January 22nd, 2020A new study of nearly every delta on the planet shows how river delta shapes and sizes around the world are changing due to human activity. The study, carried out by a team of Dutch and American researchers that includes INSTAAR Albert Kettner, finds that increased soil erosion from deforestation has been building land in deltas over the past 30 years, despite extensive river damming. This trend is likely to reverse as sea-level rise accelerates and other human impacts take effect.
January 16th, 2020An educational exhibit on the Boulder Creek watershed is opening at the Museum of Boulder on Friday, January 31 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. All are welcome at the opening reception, which is free.
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.
February 12th, 2018The Dartmouth Flood Observatory has been providing interactive flood maps for natural disaster responders and planners for 20 years. The DFO is developing new ways of combining satellite imagery and geographic information systems to help identify areas prone to flooding in a changing climate.
October 16th, 2017A new study has measured the sediment carried by Greenland’s rivers to the ocean, with implications for marine ecosystems, carbon in the ocean, and dynamics of the coastal zone. Led by INSTAAR researchers and published today in Nature Geoscience, the study is the first to quantify in detail the concentrations of sediment in rivers flowing from Greenland to the sea.
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.
January 27th, 2017The recent “atmospheric river” weather pattern that pummeled California with storms from late December to late January may have recouped 37 percent of the state’s five-year snow-water deficit, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research.
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”
April 18th, 2016Natural gas has been touted as a “bridge fuel” which would allow us to transition towards cleaner alternatives in the future while leaning away from emission-heavy carbon based fuels. We looked at some of the atmospheric consequences for using natural gas last week, and this week we’re taking a closer look at water. Water lost to fracking may be mitigated by water savings during power generation.
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, 2015A team of high altitude scientists, including INSTAAR affiliate Alton Byers, will deploy in Nepal to begin the process of assessing post-earthquake impacts on the country’s potentially dangerous glacial lakes.
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.
CWEST: A new partnership between CU and the USGS pushes collaboration, houses Hydro Sciences program
June 9th, 2014INSTAAR 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.
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.
September 24th, 2013Climate Technician Jennifer Morse reports from Niwot Ridge and the Mountain Research Station after the recent historic rains and flooding. Everyone is okay, and the research sites are relatively unaffected. The most direct route to the Station remains closed and will be for some time.
October 3rd, 2012The NSF has awarded a $12 million grant to a CU-Boulder-led team, including the leaders of the CWERC research center, to explore ways to maximize the benefits of natural gas development while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems and communities. The team will examine social, ecological and economic aspects of the development of natural gas resources, including fracking, and the protection of air and water resources. The project will focus on the Rocky Mountain region, where natural gas development, as well as objections to it, are increasing.
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 31st, 2012In conjunction with the “Discover Earth: A Century of Change” exhibit, Jim White and Mark Williams will lead climate science-focused presentations at the Rifle Branch Library, 207 East Avenue, on Thursday, Aug. 9 and Thursday, Aug. 16.
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.
December 15th, 2011One third of the world's population relies on water from the rivers originating in the high mountain ranges of Asia. USAID has commissioned CU-Boulder researchers to assess snow and glacier contributions to this water supply as part of a comprehensive look at freshwater resources in the area.
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.
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.
December 20th, 2010James 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.
December 10th, 2010Caitlin Crouch and Diane McKnight found that rising concentrations of zinc in the Snake River watershed on Colorado's Western Slope may be the result of earlier spring snowmelt. They observed a four-fold increase in dissolved zinc over the last 30 years during September and October, the lowest water flow months. They also noticed that the low flows have become lower - and probably the soil along the stream drier - as air temperatures have risen and snowmelt has begun two to three weeks earlier.
December 15th, 2009Diane 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.
September 20th, 2009James 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.
May 11th, 2009INSTAAR researchers have discovered the mechanisms behind blooms of an invasive alga in Boulder Creek--and a simple solution.
February 4th, 2009James 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).
December 15th, 2008Climate change will lead to substantially shorter ski seasons and less snow on lower slopes of the Rocky Mountains, greatly impacting Colorado's ski industry, INSTAAR scientists find.
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.
August 24th, 2008Tad Pfeffer's new book on Alaska's Columbia Glacier represents not only a valuable contribution to the scientific literature, but a history of exploration and a stunningly beautiful photographic record of one of the most studied glaciers on the face of the earth.
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 18th, 2008Masters student Tim Bartholomaus with Bob and Suzanne Anderson have published their work on the sliding of Alaska's Kennicott Glacier. Their results show meltwater periodically overwhelms the interior drainpipes of the glacier and causes it to lurch forward, similar to processes that may help explain the acceleration of glaciers observed recently on the Greenland ice sheet that are contributing to global sea rise.
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.
May 18th, 2007Syvitski 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.
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.
April 16th, 2006INSTAAR has created and distributed a teacher curriculum guide and resource kit promoting awareness of the Boulder and St. Vrain watersheds, blending Colorado state educational standards in science, language arts, geography and math into activities, educational games, story plots and community action tasks.
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.
August 19th, 2005Diane 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.
April 14th, 2005A 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.
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 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 7th, 2004New University of Colorado at Boulder research shows high-altitude aquifers honeycomb parts of the Colorado Rockies, trapping snowmelt and debunking the myth that high mountain valleys act as "Teflon basins" to rush water downstream.
October 28th, 2004A number of INSTAARs were interviewed in Rocky Mountain News stories about environmental change in the Colorado alpine.
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.
May 25th, 2004INSTAAR faculty, researchers and graduate students visited several area elementary schools in May to hand deliver copies of a new children's book, My Water Comes from the Mountains, written by local educator Tiffany Fourment.
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 17th, 2003The 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.
December 18th, 2002Sarah Spaulding appeared on the Court TV special "Digging for Clues" on December 14, 2002.
August 24th, 2002Tad Pfeffer, Nel Caine, and colleagues measured the depth of the Arapaho Glacier west of Boulder at 22 meters (about 72 feet), in a study relevant to water use and environmental change in the Front Range.
July 22nd, 2002Mark Meier and Mark Dyurgerov have written a commentary for Science magazine that discusses the contributions of glacier melting in Alaska to global sea level rise.
July 15th, 2002At least three reservoirs likely will be contaminated by erosion in areas burned by this season's record wildfires, according to INSTAAR research assistant and graduate student John Gartner.
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.
February 2nd, 2002Mark Dyurgerov and editors Mark Meier and Richard Armstrong (NSIDC) recently released the most complete glacier regime dataset for worldwide mountain and subpolar glaciers as INSTAAR Occasional Paper No. 55. This paper is not only a data collection, but a global analysis of glacier regime in connection with present-day climate, water balance, sea-level rise, and other environmental issues.
October 2nd, 2001Mark Williams is a co-PI for the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, formed to assist the development of infrastructure for hydrologic science research.
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 4th, 2000Alaska's Columbia Glacier appears to be on course to disintegrate and evolve into a spectacular fjord rivaling Glacier Bay in the coming years, according to Tad Pfeffer.
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
February 24th, 2020Scientists, water resource managers and winter recreationists take note: a new tool, entitled Snow Today, is available to help snow lovers monitor conditions from the local to regional scale. It is a joint venture of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), led by Karl Rittger of INSTAAR and Mark Raleigh of NSIDC. Snow Today is meant to serve an interdisciplinary audience, filling a much-needed gap in snow science communication by presenting an ongoing narrative on snow conditions that ties together data, analysis and context. Each year, the Snow Today team will release a monthly analysis from January to May or June, depending on conditions, with the first post available today.
January 23rd, 2020Deforestation and river damming are changing the shape of these landforms around the globe, finds a new study. The authors, including INSTAAR Albert Kettner, examined 10,848 deltas to quantify humans’ impact. Three primary forces shape deltas: rivers delivering sediment; tides pushing or pulling sediment; and waves redistributing sediment along the coast. Humans exert a lot of control over how much sediment a river carries: While deforestation feeds the flow of soil, dams plug it up.
December 18th, 2019The charred remains of wildfires in waterways could release carbon dioxide long after the blaze has died. A new study by Jessica Egan, presented at AGU’s Fall Meeting, shows that burned leaf litter and other biomaterials can leach pyrogenic carbon into fresh water where it reacts with sunlight. That means pyrogenic carbon in our waterways could degrade into carbon dioxide faster than previously suggested, providing an unexpected source of this greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.
November 19th, 2019The ice that has long defined South Asia's mountain ranges is dissolving into massive new lakes, raising the specter of catastrophic flooding. This National Geographic feature story includes the work of Alton Byers.
October 28th, 2019The 2021 Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, which involves the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, will measure water surface elevation, slopes, and inundations of rivers as narrow as 50 meters.
September 30th, 2019Our warming planet poses an existential threat to deltas, a reality made clear in the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, released this week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC report states with “high confidence” that deltas will face “high to very high risks” in the future from rising sea levels, even under scenarios where the world rapidly reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and minimizes the rise in global temperatures and the subsequent melting of ice sheets and glaciers. But the report also identifies other threats to deltas, including the loss of the sediment needed to replenish them and keep them above the rising seas. This Forbes story links to a paper by Syvitski, et al., about sinking deltas.
Thursday, April 9th at 12:00am
SEEC Auditorium (room C120), 4001 Discovery Drive, Boulder
Wednesday, April 15th at 11:00am
SEEC S228 (Sievers Room)
Sunday, August 30th at 12:00am