June 2017
Using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists, including Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology researcher Paul Lucey, have identified bright areas in craters near the moon's south pole that are cold enough to have frost present on the surface.  The coldest places near the moon's south pole are also the brightest places-brighter than would be expected from soil alone. The researchers say they are not seeing expanses of ice similar to a frozen pond or skating rink. Instead, they are seeing signs of surface frost--enough to fill about one Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Seventy-four percent of the world's population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a study co-authored by researchers at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world's human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent. "We are running out of choices for the future," said Camilo Mora, lead author of the study and UHM associate professor of geography. "For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible."
Scientists, including Tina Weatherby at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center, reconstructed the skin of endangered green turtles, marking the first time that skin of a reptile was successfully engineered in a laboratory. In turn, the scientists were able to grow a tumor-associated chelonid herpesvirus 5 to better understand the disease which affects green turtles worldwide. Previously, the inability to grow the virus in the laboratory hampered understanding of how it causes tumors and the development of blood tests to detect the virus. Examining how the virus grows in engineered turtle skin brings researchers closer to fighting viral diseases that threaten imperiled species.
Researchers, led by Rhett Butler at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, re-examined historical evidence around the Pacific and discovered the origin of the tsunami that hit Sanriku, Japan in 1586--a mega-earthquake (magnitude greater than 9.25) from the Aleutian Islands that broadly impacted the north Pacific. Until now, this was considered an orphan tsunami, a historical tsunami without an obvious local earthquake source, likely originating far away. Determining the precise age of coral fragments that were deposited into Makauwahi Cave, Kauaʻi during a tsunami and assessing physical evidence around the Pacific led to the discovery. Knowledge of past events helps forecast tsunami effects and assess associated risks in Hawaiʻi and throughout the Pacific 'ring of fire'.
Faculty at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology and the UH Mānoa College of Education received more than $350,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation to support the training and recruitment of future science, technology, environment and mathematics (STEM) teachers. Part of the grant funding will establish pathways for undergraduate students majoring in STEM fields to pursue a double major with secondary education, in order to introduce teaching to students early on in their college careers. In addition, funding was awarded to the UH MakerSTEM project to engage college students and high school teachers in biological research and modern STEM learning techniques.
A cohort of ten motivated undergraduate students will participate in a summer research internship, Earth Science on Volcanic Islands, hosted by the Department of Geology and Geophysics (GG). The internship, funded by the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates program, seeks to increase participation in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce by underrepresented groups.  These highly qualified students will work with GG faculty for nine weeks. The program takes advantage of the unique tropical volcanic island and surrounding marine environments in Hawaiʻi.
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