Postcards from The Field

From The North Atlantic Bobbing From The

From the North Atlantic, bobbing from the Norwegian Sea, the scientists of IODP Expedition 396 send their greetings! Off the decks of the JOIDES Resolution, we’re drilling into the seafloor thousands of meters below the sea surface with the hopes of solving a decades-old climate mystery — what caused the last major global warming event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. 

One leading theory proposes the PETM was caused by a short burst of intense volcanic activity in between what is now Iceland and Norway. Huge flows of magma in the region might have released methane from organic materials in overlying sediment layers, which could have spiked global carbon dioxide levels and contributed to raising global temps by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius.  

By studying core samples of igneous and sedimentary rocks, the scientists hope to figure out just how this period of volcanic activity was linked to the PETM. The data collected will also help us understand the future facing Earth today as we experience a similar, albeit human-caused, warming. 

Follow our Expedition on Twitter (@TheJR) and Instagram (@joides_resolution) and learn more about the ongoing science at our blog (

Photo by: Peter Betlem

Hidden Life Of Giant Microbialite Reefs In Laguna

Hidden Life of Giant Microbialite Reefs in Laguna Bacalar, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Dear Eos,

Laguna Bacalar in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico – called “lake of seven colors” by the Maya for its varying shades of turquoise and blue – is home to one of the largest freshwater microbialite reefs (“living rocks”) in the world. Here, a near contiguous microbialite reef runs along its southern shoreline lined by cenotes (sinkholes) for over 15 km. These modern-day massive microbialite reef structures are formed – like those of the fossil stromatolites – by a mms-thin living layer of subsurface cyanobacteria growing in the carbonate-rich karstic waters of the lagoon. Therein µm-sized filamentous cyanobacteria precipitate calcium carbonate during photosynthesis, and keep rising as the reef builds up around them to stay within the sunlit zone. Life in the mircobialite ecosystem appears to hide just mms beneath the limestone surface – in a thin “Goldilocks Zone” – neither on the very surface where filaments might suffer UV-photodamage nor too far below the surface where they may receive too little sunlight and water-borne nutrients for photosynthesis and growth. Today, the unique ecology and indigenous culture of Laguna Bacalar (Mexico’s 2nd largest lake) are both threatened, and deserve protection as a biosphere reserve (

So much of life on Earth occurs hidden from our senses below the surface, and remain understudied in terms of their evolutionary, physiologic, biogeochemical and biodiversity potential. Perhaps we should be probing, imaging, and studying all forms of extant subsurface life for a more fuller understanding of Earth’s closely inter-connected biosphere.

Bopi Biddanda, Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon, Michigan (, and Scott Kendall, Life Science Department, Muskegon Community College, Muskegon, Michigan (

Back To The Field Hello From The Methane

Back to the Field!

Hello from the Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center (METEC) ( at Colorado State University (CSU) in Ft Collins! I’m Navodi Jayarathne, a PhD student in Kate Smits research group (  at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). As part of multiple interdisciplinary projects funded by the Department of Transportation, Energy and the Northeast Gas Association the CSU/UTA Methane Migration team is running a three-month series of natural gas experiments aimed at finding solutions for underground natural gas leakage related challenges. The METEC pipeline experimental testbed is equipped with environmental sensors to make shallow subsurface, near surface, and atmospheric natural gas (NG) measurements. The on-going integrated experiment series was designed to address multiple underground NG leakage related questions including the expansion of gas plumes based on soil and atmospheric conditions, the formation of preferential pathways and to evaluate the existing and emerging leak detection and quantification (LDAQ) solutions for underground NG leaks. Nothing like being out in the field in the beautiful Colorado summer!


Navodi Jayarathne

 Photo curtsey: Dr. Younki Cho, Postdoctoral researcher, The University of Texas at Arlington, USA

Hello Agu Community My Name Is Kyle Turner And

Hello AGU Community!

My name is Kyle Turner and I’m a Research Associate in Dr. Maria Tzortziou’s Bio-Optics Lab at the City College of New York ( As part of multiple interdisciplinary research projects funded by NASA, NSF, and NY Sea Grant, we have been busy collecting data in Long Island Sound and surrounding tributaries to better quantify the impacts of human and environmental pressures on the ecology and biogeochemistry of tightly interconnected urban-wetland-estuary systems. In particular, we are interested in linking these ecosystem changes to optics in order to develop more accurate algorithms for quantifying concentrations and fluxes of carbon across the land-ocean continuum from satellite remote sensing platforms. In this picture, my colleague, Brice Grunert, and I are collecting coincident measurements of water bio-optical properties in the Hudson River, NY. Nothing like kayaking on a nice sunny day for science! We wish you all fun and success in your future field adventures.


Kyle Turner (Twitter: kjtrnr)

Hello Agu Community My Name Is Andrea Nicolau

Hello AGU community,

My name is Andrea Nicolau and I’m a Research Associate with the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where I also serve as the Regional Science Associate for the Mekong region for NASA’s SERVIR Science Coordination Office. This is a photo from a pre-COVID field work we did in a mangrove forest in Guyana, January 2020. This work was part of the SERVIR-Amazonia workshop in collaboration with Guyana government agencies and NGOs, and NASA Subject Matter Expert, Dr. Marc Simard (NASA/JPL), on the use of SAR data for monitoring mangroves. We did lose a few pairs of shoes in the mud after this picture was taken :)

Best wishes,

Andrea (Twitter: @puzzinicolau, @SERVIRGlobal)

Hello Everyone This Is An Image Of The Antisana

Hello everyone,

This is an image of the Antisana volcano in Ecuador.  IG Ecuador collaborated in a project to understand the water reserve in the Andean moors.

Best wishes

Juan Gabriel Barros L.

@IGecuador @UCLouvain_be

Top Of The Day Agu Fans Taking You To The High

Top of the day AGU fans!

Taking you to the high Canadian Arctic are Anna Grau Galofre (Twitter: @agraugal - Arizona State University Exploration Postdoc) and Shannon Hibbard (Twitter: @Shann0nMars - Western University PhD Candidate). Anna and Shannon are riding off into the sun on their fat tire bikes to dig some baseline trenches across ice-wedge polygon troughs located on the eastern side of Axel Heiberg Island, NU, Canada. Anna and Shannon are geophysicists who use Arctic landscapes as analog environments for places like Mars. Together the two have spent 6 field seasons in the high Canadian Arctic pursuing their research on topics like distinguishing subglacial channels from fluvial ones, and what is the so called “brain” terrain. The trip was led by Gordon Oz Osinski (Twitter: @drcrater - Western University Director of the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration) and A. Mark Jellinek (University of British Columbia), also joined by Antero Kukko (Twitter: @KukkoAntero), Chimira Andres (@RocksNRockets) and Etienne Godin. Enjoy!

Shawn Chartrand - Simon Fraser University - Twitter: @smchartrand

Dear Agu Community Hello From Our Pre Covid

Dear AGU community,

Hello from our pre-COVID field work from 2019! My name is Emil Cherrington, and I’m a Research Scientist with the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). For our first Postcard from the Field, we wanted to share with you a collage of photos and other images related to our ongoing NASA-funded “Climate-influenced Nutrient Flows and Threats to the Biodiversity of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System” (BZ-SDG) project. In a nutshell, our project involves collaborating with stakeholders in Belize to use satellite data - calibrated using field observations - to monitor the country’s coastal and marine water quality, hence the pictures of water. This work is in support of the Government of Belize's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) commitments, particularly regarding SDG 14 (“life below water”). Our project is one of a suite of projects that NASA is supporting in the framework of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)‘s Earth Observations for the Sustainable Development Goals (EO4SDG) initiative.

Image 1: Aerial view of the azure waters off the Hen and Chicken Cayes NE of Belize CityImage 2: Monitor for the sonde used for taking the in situ water quality measurementsImage 3: Landsat false color mosaic of Belize, processed in Google Earth EngineImage 4: Secchi disk being lowered into the waters of the Caribbean Sea near Belize CityImage 5: Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) forest and chocolate brown water of the terminus of the Belize RiverImage 6: Water samples from ~50 sites from areas off Belize City and up the Belize RiverImage 7: BZ-SDG project team near the Belize sign, in northern Belize City (L-R: co-I Dr. Emil Cherrington / UAH; co-I Dr. Deepak Mishra / University of Georgia, UGA; co-Is Nicole Auil-Gomez and Dr. Alex Tewfik / Wildlife Conservation Society; co-I Dr. Christine Lee / NASA Jet Propulsion Lab; PI Dr. Rob Griffin / UAH)Image 8: Various Copernicus Sentinel-2 derived water quality parameters (processed by Dr. Deepak Mishra / UGA; contains modified European Space Agency / Copernicus Sentinel data)Image 9: NASA MODIS imagery of Belize and derived chlorophyll a estimates for the country’s territorial waters (courtesy:

You can also follow our #BZSDG exploits on Twitter via @BZgeo.


A Pre Covid Summer Baseflow Survey For Groundwater

A pre-COVID summer baseflow survey for groundwater hotspots in the San Lorenzo River in coastal California.

-  Christina Richardson, UC Santa Cruz

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites Shark Bay Western

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, Shark Bay, Western Australia against a sunset over the Indian Ocean. Stromatolites like those at Shark Bay represent modern analogues for ancient stromatolites (approximately 3.5 billion years old) that represent some of the earliest evidence for life on Earth. 

-  Natasha Barrett, University of Alberta