Postcards from The Field

Dear Science Enthusiasts Springtime Is Almost

Dear Science Enthusiasts,

Springtime is almost over here in the Great Basin of North America, but up at 3000m everything is still green thanks to recent intrusive low pressure systems. Sage, grasses, and countless wildflowers light up the mountain landscape. Here is senior USFS scientist Connie Millar contemplating a much more senior and very healthy Pinus flexilis (limber pine) near the crest of the Diamond Range, Nevada. These “island” populations of conifers dot the widely-separated mountain ranges in this high-desert region, still holding secrets of climate and biogeography for adventurous scientists to tease out.


Scotty Strachan

University of Nevada, Reno

This Photo Is From An Arctic Geophysics Research

This photo is from an Arctic Geophysics research class that I teach every other spring. My group was in Utqiagvik (ne’ Barrow), Alaska at the end of February working on a new method for quickly determining the thickness of the sea ice.

One night we saw the aurorae were out and put on our gear (it was (-)40F with the wind) to go out and see them. We got to the beach and this rise at the edge of the shore ice, and the students were just amazed. I quietly moved back and put my camera on a 30-second exposure, hoping the students wouldn’t move. I shouldn’t have worried about that since they were utterly mesmerized by this once-in-their-lifetimes event. They were astounded by the beauty of the deadly particle flux from our sun being caught by Earth’s magnetic field, and turned into this amazing, living exhibition of now-benign color.

Rhett Herman, Radford University

Glacial Lakes Of Sierra Nevada As A Crystal Ball

Glacial Lakes of Sierra Nevada as a Crystal Ball

Dear Everyone:

The Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain are renowned for their endemic biota. Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) are studying high-mountain oasis lakes of glacial origin as sentinels of climate change due to their increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation at elevations of 3000 m.a.s.l. One of these oligotrophic 74 lakes, La Caldera, is pictured here during the summer of dry and wet years. With ongoing climate change, these clear-waters lakes capture signals of changes in precipitation, ultraviolet radiation, aeolian dust deposition and warming, and serve as “crystal ball” for forecasting what is to come in lower altitudes in the future. Whereas long term data for these lakes are available since the seventies, the dataset is sparse in its coverage of space and time. With support from UGR’s Departamento de Ecología and Instituto del Agua, Federación Andaluza de Montañismo, Junta de Andalucía, Observatorio Cambio Global Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Nevada Parque Nacional, we have begun a citizen science project to gain better information on these rapidly changing ecosystems. Local residents and adventurous visitors can post photographs of these lakes at

Manuel Villar-Argaiz, Juan Manuel Medina-Sánchez, Eulogio Corral Arredondo,  Presentación Carrillo

Departamento de Ecología and Instituto del Agua, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain.

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and Bopaiah Biddanda

Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon, Michigan, USA.


Our Team At Ucirvine Is Planning To Study Flood

Our team at @UCIrvine is planning to study flood impacts in and around the Paraguay River. I took this picture of wetlands and ponds around the Paraguay River from a helicopter during our recent site visit. I can’t wait to go back!  Amir AghaKouchak, Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine

Our Spectacular Earth Our Earth Is

Our Spectacular Earth

Our Earth is breathtaking, always. No matter when we look down, where we are, day or night, the perspective is exceptional. 

From space, you can see the drama of Earth’s past and present. At nearly 300 miles per minute, continents flash by in the time it takes to review a new photo. 

Each day, this view impresses upon me the importance of the work we all do as geoscientists. We strive to understand how this planet works, how it can provide resources for our use, and how we can protect it so that we may continue traveling through space on this spaceship we call Earth. 

All of us who are geoscientists need to continue to share our stories of discovery.

—Andrew J. “Drew” Feustel (@Astro_Feustel), NASA Astronaut

[Photos: Drew Feustel installs and replaces equipment on the international space station (ISS); activity on Kilauea Volcano seen from ISS; rugged mountains of SE Spain from ISS; the Amazon River seen from ISS.]

Hi Everyone Hello From Bali Indonesia We Are

Hi everyone,

Hello from Bali, Indonesia!

We are students at the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and in this photo we are traversing through Subak Pulagan on the beautiful island of Bali, Indonesia as part of our introductory field study.

Subak Pulagan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the promotion of understanding and cultivation of the Subak system in Bali. The Subak system is a cooperative and democratic water management system developed by the Balinese according to the Tri Hita Karana philosophy, which emphasises harmony with the natural world, the human world, and the spiritual domain. Through the Subak system, Balinese rice farmers collectively manage how water is used in their rice paddy terraces through a system of canals and weirs since at least the 12th century. It’s a piece of living history at work! For more information on the Subak system in Bali, check out this link:

Wish you were here,Sri Budhi Utami - PhD Student at the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Deploying A Great Lakes Buoy Observatory Dear

Deploying a Great Lakes Buoy Observatory

Dear everyone:

Earlier this spring, we were onboard the NOAA vessel R5503 deploying an observatory buoy in a Great Lakes estuary (Muskegon Lake, Michigan; top image) with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s Beau Braymer and Todd Roetman (bottom-left image).  Thereafter, Annis Water Resources Institute’s Tony Weinke and Katie Knapp equipped the buoy with a meteorological tower and linked underwater sensors (bottom-right image).  The buoy observatory is now busy tracking in near-real-time, dynamic time-lapse changes in weather and water quality in this urbanized ecosystem undergoing restoration from a legacy of pollution, eutrophication, harmful cyanobacterial blooms and hypoxia.  Who knows what secrets the data stream will reveal this year?  Observatory data are available to all online at

Bopi Biddanda

Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon, Michigan, USA.

Hallo Everyone The South Of Germany Was Worked

Hallo everyone!The south of Germany was worked over by the Alpine glaciers in thelast Ice Age. Away from the mountains, they carved out so-calledoverdeepened valleys on the plains, which were subsequentlyrefilled by glacial sediments.In this picture you can see my two colleagues carrying out activeshear-wave seismics on top of one of these overdeepened valleys todetermine the exact structure of the valley fill, prior to drillinga borehole into the valley in autumn of this year. What was reallyhandy was the fact that the ploughed field is frozen solid, so thatthe seismic source is well coupled to the ground, even if we haveplant the geophones and push the seismic source through the snow!- David Tanner, Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics, Hannover,Germany

In Support Of The Southern Ocean Clouds

In support of the Southern Ocean Clouds, Radiation, Aerosol Transport Experimental Study (SOCRATES), the NSF/NCAR HIAPER GV research aircraft samples conditions in cold clouds. Based in Hobart, Tasmania, research flights of 8-hour duration measure cloud and aerosol properties as low as 500 feet above the surface. Subfreezing cloud temperatures and the presence of supercooled liquid present a potential aircraft icing hazard. The Mission Coordinator (shown above) monitors ambient conditions and works with the crew and Mission Scientist to ensure that the aircraft operates safely while achieving the scientific objectives of the flight.

Greetings From The Maya Underworldmy Name Is

Greetings from the Maya Underworld!My name is Emiliano Monroy-Rios and my current research involves water-rock interactions and geochemistry of coastal carbonate aquifers. I’m employing technical cave diving to get access to the geology of the marvelous underwater cave systems in the Yucatan Peninsula.The photo depicts sampling rocks from a cave in the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula with my advisor Patricia (Trish) Beddows.

I have been collecting hand-size specimens of carbonate rocks from underwater caves, dry caves, outcrops and quarries to perform stratigraphic correlations and geochemical analyses. The samples are analyzed for elemental chemical composition, stable carbon and oxygen isotopes, lithology and fossil content. This information, together with the aqueous chemistry, will improve our understanding of the nature of the water-rock interactions in karstic coastal systems.