Postcards from The Field

Exploring Microbial Ecosystems In The Submerged

Exploring Microbial Ecosystems in the Submerged Sinkholes of the Great Lakes

Dear Eos,

Colorful microbial mats composed of photosynthetic cyanobacteria (dark purple layers) and chemosynthetic microbes (white patches) thrive in the cold, oxygen-poor, sulfur-rich waters of submerged sinkholes in Lake Huron.  The carbon and oxygen cycles of these microbial ecosystems remain an enigma.  Here, we are diving to monitor and sample field experiments set up to measure the changing composition of water overlying the microbial lakescape for quantifying their photosynthetic, chemosynthetic and respiratory roles using in situ sensors and follow up analyses (photo of Joe Hoyt by Tane Casserley).  Cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mats such as this – prevailing in the shallow oxygen-less, sulfur-laden seas of the Proterozoic – may have oxygenated our planet during its youth.  We are hoping our exploration of these modern-day analogs will provide clues to the life-changing phenomena that began in the distant past.

Tony Weinke and Bopi Biddanda

Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University

Russell Green, Joe Hoyt and Tane Casserley

NOAA Office of Marine Sanctuaries

Dear Agu Today The Sun Rises Over The End Of

Dear AGU,Today, the sun rises over the end of  three weeks in Alberta, Canada. Our team has been measuring the natural background spring-summer-fall CO2 and CH4 cycles in the boreal forest in Alberta; as well as measuring net emissions from oil sands and oil/gas processing facilities and fields. Not only was our team taking in situ measurements of CH4, CO2, CO, O3 , H2O, using our onboard picarro from these sites via aircreaft, we were also taking air samples using flask packages for later analysis of over 50 different species of trace gases. Lots of good science was done but it is nice to be heading home! Until next time Alberta.                                                - Scientific Aviation

Dear Agu Ive Never Done Research Quite As

Dear AGU,

I’ve never done research quite as interdisciplinary as this.  I’m working with archeologist April Watson on barrier islands of South Florida to understand how barrier island development influenced human habitation of the islands thousands of years ago.  The artifacts inform us about human activity, and the sediment tells us about the environment of the tim.  Digging up bones, shell, pottery, and sand in Florida during the summer makes for long, hot, humid, days, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!

Alanna Lecher, Assistant Professor of Natural and Applied Science, Lynn Univeristy

Isolated From The Outside World Bad Weather Means

Isolated from the outside world; bad weather means boats cannot arrive/leave, so the two of us are confined to a Greenland fjord alone! But the science will go on.

Stunning views over Kobbefjord, west Greenland, as we continue a week long sampling campaign to measured reactive oxygen species in the lakes, streams and rainwater around the catchment. @LiloandScience (@Markinthelab for scale!).

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.

( and,

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