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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Hawksbill sea turtle

Q&A: Making the case for mobile marine protected areas

Ocean sanctuaries whose boundaries can shift can reduce conflicts between humans and marine life and help protect species under climate change.

Firefighter monitors prescribed burn

Setting fires to avoid fires

Despite having proven effective at reducing wildfire risks, prescribed burns have been stymied by perceived and real risks, regulations and resource shortages. A new analysis highlights ways of overcoming those barriers, offering solutions for wildfire-ravaged landscapes.

Night vision

Tracking animals with DNA

Genetic material left behind by animals can provide critical clues to aid conservation and research. New research shows studying DNA in soil samples can be more effective, efficient and affordable than traditional tracking methods, such as camera traps, for assessing biodiversity.

Man in flood

Pathways to changing the minds of climate deniers

By reviewing the psychology behind climate change rejection, a Stanford researcher suggests four approaches that can sway climate deniers and help overcome obstacles to implementing solutions.

School of fish

Reimagining ocean conservation

Stanford experts help guide Palau’s initiative to create one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries. The protected area will diversify food options for Palauans while reducing overfishing and protecting marine life amid mounting climate pressures.

Styrofoam cup

Can mealworms help solve our plastic problem?

Mealworms are not only able to eat various forms of plastic, as previous research has shown, they can consume potentially toxic plastic additives in Styrofoam with no ill effects, a new study shows. The worms can then be used as a safe, protein-rich feed supplement.

Stars

Fact or fiction? The science of Star Wars

How did those planets form? Could they exist in our universe? Could Star Wars really happen? Stanford Earth experts on planetary formation, processes and habitability discuss the science behind the fictional saga.

River and tree

Q&A: How wildfires threaten water quality

Stanford hydrologist Newsha Ajami, an appointee to California’s regional water quality board, discusses how wildfires affect water quality, and how we can better prepare for and react to the challenges.

Illustration of an exoplanet

Why some planets eat their own skies

A new study suggests a reason why exoplanets rarely grow larger than Neptune: the planet’s magma oceans begin to eat the sky.

water abstract

Microbial DNA can reveal water’s underground origins

Stanford researchers have sequenced microbial communities in samples of reservoir fluids to identify where water traveled through underground networks and pathways.

2019 text

Editor's picks: Top 10 Stanford Earth Matters stories of 2019

In a roundup that spans energy, geology, geophysics and Earth systems, here are some of the most interesting, high-impact and popular research stories from 2019.

Corn plants

Reduced soil tilling helps both soils and yields

By monitoring crops through machine learning and satellite data, Stanford scientists have found farms that till the soil less can increase yields of corn and soybeans and improve the health of the soil – a win-win for global food security.

Satellite view of Hurricane Harvey

Damaging rains from hurricanes can be more intense after winds begin to subside

New research shows rains that occur after a hurricane has weakened may be more intense than when the storm is at its strongest.

Greenland

Flatten Greenland, and the Atlantic jet stream goes with it

Building off previous research showing the Atlantic jet stream hovers between three preferred latitudes, researchers found the topography of Greenland is responsible for its northernmost position.

Emissions

Global carbon emissions growth slows, but hits record high

Coal use is down dramatically in the United States and the European Union, and renewable energy is gaining traction. But rising natural gas and oil use in 2019 increased the world’s carbon dioxide emissions modestly for a third straight year.

smoke from power plant

Tracking power plant emissions in real time

Stanford scientists have developed a precise way to measure U.S. power plant emissions 24/7. The new tool will enable grid operators and big electricity consumers to reduce their carbon footprint in real time.

Earthquake-damaged buildings

Research reveals fault geometry that forms Himalayas

Researchers have shed new light on the fault responsible for a 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000 people – information that will allow officials to better prepare for future shakers.

Kayak in water

How can citizens become agents of environmental change?

Some programs work better than others when it comes to involving citizens in preserving the environment. After reviewing those that worked, Stanford researchers propose a blueprint for how others can educate people to maximize their impact.

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