Hot topics within Earth and Planetary sciences 2012

Every third month Science direct lists the twentyfive hottest articles within a specific field of research. The present Hot topics list is based on number of downloads for each article during the full year of 2012.  However, the list is still a good indicator if one wants to find out what’s hot in geosciences.

Based on the Science Direct list for 2012, I have compiled the three hottest topics within Earth and Planetary sciences, and these are:

  1. Fresh water treatment/resources 6/25
  2. Ecology/Palaeoecology/Evolution 5/25
  3. Climate change/ocean acidification 5/25

Compared to the last published list the research focus of 2012 based on the most downloaded papers from Science Direct have changed somewhat. The most downloaded papers are now within Fresh water treatment/resources and three of these papers deal with reverse osmosis desalination. Reverse osmosis is one of the main technologies for producing fresh water from saline water and other wastewater sources. Fresh water shortage has become an important issue affecting the economic and social development in many countries, but there are still many challenges with reverse osmosis, as discussed by Kang & Kao (2012) and Pérez-Gonzaléz et al. (2012).

Papers on Ecology/Palaeoecology/Evolution and Climate change/ocean acidification have also attracted a lot of attention of the research community during 2012. The two subjects are tightly linked as exemplified by one of the most downloaded papers (nr 10 of 25), a review paper by Leslie Hughes from 2000: Biological consequences of global warming: is the signal already apparent?

Interestingly, the top downloaded paper within Earth and Planetary Sciences 2012 is a paper demonstrating the potential of microbial U(VI) reduction as an alternative technology to currently used physical/chemical processes for treatment and recovery of uranium in the nuclear industry (Chabalala & Chirwa, 2010). Perhaps this signals an increasing global need to find new methods in order to retreive natural resources that were previously considered to costly and technologically challenging?

To me, the 2012 hottest topics list signals increasing awareness within the research community that climatic and environmental changes, pollution and exploitation of natural resources presents new challenges in a world with increasing population pressure and demand of economic development!

Science and Twitter

It is summer and vacation-time, hence the long blog silence on my part. But for those of you who are looking for updates on what’s going on within the science or specifically geo-community I suggest joining or logging on to twitter. I have only been on twitter for three or four months now, but I am increasingly amazed by the large number of dedicated researchers who share thoughts and opinions, news and views with their followers. It is truly a wonderful web forum for science nerds!You can also check out some of the blogs/webpages listed on Triassica. I have added a few more interesting ones dealing with various subjects within geoscience.

Have a lovely summer (or winter if you are on the southern hemisphere)!


Resting track. Future trace fossils?

Time to colour the fossil record…

Since the dawn of palaeontology, researchers and artists have strived to reconstruct ancient extinct life forms. By combining the fossil remains with knowledge of anatomy or botany pioneers like Henry de la Beche (1796-1855) and Charles R. Knight (1874-1953)  envisioned the forms and colours of prehistoric life on Earth (read more about palaeoartists here) and brought us the first ideas on what e.g. dinosaurs may have looked like.

Recently, palaeontological research have broken new ground by identifying melanin – a black, brown or red colour pigment that occurs in both animals and plants – in fossils. Since Jakob Vinther and colleagues published their paper “Plumage Color Patterns of an Extinct Dinosaur” more reports of preserved melanin-residues in fossils have surfaced. Two of the latest deal with: pigment in a 50 million year old fossil fish eye (Lindgren et al. 2012) and in a 160 million year old fossil squid ink sac (Glass et al. 2012).

The fossil record will never be the same 😉

However, we will always need reconstructions and paintings depicting the past. Check out this wonderful webpage with beautiful palaeo-scenery: Evolutionary routes

Frozen Antarctic lakes and deep sea trenches are the new frontiers

“To boldly go where no man has gone before…”

In Antarctica a Russian team of scientists and engineers finally broke through to the ancient Lake Vostok, a sub-ice lake believed to hold stagnant water that could be millions of years old. After more than twenty years of stop-start drilling through the 3.7 km thick ice sheet covering Lake Vostok, drilling once again came to a halt.The inhospitable environment of the Antarctic forced the Russian team to postpone sampling and analyses until December 2012 when summer once again make working conditions possible.

In the meantime, the rest of the world will have to hold its breath wondering if the drilling operations may have contaminated the lake, or if the lake will prove to be sterile as some have suggested.

There are apparently several similar projects planned in some of the 350 sub-glacial lakes discovered in Antarctica. You can read more about the Lake Vostok-project on BBC-news.

Meanwhile in a totally different environment other scientists are turning their gaze to the deepest parts of our oceans, the deep-sea trenches, once believed to be too dark and cold to be able to host any life forms. But these trenches, which can be as deep as 11 km, are now known to be home to many animals and some that really surprise the scientists, e.g. the supergiant “shrimp” found 7 km down in the Kermadec Trench off New Zealand.

Space, and the search for extraterrestrial life, used to be the final frontier, but it is now challenged by remote and virtually unexplored areas on our own planet. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that we are turning our gaze inwards instead of outwards?

Hot topics within Earth and Planetary sciences (June 2011)

Every third month Science direct lists the twentyfive hottest articles within a specific field of research. The list is based on number of downloads for each article. Unfortunately there is a lagtime between the download count over a three month period and the time the list is published, e.g the Hot topics list today (12/11 2011) still displays the most downloaded papers during March to June 2011. But still, it is a good indicator if one wants to find out where the research focus was a few months ago 🙂

Based on the Science Direct list for March to June 2011 I have compiled the three hottest topics within Earth and Planetary sciences, and these are:

  1. Ecology/Paleoecology 10/25
  2. Climate/global change 8/25
  3. Water treatment/resources 3/25

This definitely tells us that there is a high demand on research concerning the ecological impact of climate and global change, whether it concerns changes that are going on today or in the past. It also indicates that there is a lot of focus on our freshwater resources and their quality.

Important issues to consider for us all.

A need to share?

Why start a science blog?

There are quite a few science blogs out there already, and many that already deal with geological topics.

But I have always liked to write and I hope that my posts can act as a source of inspiration and debate within the science community that I am part of, and among those who are just generally interested in geology and the evolution of life on Earth.

Unfortunately, science and evolution are not as accepted as most of us working within Earth Sciences think. E.g. in 2009 half of the British population did not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. More than one fifth of the population preferred creationism or intelligent design, but most people were just confused and did not really see the point in believing in something that they could not understand.

This shows that there is a need for us who work with evolution and the history of the Earth to share our knowledge. Spread the word…