Andrew Leakey is an assistant professor at the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a faculty member at the Institute for Genomic Biology there.
Scientists have started a project to develop grasses that tolerate drought for use in biofuels. It’s part of a five-year, $12 million study by the U.S. Department of Energy. Andrew Leakey with the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is part of the study. Dr. Leakey told EarthSky:
Our team is really focused on how you produce the greatest amounts of grass biomass. In other words, if you went out and harvested it, how you can produce the greatest amount of dry material at the end of the year – and do that on the smallest possible land area with the smallest possible environmental impact.
Each year, farmers in the U.S. import millions of honeybees, which aren’t native, to pollinate crops like apples, strawberries, and almonds. Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen discusses how farmers could harness the power of native bees for free to pollinate our crops.
Basin flood irrigation, Image Credit: USDA
Ken Cassman told EarthSky that more than two-thirds of the water humans use is to produce food. He asked: How can we grow more food for the greater numbers of people expected on Earth in this century – using the same or less water than we’re using today? Dr. Cassman said irrigation will be a big part of the answer.
Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano seen from space on March 24, 2010. In April 2010, this volcano closed European air space for six days. Image Credit: NASA
Many remember the six-day period in May 2010, when an explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland shut down air traffic to and from Europe. It was the largest air-traffic shutdown since World War II, stranding millions of passengers not only in Europe, but across the globe. David Pieri, a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talked to EarthSky about why volcanic ash is so damaging to aircraft engines, and about keeping planes safe by watching volcanoes from space.
In early 2012, Russian scientists penetrated miles of Antarctic ice to finally reach the waters of Lake Vastok, which hasn’t seen the light of day in over 15 million years. Now researchers from many parts of the world will analyze its waters for alien-like life. EarthSky spoke to oceanographer Chuck Kennicutt of Texas A&M heads the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, which coordinates research in the area.
Russian scientists penetrate Antarctic ice to reach Lake Vostok in race to find alien-like life.
The rover will plunge into the Martian atmosphere at 13,200 mph (21,243 kph), protected by a heat shield. At 7 miles up (11 km), it will unfurl the largest parachute ever sent to another world (about 51 feet wide, or 16 meters). Then eight rocket engines will fire to slow the spacecraft down even more. At a height of 66 feet (20 meters), the sky crane will lower Curiosity on cables to the Martian surface.
NASA will attempting a daring landing – what some scientists are calling seven minutes of terror – of a wheeled rover called Curiosity on Mars soon. The landing will be on August 5 Pacific Daylight Time (August 6 EDT and UTC). The rover will be lowered by a rocket-powered sky crane to the Gale Crater, where it will spend a Martian year (about 1.88 Earth years) studying Mars geology and looking for signs of microbial life. EarthSky spoke with planetary geologist John Grotzinger of CalTech, chief scientist of the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Farmers in Africa have a new tool to help them with their crops. They’re using their cell phones for banking services like making payments and buying insurance.
Fans of Pluto celebrated the discovery of its fifth moon in July of 2012. EarthSky spoke with astronomer Alan Stern, who was on the discovery team that found Pluto’s new moon using the Hubble Space Telescope.
A titanic collision of worlds might have created the moons of Pluto, said astronomer Alan Stern. (JPL)
Joseph DeSimone via UNC Gazette
Joseph DeSimone is a chemist, an inventor and a man with a vision into the future. He holds more than 115 patents. One of his first involved a green approach to making high-tech polymers – plastics like Teflon and Gore-Tex – without the use of hazardous solvents. Dr. DeSimone spoke of his work, about what it’s like to invent things and about what he sees as the role of science in this century.
An unanchored fish pen tethered to a drifting boat that allows sashimi-grade Kampachi to be farmed in their natural environment miles offshore of Hawaii.