The Social Ramifications of Volcanism
Five years after the eruption of Manam, the former inhabitants of the island in Papau New Guinea are still facing hazards, but these have nothing to do with the volcano itself.
I write the Eruptions blog on Big Think. I've been mesmerized with volcanoes (and geology) all my life. It helps that part of my family comes from the shadow of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia, where I could see first hand the deadly effects of volcanic eruptions. Since then, I've taken a bit of a winding path to become a volcanologist. I started as a history major at Williams College, almost went into radio, but ended up migrating to geology, including an undergraduate thesis on Vinalhaven Island, Maine. I followed this up by changing coast to get my Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Then I ran a MC-ICP-MS lab at University of Washington for a spell (and wrote for an indie rock website). I spent three years as a postdoctoral scholar at University of California - Davis studying the inner workings of magmatic systems. I am now an assistant professor at Denison University and have projects in New Zealand, Chile and Oregon.
I am fascinated by volcanoes, their eruptions and how those eruptions interact with the people who live around the volcanoes. I started this blog after getting frustrated with the news reports of volcanic eruptions. Most of them get the information wrong and/or are just sensationalistic. I will try to summarize eruptions as they occur, translate some of the volcanic processes that are happening and comment on the reports themselves.
And no matter what people tell you, I definitely do not have a cat named Tephra. (OK, I do).
You can find out more about my research by visiting my website. If you have any comments, questions or information, feel free to contact me at eruptionsblog at gmail dot com.
Manam in Papua New Guinea erupting in 2004
Five years ago, Manam volcano in Papua New Guinea erupted. The volcano is located on a 10-km island of the same name and when it erupted in 2004, it produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows to the tune of a VEI 4 eruption. It was decided that the 9,000 inhabitants of the island had to be evacuated but even so, five people died due to the eruption. However, there are still thousands of people in temporary care centers on the main island of Papua New Guinea. Tensions have flared with the local inhabitants, to the point that four former islanders have been murdered in recent months. There are also people who have been sent back to the island, scraping out a meager existence without much assistance from the PNG government. Without help, they will continue to face challenges that potentially rival the threat of the volcano itself. Sure, there have been many gestures made to solve the problem, but the situation for the people of Manam continues to be unstable (pdf link). The PNG government admits that the original evacuations were performed hastily, leaving both the islanders and care centers unprepared, and the situation continues to be mishandled by national and provincial officials.
This is the sort of post-eruption humanitarian issues that tend to go unnoticed in the scientific community. These crisis occurs months to years after the volcanic activity has ceased, yet they are very real problems to the people who have been displaced. Not only are the people facing hardship due to resentment and lack of appropriate resources, but their cultural identity is in danger due to the evacuation of their native island. These "hazards" have had an direct effect on the people of Manam, but none of them are directly related to the volcanism itself and one could argue that these new hazards related to the evacuation and resettlement might be causing more problems than they have solved. Mitigation for volcanism disasters needs to not only take into account the immediate effects of an eruption, but the long term ramifications of the actions of the governing bodies - Where will people go? How long will they need to be moved? Is it permanent? How will they sustain themselves? What social problems might be involved in moving the people? Manam should be a cautionary tale with hopes that places like Chaiten do not have to suffer these indignities.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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