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Protecting Public Health by Preventing Pollution

Protecting Public Health by Preventing Pollution

April 3, 2008

Growing up in Maine, Desirée Plata watched her grandmother suffer from illnesses that she suspected were related to trichloroethylene-a colorless liquid, used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts, that had been dumped in the area and had made its way into groundwater used for drinking. Her thoughts about chemicals in the environment and their…

Plumbing the Plume That Created Samoa

Plumbing the Plume That Created Samoa

November 20, 2007

Matthew Jackson began his journey to the center of the Earth on lonely gravel roads in Montana. Uninterested in motorcycles and horses, and miles from neighbors and friends, Jackson roamed on his family’s 6,000-acre cattle ranch an hour north of Yellowstone Park and flanked by the Rocky Mountains. His eyes hunted for agates and petrified wood…

Eavesdropping on Whales' Mealtime Conversation

Eavesdropping on Whales’ Mealtime Conversation

August 9, 2007

Like a knife slicing through denim, the black dorsal fin broke the surface of the icy water quickly, and then disappeared into the depths. “Off the port bow,” yelled Ari Shapiro. “Whales!” From his post on a sailboat roughly 300 meters from the surfacing creatures, Shapiro, a biological oceanography graduate student, counted at least six…

What Does It Take To Break a Whale?

What Does It Take To Break a Whale?

June 20, 2007

The ship hit the whale with a force that snapped her 14-foot jawbone like a toothpick and left a 4-foot-long crack in her skull. Known as 2150 among scientists, she was a young, fertile North Atlantic right whale—exactly the wrong whale to lose in an endangered population that is struggling to increase its numbers. The…

Current Events off Antarctica

Current Events off Antarctica

March 15, 2007

The scientific method can divert researchers down curious pathways. Human psychologists study mouse brains. Astrophysicists look for cosmic particles deep in mine shafts. Taxonomists trace bird evolution by studying feather lice. Carlos Moffat’s scientific career took a similar detour. Fascinated by marine biology, he became a physical oceanographer to understand the ways ocean water moves,…

Young Pup Teaches an Old Robot New Tricks

Young Pup Teaches an Old Robot New Tricks

February 21, 2007

Mike Jakuba was still a year away from being born when scientists found vents on the seafloor that gushed hot, mineral-rich fluids and were surrounded by bizarre life forms thriving in the absence of sunlight. Ever since that landmark discovery in 1977, these so-called hydrothermal vents have become holy grails for geologists, chemists, and biologists.…

A Rare Glimpse Into the Ocean's Crust

A Rare Glimpse Into the Ocean’s Crust

November 6, 2006

About one and a half million years ago, a great hidden piece of the ocean’s crust uplifted and rotated, giving Clare Williams a window and a time machine into Earth’s mysterious mantle. About halfway between Florida and Africa on a massive seafloor fault, a seismic slippage caused part of the crust’s top layers of basalt…

A Laser Light in the Ocean Depths

A Laser Light in the Ocean Depths

June 19, 2006

Graduate student Anna Michel is adapting laser technology to the murky fluid environment and crushing pressures at depths of 11,000 feet. The goal is to develop an instrument that can…

Graduate Student Discovers an Unusual New Species

Graduate Student Discovers an Unusual New Species

February 10, 2006

Sheri Simmons gets into the rugged wilderness as often as she can, backpacking in Newfoundland, the Sierras, the Adirondacks, and Alaska—where she once encountered a grizzly bear on a trail. She skis every chance she gets, on notoriously rough slopes (“I love tree skiing,” she said). But her research as a graduate student in the…

Scientific (and Surfing) Safari

Scientific (and Surfing) Safari

October 24, 2005

Eric Montie has a great tan, photos of huge waves taped above his computer, and a penchant for grabbing his short board and racing to the beach at a moment’s notice. He is—undeniably—a surfer dude. But watch him spend hours at a magnetic resonance imaging machine to photograph a dolphin’s skull, then carefully extract its brain…