Looking for New Pollutants in the Ashes of Sonoma

In this month’s episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis graduate student Gabrielle Black talks about collecting samples of ash from neighborhoods burned by last year’s northern California wildfires. The intense heat on a wide range of household items from insulation to electronics may have created new chemical pollutants. Thanks to modern analytic technology, Black plans to search for both known pollutants and new compounds, and compare them to the ashes of burned wild land.

Listen to the podcast here.

More information

Testing Sonoma Ash and Air for Fire-Formed Pollutants

WHAT-NOW Survey (UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center)

How Useful Are Earthquake Early Warning Systems?

Mexico’s earthquake early warning system may have helped save lives in the Sept. 19 earthquake. Sirens in Mexico City sounded seconds before the earthquake struck the city, giving a brief window to shut down vital infrastructure and evacuate buildings. There was more warning, about 90 seconds, before the larger earthquake that occurred off the coast of Mexico Sept. 8.

ShakeAlert is an Earthquake Early Warning system for the US West Coast. It is being developed by the US Geological Survey and a consortium of universities.

A similar system has been tested for the U.S. West Coast including California and is expected to begin limited public operation in 2018.

Floods, Floodplains and Green Infrastructure in California’s Future

by Peter Moyle, Jeff Opperman, Amber Manfree, Eric Larson, and Joan Florshiem

The flooding in Houston is a reminder of the great damages that floods can cause when the defenses of an urban area are overwhelmed.  It is hard to imagine a flood system that could have effectively contained the historic amount of rain that fell on the region—several feet in just a few days.  However, these floods are a stark reminder of the increasing vulnerability of urban areas across the world and the need for comprehensive strategies to reduce risk.  The evidence is clear that green infrastructure, as defined below, can increase the resiliency of flood management systems and, when managed for multiple services, can reduce flood risk for many people while also promoting a range of other benefits.

How humans affect coral reef recovery from natural disasters

The world’s coral reefs are both stunningly beautiful and vital to ocean health, hosting a huge diversity of fish and marine life. And they are, as they always have been, under pressure from periodic natural disasters. However, a coral reef’s ability to recover from unavoidable and often unpredictable natural disasters, like hurricanes and tsunamis, may depend on human activities including fishing and pollution. UC Davis marine biologist Mike Gil is one of the scientists working to understand how reefs recover from natural disturbances in the presence of unnatural, man-made stressors.

Grant for natural hazards research at UC Davis centrifuge

The National Science Foundation will award almost $5 million over five years to UC Davis to include the large earthquake-simulating centrifuge at the Center for Geotechnical Modeling as part of the new Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program.

The geotechnical centrifuge at UC Davis is the largest of its kind in the world. It is used for scale model experiments of the effect of earthquakes on soils and buildings.

The geotechnical centrifuge at UC Davis is the largest of its kind in the world. It is used for scale model experiments on the effect of earthquakes on soils and buildings.

Bio-shock resistant: New center to apply biology to earthquakes, civil engineering

Taking lessons from nature and biology into civil engineering is the goal of the new Center for Bio-inspired and Bio-mediated Geotechnics, including the University of California, Davis, Arizona State University, New Mexico State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and funded with a five-year, $18.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The center’s director will be Edward Kavazanjian, a professor of civil engineering and senior scientist at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The UC Davis team will be headed by Jason DeJong, professor of geotechnical engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Brown pelicans released following Refugio oil spill

By Kat Kerlin

Rehabilitated pelicans once covered in oil from last month’s Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara County were released today (June 12) at Goleta Beach.

Video: Rehabilitated pelicans returned into wild (LA Times)

Wildlife responders from the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) placed satellite tracking devices on 12 brown pelicans affected by the spill.

Study to track rehabilitated birds’ survival

Act now to avoid irreversible climate tipping point, scientists urge

By Kat Kerlin

Five UC Davis faculty members joined more than 500 top global change scientists in signing a statement that outlines the key environmental issues – from climate change to pollution and population growth — policymakers must address to avoid an approaching global tipping point.

The statement, released today, is a response to a challenge by California Gov. Jerry Brown for scientists to translate their findings into terms policymakers, industry and the general public can understand and begin to address.

The five UC Davis signatories include: parasitology professor Patricia Conrad, environmental science and policy professor Alan Hastings, oceanography professor John Largier, geology professor Geerat Vermeij, and evolution and ecology professor Susan Williams.

Video: Wildfires becoming hotter, faster and more frequent as climate changes

From Colorado’s record-breaking Waldo Canyon fire to blazes burning across California, Washington and western rangelands, the summer of 2012 — like many recent summers — has been marked by a long, intense wildfire season. It has claimed thousands of acres, hundreds of homes, and in some cases, lives.

Malcolm North, a UC Davis professor and U.S. Forest Service research scientist, studies the effects of fire on Sierra Nevada coniferous forests. In this video, North says that both climate change and a history of fire suppression in the forest mean wildfires will burn hotter, faster, longer and more often. We need to find ways to make the forest more resilient to these changes, he says.

Oaxaca earthquake, one day later

A major earthquake struck Mexico just after 11 a.m. Pacific Time yesterday. Initial reports put the magnitude at 7.9 and relatively close to the surface, which would be a very serious earthquake. However, news reports from Mexico City and then other cities including Oaxaca and Acapulco showed relatively minor damage and few casualties, and the US Geological Survey later downgraded the magnitude to 7.4.

“It’s a good example of the fog of information after an event like this,” said UC Davis geologist Michael Oskin. “It went from 7.9, shallow (10km) and thus a high destructive potential to a 7.4, deep (20 km or deeper, I suspect) and unsurprising event on the subduction interface.”