Archive for February, 2009

This is an interesting KMZ file which enables you to observe earthquake hazards in near real-time ground movement  and shaking intensity that are produced during an earthquake.  This product was created by the USGS  Earthquake Hazard Program.  The maps display instrumental intensity (modified Mercalli scale), peak ground acceleration, and peak ground velocity.  They are downloadable as image (JPEG) or zipped postscript (PS) files, and datasets are downloadable as text, zipped shapefiles,KML , XML, or HTML files.   This program can be helpful to geology students especially students that are new in the program to understand the dynamics involved with earthquakes.   Earthquake scales, peak ground acceleration, velocity and potential damage are important to understand. 

Click on the link to read information about the files and to download.



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the Marcellus Shale is a Devonian black shale that is in the Appalachian Basin.It is slightly radioactive so it can be easily distinguished on a geophysical well log. In 2002 the estimates of natural gas within the shale was 1.9 trillion cubic feet, but in 2008 it was estimated at having 500 trillion cubic feet of which about 50 trillion cubic feet were recoverable. The depth to the shale on average is about 1 mile, and the shale is at its thickest towards the northeastern part of Pennsylvania (250 feet) and it thins out more towards the western part of the state (50 feet or less). The reason it has not been exploited locally is because it is estimated that the amount of recoverable gas is not economically viable with regards to the cost of drilling. 




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Scientists uncovered the first dinosaur ever found in Norway 2256 meters below the seabed, which is the world’s deepest finding of a dinosaur.  They believe it has been there for about 200 million years.  This was a time when the North Sea was an alluvial plane, with meandering rivers and dry plains, and not actually a sea.  The fossil is a Plateosaurus that lived in Europe and Greenland roughly 210-195 millon years ago.


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Different things like humidity and pollution give way to the appearance of salts which are causing stone decomposition in many different old buildings.  Researchers designed crystallization inhibitors against this salt which will help restore these buildings.  They block the mineral salt crystallization process inside the stone that destroys the stone.  This crystallization inhibitor has been successful in highly soluble salts which can be found in old buildings.


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The amount of damage to vegetation during droughts and floods may depend on the actual sequence of the event.  Scientists conducted a study in the Florida Everglades and learned that seedlings continued with higher growth rates and were less likely to die when they were subjected to the drought first following a flood.  They took three different plants in a lab and subjected them to flood and drought simulations.  They showed a lower growth rate and higher death rate when flooding was exposed before the drought.


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The Mekong giant catfish live mainly in the lower half of the Mekong River system, in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. As husge as they may look they are herbevors. Although I would strongly against noodling these beasts. They can grow to a length of almost 10 feet long and can wiegh up to 650 pounds, but the larget ever recorded is 9 feet long and wieghs in at 646 pounds, huge.

This gentle giant in on the brink of extinction though. Their populations have decreased by 95% over the last century. The number one cause is due to over fishing. The other cause however is a more hydrologic affect. Damming of certain tributaries in the region has destroyed the giant catfish’s breading grounds in order to repopulate. The damming of rivers also leads to over sedimentation of areas inhabited by the giant catfish. This amount of sediment destroys the ecological niche that it occupies. Measures like this to help man put’s animals like this into precarious situations of life and death.

International efforts are underway to save the species. It is now illegal in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia to harvest giant catfish. Enforcement of this is a behemoth of its own. Scattered villages along the Mekong watershed makes it almost impossible to police these regulations. Although some fishermen have vowed not to catch the fish in honor of the king’s 60th year on the throne.


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There are curious features on the face of Mars; some of which resemble spring deposits on Earth. These deposits are suggnifigant because if there is anywhere to find the reminants of life it would be in a hot spring deposit. Hot springs support a plethora of microbial life and in these springs there is a high taphonomic probably of becoming preserved. The article I read said that the first maned missions to Mars will be sent to these areas to look for fossils of microbes. I find the study of Mars highly interesting because it shows that the study of geology will soon no longer be a study of the Earth and become interstellar geology. Link to article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212112829.htm

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In Archbald State Park in lackawanna County there is a very interesting hole in the ground. With a depth of 38 feet and the max diameter being 42 ft X 24 ft and has a volume of 18,600 cubic feet. What is most interesting is the shape which is an ellipse. As one may have guessed this is a pothole however there is no eveidence of  a stream channel running through the area which leaves only one other posssible answer, glacier.

What was thought to have happened was a glaicer had running meltwater on the surface and hit a crevasse (a large fracture) in the glacier. This resulted in the water cascading down in a swirling motion and bringing sands, gravel, and debris down with it. This causes a drilling motion into the rock and hence creates the hole. The ellipitcal shape would have been created as the glacier moved so did the crevass.

Overall an awesome place to go.

Source: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/archbaldpothole.aspx

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This report examines 10-15 mines  throughout the state that are contaminated from coal ash.  High levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and selenium are present in the water.  The director of the PA mine fill research project at the clean air task force wants the US EPA to step in and deal with the situation if the PA DEP  does nothing.  This article leads to a link with a background document which talks about coal combustion waste disposal in PA.  The PADEP believes coal ash is beneficial  in abandoned mines lowering the acidity when it does the opposite.  I though it was interesting how federal agencies have refused to adopt meaningful safeguards for disposing of this toxic material and allowed states like PA to continue the practice.

Professional geologists and other water quality experts believe that coal ash  pose a threat to human health and ecological concerns enough to which minimum standards should be enforced.  This is another example how the federal government under appreciates earth science professionals.  Take a look at this report and read the  13 recommendations to improve the PADEP “beneficial use” placement of coal ash in mines.




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The Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences welcomes

Dr. Jon Harbor

Purdue University

Wednesday, March 4

4:30 pm

Blackington 138 

“Interdisciplinary and Engaged”

a winning strategy for impact and funding in teaching and research


Many universities developed an institutional model in the 20th century that emphasized teaching and research organized primarily along disciplinary and academic lines.  Although this has been very effective in certain respects, there has been a growing trend in some universities towards increasing the emphasis on teaching and research that a) moves beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries and b) is focused on the needs of audiences external to the campus.  This trend has also been evident in major funding agencies.  In this discussion of “Interdisciplinary and Engaged” we will examine examples of how and why this has occurred, and the impact it has had on students and faculty. We will then consider if this might be a winning strategy for you to consider to enhance the excitement, impact and funding of your teaching and/or research.


About the author:  Jon Harbor is a Professor of Environmental Geosciences at Purdue University where he also serves as an Associate Vice President for Research and is currently the Interim Dean of the College of Science.  An award-winning teacher who has co-authored over a hundred publications in basic science, applied science and education, Jon has been the PI or Co-PI on over $10M in external grants and was also the founding co-director of Purdue’s campus-wide center focused on research in learning.  

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