Stanford School Of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences - Earth Matters
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Dean's Letter

A new name that conveys our breadth
Dear Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,
An exchange that occurred between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last month caught my attention.
During a budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Cruz asked Bolden to explain why it appeared as though funding for NASA's Earth sciences missions had grown while funding for space exploration had shrunk. "I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space," said Cruz, who is chairman of the Senate's Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee. "I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission."
Bolden countered that far from being a wasteful side project, the observation and study of Earth is a central part of NASA’s core mission and has been for decades. In fact, many of the same technologies that have been developed for the study of space are being used in the study of Earth, and are critical for understanding our planet's resources and environment.  “This is the only place we have to live,” Bolden said. “We’ve got to take care of it, and the only way to take care of it is to know what’s happening.”
The dialogue struck me for a couple reasons. It reveals that not everyone is aware of NASA’s key role in designing and launching aircraft and satellites with sensors that study everything from Earth’s magnetic field and global land use to temperature change and Antarctic ice melt. It’s also a reminder that a fundamental misunderstanding still exists about the Earth sciences. It’s one that I’ve encountered often when talking about what our faculty and students do.
Our school’s research spans an amazing diversity of topics. These include understanding Earth’s subsurface processes in areas of study such as geology, geophysics, geochemistry and paleontology, as well as energy resources and natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes. But like the planet that we study, the school’s research interests continue to evolve. Over the past two decades, we have added expertise on land, ocean, freshwater and climate systems, focusing on understanding changes in them and in resources such as food and water. Our scientists have also pioneered analytical and computational approaches for evaluating complex systems and analyzing the flood of data generated by remote sensing and other imaging techniques.
Much of the work happening within the school crosses disciplines and occurs at the intersections among the Earth sciences and other fields. For example, new faculty members Marshall Burke and Rob Jackson, both profiled in this issue, study the ways people interact with the Earth system, both causing and responding to environmental changes.

EarthOur faculty carry out research on Earth processes on all seven continents and in all the oceans.  At the same time, nearly half now focus on energy resources, and nearly half on environmental issues. In February, we changed our name to the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences to convey that breadth. The name change was critical for more accurately reflecting the school’s focus on understanding the workings of the Earth and helping address the myriad resource and environmental challenges facing the world. I’m happy to say that nearly two months in, the reception to the new name has been fantastic.
If you live in the Houston area, consider joining me on April 14 for the first stop in the Earth Matters roadshow, a multi-city tour. In Houston, I will be joined by Professors Lou Durlofsky and Rosemary Knight, who will share their cutting-edge research with alumni and friends of the school. 
I hope you enjoy this issue of Earth Matters.  As always, let us know your ideas and story suggestions, and we invite you to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Pamela Matson
Pamela A. Matson
Chester Naramore Dean
School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences


News & Discoveries

Research by Noah Diffenbaugh's lab reveal that in California, dry years coupled with warm conditions are more likely to lead to severe drought than dry, cool years, and the probability of warm and dry conditions coinciding is likely to increase under anthropogenic climate change.   Read more...
Oil barrels  

A new Global Oil-Climate Index allows comparison of climate impacts associated with a broad range of oil resources such as heavy oils, oil sands and tight oil. Adam Brandt and colleagues from the Carnegie Endowment's Energy and Climate Program and the University of Calgary developed the first-of-its-kind index.  Read more...

542 million years of life on Earth
By analyzing a dataset of more than 17,000 groups of marine animals, Jon Payne and his team have revealed key insights about the history of life on Earth. One study found fresh support for Cope's rule, the idea that animals tend to evolve toward larger body sizes over time; another study showed that the rich animal diversity we see today developed slowly.
Map of Tohuko epicenter  
Four years after one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history devastated Japan, geophysicists Greg Beroza, Eric Dunham, and Paul Segall provide new insights about what happened during the earthquake and tsunami, and discuss ongoing research that helps society better prepare for similar events in the future.  Read more...
Climate change is expanding the amount of U.S. agricultural land that is suitable for harvesting two crops per growing season, a system known as double cropping. The practice offers higher productivity and more income for farmers, but future yield losses from climate change may still outstrip the gains, according to new research by David Lobell's group.   Read more...
Geothermal plant  
On the 40th anniversary of the Stanford Geothermal Workshop, Roland Horne and alumna and geothermal reservoir engineer Sarah Pistone discuss innovative technologies and world-leading research that allow heat from deep within the Earth to be converted to clean energy. Watch...
PhD geoscientist and multimedia producer Miles Traer captured the presentations, posters and broader experience of the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in a series of cartoons that were widely shared by prominent scientists, journalists, and institutions such as NASA. Read more...
Activities ranging from a map-a-thon and a discussion of a clever geologic map of the Game of Thrones to library tours and a panel discussion are planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of Stanford’s first libraries. Read more...

Faculty News & Honors

A chance course at Stanford and a study-abroad trip to Nepal changed the trajectory of Marshall Burke’s career, leading him to a human-focused approach to climate change research. His latest work deals with the link between rising temperatures and human violence. Read more...
Rob Jackson turns to music and poetry when he needs a mental recharge from his main research focus: the study of how humans are affecting Earth. Jackson’s research on the extraction and use of natural gas provides the basis for sound policy for resource development that protects people and the environment. Read more...

Student News

Professor Rosemary Knight’s students investigated the health and sustainability of their hometown watersheds in Earth Systems 104: The Water Course.  Using hydrological principles, the students found many similarities - and some striking differences - among their local water supplies.  Read more...
Laura Bloomfield standing with colleagues  
Laura Bloomfield conducts field work in Kibale National Forest in Western Uganda, investigating the transmission of retroviruses between human and nonhuman primate populations. She is in a dual degree program, pursuing a PhD in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources and an MD at the Stanford Medical School.  Watch...
Stanford was swimming with high school students who competed in the Sea Lion Bowl, a challenging ocean sciences quiz event. The School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences hosted the regional competition.  Read more...

Postdoc News

Alumni News

On April 14, the Earth Matters multi-city roadshow event will kick off in Houston, Texas. Dean Pamela Matson will be joined by Professors Rosemary Knight and Lou Durlofsky to talk about cutting-edge research and future school initiatives with alumni and friends of the school.  Read more...

Over the past two million years, some of Earth's largest explosive volcanic eruptions have occurred at Yellowstone, and the region continues to exhibit unrest.  USGS Research Geologist Jake Lowenstern ('90, MS '92, PhD, Geology) presented the area's past, present and future in a recent Distinguished Lecture.  Watch...
Sarah Pistone  
Sarah Pistone ('11, MS, Energy Resources Engineering) discusses her continued work on geothermal energy, a pursuit that began in her time at Stanford. Pistone is a geothermal reservoir engineer with Calpine Corporation in Northern California at the largest optimized geothermal field in the world.   Watch...

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