The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences has a rich history dating back more than a century, from the original focus on mining engineering, to today's interdisciplinary focus on earth, energy, and materials sciences and engineering. Founded in 1896 as the School of Mines, this year, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
Greenland may be best known for its enormous continental scale ice sheet that soars up to 3,000 meters above sea level, whose rapid melting is a leading contributor to global sea level rise. But surrounding this massive ice sheet, which covers 79% of the world’s largest island, is Greenland’s rugged coastline dotted with ice capped mountainous peaks. These peripheral glaciers and ice caps are now also undergoing severe melting due to anthropogenic (human-caused) warming. However, climate warming and the loss of these ice caps may not have always gone hand-in-hand.
New collaborative research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and five partner institutions (University of Arizona, University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Desert Research Institute and University of Bergen), published on September 9, 2021, in Nature Geoscience, reveals that during past periods glaciers and ice caps in coastal west Greenland experienced climate conditions much different than the interior of Greenland. Over the past 2,000 years, these ice caps endured periods of warming during which they grew larger rather than shrinking.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Previous fires may hold the key to predicting and reducing the severity of future wildfires in the western United States as fire activity continues to increase, according to researchers from Penn State and the U.S. Forest Service.
“We have a good understanding of how fire used to interact with dry, forested landscapes before we implemented the policy of fire suppression, and how fire seems to be deviating from these patterns today,” said Alan Taylor, professor of geography and ecology and interim director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. “Thinking about the fire problem broadly, one of the proposed solutions is to increase the use of prescribed fire and to use wildfires burning when conditions are favorable to reduce the potential for severe canopy replacing fire over time. This has been happening in an ad hoc way over the last 40 years in the Klamath Mountains, so it’s an ideal place to look at these ideas in action and determine what might happen if we implement these practices on a large scale.”
Fires in semi-arid forests in the western United States tended to burn periodically and at low severity until the policy of fire suppression put an end to these low-intensity events and created the conditions for the destructive fires seen today. Understanding the benefits of these periodic fires and the forest structure that they maintained may help land managers and communities avert megafires in the future, according to researchers.
Douglas Miller, who earned three degrees from Penn State; worked as a research assistant, research associate and professor in two colleges; and created and led the Center for Environmental Informatics for 20 years, retired in July and was granted emeritus status.
Firefighters battling wildfires in the western United States use a variety of suppression tactics to get the flames under control. Prescribed burns, or controlled fires intentionally set to clear shrubs and forest litter before a wildfire ever ignites, can make fire suppression operations almost three times as effective in limiting wildfire severity, according to a new study by researchers from Penn State, the U.S. National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
Jim McCrory, the senior line pilot at Aspen Helicopters in Oxnard, California, has always been fascinated with location. That’s something that drew him to Penn State to earn his geography degree in 1973, and a belief in the importance of location has continued to guide him in his 33-year career as a helicopter responder to Western U.S. wildfires.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Brian King, professor of geography and associate head for the department’s resident graduate programs, has been appointed head of the Department of Geography. He began on July 1.
King succeeds Cynthia Brewer, who will remain an active member of the faculty after serving as department head since 2014.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alan Taylor, professor of geography and ecology, will serve as interim director of the Penn State Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI) while director Susan Brantley is on sabbatical. His appointment began July 1.
“EESI is lucky that Alan Taylor can take the helm,” said Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences. “He has always been an EESI associate who does work for EESI committees and the EESI student cohort. He knows the ins and outs of how EESI operates.”
Beth King, associate teaching professor and assistant program manager of the online geospatial education program received the 2021 Carolyn Merry Mentoring Award from the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).
“It was a pleasant surprise,” King said. “And I am thankful to my colleagues who nominated me.”
Diana Sinton, the executive director of the UCGIS, said King received the award due to her mastery at building rapport.