June 2016
Credit: Kluft/Wikimedia
An array of GPS instruments near the San Andreas Fault System in Southern California detects constant motion of Earth's crust-sometimes large, sudden motion during an earthquake and often subtle, creeping motion. By carefully analyzing the data recorded by the EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory's GPS array a team of researchers led by Samuel Howell and Bridget Smith-Konter discovered nearly 125 mile-wide "lobes" of uplift and subsidence-a few millimeters of motion each year-straddling the fault system. This large scale motion was previously predicted in models but until now had not been documented.
In the summer of 2015, researchers aboard the NOAA Okeanos Explorer were surveying an ocean ridge in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and amid ordinary ocean floor fare-a bit of coral, some volcanic rock-they came across something surprising. They discovered what they say is the world's largest known sponge-roughly the size of a minivan. Christopher Kelley , program biologist at the Hawai'i Undersea Research Lab ( HURL ) and associate professor of Oceanography , helped lead the expedition. The rare sponge, with a bluish-white color and brain-like appearance, stunned scientists when they discovered it at a depth of about 7,000 feet. A study published recently in the scientific journal Marine Biodiversity described the massive creature.
The UH Sea Grant College Program has formed its newest center of excellence to assist coastal communities throughout Hawai'i and the Pacific islands to prepare for the impacts of both natural and human-induced coastal hazards. Hawai'i Sea Grant's Center for Coastal and Climate Science and Resilience brings together world-renowned university scientists and outreach professionals with government and community partners to focus on critical issues relating to increasing coastal hazards impacts with changing climate and sea-level rise. This is particularly important in the Pacific because most of the development and infrastructure are concentrated on or near low-lying coasts, making island communities highly susceptible to these threats.
A recently published special issue of the journal Deep Sea Research II is devoted to expanding understanding of the global issue of chemical munitions dumped at sea. "The overarching objective of the [publication] is to collate and compare results from two of the most comprehensive studies of sea dumped chemical munitions to promote data sharing and constrain the factors that influence where and how to mitigate the damage," said Margo Edwards , interim director of the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and co-editor of the publication. Edwards has been the principal investigator for the Hawai'i Undersea Military Munitions Assessment project since 2009.
The Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB ) is playing a significant role in NASA's Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory ( CORAL ) a $15 million, three-year field study of Earth's coral reef ecosystems announced in June 2016. A sophisticated new NASA airborne instrument called PRISM will fly at 28,000 feet and survey reefs at multiple locations from Hawaiʻi to Australia. This new approach will dramatically reduce the time it takes to survey and map, in detail, coral reefs. UH is serving as the base for ocean operations and is one of 12 research institutions hosting experiments in support of the mission.
Credit: Environment Hawaii
For his final project of the Professional Master's Degree in Geosciences (MGeo) program, Jeff Murl determined that of 11 pharmaceuticals commonly found in sewage, seven of them have the potential to leach into O'ahu's groundwater, one poses an uncertain risk, and the remaining three, which are perhaps the most likely to impact humans and animals at low doses, are unlikely to leach into O'ahu aquifers. Murl, who graduated in Spring 2016, is currently a site manager for the Department of Energy in Denver, Colorado, a position he received through the Presidential Management Fellows Program . There, he will focus on ensuring the future and current protection of human health and the environment at more than 100 federal sites across the country.
On 11 March 2011, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, several reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered damage and released radioactive chemicals into the atmosphere and contaminated wastewater into the nearby Pacific Ocean. With the guidance of their mentor, Henrietta Dulai, associate professor of Geology and Geophysics. Hannah Azouz and Trista McKenzie, two recent graduates from the Bachelor of Science in Geology program, assessed the extent to which the soil of Hawaiʻi and locally purchased fish have been impacted by radioactivity from this event.
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