Earth

The following highlights summarize research papers that have beenpublished or are "in press" (accepted, but not yet published) inGeophysical Research Letters (GRL) or the Journal of GeophysicalResearch - Atmospheres (JGR-D).

A new picture of the early Earth is emerging, including the surprising finding that plate tectonics may have started more than 4 billion years ago — much earlier than scientists had believed, according to new research by UCLA geochemists reported Nov. 27 in the journal Nature.

Fishery experts have known for years that shrimp trawling operations in the Gulf of Mexico are contributing to sharp declines in the ranks of Red Snapper, one of the most delicious and popular marine fish on the seafood menu.

While it's clear that thousands of young snapper are killed and wasted after being inadvertently "by-caught" in shrimp nets, new research from Texas Christian and Louisiana State universities finds shrimp trawling also may be raising the level of toxic mercury in juvenile snapper.

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 24, 2008 – The United States has been under assault for decades by a wide variety of alien plants and animals, and it is not often that one of these aliens faces a counterpunch. But in a collaborative project with several other institutions, the University of Rhode Island has scored a knockout.

The birch leafminer, an insect pest that regularly disfigures birch trees, has been virtually eradicated in the Northeast. And the credit goes to entomologists from URI and other institutions who successfully introduced a biological control agent.

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 24, 2008 – The United States has been under assault for decades by a wide variety of alien plants and animals, and it is not often that one of these aliens faces a counterpunch. But in a collaborative project with several other institutions, the University of Rhode Island has scored a knockout.

The birch leafminer, an insect pest that regularly disfigures birch trees, has been virtually eradicated in the Northeast. And the credit goes to entomologists from URI and other institutions who successfully introduced a biological control agent.

Boulder, CO, USA - GEOLOGY articles cover the minute to the grand, from calcite-producing earthworms, skeletal metazoans, and mineral discoveries, to Earth's highest coastal mountain range, a newly discovered extension of the Nile deep-sea fan, and a Canadian impact crater, and mark important events in time, from a 9-degree warming in Greenland only 14,700 years ago to Africa's Middle Stone Age. GSA TODAY goes farther back in time to analyze the formation and closure of the Rheic Ocean.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held a rescue robot exercise in Texas last week in which about three dozen robots were tested by developers and first responders in order to develop a standard suite of performance tests to help evaluate candidate mechanical rescuers. This exercise was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to develop performance standards for robots for use in urban search and rescue missions.

Investigation of the fireball that lit up the skies of Alberta and Saskatchewan on November 20 has determined that an asteroid fragment weighing approximately 10 tonnes entered the Earth's atmosphere over the prairie provinces last Thursday evening. And University of Calgary researcher Alan Hildebrand has outlined a region in western Saskatchewan where chunks of the desk-sized space rock are expected to be found.

A new bilingual online information system created by D. Ross Robertson, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Coeus Knowledge Systems makes it possible for conservationists, sport fishers, tourists, researchers, students and resource managers to identify and generate publishable maps for 1,287 tropical eastern Pacific shore fish species.

We've all seen the satellite images of Earth at night--the bright blobs and shining webs that tell the story of humanity's endless sprawl.

These pictures are no longer just symbols of human impact, however, but can be used to objectively measure it, according to a study in the December 2008 issue of Geocarto International, a peer-reviewed journal on geoscience and remote sensing.

Travis Longcore, a USC geographer and expert in light pollution, collaborated with an international team, led by Christoph Aubrecht of the Austrian Research Centers, to develop the index.