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Stanford Earth Matters

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Landscape near water

How the weathering of rocks cooled the Earth

Earth’s climate entered a long phase of cooling 15 million years ago, resulting in an ice age. A team of researchers has now found new indications as to what initiated this cooling and kept it going.

Mouse

In a first, researchers identify reddish coloring in an ancient fossil

X-rays reveal an extinct mouse was dressed in brown to reddish fur on its back and sides and had a tiny white tummy.

Tiger

Conservation clues from scant DNA

The challenges of collecting DNA samples directly from endangered species makes understanding and protecting them harder. A new approach promises cheap, rapid analysis of genetic clues in degraded and left-behind ma

Tree of life

Species evolve ways to backup life's machinery

A new analysis of biological data reveals that every species from bacteria to primates has developed ways to bypass breakdowns in the networks of proteins vital to sustaining life.

Çatalhöyük

Our 2.5-million-year obsession with stuff

When early humans first started using tools to make things, they kicked off a cycle of people depending on objects and the materials needed to make them – with ripple effects for the global climate today.

Grasses

To save native grasslands, study invasive species

The order of arrival determines which invasive grasses predominate, according to a combination of experiments and computational modeling. The results could help in efforts to preserve the native plants that remain.

Baffin Island

Strength in weakness: Fragile DNA regions key to vertebrate evolution

DNA regions susceptible to breakage and loss are genetic hot spots for important evolutionary changes. New research suggests they may have allowed vertebrates to successfully adapt to rapidly changing environmental

Ocean

Why deep oceans gave life to the first big, complex organisms

Why did the first big, complex organisms spring to life in deep, dark oceans where food was scarce? A new study finds great depths provided a stable, life-sustaining refuge from wild temperature swings in the shallows.

Pika

It's in the genes – potential hope for pikas hit by climate change

As climate change drives mountain-dwelling pikas to higher altitudes, the animals can dial certain genes up or down to make the most of their cooler home’s limited oxygen.

Future oceans

A glimpse into future oceans

Volcanic carbon dioxide vents off the coast of Italy are rapidly acidifying nearby waters, providing a crystal ball-view into potential future marine biodiversity impacts around the world.

Getz Ice Shelf

What caused Earth's biggest mass extinction?

Scientists have debated until now what made Earth's oceans so inhospitable to life that some 96 percent of marine species died off at the end of the Permian period. New research shows the "Great Dying" was caused by global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe.

Hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

A microbe's membrane helps it survive extreme environments

Scientists discovered a protein that modifies a microbe’s membrane and helps it survive in hot, acidic environments, proving a long-standing hypothesis that these structures have a protective effect.

Muskrat.

Drying Canadian wetland drives muskrat decline

A new study shows loss of habitat in Canada’s Peace-Athabasca Delta is likely responsible for the decline of semi-aquatic muskrat, and could have larger implications.

Sonoran Desert

A path to affordable, effective conservation

A new study supports the long-debated idea that all species – even highly mobile animals – are clustered together in geographically unique areas, and opens a path to better protection of little-known species.

Butterflyfish

Fish give up the fight after coral bleaching

A new study offers some of the first evidence that coral bleaching may trigger rapid and potentially disruptive change in fish behavior.

Meltwater stream on glacier in Greenland

Scientists find missing piece in glacier melt predictions

A new method for observing water within ice has revealed stored meltwater that may explain the complex flow behavior of some Greenland glaciers, an important component for predicting sea-level rise in a changing climate.

Forest

Diverse forests are stronger against drought

Diversity reigns when water gets scarce. New research suggests the most resilient forests are made up of trees that have a wider variety of rates for water moving up from the soil.

Whale in ocean.

Melting ice: Fleeting ecological advantage, sustained threat

As glaciers melt, nutrients they contain run into the ocean and fertilize local algal blooms. Although these food oases feed local animals, they don’t make up for global challenges produced by melting ice sheets.

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