SAGE Summer Internship Gives Herman Critical Experience

Learning in the classroom is an important part of an education, but being able to apply skills in the field helps give a practical knowledge that’s difficult to replicate in class. And with the Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience program conducted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, David Herman got the opportunity to gain some real-world practical skills this past summer.

SAGE takes in 30 students and professionals in earth science fields selected from applicants around the world to put in hands-on work in geophysical exploration and research. Herman said in addition to classes taught by Los Alamos researchers and industry leaders in the energy sector, he was able to work with geophysical equipment and methods. These included seismic reflection, ground-penetrating radar, magnetotellurics and more.



 Warner College of Natural Resources Honor Alumnus

Roger C. Steininger (Ph.D., 1986) collected his first mineral specimen at the age of 12 somewhere in Detroit, Mich., and knew that a lifelong passion would develop. Dr. Steininger has been involved in metallic mineral exploration and development for almost 50 years, starting at the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, Colo. He has been involved in numerous mineral deposit discoveries, including the Pipeline gold deposit in Nevada, which contained in excess of 20 million ounces of gold. Recently, he was a founding partner of NuLegacy Gold Corp., which is a publicly traded company that has discovered the Iceberg gold deposit in central Nevada.

Dr. Steininger has been associated with Colorado State University since the mid-1970s when he decided to complete a Ph.D. in geology. The departmental faculty was extremely supportive of his need to continue full employment in the Denver area while attending classes in Fort Collins. 


Egenhoff co-edits Mudrock Book

Associate Professor Sven Egenhoff recently co-edited a book, Paying attention to mudrocks – priceless!, for the Geological Society of America. Released in October, the book covers an important rock group for daily energy use globally that is not well represented in geosciences literature.
“These formations represent approximately two-thirds of the rock record,” said Egenhoff. “Yet, baseline geological literature about these rocks is surprisingly scare.”


On a Rising Tide: Geosciences Student Wins National Grants and Kicks-off Her Research in Alaska

Successfully navigating stretches of the longest river in Alaska in a kayak ladened with soil samples and gear was only one of many great achievements by Colorado State University graduate student Katherine Lininger this year. 

After a field season of research in Alaska’s wilderness, Lininger found out that she had been awarded the prestigious Horton Research Grant from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Hydrology section. The $10,000 grant came as a surprise to the humble yet diligent student who plans to use the money to fund her next season of research in Alaska. The award came on the heels of her also being selected for two other awards: the Morisawa Award for student research from the Geological Society of America’s Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology division, and the Wolman research grant from the Association of American Geographers’ Geomorphology specialty group.
“I feel so fortunate to have been selected for these competitive grants,” said Lininger. 
Lininger is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipient and came to Colorado State University to pursue her Ph.D. in fluvial geomorphology in the Warner College of Natural Resources. CSU’s Department of Geosciences is ranked among the top programs in the nation for earth sciences.

While Lininger was recruited by other universities, she chose CSU in part because of the opportunity to work with renowned geomorphologist Ellen Wohl and also because of research support opportunities made possible by donors. Lininger received the Edward M. Warner Graduate Research Assistant Fund offered through CSU's Dept. of Geosciences and made possible by donations from philanthropist, geologist, and CSU natural resource college namesake, Ed Warner.
“Having access to the additional support of research assistantships and grants at CSU was a big factor in my decision,” Lininger said. “Financial support really helps make graduate school possible, especially when you’re working in remote locations that are expensive to travel to.”
Hunting Carbon Clues in the Last Frontier
Lininger floated more than 180 miles of river in the rugged and remote terrain of central Alaska to better understand river-floodplain systems. She spent five weeks in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge to study how much carbon is stored in subarctic floodplain ecosystems. 

Quantifying carbon storage in the Yukon Basin floodplains can help scientists understand the carbon cycle and how carbon moves between the land, ocean, and atmosphere. Lininger and her colleagues collected floodplain soil samples to determine the organic carbon content of the active layer, which is the top-most part of the soil that thaws out in the summer. Knowing how much carbon is stored in the active layer could also give clues about how much carbon is in the permafrost beneath, which is continuously frozen soil. Melting permafrost due to climate change could release stored carbon into the atmosphere. 

Yukon Flats Aquatic Ecologist Joshua Rose, a CSU alumnus and former student of Wohl’s, reached out to Wohl to organize the collaborative research in the 8.6-million acre refuge. 
Not much is known about the properties of the expansive floodplain system, especially because hydrologic data collected in the lower 48 don’t always apply to Alaska.

“Spring floods in the continental U.S. are primarily driven by snowmelt, whereas floods in interior Alaska are driven by ice jams,” said Rose.
The research conducted by Lininger, Wohl, and Rose will not only inform carbon studies but will also generate much-needed information about the physical characteristics of river systems in an under-studied region of Alaska. 

Learning from a Leader in the Field
Lininger couldn’t have chosen a more challenging site for her PhD research. The remote location is only accessible by a 150 mile trip by boat, plane or helicopter and is inhabited by swarming mosquitos and bears. The days were mentally and physically challenging, including hiking and paddling sometimes until midnight before finding a suitable place to camp. 

“Field work in such a remote location can be difficult, but it feels good to complete it successfully,” Lininger said. “Ellen is very encouraging though, and she’s a tough field scientist.”
Wohl played a big role in helping Lininger with her first field season for her PhD research, both in establishing the collaboration with the Refuge and accompanying Lininger in Alaska to study the site. 

“I had heard of Ellen prior to coming to CSU and was excited to work with a prominent female scientist and a role model,” Lininger said. “Ellen has an amazing reputation for her work as a scientist and her ability to train graduate students for successful careers.”

Wohl has been a professor at CSU’s Department of Geosciences for 24 years, and is a leader in the geosciences field for her research on sediment transport, wood dynamics and the role of floods in shaping channel morphology. She is an AGU Fellow and is responsible for advancing the understanding of geomorphology, evolution and restoration of mountains, and the roles of bedrock and topical rivers. 
Future Research Collaboration
Lininger, Wohl, and Rose are hoping the current research will be just the beginning of a series of collaborative projects to better understand how large subarctic rivers function and impact the broader ecosystem. 

“It is wonderful to collaborate with CSU on this research, and there is plenty of work to be done to understand the importance of this vast system and how it might be changing,” said Rose.
Click here to read more about Lininger’s field experience in National Geographic. 
Posted on Sept. 18, 2014
By Marissa Isgreen
More Dept. of Geosciences News

Nanoparticle research may aid oil recovery, tracking of fracking chemicals

Two Colorado State University researchers are examining how nanoparticles move underground: knowledge that could eventually help improve recovery in oil fields and discover where hydraulic fracking chemicals travel.

William Sanford, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, and Vivian Li, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising, and are trying to find patterns in how certain nanoparticles move underground.

If successful, they could train the nanoparticles to indicate when specific chemicals are present in the subsurface, including those found in underground water deposits. These modified "smart" nanoparticles, known as tracers, could sense high pH levels or the presence of hydraulic fracking chemicals.

Training Nanoparticles
In the initial phase of their research, funded through a grant from the CSU Water Center, Li and Sanford are testing their specially engineered carbon nanoparticle to see how it moves through the ground. Once they understand how the particle travels through a number of subsurface environments, it could eventually be used to search for chemicals in some of Earth's most hostile underground environments.

"We also want to see how nanoparticles affect the composition of the natural environment and how certain elements found in the ground alter the composition of the nanoparticle," explained Li.
Temperature, water saturation, and the physical and chemical composition of the soil are the primary factors that can alter the movement of nanoparticles.

Tracing controversy
Hydraulic fracturing of wells has caused a political firestorm in recent years, as Colorado residents have questioned the health and safety risks of injecting chemicals into the ground to free oil and natural gas. There is still debate about whether these chemicals are harming the environment, and some question where the chemicals go after injection, fearing they may be contaminating groundwater supplies.

Using tracers, Li and Sanford theorize they could inject the particles into the earth near fracking sites and allow them to follow subsurface water flow paths to a distance away from the injection site. If the recovered tracers are fluorescent, they are reacting to the fracking chemical they were engineered to detect, demonstrating the path those chemicals traveled.

In continuation of Li's post-doctorate work, these tracers could also be used to improve the recovery of oil from reserves deep within the earth, which would allow scientists to increase the amount of oil that can be pumped, saving time and money on drilling new wells.

"Only about 50 percent of the earth's oil reservoirs are being tapped," Li said. "With the potential to quickly drain the current oil reserves, the need to improve oil recovery and find the other hidden 50 percent becomes extremely important."

Surviving Harsh conditions 
However, these reservoirs are often very deep in the ground and can be home to extreme conditions that make it difficult for nanoparticles to survive. Many nanoparticles that have been developed cannot withstand the high salinity of the oil reserve and deteriorate in the process of finding the oil. However, Li and Sanford believe they have engineered a nanoparticle that can both survive in the harsh environment and keep its smart abilities for a long period of time.

"The uses of these nanoparticles are potentially quite extensive," explained Sanford. "By creating smart particles we can see how contaminants are distributed in the subsurface, the recovery of economic minerals in water can be done, and the uses in the oil industry are many-fold."

Still in the early stages of the research, Li and Sanford are patenting their new nanoparticle and continue to test it in preparation for studies in the field.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. The Department of Geosciences is part of the Warner College of Natural Resources.

Posted on August 11,2014

Geosciences Students Win Geological Society of America Grants

Congratulations to our Department of Geosciences students who were selected as recipients of Geological Society of America 2014 Research Grants, including two Division Awards for exceptionally high merit in conception and presentation in their fields! Charlene King and Katherine Lininger both won division awards in Hydrogeology and Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology respectively. Cover of GSA Today

Natalie Anderson, Ph.D. Earth Sciences 2014
Circumnavigation mapping of driftwood and carbon storage in the Great Slave Lake, Canada

Audrey Crockett, Masters Geosciences 2014

Alexander Hamilton, Masters Geosciences 2014

Adrian Kahn, Masters Geosciences 2014

Crystal Rauch, Masters Geosciences 2014
San Juan Formation: Evidence for pyroclastic origins of thick and extensive conglomerate

Dan Scott, Masters Geosciences 2014
Physical Controls on Delta Formation and Carbon Storage in Mountain Lakes

Charlene King, Masters Geosciences 2014
Carbon Nanosphere Transport: Applications as a Tracer and Implications for Nanoparticle Migration in Groundwater Systems

Katherine Lininger, FGT Predoctoral
Floodplain carbon storage and instream wood dynamics in the central Yukon River basin

Posted on July 8, 2014

Warner College Geologists Help Conduct World’s Largest Physics Lesson

Colorado State University’s Little Shop of Physics broke the Guinness World Record for the largest physics lesson ever taught on April 23, 2014. Professors and graduate students in the Warner College of Natural Resources Department of Geosciences were invited to teach part of the "waves" section of the lesson. 

At the fifth annual Weather and Science Day at Coors Field, 15,000 Denver-area K-12 students were led through an hour-long interactive science lesson about air, energy and waves and how these scientific principles explain the curve of a baseball and the patterns of our weather.

Geosciences graduate students Chris Wenman and Rob Anthony, with assistance from professors Dennis Harry and Derek Schutt, were asked to help teach the waves section. The finale demonstration in the record-breaking lesson had students generating waves in the earth by jumping up and down in the stands.

Seven 14 Hz geophones were set up across left field and the recorded ground motions were displayed in real time on laptops. The waveforms were filmed and displayed on the stadium’s jumbo-tron so that students could see ground motions they were creating.

The students were first asked to stomp their feet and they saw very little change in ground motion. However, when Brian Jones, CSU physics instructor and director of the Little Shop of Physics, counted down and had them jump in unison, a large spike in ground velocity was observed on several of the instruments and displayed on the jumbo-tron. 

“We really wanted a way to show the students that they were actually generating seismic waves by jumping up and down in the stands,” said Anthony. "It was a great way to get students excited about geosciences and physics by taking the concept of seismic ways and making it a visual and participatory lesson."

Anthony, Wenman, Harry, and Schutt were part of 150 CSU volunteers there to assist with the event prior to the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants game that evening.

The waves lesson also included demonstrations of waves on a string, sound waves, and superposition of waves. The 9News weather team showed an animation of atmospheric Rossby waves  and briefly discussed their influence on weather. 

By Marissa Isgreen
Posted on May 2, 2014