Professor Amy Williams Discusses Next Mars Rover Mission in NASA Video
Professor Amy Williams from the Department of Geological Sciences was interviewed by NASA Astrobiology for its “Countdown to Mars” video series.
Throughout this month the series has been counting down the days until the launch of the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance, by highlighting why researchers involved with the project are excited about this important mission back to the red planet.
The rover is scheduled to launch on July 30 and is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021. Once on the planet, the rover will seek for signs of ancient life along with collecting rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.
Unusual movements beneath the Earth’s surface in Chile raise questions about a future earthquake By Cindy Spence
In 1960, the largest earthquake ever recorded hit southern Chile. The 9.5 magnitude quake sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean, swamping Hawaii, coastal northern California, and Japan. More than 1,700 people died and about 2 million were left homeless.
With some luck on timing and a blanket of instruments, a University of Florida geophysicist and his colleagues have detected some unusual seismic and geodetic changes in a long-term study in the rupture zone of the 1960 quake, which occurred along a fault that extends 1,100 kilometers along Chile’s coast.
“The fault that ruptured in 1960 has recently undergone a rapid and completely unexpected increase in locking,” says Ray Russo, an associate professor of geophysics who researches tectonics and the Earth’s mantle.
That’s not enough to make a prediction of another earthquake, says Russo, because even the latest geophysical technology doesn’t allow for a true forecast. But the combination of two types of data the team has gathered since 2005 has sparked concern, and Russo notes that once an earthquake occurs in a region, it’s inevitable that another will occur.
“The conditions we detected have some serious implications for how long we have until the next big quake in this area,” says Russo, who reported the findings in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
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Geology Student Broadens Horizons Aboard Research Vessel
By Peyton McElaney
In the summer of 2019, CLAUDIA BANKS was in the American Southwest, mapping formations of sedimentary and metamorphic rock for her capstone geology class. A few weeks later, the 2020 geology graduate found herself in a slightly different position — on-board a research vessel in the Pacific Ocean.
While trading the arid terrain of the Southwest for the salty breeze of the Pacific may seem like a complete U-turn, for Banks this was just another opportunity to broaden her horizons.
Banks boarded the vessel as a participant in STEMSEAS, a program sponsored by Columbia University with aid from The National Science Foundation that allows undergraduate students to conduct scientific research at sea.
This was unknown territory for Banks, whose previous geology field trips had all been on land. Luckily, STEAMSEAS didn’t require any past research experience on the water.
“The point of the program is to get students interested in oceanography and science overall,” Banks said.
For one week (July 27 to August 3), Banks and her peers sailed from Newport, Oregon, to San Diego, California, aboard the R/V Atlantis, a research vessel capable of advanced investigation and exploration. The participants assisted in graduate student research and attended lectures twice a day discussing their academic futures, with topics that included preparation for internships along with scientific subjects such as hydrothermal vents.
While participating in the program, Banks became familiar with sophisticated technology – most notably the ALVIN submersible. One of the world’s few deep-sea research submersibles, ALVIN is famous for exploring the wreckage of the Titanic, among many other underwater research opportunities.
“It was such a unique experience that we students were very eagerly awaiting due to the prestigious reputation of this submersible among the scientific community,” she said. The 45,000-pound data-collecting vehicle, in operation since 1964, can reach depths up to 2.8 miles underwater.
Banks isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Shortly after her STEMSEAS experience, she presented research at the 2019 Geological Society of America conference in September. With plans to study sedimentary and structural geology in the Amazon Basin and pursue her Ph.D. in Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, she has her eye out for more unique research opportunities.
Banks is back on dry land for now — but could her ambitions take her back on the open water?
“Since I did not throw up and enjoyed life on the ship,” she said, “I discovered that I would love to potentially do a research project on a research vessel.”
Taking the laws of physics and reversing them to understand what happened in the Earth’s interior 55 million years ago. UF Geologist ALESSANDRO FORTE’s along with fellow researchers collaborate to reconstructed the phenomena occurring under the North Atlantic Ocean 55 million years ago, during a period known as the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), that may have led to a period of rapid global warming or a “greenhouse gas ‘burp”.
Ellen and Jon Martin led three NSF-funded field deployments to Greenland over the past two summers, for a total of 20 weeks in the field. The project introduced 2 UF Postdocs, 2 PhD students and 3 undergraduates to high latitude field work in remote locations, and has employed additional undergraduates to help analyze samples back at UF.
The goal of the project is to sample two types of streams in Greenland, those that drain ice sheet meltwater from newly exposed landscapes and others that drain annual precipitation and permafrost melt (no glacial water) from more mature landscapes. The team analyzes the chemical composition of these two stream types to determine how they differ and how those differences may vary over a range of time scales from daily, to annual, to millennial.
Their results should contribute to our understanding of how weathering in these two types of streams affects delivery of nutrients to the ocean as well as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans to help refine predictions of future responses to ice-sheet retreat and to provide context that will allow scientists to interpret past ice-sheet retreats and climate changes, based on chemical records.
See information about ongoing NSF-funded Greenland Research aimed at developing a holistic understanding of weathering across forelands of retreating ice sheets: https://grainfluxes.geology.ufl.edu/