Stanford School Of Earth Science - Earth Matters

Dean's Letter

 
The class of 2014
Dear Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,
 
For the School of Earth Sciences, 2013-14 was a dynamic and productive year, marked by important research advances, exciting educational efforts and extraordinary faculty and student recognitions. The year concluded with the graduation of 169 exceptional men and women–all well prepared to be leaders in their fields, whether continuing with their research, accepting academic appointments, or launching their careers in industry, government or non-profit organizations.
 
So what does the Earth Sciences class of 2014 take out into the world? It is clear to me that they, unlike many students in prior generations, have learned to think about complexity and how things are interconnected. It is almost second nature for them to consider interactions, feedbacks and tradeoffs associated with any aspect of the Earth system. They know, for example, that access to energy is linked to minerals, to water availability and even to food production. They know that short-term changes play out in the context of long-term changes. They know that natural hazards interact with each other and lead to different kinds of vulnerabilities in different places at different times.
 
The men and women of this new generation know that they will live their lives facing major challenges and opportunities, including those associated with the still-continuing growth in the global population, higher per capita consumption as more people enter the middle class, and impacts of climate change and other environmental change. They are better equipped than any earlier generation to understand these challenges and to deal with them. I hope you join me in wishing our newest alumni the best of luck in their endeavors. They, like you, are part of one of the most special communities I can imagine.
 
In this issue of Earth Matters, we honor our graduates with a story about our diploma ceremony and short profiles of some of our newest alums. We also feature just a few stories about the school’s tremendous accomplishments in recent months. Our research–involving faculty, grad students, postdoctoral scholars, and even undergrads–continues to address some of the most critical questions of the 21st century, and our exciting teaching programs reach not only Earth Sciences students, but those throughout the entire University.
 
To keep informed about developments in the school, we invite you to follow Stanford Earth via Twitter and Facebook. And as always we welcome your feedback and story ideas.
 
Best,
 
 
Pamela A. Matson
Chester Naramore Dean
Stanford School of Earth Sciences

News & Discoveries

 
Rosemary Knight's research team proved that satellites can accurately measure aquifer levels, a finding with potentially huge implications for managing precious global water sources.  Knight is pioneering the use of technology -- from surface NMR to electrical resistivity to Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) -- to monitor subsurface hydrologic processes. Read more...
 
Know the difference between dirt and soil?  Thanks to Scott Fendorf's perennially popular Science of Soils class, many students do. They also know the role soils play in nutrient cycling and in controlling climate.  What they may have considered as dirt is now understood as a precious non-renewable resource that is critical for life on Earth.  View video.
 

Net energy analysis provides a quantitative way to compare the amount of energy a technology produces over its lifetime with the energy required to build and maintain it. The technique can complement conventional energy planning, which often focuses on minimizing the financial cost of energy production. Read more...

 
A new study by Norm Sleep and Don Lowe reveals the power and scale of a cataclysmic asteroid strike on Earth 3.26 billion years ago.  "We knew it was big, but we didn't know how big," Lowe said.  The event is thought to have created geological features in a South African region known as the Barberton greenstone belt. Read more...
 
Chris Field spent five years leading a large team of international scientists, including Noah Diffenbaugh and David Lobell (Earth Sciences) and Terry Root (Biology), to produce a major United Nations report on the state and fate of the world's climate. Among their major findings: Climate change impacts will slow economic growth, hinder poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps.  Read more...
 
When characters in the HBO show Deadwood discussed order hiding within chaos, Earth science probably wouldn’t jump to mind had they not also mentioned water running downhill.  For decades, scientists thought that the channel networks formed as water flows downhill represented a mathematically random process.   Recently, however, the development of powerful mathematical tools found order in the Earth’s evolving landscape. Read more...
 
On what is arguably one of the happiest days of the year, Dean Pam Matson told the Earth Sciences graduates that if they remain optimistic and apply their knowledge and training, they will improve our understanding of the planet and the well-being of people on it, both today and for generations to come. Read more...
 
While conducting research in the Arctic, two graduating seniors on Kevin Arrigo's team missed the on-campus commencement festivities.  So Arrigo teamed with the crew and staff aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy to honor the students (View video). President Hennessy even gave a shout out to them during the University's formal commencement ceremony in Stanford Stadium. Read more...
 
A high level overview of our 21st century school, including our research and teaching, are featured in a new brochure, easily available online. Enjoy and share!  Read more...

 

Faculty News & Honors

 
Mom’s understated observation that her sports-minded teen was “very curious and not bad at math” led to a career in engineering. One of the pioneers of multi-point geostatistics, Caers recently scored three big wins in 2014: appointment to full professorship, the publication of his third book, and being awarded this year’s Krumbein Medal by the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences. Read more...
 
To address the complexities of feeding a growing world population, Roz Naylor brought together 18 Stanford experts who contributed to chapters for the new book The Evolving Sphere of Food Security. It is available for preorder now.  Professor of Environmental Earth System Science and director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Naylor will deliver a lecture on campus on October 1 that is open to the public.

Student News

 
A thin colony of sea ice algae clings to the bottom of Arctic Ocean ice, absorbing any remnants of light that make it down that far.  PhD candidate Kate Lowry, a member of Prof. Kevin Arrigo's recent Arctic research team, explained investigations of the ice algae, which are a key player in the Arctic food chain.  View video.
 
San Francisco Bay Area communities must shift from trying to mitigate the effects of climate change to living in a world where warming has already happened, according to an article published by School of Earth Sciences students.  They were enrolled in an environmental journalism course taught by Thomas Hayden and offered jointly by Earth Sciences and the Graduate Program in Journalism. Read more...
 
The entire School of Earth Sciences comes together annually for the Research Review, a symposium of talks and posters by grad students and undergrads alike. From the California drought to carbon sequestration to phytoplankton in the Arctic, the review showcases the tremendous breadth of student research in Earth Sciences. View video...

Alumni News & Class Notes

 
Some are continuing their research and education, others accepted positions in the working world. At the same time, some are new parents.  From across departments and degree programs, a handful of the newest Earth Sciences alums share what's next, along with their favorite Stanford memories and advice for the next class of Earth scientists. Read more...

Upcoming Events

Please visit earth.stanford.edu/events for a comprehensive list of on-campus events including seminars and lectures.

Conference or Stanford Reunion registration is not required to attend alumni receptions.