In Honor of John T. Andrews."

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Increasing nitrogen in soils may signal global changes, CU researchers say

The rapid increase of nitrogen falling from the sky as a result of fossil-fuel combustion and crop fertilization, combined with carbon stored in Earth's soils, could change the rate of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, rising into the atmosphere, according to a new study by Alan Townsend and others.

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High school student with INSTAAR mentor wins science fair

High school student Evan Burgess won the 2001 Colorado State Science Fair (Senior division) for his study of glacier moraines using a Geographic Information System (GIS).

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CU-Boulder awarded $2.6 million from NSF for Carbon, Climate and Society study

A $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.

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In The News

Long-term ecological study to continue at very special site, Niwot Ridge

Thanks to a $6.8 million renewal grant to CU Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) from the National Science Foundation (NSF), research at the Niwot Ridge study area – one of NSF’s 25 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites in North America – will continue for another six years.

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World’s large river deltas continue to degrade from human activity

James Syvitski said more than two-thirds of the the world’s 33 major deltas are sinking and the vast majority of those have experienced flooding in recent years, primarily a result of human activity. Some 500 million people live on river deltas around the world, a number that continues to climb as the population increases. From the Yellow River in China to the Mississippi River in Louisiana, researchers are racing to better understand and mitigate the degradation of some of the world’s most important river deltas.

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The Río Marañón is moving: Dam construction in a volatile landscape

From National Geographic Explorers Journal: INSTAAR student Alice Hill writes from the Peruvian Andes, where a team of 15 are running the Río Marañón, the headwater stream to the Amazon River, ahead of dam construction. With the support of National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration the team is documenting the expedition through film and photography, and leveraging their members' scientific and river-running expertise to collect baseline data along the river corridor prior to dam construction.

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Study shows thawing permafrost quickly turns into CO2, a climate concern

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners including the University of Colorado Boulder have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process. Huge stores of organic carbon in permafrost soils are currently isolated from the modern day carbon cycle. However, if thawed by changing climate conditions, wildfire, or other disturbances, this massive carbon reservoir could decompose and be emitted as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, or be carried as dissolved organic carbon to streams and rivers. Co-authors on the study include Diane McKnight.

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Sediment cores: Core description team

Researchers aboard the ship I/B Oden have spent the last month collecting sediment cores from Petermann Fjord and northern Nares Strait, a gateway between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. A team including INSTAAR Anne Jennings processes the cores in a lab on board ship to read the history of past climates and ice shelves.

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Boulder County’s 2013 flood eroded 1,000 years worth of sediment, study shows

The historic flooding that ravaged the Front Range nearly two years ago eroded the equivalent of as much as 1,000 years' worth of accumulated sediment from the Boulder County foothills, according to a new study authored by Bob and Suzanne Anderson and published in Geology.

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Events

Monday Seminar: Reconstructing Holocene El Niño variability using marine sediments

Monday, October 23rd at 12:00pm

SEEC room S228 (Sievers room)

Monday Seminar: Studies of Late Quaternary in the variations of glacial marine sediment provenance

Monday, December 4th at 12:00pm

SEEC room S228 (Sievers room), 4001 Discovery Drive, Boulder

View all INSTAAR Soils & Sediments science and research >