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Ali Marie
Museum geek, paleontologist, and educator, with a love for sharing how this weird and wonderful world of ours works.
Museum geek, paleontologist, and educator, with a love for sharing how this weird and wonderful world of ours works.

Ali Marie's posts

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As a new resident in California, its been particularly stark to observe the drought and peoples reaction to it. Which, surprisingly to me, have been very indifferent, on the whole. Unlike when I lived in colorado, there are simply suggestions to reduce water sage, rather than mandates to minimize unnecessary uses (such as watering grass lawns). In some ways, that scares me more than just how much water is necessary to end the drought.
The California Drought

We've had three good rains since the summer down here in Southern California.  And up north they've gotten even more!   In the first storm, ending December 3rd, San Francisco got more rain than they did all last year!   They got 9.4 centimeters of rain, compared to just 8.6 in 2013. 

But we'd need a lot more rain to break the drought.   It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water - 42 cubic kilometers! - to fully recover from the drought.  That's what researchers at NASA say, based on satellite data including measurements of the Earth's gravitational field, which depends on how much groundwater there is.

They say that since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year - 15 cubic kilometers.   About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley.

The big question, which nobody knows the answer to, is whether the "pressure ridge" which has blocked most rainstorms from reaching California since 2011 is now a normal condition - or whether it will go away. 

Some of the recent rainstorms are due to the "Pineapple Express", a plume of humid air coming from the tropical Pacific.  This may be due to the near-El Niño conditions we're experiencing.  Will a full-fledged El Niño come along and bring more rains?  We don't know that either.  Some El Niños don't bring more rain to California.
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Learning about awesome STEM technology tools at #agu14, including Eyes on the Solar System by NASA, and Worldwide Telescope by Microsoft. Definitely recommend looking them up, if you get a chance!

Today's adventures at #agu14: poster sessions and exhibitors hall! Pictures to come, but for now, I need to stretch and unpack my heavy bag of conference goodies.

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A great story of one of the many underappreciated women who've made huge contributions to geoscience.

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I started live-tweeting conferences a few years back, as a way to take notes and keep myself engaged (and yes, awake) in various talks and sessions. I never expected to actually make an impact doing so. Yet this article by David Shiffman suggests not only can I, but offers some best practices and advice to conference how to use twitter (and, by extention, other social media) to its fullest potential.

Check out @WhySharksMatter's Tweet:

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Seafloor spreading is one of those things that sounds so intuitive and figured out in middle school classrooms, but turns out to be a lot more complex, and that we're still discovering more information about.
Scientists witness a "rifting event", a new layer of Earth being created by activity caused by the Ice buried Volcano Bárðarbunga in Iceland.

"New research into an Icelandic eruption has shed light on how the Earth's crust forms, according to a paper published today in Nature.

When the Bárðarbunga volcano, which is buried beneath Iceland's Vatnajökull ice cap, reawakened in August 2014, scientists had a rare opportunity to monitor how the magma flowed through cracks in the rock away from the volcano. The molten rock forms vertical sheet-like features known as dykes, which force the surrounding rock apart.

Study co-author Professor Andy Hooper from the Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET) at the University of Leeds explained: "New crust forms where two tectonic plates are moving away from each other. Mostly this happens beneath the oceans, where it is difficult to observe."

Read more at:

The study: The paper 'Segmented lateral dyke growth in a rifting event at Bárðarbunga volcanic system, Iceland' is published in Nature on 15 December 2014:

Image: Faults and two eruptive fissures active on 5 September 2014 above the northern end of the segmented dyke that grew laterally in a rifting event at the Bárðarbunga volcanic system Iceland in 2014. Credit: Thórdís Högnadóttir, University of Iceland

First talk from this morning: Career Advice Workshop- Transitioning Beyond Academia by
Alaina Levine of Quantum Success Solutions.

Mostly generalized advice, but there were a few key take aways. First, there are ALWAYS more opportunities, if you do your homework. Advisors are great, but they might not be aware of opportunities outside of academia. There are oodles of industries interested in STEM; find what you enjoy doing (even if its not research!) and go do it.

Other key point is to network. Network with people inside academia. Network with people in whatever field you want to be a part of. Network with your peers. And maintain those connections; they're valuable in finding opportunities, in solving problems, and in returning to academia, if you ever choose to.

I definitely wish I'd heard more of this in undergrad, instead of feeling like I had to go straight for a masters or phd if I wanted to be successful, whatever that means. And here, Levine had a major point as well. "You define your own success." #agu14

Spending the week at #agu14, the annual American Geophysical Union meeting. Planning on liveblogging many of the talks and events I attend, particularly those on eeucation and natural hazards. Based on this morning, it looks to be a great conference!

Also livetweeting @ascientifica on Twitter, which will be updating more frequently with my conference experiences.

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Ehmee is spot on here. I have avoided YouTube for exactly this reason--the hateful, sexist comments.

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In an extraordinary discovery, astronomers announce they have been able to detect primordial hydrogen, remnant from the Big Bang, inside a very distant Galaxy

The galaxy, denoted Q1442-MD50, is so distant that it took 11 billion years for its light to reach us. The primordial infalling gas resides a mere 190,000 light-years from the galaxy – relatively nearby on galactic length-scales – and is revealed in silhouette in the absorption spectrum of the more distant background quasar QSO J1444535+291905.

"( —Astronomers have detected cold streams of primordial hydrogen, vestigial matter left over from the Big Bang, fueling a distant star-forming galaxy in the early Universe. Profuse flows of gas onto galaxies are believed to be crucial for explaining an era 10 billion years ago, when galaxies were copiously forming stars. To make this discovery, the astronomers – led by Neil Crighton of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Swinburne University – made use of a cosmic coincidence: a bright, distant quasar acting as a "cosmic lighthouse" illuminates the gas flow from behind. The results were published October 2 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters."

Read more at:

Image: "Image of a galaxy (center) with incoming cold gas flow, produced by rendering the gas distribution in a supercomputer simulation of a forming galaxy. A stream of primordial inflowing gas is illuminated from behind by a distant background quasar (lower left; quasar added by an artist, along with the starry background). Using data collected from the W. M. Keck Observatory, the largest optical telescopes in the world, researchers led by Neil Crighton (MPIA and Swinburne University of Technology) have now made the first unambiguous detection of this accretion of pristine gas onto a star-forming galaxy, that was previously theorized to exist based on cosmological simulations of galaxy formation. This simulation shown here was run by the Making Galaxies in a Cosmological Context (MaGICC) project in the theory group at MPIA. Credit: MPIA (G. STINSON / A. V. MACCIÒ)"
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