Earth as Art: The Andes

24 07 2009

Vivid colors belie the arid landscape of northern Chile where the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s driest, meets the foothills of the Andes. Here salt pans and gorges choked with mineral-streaked sediments give way to white-capped volcanoes.

Click to download a hi-res version.

Source: NASA

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Obama’s Nominates First Woman to Head USGS

13 07 2009

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced he will nominate Marcia McNutt, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, as director of the U.S. Geological Survey. If confirmed, McNutt would become the first female director since USGS was established in 1879 to lead research into earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, coastal erosion and the effects of global warming on water resources and land forms.

The president has also nominated Jonathan Jarvis, currently the Pacific West regional director for National Park Service, with authority over parks in California and eight other Western states and territories.

Californians note that McNutt and Jarvis are among several scientists with state ties tapped by the President for key positions at major federal research agencies. Steven Chu, the Nobel prizewinning physicist who headed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is now Secretary of Energy. John Holdren, former director of UC Berkeley’s energy and resources group, is the president’s chief science adviser. Jane Lubchenco, a renowned ecologist from Oregon State University and a board member of McNutt’s institute, is the new director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

McNutt is a certified SCUBA diver who once completed underwater explosives training with Navy SEALS for her geologic research, and has published more than 90 scientific articles, ranging from studies of ocean island volcanism in French Polynesia to continental breakup in the western United States to uplift of the Tibet Plateau.

She will succeed USGS director Mark Meyers, a former oil company geologist in Alaska appointed by George W. Bush and known for limiting public release of information by Survey scientists who work in controversial fields like climate change.

Jarvis, if confirmed, will oversee an agency that manages 84.6 million acres of U.S. land, including 58 national parks, 54 wilderness areas, 10 national seashores, and a long list of lakes, battlefields, trails and campgrounds.

Sources: SFGate (David Perlman, Peter Fimrite & Staff Writers) and Mercury News (Paul Rogers)