Environment

The Association of American State Geologists announced that their annual John C. Frye Memorial Award for 2017 is granted to the Colorado Geological Survey and the staff members who authored the report The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County, Colorado (CGS Bulletin-55). CGS geologists Jonathon White, Matthew Morgan and Karen Berry utilized a rich field data set to put together the report, which includes a comprehensive review of the geologic history of the area and presents a detailed timeline of the events surrounding the “the longest landslide in Colorado’s historical record.”

White, Jonathan L., Matthew L. Morgan, and Karen A. Berry. “Bulletin 55 - The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County.” Bulletins. Golden, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, 2015. Bulletin 55.

History of the Award:
Environmental geology has steadily risen in prominence over recent decades, and to support the growth of this important field, the Frye Award was established in 1989 by GSA and AASG. It recognizes work on environmental geology issues such as water resources, engineering geology, and hazards.

John C. Frye joined the US Geological Survey in 1938, he went to the Kansas Geological Survey in 1942, he was its Director from 1945 to 1954, he was Chief of the Illinois State Geological Survey until 1974, and was Geological Society of America Executive Director until his retirement in 1982, shortly before his death. John was active in Association of American State Geologists and on national committees, and was influential in the growth of environmental geology.

The Award is given each year to a nominated environmental geology publication published in the current year or one of the three preceding calendar years either by GSA or by a state geological survey. A shared $1000 prize and a certificate to each author is presented at the AASG Mid-Year meeting, held Tuesday morning at the GSA annual meeting.

Contact:
Jonathon Hopkins, Technical Media Specialist, Colorado Geological Survey | 303-384-2641 | jchopkins@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

 
Colorado School of Mines President Paul C. Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo shake hands after signing the MOU.
Colorado School of Mines President Paul C. Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo shake hands after signing the MOU.

On May 22, 2017, the Colorado School of Mines entered into a memorandum of understanding with GERENS Graduate School in Peru. 

Mines President Paul Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo were in attendance to sign the document.

The agreement will mutually benefit mining engineering research and education at both universities by developing projects and learning opportunities for graduate students at both institutions. The agreement will also address the economic, environmental and sociopolitical aspects of the industry.

 

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Map of the eastern Indian Ocean and surrounding regions. Location of the drilling expedition and the Sunda subduction zone also shown. The Indo-Australian plate subducts beneath the Eurasian plate at the subduction zone and it was the source of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami offshore Sumatra to Andaman Islands (rupture area shaded in yellow). Ocean drilling boreholes are red dots (U1480, U1481). The Bengal and Nicobar submarine fans are fed by river sediments eroded from the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau, creating very large thicknesses of sediment. (Credit: Lisa McNeill, University of Southampton.)
Map of the eastern Indian Ocean and surrounding regions. The Indo-Australian that plate was the source of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami subducts beneath the Eurasian plate at the subduction zone (rupture area shaded in yellow). Ocean drilling boreholes are red dots (U1480, U1481).  (Credit: Lisa McNeill, University of Southampton.)

An international team of scientists has found evidence suggesting the dehydration of minerals deep below the ocean floor influenced the severity of the Sumatra earthquake, which took place on December 26, 2004, off the west coast of Indonesia.

The magnitude 9.2 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated coastal communities of the Indian Ocean, killing over 250,000 people.

Research into the earthquake was conducted during a scientific ocean drilling expedition to the region August through October 2016 as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). Expedition 362 was led by researchers from Colorado School of Mines and the University of Southampton in collaboration with IODP scientist Katerina Petronotis.

On board the research vessel JOIDES Resolution, the researchers sampled, for the first time, sediments and rocks from the oceanic tectonic plate that feeds the Sumatra subduction zone. A subduction zone is an area where two of the Earth’s tectonic plates converge, one sliding beneath the other, generating the largest earthquakes on Earth, many with destructive tsunamis.

Findings of a study on sediment samples found far below the seabed are now detailed in a new paper authored by Dr. Andre Hüpers of the MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at University of Bremen and published in the journal Science. Colorado School of Mines Associate Professor of Geophysics Brandon Dugan was one of the study’s coauthors and coleader of Expedition 362.

“It raised a lot of questions, because that wasn't a place in the world where we thought a magnitude 9 earthquake would occur,” said Dugan.

Expedition coleader Professor Lisa McNeill of the University of Southampton said “the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was triggered by an unusually strong earthquake with an extensive rupture area.” By unearthing the cause of such a large earthquake and tsunami, the scientists hope to be able to assess potential hazards in other regions with similar geological properties.

The scientists concentrated their research on a process of dehydration of sedimentary minerals deep below the ground, which usually occurs within the subduction zone. It is believed this dehydration process, which is influenced by the temperature and composition of the sediments, normally controls the location and extent of slip between the plates, and therefore the severity of an earthquake.


Expedition leaders from left: Lisa McNeill, Brandon Dugan, Katerina Petronotis.
Expedition leaders from left: Lisa McNeill, Brandon Dugan, Katerina Petronotis. (Photo credit: Tim Fulton, IODP JRSO.)

The Sumatra research team used the latest advances in ocean drilling to extract samples from 1.5 km below the seabed, taking measurements of sediment composition including chemical, thermal and physical properties.

At a certain depth, the researchers identified a layer where the water had lower salinity than the overlying and underlying sediment. This evidence of freshwater suggests that the water must have been released from within minerals in the sediment, as ocean water would have been high in salinity.

The researchers found that the sediments on the ocean floor, eroded from the Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan Plateau and transported thousands of kilometers by rivers on land and in the ocean, were subjected to geologic processes over millions of years. These sediments formed a sort of thick shell over minerals far below the seabed, causing chemical transformations within the subsurface.

 A 'free-fall funnel', part of the drilling process.(Photo Credit: Tim Fulton, IODP JRSO)

 A 'free-fall funnel', part of the drilling process.
(Photo 
Credit:Tim Fulton, IODP JRSO.)

These transformations caused the mineral bed to heat, pushing freshwater out of the mineral crystals up through the sediment layers.

At first, this water would have softened the sediment, actually decreasing the risk of a big earthquake by allowing it to absorb more force, Dugan explained. However, as the sediment moved closer to the fault over millions of years, the water flowed away, leaving the sediment dehydrated and brittle—the perfect setup for a megaquake.

The scientists ran simulations to calculate how the Sumatra sediments (currently not yet to the fault) would behave once they had traveled 250 km to the east toward the subduction zone and been buried significantly deeper. The simulations showed the sediment reaching higher temperatures, thus supporting their findings.

Hüpers said that the findings suggest that other subduction zones with thick and hotter sediment and rock could also experience this phenomenon.

“The 2004 Sumatra and 2011 Tohoku earthquakes made us reexamine our understanding of large earthquakes,” said Dugan. “This new analysis extends our knowledge of the conditions that can contribute to large earthquakes that generate tsunamis. We now can assess the potential for megaquakes in subduction margins with limited or no historical earthquake record.”

Subduction zone earthquakes typically have a return time of a few hundred to a thousand years, so applying this research to similar geological regions will allow scientists to better predict these hazards.

Similar subduction zones exist in the Caribbean (Lesser Antilles), off Iran and Pakistan (Makran), and off the western United States and Canada (Cascadia). The team will continue research on the samples and data obtained from the Sumatra drilling expedition over the next few years, including laboratory experiments and further numerical simulations, and will use their results to assess the potential future hazards both in Sumatra and at these comparable subduction zones.
 

 
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
 

 

Colorado School of Mines petroleum engineering students took first place in the Student Challenge Contest held as part of the 2017 Society of Petroleum Engineers Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility (HSSE-SR)—North America Conference, held April 18-20 in New Orleans.


Members of the Mines team with Laura Johnson, training and development manager for safety, security, health, and environment at ExxonMobil (far right). Students from left: Zak Hartman, Danika Ahoor, Connally Reid, Emilio Gonzalez, James Blaney, Joe Brady. Photo credit: Adam Wilson, SPE.
Members of the Mines team with Laura Johnson, training and development manager for safety, security, health, and environment at ExxonMobil (far right). Students from left: Zak Hartman, Danika Ahoor, Connally Reid, Emilio Gonzalez, James Blaney, Joe Brady. Photo credit: Adam Wilson, SPE.

The quiz-style contest tested university students’ knowledge in HSSE-SR topics, with teams competing in thought-provoking challenges as well as lightning-round-style questions. Mines excelled in all three categories where points were awarded, beating the second-place team from Oklahoma State University 180 to 158 in the final score.

This was the third year of the Student Challenge Contest, sponsored this year by ExxonMobil. Other participating teams were Louisiana State University, University of Oklahoma, Stephen F. Austin State University and Texas Tech University.

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

The Colorado School of Mines chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers hosted its annual Joint Session on April 12, 2017, bringing together Mines students, faculty, alumni and oil and gas industry professionals from across Colorado. 

The speaker this year was SPE International President Janeen Judah, who spoke to the bustling Friedhoff Hall audience about current trends in the industry and gave career advice for those looking to enter the field.

“Joint Session is essentially when the ‘Petro Mafia’ gets together from across Colorado to eat, drink and network with Mines students,” said Alexandra Susich, junior in petroleum engineering and director of this year’s Joint Session. “Having an SPE president—two out of the three years we've put on Joint Session here at Mines—reflects how well-respected Mines is by the industry.”

Judah highlighted current trends in the oil and gas industry, focusing on the “Big 3”: big data, automation and robotics, and visualization and simulation. She encouraged students to get involved with these latest technologies to stay up to speed with the evolving industry.

Judah went on with more career development tips, framing her talk around the “3 Es”: excellence, endurance and empowerment. She explained that in such a highly cyclical industry, endurance and empowerment and the ability to pay it forward and work through the hard times, are essential. She also challenged audience members to come up with other industries that are not overly affected by economic ups and downs, emphasizing that “it’s not just our industry”.

Excellence, Judah stressed, should never be overlooked, even when working an internship unrelated to your true interests. “Be good at the job that you have now,” she said. “Don’t be thinking so much about becoming a manager that you forget to be an engineer.” 

Mines SPE Chapter President Bryan McDowell was proud of how the event came together, and is confident that the club will continue to exemplify the excellence that has gained Mines SPE its reputation as a leader among student chapters nationwide.

“Leading the SPE student chapter has been a great experience, both personally and professionally,” McDowell said. “The level of commitment from our officers and members continues to amaze me. Maintaining high standards is tough, but maintaining those standards while innovating and reinventing our club takes another level of dedication and talent.”

 

View photos from the event in the slideshow below.

SPE Joint Session 2017

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

 
David LaPorte, a master’s student in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, is working to help mitigate landslide risk in communities in Guatemala thanks to a Fulbright grant. 
 
In 2015, a devastating landslide in a Guatemala City ravine killed an estimated 350 people in the settlement of El Cambray II, highlighting the urgent need for more research on landslide risk management.
 
LaPorte is conducting research at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, with the cooperation of Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres, as part of a project to evaluate landslide risk management in precarious settlements of Guatemala City’s metropolitan area and develop cost-effective solutions.
 
“These settlements are built on the slopes of steep ravines and are populated by the area’s most economically vulnerable population,” explained LaPorte, whose ultimate goal is to help those who have little choice but to live in at-risk areas by studying ways to better manage these natural hazards.
 
To do this, LaPorte is evaluating the current landslide risk management initiatives put in place by Guatemalan government agencies and NGOs, such as risk-reduction tools and educational programs. “I plan to evaluate the effectiveness of some of these initiatives through a study of risk perception and behavior of the inhabitants of at-risk communities,” he said. Currently, there are no statistics in this field, which LaPorte’s research is working to address. Communities will be surveyed before and after risk-communication strategies are implemented, with the ultimate goal of improving initiatives to encourage risk-reducing behavioral change.
 
One of the biggest challenges LaPorte has faced during his three months in Guatemala thus far has been breaking into the existing network of researchers and organizations, many of whom have been working on this issue for years. “As an independent researcher, it has been challenging to catch up on the understanding of the way things are done here, and the recent history of risk-management initiatives in the settlements,” he said.  But LaPorte said everyone he has collaborated with has been very helpful, and finds this opportunity to experience a new community and culture very rewarding.
 
“The core of the Fulbright program is based on increasing cultural exchange and mutual understanding between people in the US and those abroad,” he said. “Being able to dedicate ten months of my master’s degree to not only my thesis project field work, but also to this cultural exchange, is such a joy.”
 
LaPorte is confident that the experience will help him “ become a more globally competent citizen and engineer.” 
 
“It is work that I love, and that has been made possible by the Fulbright grant.” 
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

Do you want to help make building the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible? Support the Mines Triathlon Team? With the launch of the spring semester Gold Mine crowdfunding projects there are eight Mines student causes to get behind, no matter where your interests lie.

Colorado School of Mines’ official crowdfunding platform is only in its second semester of operation, but has raised over $32,000 with 16 different teams taking advantage of this new fundraising opportunity so far.

Students and faculty members alike have been planning and working for months to get their ideas off the ground. Spring projects:

- Helping the newly-established Filmmakers at Mines Club purchase essential video and audio equipment to serve as a resource for campus.
- Designing and building an ultra-efficient, battery-powered vehicle to compete in the Shell-Eco Marathon in Detroit, MI.
- Covering registration costs to allow up to 40 students attend the Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference in San Antonio, TX.
- Building a footbridge for a remote community in Nicaragua to provide residents access to essential resources. Students will be working through the Mines Without Borders program.
- Furnishing the inside of the Mines Tiny House project to complete the build and prepare the team to compete in the 2019 Solar Decathlon.
- Subsidizing race fees for the athletes of the Mines Club Triathlon Team to allow them to compete in prominent races in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Triathlon Conference.

 

- Hosting the National Concrete Canoe Competition for the American Society of Civil Engineers on the Mines campus.
- Building an off-road vehicle for the Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Competition.

The majority of projects just launched within the last week. However, two teams are nearing the completion of their campaigns and are looking for a last-minute push through the finish line.

As the exclusive crowdfunding platform for Colorado School of Mines, project creators see many benefits over other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. For one, all teams keep 100 percent of what they raise with no fees. Typical crowdfunding sites take anywhere from 6 to 8 percent of the total amount raised.

Additionally, all teams are provided with a dedicated success coach to offer training in best practices and marketing. With this assistance and the backing of the Mines brand, teams hit the ground running with strategies and a community to help them accomplish their goals.

To learn more about crowdfunding at Mines, support the currently active projects, or submit a project of your own, please visit giving.mines.edu/goldmine.

 

Contact: Brandon Farestad-Rittel bfarestadrittel@mines.edu or Rachelle Trujillo rtrujillo@mines.edu

Six Mines graduate students are competing in The Economist's Which MBA case competition, sponsored by NRG Energy, the leading integrated power company in the United States. NRG invited teams from universities across the world to submit a proposal to solve an energy issue, challenging them to create a financial model that enables the development of an energy system.

Team GreatMines is comprised of Micah Gowen, Sadie Fulton and Liam O'Callaghan; Team Westpaw is comprised of Walter Meeker, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck, all of whom study Mineral and Energy Economics in the Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines.

Entries were submitted online via video presentation and a written proposal. NRG will select the best three proposals—first place receives $10,000, second place $5,000, and third place $3,000. In addition, there is a People's Choice Award which is open to the public for voting. The team with the most votes will receive $3,000. You can vote for both Mines teams by visiting economist.com/cleanenergy and selecting Mines under “Participants.”

Learn more about the competition and vote for Mines.

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics program.

PHOTO: Mineral and Energy Economics students Sadie Fulton, Liam O'Callaghan and Micah Gowen (Team GreatMines) and August Steinbeck, Phillip Ruban and Walter Meeker (Team Westpaw) are competing in The Economist Which MBA energy case competition.

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

A Colorado School of Mines PhD candidate in geochemistry is headed to France later this year after receiving a Fulbright grant to analyze European river waters, compare them to North American samples and improve methods for detecting the presence of engineered nanoparticles.

Logan RandLogan Rand will spend nine months conducting research at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris with Professor Marc Benedetti. Benedetti has previously collaborated with Rand’s advisor, Chemistry Professor James Ranville, and has sent some of his students to conduct research at Mines.

Rand’s research revolves around single-particle inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry or spICPMS, a relatively new technique for detecting engineered nanoparticles that has been developed in Ranville’s lab over the past decade. Nanoparticles are between 1 nanometer (a billionth of a meter) and 100 nanometers in size. Synthetic nanoparticles are used in industrial processes and many personal care products, such as sunscreen.

While spICPMS has worked well in controlled laboratory environments, “the challenge we’re looking at is improving our capability of detecting an engineered nanoparticle in natural systems,” Rand said. “When it enters the water system, can we detect it, and can we distinguish it from the natural background of mineral nanoparticles?”

For example, over Labor Day weekend in 2016, Rand took water samples from Clear Creek in Golden, Colo., in an attempt to measure the titanium released from the sunscreen worn by tubers and other people enjoying the water. “We’re still working on the analysis of that study,” Rand said. “It’s a tricky problem because there’s a lot of background of titanium—it’s a signal-to-noise problem. How much titanium would need to be input for us to be able to detect it above the naturally occurring level?”

Engineered nanoparticles are a concern not just because of any inherent toxic properties, but because they can persist longer than naturally occurring chemicals, further building up toxicity. “A lot of them don’t go away after water treatment,” Rand said. “Sometimes it’s not bad, and they degrade naturally on their own, but we really should be able to measure them and track their fate and transport.”

During his time in France, Rand will focus on trying to solve that background issue—“establish a baseline, what is normal for different water systems, so we can detect the anthropogenic input.” Rand will bring samples of river water from the U.S. and also compare variations in the spICPMS technique between the countries. “It’s not going to be a small undertaking,” Rand said.

The Fulbright award will also put other skills to use for Rand. “I took French classes from high school to half of college and studies in Martinique,” he said. “I never thought French would turn out to be so useful.” While he’s not fluent, he can communicate well in French and performed well in the language test that is part of the Fulbright application process.

“Fulbright really looks for students who can serve as ambassadors. It’s not just about pushing research, but also about improving relations between countries,” Rand said. “They want students who want to be culturally involved and are committed to interacting with people abroad.”

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Four scientists from the US, Sweden and Switzerland, including an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, are calling for improved research into per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, creating safer alternative chemicals and limiting their use, in a paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Christopher HigginsIan Cousins of Stockholm University leads the team, which includes Mines’ Christopher Higgins, Jamie de Witt of East Carolina University and Zhanyun Wang of ETH Zurich. “A Never-Ending Story of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?” was published February 22, 2017.

PFASs are a large group of man-made chemicals used in a wide variety of products, often to make them more stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. The health effects of PFASs in humans are not well understood, but studies have found that animals exposed at high levels resulted in changes in the function of the liver, thyroid and pancreas, and changes in hormone levels.

“More than 3,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are, or have been, on the global market, yet most research continues to focus on a limited selection of rather well known long-chain PFASs,” the researchers said. “Continuing to overlook the vast majority of other PFASs is a major concern for society.”

According to Higgins and his coauthors, “for most PFASs, there is no comprehensive understanding of their environmental and human exposure routes.” This leads to difficulties in developing proactive, effective strategies for identifying and controlling exposure. The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program recently awarded $1.5 million to Higgins to investigate how PFASs are released, travel and react to other contaminants.

The researchers believe inventing alternatives to PFASs as well as greater regulation of PFAS products is necessary. “We recommend prompt global actions to assess the hazards, exposures and risks associated with the many PFASs on the market, as the basis for effective control measures to limit the production and use of many, if not all, of these substances and their replacement PFASs,” they said.

Given the large number of these substances, the group offers several recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of research into PFASs. They advocate for:

  • devoting more resources to the most critical issues, such as overlooked PFASs and safer alternatives
  • creating an inventory of legacy and currently used PFASs
  • a focus on understanding the fate and transport of PFASs in the environment
  • a focus on understanding the relationships between the structures of PFASs and their properties and behavior
  • a focus on understanding PFASs as a group, or several subgroups
  • the development of effective control measures, from remediation technologies to safe alternatives
  • PFAS science-policy workshops
  • chemical manufacturers sharing their information and knowledge to accelerate research by others
  • research and development programs that stimulate cooperation between academics, industry and other stakeholders
  • sharing of information with developing countries

The researchers said limiting the production and use of most, if not all, PFASs is an option if society wants to play it safe. However, it can be hard to identify alternatives for certain essential uses. “Let us start that dialogue in defining ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ uses of PFASs, while simultaneously developing safe alternative substances and processes for those essential uses.”

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

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