Friday, April 27, 2018

Earlier Spring Melt in Siberia Impacts Truckers

An example of the complex terrain of Siberia.
The New York Times published an interesting article today by Andrew E. Kramer about the challenges  brought about in the trucking industry of earlier thaws in Siberia. Check out the article here.

Climate changes are felt more at the poles than they are at the equator due the extremes experienced in those locations. We have all heard about the decrease in Arctic and Antarctic ice. Indeed, new shipping lanes have opened in the Arctic Ocean in recent years to to significant chances in sea ice distribution and extent.

The Times article points out that the warming is causing earlier melting of soil in Siberia. Many areas of permafrost turn into marshy and swampy landscapes during the summer. Ice in surface soils melts and is prohibited from entering into the subsurface. As a result, the landscape in these regions becomes quite unstable. Built objects can fail and roads can disappear into the landscape.

In Siberia, roads are built each year once the ground freezes and they are destroyed in the spring once the ice in the soil melts. Now, the melt is happening earlier and it is causing problems for distribution of materials in the region.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Funding Opportunity of the Week: Environmental Sustainability

Click for photo credit.
The National Science Foundation, through its Environmental Engineering and Sustainability cluster provides funding for research projects on environmental sustainability within four main research areas. For more information, click here. The full description follows from the site. The submission window is between October 1 and October 22 this year.

The Environmental Sustainability program is part of the Environmental Engineering and Sustainability cluster, which includes also 1) Environmental Engineering; and 2) Biological and Environmental Interactions of Nanoscale Materials.
The goal of the Environmental Sustainability program is to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems. These systems provide ecological services vital for human survival. Research efforts supported by the program typically consider long time horizons and may incorporate contributions from the social sciences and ethics. The program supports engineering research that seeks to balance society's need to provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions. 
There are four principal general research areas that are supported:
  • Industrial Ecology: Topics of interest in Industrial Ecology include advancements in modeling such as life cycle assessment, materials flow analysis, input/output economic models, and novel metrics for measuring sustainable systems. Innovations in industrial ecology are encouraged.
  • Green Engineering: Research is encouraged to advance the sustainability of manufacturing processes, green buildings, and infrastructure. Many programs in the Engineering Directorate support research in environmentally benign manufacturing or chemical processes. The Environmental Sustainability program supports research that would affect more than one chemical or manufacturing process or that takes a systems or holistic approach to green engineering for infrastructure or green buildings. Improvements in distribution and collection systems that will advance smart growth strategies and ameliorate effects of growth are research areas that are supported by Environmental Sustainability. Innovations in management of storm water, recycling and reuse of drinking water, and other green engineering techniques to support sustainability may also be fruitful areas for research. NOTE: Water treatment proposals are to be submitted to the CBET Environmental Engineering program (1440), NOT the Environmental Sustainability program (7643).
  • Ecological Engineering: Topics should focus on the engineering aspects of restoring ecological function to natural systems. Engineering research in the enhancement of natural capital to foster sustainable development is encouraged.
  • Earth Systems Engineering: Earth systems engineering considers aspects of large scale engineering research that involve mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate change, and other global scale concerns.
All proposed research should be driven by engineering principles, and be presented explicitly in an environmental sustainability context. Proposals should include involvement in engineering research of at least one graduate student, as well as undergraduates. Incorporation of aspects of social, behavioral, and economic sciences is welcomed. Innovative proposals outside the scope of the four core areas mentioned above may be considered. However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review. For proposals that call for research to be done outside of the United States, an explanation must be presented of the potential benefit of the research for the United States.
The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years. The typical award size for the program is around $100,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day Quiz!

It is time again for an On the Brink Quiz! Today's quiz focuses on Earth Day. Links to previous quizzes follow the questions. The answers are in the comments section.

1. In what year was the first Earth Day celebrated?

2. What organization first considered making Earth Day an annual event?

3. Which U.S. Senator was responsible for making Earth Day an annual U.S. event?

4. Earth Day was not originally conceived of as a celebration, instead, the organizers wanted to focus on what activity?

5. What U.S. event inspired the activism that helped to start the first Earth Day?

6. Which City had approximately 100,000 people show up for the first Earth Day?

7. In 2009, the United Nations renamed Earth Day. What official name is given to Earth Day by the United Nations.

8. The John Birch society and others criticized the date of Earth Day because it is the birthday of which individual? Note that the organizers didn't pick the date for this reason.

9. NASA celebrated Earth Day in 1992 by planting seeds of what type plant that had been to the moon on Apollo 14?

10.  Which major international environmental agreement was signed on Earth Day 2016?

Appalachian Trail Quiz
Robert Bullard Quiz
James Lovelock Quiz
Gifford Pinchot Quiz

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Redevelopment of Chicago U.S. Steel Site On Hold Due to Soil Pollution

The Lake Michigan shoreline near the former U.S. Steel South Works
factory. Click for photo credit.
Brownfields are pieces of property that may be contaminated with pollution. They are difficult places to redevelop because the public has the perception that they may be contaminated due to past land uses on the site. We have all seen abandoned gas stations or old industrial sites that cause a blight on a community. Redevelopment of brownfield sites is a great idea and should be encouraged whenever possible. Often, landowners, in partnership with local or state governments, will clean up a site and redevelop it with special brownfield grants. These grants provide funding for clean up or special tax incentives to develop the property. The funds are given since the land will (hopefully) generate new tax revenue when developed and enhance the value of surrounding lands.

There are many examples of successful brownfield redevelopments around the United States. Some of these are quite expansive. Perhaps one of the best known brownfield development projects in recent years was the construction of the Washington Nationals stadium. However, there are many less famous brownfields projects that are built every year. Some redeveloped brownfields are residential areas, some commercial, and some are redeveloped into industrial properties. It is important, prior to any construction, to complete an environmental assessment that assures that the site is safe for those utilizing the property into the future.

U.S. Steel once had a huge factory along Lake Michigan on the south side of Chicago. It is no longer used. The property was cleaned up and the EPA cleared the site for redevelopment. Over the last several years, the company tried to redevelop the site for residential land use but never broke ground.

Recently, an agreement was made with a European developer to purchase the property and build 20,000 homes on the 420 acre site. However, according to this article by Ryan Ori published April 20th in the Chicago Tribune, the project is on hold due to soil contamination and the purchase of the property may not occur. According to the purchase agreement, the buyer had time to evaluate the property for environmental problems prior to completing the purchase.

The article raises some interesting questions. What contamination was found at the site? Why did the EPA miss the contamination in their evaluation of the site? How extensive is the pollution? Does the pollution extend off site?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, a larger one for the region is whether or not the development will move forward. There are many successful brownfield redevelopment projects in the United States and it would be a great thing for Chicago if the U.S. Steel site could be finally cleaned up for redevelopment.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Funding Opportunity of the Week: Funding for USGS Student Interns in Water Resources

Click for photo credit.
The United States Geological Survey provides funding for undergraduate and graduate student internships in water resources. The students become employees of their home institution but work as interns with national and state water resource offices. The program provides terrific opportunities for students to work directly with researchers and practitioners in some of the most significant water resource organizations in the nation.

For more information about the program, click here. The below is directly from the Website:

The NIWR-USGS student internship program provides undergraduate and graduate students with career enhancing field, laboratory, and research experience through participation in USGS activities as interns. The program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Institutes for Water Resources.
On a need basis the USGS through our Science Centers will fund interns hired by the State Water Resources Research Institute. Interns are employees of participating universities and colleges and may be a student from any college or university in the Institute's state.
The internship can span fiscal years (FY). FY 13 funds could, for example, support a student into FY 14 if funds are obligated and work commences in FY 13.
Information about the availability of the Internship program in a state may be obtained by contacting the USGS representative or Institute Director in the State.

How to Apply:



  • The Institute Director in cooperating with the sponsoring USGS office completes the budget page of the Internship Description Form. Budget should include provision for health insurance, immunizations, and safety training if necessary.
  • Institute Director submits the Internship Description Form, SF-424 (Application for Federal Assistance) and SF-424B (Assurances) through the Internet site at
  • A grant is awarded to the Institute (usually within 30 days of receipt) and the Institute employs the intern.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

César E. Chávez National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is César E. Chávez National Monument in California. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.
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Click for photo credit.
Previous On the Brink posts in the National Monument Series:

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Saturday, April 7, 2018

International Maritime Organization to Announce Carbon Reduction Plan

Click for photo credit.
Nature is reporting that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is going to announce new plans for the reduction of carbon emissions associated with shipping. Right now, about 2.3% of all carbon emissions are associated with the maritime shipping industry. The leaders of two competing plans are Japan on one side and the small island states and the European Union on the other.

The plans vary based on how quickly emissions will be cut. Unsurprisingly, the small island states, which are particularly vulnerable to rising seas, are pushing for aggressive reductions. Industry representatives want smaller incremental steps.

Regardless of how quickly the industry moves, it is one of the most significant post-Paris Accord agreements to emerge. According to the IMO, technologies are available to reduce carbon emissions by up to 75% in the industry.

The IMO has done a tremendous amount of work to reduce the environmental impact of shipping on the environment. For example, they have fostered agreements on ballast water releases and sulfur emissions. They plan to tackle the vexing problem of ocean pollution soon.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Funding Opportunity of the Week: American Geographical Society Fellowships

A 1914 Seattle street car map from the American Geographical Society
Collection. Click for photo credit.
Each year the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library provides several fellowships for researchers seeking to use their extensive rare book, photograph, and map collection. The fellowships provide funding for of up to $2000 for expenses and travel for 2-4 weeks. Here is a link to the library and the fellowship opportunity. Milwaukee is a wonderful city and a great place to spend a few weeks on a fellowship.

From the library's Website:

American Geographical Society Library Research Fellowships

The American Geographical Society Library Research Fellowship program is intended to help bring to the AGS Library scholars who reside beyond commuting distance of UWM, and whose research would benefit from extensive use of the Library. Established by Helen and John S. Best, this fellowship opportunity now continues through the generous donations of members of the AGSL community who wish to continue the vision of the Bests. The Best family members are longtime supporters of UWM and the UWM Libraries and we are happy to continue to provide support for research in the AGSL collections.
Research projects supported by the Fellowship program must fall within the wide range of subject areas that could be supported by the Library. Examples include history of cartography (including cartobibliography), history of geographic thought, discovery and exploration, historical geography, and other history themes with a significant geographical component.
Fellowships can last up to four weeks and provide a weekly stipend of $500.00 ($2,000 maximum)* to help defray the travel and living expenses relative to the residency.
The awards will be made by the Director of the UWM Libraries, based on recommendations from the staff and Curator of the American Geographical Society Library.
The grantee is expected to be in residence during the term of the award, which may be taken at any time during the year. On the conclusion of their tenure, fellows will be expected to submit short written reports on their research and to make acknowledgment of the Fellowship program in any publication or dissertation issuing wholly or in part from the Fellowship.
Eligibility: Candidates for Fellowships are either established scholars, or doctoral students who have completed their course work and are at the stage of writing their dissertations.
To Apply: Application must be made in writing to the AGSL. The application shall include:
  • a two page letter describing the project to be pursued, the proposed end result of the project (publication, dissertation, etc), an explanation of how the AGS Library will be utilized in completing the project, and the number of weeks of support requested (up to 4);
  • a brief curriculum vitae; and
  • a letter of support from a reputable scholar in the field.
Electronic submission is encouraged. Applications may be submitted via email or by post (email:; post: Marcy Bidney, Curator, AGS Library , UWM Libraries, 2311 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211). The awards will be made by the UWM Director of Libraries, based on recommendations from the AGSL Advisory Committee.
Timetable:Applications must be received at the AGS Library by November 30, 2017. Awards will be announced in December 2017 for fellowships to be held during 2018.
For further information, write, call or e-mail:
Marcy Bidney, Curator
American Geographical Society Library
P.O. Box 399, Milwaukee, WI 53201-0399
Tel. (414) 229-6282
E-mail bidney at
* Please note: Stipends are subject to IRS withholdings.