Friday, January 4, 2013

As forests disappear, examining the mechanisms of their death

An outdoor experiment in New Mexico, where 63 piñon and juniper trees are being monitored intensely. NYT Photo.      

Why do some trees die while others survive? What happens deep inside a tree under stress? How slowly or quickly do different species die?

Nate McDowell, a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, aims to find answers. Like a doctor trying to learn why his patient is sinking into a coma, Dr. McDowell, a plant physiologist, has set up a kind of intensive care unit for trees to find out precisely how they die, though unlike his physician counterparts, Dr. McDowell is nudging his patients toward an early death. (Full Story)

Los Alamos top science news of year

The ChemCam instrument aboard the Mars Curiosity rover was the undisputed top science story for 2012.  NASA image.

During 2012, Los Alamos National Laboratory made its scientific mark in a variety of areas, and the stories that caught the public’s attention and that of the science community reflect the lab’s broad capabilities.

Top science stories for the year traveled from the canyons of Mars to the high desert forests of New Mexico, from cosmic particles to the structure of proteins and enzymes. Computer models of wildfires and nuclearmagnetic resonance signatures of plutonium, and it was fascinating for those following Los Alamos’ science news. Part 1  Part 2 

Also from the Monitor this week:

Los Alamos assesses nukes

U.S. Navy Trident D5 missile test.

The Annual Assessment process of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile is the authoritative method for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to evaluate the safety, reliability, performance and military effectiveness of the nuclear weapons stockpile, and it is a principal factor in the country’s ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent without nuclear explosive testing. (Full Story)

Researchers find new way to explore permafrost soils

The scientists use data from airborne LIDAR, surface geophysical measurements, and point measurements.

What does pulling a radar-equipped sled across the Arctic tundra have to do with improving our understanding of climate change? It’s part of a new way to explore the little-known world of permafrost soils, which store almost as much carbon as the rest of the world’s soils and about twice as much as is in the atmosphere.

The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE-Arctic) project is a collaboration among scientists and engineers at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Brookhaven, Berkeley Lab, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Full Story)

NNSA heralds milestones

The NNSA, in conjunction with its Management and Operating contractor partners, reached significant milestones in its nonproliferation and counterterrorism portfolios, made a host of achievements through its work with the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile, and maintained a focus on continuous improvement.

All of the projects NNSA completed in FY12 were on or under budget, including the Sanitary Effluent Reclamation Facility and the demolition of Building South Mesa 43 at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

The 10 most bizarre biofuels stories of the year: 2012

Blue green algae. 

6. Growing magnetic algae

In New Mexico, a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have genetically engineered “magnetic” algae to investigate alternative, more efficient harvesting and lipid extraction methods for biofuels.

At LANL, the researchers took a gene that is known to form magnetic nanoparticles in magnetotactic bacteria and expressed it in green algae, where a permanent magnet can be used to separate the transformed algae from a solution. (Full Story)

Voices of the Manhattan Project echo into history

Cindy Kelly, Heather McClenahan and D. Ray Smith at a hearing on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act.  From the Monitor.

The proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park still has some Congressional hurdles to overcome, but its supporters are doing what they can to make that history more accessible now.

To that end, the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society partnered to create “Voices of the Manhattan Project,” a public archive of oral histories collected from Manhattan Project veterans and their families. (Full Story)

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