Friday, February 22, 2008

Glacier wetlands and ecosystem services

Wetlands capture metals either in sediment and/or to be taken up by plants... furthermore, amazingly bad organic compounds (often generated by human industrial activity) are completely transformed into much safer entities. Nature's filtration is often much more efficient and better at treating poor water quality than human created replacements. In 1997, Costanza and others calculated that the value of all ecosystem services (from improving water quality to preventing erosion) were approximately $33 Trillion/yr (or almost twice the global GNP). This is likely an underestimate for several reasons they mention in their paper including that ecosystems as modeled are deemed to not have sharp thresholds at which they can no longer provide services.

One critical question is: to what extent is human alteration of landscape capable of improving ecosystem services? (e.g. is Green city-planning a potential solution to the biogeochemical damage that humans create? )

Anyway, on the pristine side of the equation, I am looking at elemental data as it comes out- (so I can't be quoted on this just yet) it looks like the big ponds on the glacier surfaces are the wetlands of the dry valley glaciers retaining metals and organisms...

Lab Work

This is it! The last lab run for my dissertation (it will take about three 20 hour days---a better alternative to 10-12 eight hour days--- it takes a long time to calibrate, so I try to stay on the SF-ICPMS as long as possible). My flat buddies decided they would help me glove up... but as you can see it wasn't as straight forward as I might be a long 20 hours...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Science Budget Shuffle

On February 4th, Bush sent the FY09 Budget request to Congress. This means a shuffle of money for the sciences with the DOE expecting gains (avert the energy crisis) and losses for the DIH and USGS (among others). What can we do? I am particularly upset that the Nataional Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) will suffer budget reductions of over $10 Million (with a new annual budget of 54.1 Million). During the summer I was 19, I worked for the Minnesota NAWQA as a UNIX-GIS mapper as part of an effort to monitor the health of the Red River and Mississippi Basins. A few years later, I found my way back to NAWQA as a undergraduate hydrology employee for the Wisconsin office. Maybe I was young and impressionable, but my memory hasn't faded. I cannot say enough about NAWQA and the importance of their efforts. The long term data sets established by NAWQA provide a sense of the changing quality of our waterways through time and space. This information is necessary to evaluate our past, current, and future water management practices. NAWQA also provides a baseline of hydrology data that complements new research on hot topics.

In Science Magazine, the Chief Executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Alan Leshner, urged (2/15/08)

"We should take up "glocal" science advocacy to complement the traditional approach. This strategy involves taking a global issue and making it meaningful to society at the local level. Scientists and citizen advocates should recruit their nonscience friends and neighbors to promote science funding to decision-makers. Recruiting efforts can be as simple as discussing science-related issues at dinner parties or as ambitious as meeting with community groups, school boards, or city council members. The appeal should be locally focused for two important reasons: Policy-makers often seem to listen better in their home districts, where they are less distracted by the press of life on Capitol Hill; and they need to see clearly that science funding is not only a national but a local issue for all their constitutents, not just those who are scientists."

As mentors to K-12 and undergraduate students, we must build classes with local relevance... this is especially important to introductory science classes, where students may receive their only exposure to conducting, evaluating, and valuing scientific research.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It's time to put a wig on and relax. To my fellow PhD students and early career scientist friends, or anyone who likes to perpetually challenge themselves to do better, we owe it to ourselves.
I'm surprisingly attached to the future right now and conjuring scenarios (one in particular) in which I can lead students in research. This causes me to write at insane speeds (trying to mass publicize to catch up with those 5 years ahead of me) and also has led to an increase in weekly mileage that parallels peak week in marathon training. I suspect I will run the Athens, Ohio Marathon in April to capitalize on my granite hams.
Looking for a picture for a talk, I came across this oldie- but goodie... Sadly, the scientist standing in the left has passed away, hit by a car while out for a jog--- after surviving many deep-field misadventures subsisting on bumper bars (a butter-based granola bar) in the middle of the TransAntarctics.

Anyway, this picture reminds me that my life is good, our lives are short... and a wig never hurt.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The end is near

Wahoo! I'm working on the final paper from my dissertation...and scheduling my defense with my dissertation advisory committee next week. My final battle with the Element2 ICPMS begins at the end of this week and from what I've heard, its running smoothly. Last week, I trained Berry's hard-working undergraduate. Catherine to make standards. Catherine works at least 30 hours a week between our lab and a few other campus jobs putting herself through school. At any rate, Catherine had a steady hand and did a nice job diluting high concentration elemental solutions into standards that bracketed the concentrations of Antarctic streams. I am impressed!