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.

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.”

Verosub teaches emergency response in Italy

Ken Verosub, Distinguished Professor in the geology department, spent two weeks in September in Pavia, Italy, teaching a short course on Earth Sciences and Natural Disasters in a masters program on risk and emergency management.

(Photo: Verosub, center leads the class)

The program is part of the Understanding and Managing Extremes Graduate School of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Pavia. Students from 8 countries (Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Brazil and Mexico) are enrolled in the program, which focuses on the assessment, mitigation and management of extreme events, especially those arising from natural disasters.

Can renewables replace nuclear, other energy sources?

On the New York Times Economix blog, Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, argues that renewable energy sources like wind and solar could replace other energy sources, especially nuclear energy. Folbre draws on a 2009 Scientific American article by UC Davis researcher Mark Delucchi and Mark Jacobson from Stanford University, in which the two Marks argued that renewables could replace both fossil fuels and nuclear power — and still be cost effective.

New approaches to earthquake forecasting

In this interview with Thompson Reuters ScienceWatch, UC Davis interdisciplinary professor John Rundle talks about the new approaches that he and his collaborators have developed to understanding earthquakes over the past 20 years or so. Rather than treating them as elastic rebound movements, Rundle began considering earthquakes as a phase transition — a term physicists use to talk about systems that change abruptly from one state to another.

Rundle and colleagues have now set up a website,, to make earthquake forecasts available to the public.