Archive | Soil System Sciences RSS feed for this section

Imaggeo on Mondays: Scope for science and art

17 Feb

Great geoscience photographs aren’t always shots of beautiful landscapes. Sometimes there are stunning things to see at a much smaller scale. This week’s Imaggeo on Mondays showcases one such curiosity and highlights how research images can reveal a lot about the natural world when exhibited as a form of art.

Thin sections are a fantastic way of finding out more about rocks, soils and tissue structure. At 30 micrometres thick they are the most refined Carpaccio you could find on a geoscientist’s plate, and illuminating them under a microscope only makes the sections more splendid.

A sandstone sample viewed in plane polarized light (top) and cross polarised light (bottom). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Michael C. Rygel)

A sandstone sample viewed in plane polarised light (top) and cross polarised light (bottom). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Michael C. Rygel)

Under plane polarised light, you spot the fine details that make up each slice, the crystal grains, pore spaces and shell fragments that, together, make up your rock sample. And in cross polarised light there’s even more to be seen. Crystals, at first barely perceptible, shine out amid dark masses and appear as an array of bright and beautiful colours. Different properties like the refractive index and extinction of a crystal can let you work out what mineral you’re looking at, and the relationships between mineral grains offer clues to the rock’s history.

Under the microscope, where mineral and biological worlds meet. (Credit: Laura Gargiulo via imaggeo.egu.eu)

Under the microscope, where mineral and biological worlds meet. (Credit: Laura Gargiulo via imaggeo.egu.eu)

This image, by Laura Gargiulo, shows the surface of a sandy soil under cross polarised light. Sand grains – a veritable pick a mix of rock fragments and merged minerals – make up the majority and a slice of cellular plant material sits just south of the centre. Each of the colours and the way they change under polarised light reveal what each sand grain is made of and how these tiny fragments combine to make up the soil. While its purpose may be a scientific one, the image certainly has aesthetic appeal.

By Sara Mynott, EGU Communications Officer

If you are pre-registered for the 2014 General Assembly (Vienna, 27 April – 2 May), you can take part in our annual photo competition! Up until 1 March, every participant pre-registered for the General Assembly can submit up three original photos and one moving image related to the Earth, planetary, and space sciences in competition for free registration to next year’s General Assembly!  These can include fantastic field photos, a stunning shot of your favourite thin section, what you’ve captured out on holiday or under the electron microscope – if it’s geoscientific, it fits the bill. Find out more about how to take part at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/photo-contest/information/.

Imaggeo on Mondays: A fly by some fantastic farming

3 Feb

This week’s Imaggeo on Mondays is brought to you by Kristof Van Oost, a scientist from the Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research (UCL) in Belgium. He tells us how local organic farms are being managed to ensure a lot of carbon stays in the soil…

An aerial photo of an organic farm, taken from a kite! (Credit: Kristof Van Oost, distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

An aerial photo of an organic farm, taken from a kite! (Credit: Kristof Van Oost, distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

This is a picture of the organic farm Het Open Veld in Leuven, Belgium. The farm is built around an alternative agriculture model in which food is grown and distributed locally – a concept known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This means that about 200 people subscribe to CSA at the beginning of the year and pay a fixed sum of money to the farmer. The farmer does most of the work and when the fruit and vegetables are ready his clients come to the farm to harvest the produce themselves. Over 60 types of  fruit and vegetable are grown on this farm, not to mention the cherry trees, sheep, chicken and bees! The farm is conveniently located at the border of the city of Leuven, so production takes place very close to the people who eat the food – and it’s organic, seasonal and ethically sound.

The farmer is interested in improving the quality of his soil, mainly through adding carbon. The organic farm is very patchy and several different types of vegetables are grown on small plots. The kite pictures provide detailed information on the type and location of vegetables. Later, this information will be linked to measurements of carbon on the ground to understand the effect of soil management on carbon storage (SOGLO Project, funded by BELSPO).

By Kristof Van Oost, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, UCL

The EGU’s open access geoscience image repository has a new and improved home at imaggeo.egu.eu! We’ve redesigned the website to give the database a more modern, image-based layout and have implemented a fully responsive page design. This means the new website adapts to the visitor’s screen size and looks good whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Photos uploaded to Imaggeo are licensed under Creative Commons, meaning they can be used by scientists, the public, and even the press, provided the original author is credited. Further, you can now choose how you would like to licence your work. Users can also connect to Imaggeo through their social media accounts too! Find out more about the relaunch on the EGU website. 

Imaggeo on Mondays: Long live the lichen!

13 Jan

Lichens are amazing organisms. They are a composite of algae and fungi, each of which supports the other through the exchange of nutrients (fungi to algae) and carbon (algae to fungi). They are also capable of making a home out of seemingly inhospitable rock surfaces – and what’s more – making the most of these surfaces to release the nutrients they need to grow.

“Pioneer Settler Organisms” by Juan Antonio Campos, distributed by the EGU via imaggeo.egu.eu.

“Pioneer Settler Organisms” by Juan Antonio Campos, distributed by the EGU via imaggeo.egu.eu.

The quartzite above is home to the yellow cracked lichen (aka Acarospora hilaris) and a grey lichen species, better known as Caloplaca carphinea, both of which are busily breaking down the rock. They do this using their physical and chemical armoury:

Physical breakdown

The fungi consist of fine, branching tubes called hyphae. These hyphae penetrate the rock and make their way between both mineral grains and cleavage planes to tease it apart. Over time, expansion and contraction of the lichen body as it goes from wet to dry and back again, slowly wedges parts of the rock apart. Swelling of salts released by the lichen has a similar effect.

A closer look at fungal hyphae. This example is from the fungus penicillium, used to produce the antibiotic penicillin (Credit: GFDL)

A closer look at fungal hyphae. This example is from the fungus penicillium, used to produce the antibiotic penicillin (Credit: GFDL)

Chemical breakdown

In order to obtain much needed minerals from the rock, lichens release a variety of organic acids capable of dissolving the rock’s structure. Their main weapon is oxalic acid, which makes minerals more susceptible to breakdown by water (a process known as hydrolysis). Not all lichens produce this though; instead they rely on simpler compounds (like citric acid) that are secreted by lichen fungi for acid attack.

This colonisation of rocks by lichens, and the weathering of rock surfaces that follows, represents one of the first steps in soil development. Find out what happens next in this Biogeosciences paper.

Reference:

Chen, J., Blume, H. P., & Beyer, L.: Weathering of rocks induced by lichen colonization—a review. Catena, 39, 121-146 (2000)

The EGU’s open access geoscience image repository has a new and improved home at imaggeo.egu.eu! We’ve redesigned the website to give the database a more modern, image-based layout and have implemented a fully responsive page design. This means the new website adapts to the visitor’s screen size and looks good whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Photos uploaded to Imaggeo are licensed under Creative Commons, meaning they can be used by scientists, the public, and even the press, provided the original author is credited. Further, you can now choose how you would like to licence your work. Users can also connect to Imaggeo through their social media accounts too! Find out more about the relaunch on the EGU website. 

Geoscience under the tree

18 Dec

In a festive-themed post, EGU Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira selects a plethora of geoscience-inspired Christmas presents, which you could give to your favourite researcher. Please note that, with the exception of the last one, the items listed below are not necessarily recommended or endorsed by the EGU.

For me Christmas is more about eating large amounts of food and celebrating with family and friends than it is about giving and receiving presents. But I am guessing many of the readers of this blog are still scratching their heads thinking what gifts to get to the geoscientists in their families, to their Earth or space science researcher friends or, why not, themselves. This, and the fact that Paleoseismicity posted about some beautiful geology shoes a few days ago, is why I’ve set out to discover the best geoscience-inspired gift items out there.

Compiling this list ended up being easier than I thought because a few people, such as Georneys’ Evelyn Mervine and Agile’s Matt Hall have written similar blog posts in the past. And also because I discovered that Etsy – the e-commerce website for all things handmade or vintage – has an impressive collection of geoscience-y items. So, brace yourselves for a link-rich post!

Solid Earth

I’ll start with a present idea for our crafty readers: if you are into knitting, or know someone who is, this book filled with knitted-dinosaur patterns might be for you. If you’re not crafty, you may prefer to gift this triceratops cup or a pair of agate bookends, or even this t-shirt with a different take on the Earth’s internal structure. The geomorphologist in your life might like this antique map illustrating the geomorphology of the Alpine region or this simple yet beautiful travel journal.

If, instead, volcanology is your thing, then you might like this awesome volcano woolly hat – and if you are looking for a gift for a little one, this wooden volcano stacker could be your choice. For soil scientists, Etsy has a collection of beautifully illustrated soil postcards, while tectonic scientists and seismologists, may find this t-shirt funny. This science kit would suit a young fan of rocks and minerals, while this tie with crystalline formations would be more appropriate for a grown up.

Volcano hat by MariaBjork

Volcano hat by MariaBjork

Soft Earth

Moving on to soft-Earth disciplines, atmospheric scientists might like this wonderful screen print of different types of clouds, or this original necklace representing the various layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. And there’s this rather neat calendar of the sky and sea, which may also please ocean scientists. These researchers might also like an ocean tide ceramic pot or a 19th century map of the Atlantic Ocean.

Budding hydrologists, on the other hand, may be fascinated by this hydropower kit, while older ones will likely appreciate this antique engraving of water engineering. On the topic of antiques, the climate scientist in your life may like this climate map of Europe or this beautifully illustrated book to teach kids about climate. When gifting biogeoscientists, you can’t go wrong with this fantastic diatoms t-shirt (available for men and women) or these seaweed magnets.

Diatoms t-shirt by vortextradingcompany

Diatoms t-shirt by vortextradingcompany

Space and planetary science

Moving up into the upper atmosphere, your favourite solar-terrestrial scientist might like to receive this rather cute card of aurora in the Arctic or, for something a bit different, this pair of Northern Lights leggings! Going further up into space, the Earth’s magnetosphere finds its way into this totebag/backpack while the solar corona is the star of this antique print.

Planetary scientists also have plenty to choose from, with a variety of art decals and solar system charts available on Etsy. There is even a seller who builds jewellery with photos from NASA missions, such as this Mars Curiosity Rover pendant. Budding space and planetary scientists will likely be happy with this space exploration kit from National Geographic.

Interdisciplinary areas

Moving on to the more interdisciplinary areas of the EGU, I couldn’t help but mention Slow Factory, who produce stunning (but expensive!) clothing items from satellite images: the Terra MODIS Greenland dress and this silk square with an image of phytoplankton from the Bay of Biscay are two of the highlights. For something a bit more affordable, you could gift this top to bottom poster from Our Amazing Planet (sadly, the original interactive infographic can’t be put up on the wall) or this carbon cycle t-shirt. If you are feeling crafty, you can get LEGOs to build this rather incredible LEGO globe. Energy, resources and the environment enthusiasts have plenty to choose from, from a sustainable Earth lab or a solar-powered night light to a pair of windmill earings or a wind-energy decal. If great waves are more your thing, you may be interested in this tsunami top or, if landslides are your natural-hazard of choice, in this interesting pendant.

If you, like me, prefer to give and receive an experience as a gift, then why not offer a geoscientific trip? Though I haven’t been on a trip of this kind myself, I found a few companies that organise geo-themed excursions, such as this one in Italy, this one in Iceland or this one for trips further afield.

Finally, I couldn’t finish this blog post without suggesting the best present of them all (OK, I’m biased!). This Christmas, why not gift EGU memberships to the Earth, planetary and space scientists in your life? It is very affordable and researchers will likely appreciate the discounted registration rate members receive to the EGU General Assembly!

By Bárbara Ferreira, EGU Media and Communications Manager

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: