When most of us venture out into our natural surroundings, we’re busy simply enjoying it. UNLV’s geoscientists, on the other hand, see something much deeper when they look at the rocks and trees around them.
UNLV geoscientists Christopher Adcock, Oliver Tschauner, Elisabeth Hausrath, Arya Udry, Minghua Ren, and a team of international researchers looked at the shock-induced dehydration of minerals in meteorites, including those from Mars, and have concluded that our early solar system may have had more water than previously thought, which has important implications for the origins of our solar system and the possibility of life outside of Earth. The article detailing their findings, “Shock-Transformation of Whitlockite to Merrillite and the Implications for Meteoritic Phosphate,” was picked up by the prestigious academic research journal Nature Communications this spring.
Speaking of the possibility of life on other planets, Amber Turner, a first-generation UNLV senior majoring in geology, began working alongside Lisa Danielson, UNLV Graduate College Alumna of the Year and geoscientist, at Jacobs/NASA this spring to explore whether or not humans might someday have a relocation option. As a high-pressure experimental petrology intern, Turner studies what happens to minerals when they are exposed to high pressures and temperatures in magmatic (magma-related) systems on the moon and Mars. These experiments reveal insights on petrogenesis, the geologic history of rocks, which will ultimately help scientists determine whether humans will be able to live on planets like Mars in the future.
That possibility may be more critical to our long-term survival than we’ve thought. UNLV geoscientist Matthew Lachniet, Ph.D. student Jonathan Baker (recipient of the Bernada French Scholarship), and other researchers recently found evidence of nearly continuous warming from the end of the last Ice Age to the present in the Ural Mountains in central Russia, contradicting the current belief that northern hemisphere temperatures peaked 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and cooled until the pre-Industrial period. Their research, published in the top geoscience journal Nature Geoscience, also indicates that winter temperature variations in continental Eurasia are warmer today than any time in the past 11,000 years. Along with human-caused warming from greenhouse gases, summers and winters are expected to continue heating up.
In the meantime, the signing of a new five-year funding agreement awarding $1.5 million per year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program to UNLV means good news for forests across the United States, which help reduce the effects of climate change. Led by James Pollard, UNLV’s program director for the partnership, the joint venture ensures that 16 UNLV researchers can continue studying and developing the best information-management systems for collecting, compiling, and distributing data to policy makers, researchers, interest groups, industry, and the general public. The data informs forest-product economics, wildlife habitat modeling, efficacy and sustain-ability of management practices, threat assessment, conservation education, and more.