Welcome to GeoUnion, the graduate student body of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. GeoUnion strives to supplement the overall graduate student experience at Rice and DEEPS. GeoUnion represents DEEPS in the overall Rice grad student community, acts as a liaison between students and faculty and organizes a number of intra- and inter-departmental events throughout the academic year.
|September 6-8||Overnight Camping at San Marcos|
|September 13||Welcome Barbecue|
|Cancelled because of Imelda||Pre-GSA talk|
|October 12-15||Field Trip to Big Bend|
|October 25||Halloween Kickball Tournament|
|November 26||Multicultural Thanksgiving!|
|Dec 6||Pre-AGU practice session|
Here’s a list of the resources that you would need to use frequently as graduate students at Rice. The websites of the Rice Graduate Student Association (GSA), Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS), Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) are platforms which graduate students can use to keep track of upcoming events, funding opportunities, changes in rules and regulations, etc.
Living in a vast city like Houston and exploring a new place can also be challenging, and so we have compiled a list of recommendations for housing and fun things to do in the Space City!
A continuous Galerkin method based approach is presented to compute the seismic normal modes of rotating planets. Special care is taken to separate out the essential spectrum in the presence of a fluid outer core using a polynomial filtering eigensolver. The relevant elastic-gravitational system of equations, including the Coriolis force, is subjected to a mixed finite-element method, while self-gravitation is accounted for with the fast multipole method. Our discretization utilizes fully unstructured tetrahedral meshes for both solid and fluid regions. The relevant eigenvalue problem is solved by a combination of several highly parallel and computationally efficient methods. We validate our three-dimensional results in the non-rotating case using analytical results for constant elastic balls, as well as numerical results for an isotropic Earth model from standard “radial” algorithms. We also validate the computations in the rotating case, but only in the slowly-rotating regime where perturbation theory applies, because no other independent algorithms are available in the general case. The algorithm and code are used to compute the point spectra of eigenfrequencies in several Earth and Mars models studying the effects of heterogeneity on a large range of scales.
Shi, J., Li, R., Xi, Y., Saad, Y., and de Hoop, M. V. A Non-perturbative Approach to Computing Seismic Normal Modes in Rotating Planets. J Sci Comput 91, 67 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10915-022-01836-5
Michael Lara, Rajdeep Dasgupta
The extent of CO2 transfer from subducting lithologies to the overlying mantle wedge in general and to the arc magma source regions in particular remains debated. The limit of CO2 transfer to the sub- arc mantle could be estimated if the effects of CO2 on the primary hydrous melt compositions of mantle wedge can be assessed in relation to the observed compositions of primitive arc magmas. Here we present new piston cylinder and multi-anvil experiments using Au75Pd25 and Au capsules on four (CO2 +H2O)] of 0–0.17. Experiments were performed at 2–4 GPa and 1200 ◦C to constrain how the depleted peridotite + H2O ± CO2 starting compositions with 3.5 wt.% H2O and XCO2 [=molar CO2 / presence of variable CO2 in slab-derived aqueous fluids affects the composition of peridotite partial melts. ± clinopyroxene. Melts at 2–4 GPa are basaltic for XCO2 of 0–0.10 and become SiO2-poor and CaO-rich All experiments consisted of low degree melts (<10 wt.%) in equilibrium with olivine + orthopyroxene at XCO2 > 0.10. Comparison between our experimental partial melt compositions with a global dataset of the most primitive arc magmas suggests that the upper limit of XCO2 in fluids inducing melting in model for subduction zones and estimate that at least 34–86% of CO2 entering subduction zones bypasses mantle wedges is ∼0.10 at 2–4 GPa. We apply these new constrains to an H2O and CO2 mass balance the sub-arc melt generation zone and is subducted to the convecting mantle, either carried by the slab or by the down-dragged limb of the mantle wedge directly above the slab.
Recording hobby sheds light on birds that migrate at night over southeast Texas
HOUSTON – (April 28, 2022) – When COVID-19 limited Cin-Ty Lee’s options for watching migratory birds by day, the Rice University professor began recording them at night. Cataloging the species that call to one another on the recordings is now a serious pastime for Lee, a geology professor who has watched, photographed and drawn birds at Rice for two decades.
Lee has amassed more than a terabyte of recordings of nocturnal migratory bird calls using a homemade recording setup at Rice. He’s using the recordings in a number of ways, and he’s training other southeast Texas birders to make their own recordings at other locations. The idea is to compare recordings from more than one location to shed light on the little-known habits and patterns of birds that migrate by night.
“It’s purely a hobby,” Lee said. “But it’s just so much fun. It seems like everyone is immediately interested when they learn about what we’re doing. And people are joining in to help out and do recordings themselves.”
Houston is a popular destination for birders because it’s a key stop on one of North America’s busiest migratory bird routes, a flyway that millions of birds follow when flying north for the summer and south for the winter. Lee’s recordings are already offering new insights about the species and number of birds that pass through Houston.
“When people think about Texas for bird migration, they usually talk about High Island and all these colorful, neotropical birds that come up in the spring,” Lee said. “What’s often forgotten is the fall. The flux of birds coming down in the fall is easily more than two times, maybe three times higher than those flying north in spring.
“In the fall you have all the babies, the firstborns, headed down too,” he said. “A lot of them die in this journey south or coming back up. So the numbers drop by the spring when they pass through again. The intensity in the fall doesn’t seem as high to birders because it’s over a longer period of time, a really protracted migration window from August all the way through the end of November. It’s hot and humid, and there are mosquitos. So birders don’t go out as much.”
He should know because he’s been a birder most of his life. Lee got into the sport in junior high school and credits it with turning his life around. At the time, he was struggling both emotionally and academically. Doug Morton, a family friend who would become a lifelong mentor, noticed Lee’s budding interest in birds and began taking him on birding expeditions around Southern California. Lee also collected rocks on the trips, and Morton, a geologist, would explain how they formed.
Lee planned to be an ornithologist, but his fascination with rocks took over in college. He joined Rice in 2002, has won a Guggenheim Fellowship and many other awards for his geological research, and today is the Harry Carothers Wiess Professor of Geology in Rice’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.
For his nightly bird recordings, Lee mounts an off-the-shelf directional microphone atop a 20-foot pole and points it straight at the sky. He’s learned to identify the calls of dozens of bird species and estimates he can discern the calls of small birds flying as high as 500-600 feet. He can pick out the species of larger birds, like geese and kingfishers, up to altitudes of a quarter-mile. To distinguish between the calls of migrating and stationary birds, Lee’s learned to listen for differences between the calls of approaching and receding birds.
“To really identify, you still have to use the human ear,” he said. “With machine learning, they have apps that can identify bird songs and calls, but for the nocturnal flight calls, there’s just not enough good-quality data for the machine-learning methods.”
Lee said there was a lot of trial and error when he began recording in early 2020. He worked closely with birders Gavin Aquila and Andrew Birch, who’ve made similar recordings in California. The three spent dozens of hours IDing and tallying calls on Lee’s recordings.
“We do it manually, but that doesn’t mean we listen through 1,000s of hours of recordings,” he said. “We visually inspect frequency versus time using off-the-shelf music software. When you see what looks like a call, you listen to it. It takes a lot of practice to get up to speed. Gavin was very good at it and trained me.”
“We had all sorts of issues and mistakes, like finding the right place to record, where the background noise was low, weatherproofing the equipment, making sure an animal didn’t knock the microphone over,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot. We’re still learning.”
By the fall of 2020, Lee and the others had refined their process so it only about an hour a day to catalog the recordings. Their data wasn’t just plentiful, it was reliable enough to analyze for patterns. Lee said the data was full of surprises. For example, the recordings revealed some birds he’d never seen at Rice as well as species he’d rarely seen.
“A lot of sparrows are somewhat secretive, and we don’t really know exactly what their windows of migration are,” Lee said. “Like LeConte’s sparrows. In 20 years at Rice, I’ve maybe seen three of them. But we got something like 70 LeConte’s sparrows in that one season.”
In February, Lee, Aquila and Birch published an acoustic survey of almost 3,400 nocturnal bird calls in the Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society. Based on recordings Lee made on campus between July 7 and Nov. 30, 2020, the survey is the first-of-its-kind for a fall migration in Southeast Texas.
Lee said such surveys are possible because of pioneering work by Cornell University ornithologist Bill Evans, who spent decades building a library of known calls for birds that migrate at night over North America.
“Over the last 30 years, they’ve been trying to identify these nocturnal flight calls,” Lee said. “They would sit around in the dusk or dawn with recorders, and every once in a while they’d get visual confirmation. They slowly built up this library of calls. There’s no way I could have done this without all of that work they had already accumulated.”
In addition to the published study, Lee has used his recordings to add more than 30 species to Birds of Rice University, a list he began in 2002 of bird species observed on the Rice campus. Others have contributed to the list, which numbered 262 in mid-April and is now kept online.
Lee said he’s training other southeast Texas birders to make nocturnal surveys. He’s also working to make the Texas recordings available to the Cornell lab that pioneered the surveys. He hopes the recordings can be incorporated in the training of machine learning programs that could one day take over the time-consuming identification of recorded calls.
Lee also wants to use the surveys to protect birds, whose populations have declined by nearly 30% in North America in the past 50 years. For example, the late 2020 recordings point to windows of time when conservation measures could have the biggest impact.
“When they’re flying south, they will ride cold fronts,” Lee said. “They get a good tailwind that helps them to go faster, and they pile up behind the front.
“Within an hour or so after the front has passed, that’s when you start to hear them,” he said. “This is something that we’ll need much more data on, but you’ll get most of them the night of the front, and the numbers drop off very fast. Within two or three nights, nothing’s going. Because they’re blocked by another cold front further up, and you have to wait for it.”
Lee said ornithologists have known about the phenomenon for years, but having data that shows how prominent the effect is over Houston is especially useful for conservation.
“It’s important to know the exact pattern of their arrival and how it’s related to weather,” he said. “If we’re interested in turning off lights to buildings to prevent bird collisions, that sort of granularity in our understanding of these patterns is useful for making recommendations.”
“Acoustic survey of nocturnal bird migration at Rice University in Houston, TX during fall 2020,” Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society. 54(1-2): 2021
“Capturing bird migration though sound”
(Video by Brandon Martin/Rice University)
Because of COVID-19, the field trip is being postponed to later (date TBD) this year. The seminar will continue via remote meetings through the end of the Spring 2020 semester.
As earth scientists we seek to understand the natural processes that have shaped the world around us through time. The most fundamental requirement to acquiring a deeper understanding of these mechanisms is through observation. EEPS has a strong heritage in field-based research that when combined with analytical excellence, produces skilled scientists with a broad view of Earth as a system. While Rice University is well placed to take advantage of a broad array of research resources, students in Houston do not always have immediate access to nearby geological sites that represent Earth as a system.
A generous gift from Mike Johnson enables EEPS students the opportunity to observe classic and fundamental geologic concepts in the field. Students are in charge of proposing, selecting and managing a field excursion that will benefit everyone in the department. A year-long seminar-based class run by the students prepares them to visit the locality they have selected. Papers are selected, presented and discussed, followed by activities that educate the students on how to run a field-based project. During the field excursion, elected stops will be led and presented by individual students. The knowledge gained before and during the field trip will cumulate into a multi-media field guide that will be made available to the department and public following the trips conclusion.
A significant benefit of a department-wide field excursion is the interaction of students with scientists from various disciplines. Many earth scientists only carry out field work with specialists in their own field. The real discoveries in modern earth science occur when the different disciplines are part of a collective discourse. This trip will have scientists with different backgrounds observe the same outcrops; fostering fruitful discussion that results in the generation of new and unique questions. In addition, this trip may inspire fellowship among EEPS graduate students that will hopefully create life-long collaborations and a cohesive department.
General route starting in Albuquerque, New Mexico
This year, EEPS elected to utilize Mike Johnson’s gift to lead graduate students on a 7 day field expedition to observe some of the most diverse and economically important geologic terrains in the United States.
In early June of 2020, EEPS will travel through New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, which have easily accessible exposures of metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks. Starting from Albuquerque, New Mexico they will explore the Rio Grande Rift, the San Juan Volcanic field, and the well exposed Mezozoic stratigraphy on the Colorado Plateau. Observing these diverse geologic terrains will give EEPS graduate students a chance to see how their research interests dovetail with what they observe in nature and provide opportunities to create new ideas.
Pre-Trip planning seminars
Fall semester: The graduate student of the winning field trip proposal organizes a weekly reading group focusing on the regional geology of the four corners region and come up with potential stops.
Spring semester: The weekly reading group continues. Students pick the final outcrops that they would like to visit. Each student is assigned to be an expert on 1-3 stops. Before the field trip, each student will submit their description(s) of their stop for the field guide.