November 2009 

Field & Berry Groups

Nov. 6: Alex Nees & Bill Anderegg described their last summer's research with the Aspen trees in Colorado. Their aim is to determine probable causes of Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD) in large groves of these trees. A unique feature of these trees is that they are clonal, forming from a common root system. However, once a tree is established, it tends to break away from its neighbors thus forming its own ecosystem. Alex & Bill collected large amounts of data which they are analyzing to search for correlations that would predict what will happen during climate changes relating to temperature and rainfall.

    Tasting: Alex boiled three varieties of potatoes which have different ratios of starch to sugar. Russet baking potatoes have the highest ratio, Red potatoes the lowest, and Yukon gold, intermediate. For me, all were delicious, in part because he added herbs and oil to reheat all the bite-size pieces thus masking differences in sweetness!

Nov. 13: Chris Doughty asked the following questions: When did people first start affecting climate? Why did agriculture begin 10,000 years ago? What caused the little ice age? Can you cool the planet with brighter crops? Can you detect multi-cellular life on extra-solar planets? It was an ambitious program, but he had done a lot of reading about these subjects and raised many further questions in record time. Members of the Caldeira Lab were a welcome addition.

    Tasting: Chris brought four of his favorite packaged fruit drinks that originated in Brazil. They included cashew, passion, graviola, & polpa de cupuacu. Some are an acquired taste.

Nov. 23: Luis E. Fernandez gave testimony at Peru's Ministry ofEnergy and Mines on issues related to deforestation, illegal gold mining and mercury contamination in the Peruvian States of Madre de Dios, Piura and Puno.

Caldeira Group

Nov. 5: Ken Caldeira addressed this question in his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in a hearing titled: Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention. Can global warming be mitigated by a technological fix such as injecting light-blocking particles into the atmosphere or chemically “scrubbing” excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere? Neither Solar Radiation Management (SRM) nor Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) would be a climate cure-all, however. “If you take the risk of climate damage seriously, you want to take action to diminish risk by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but you would not want to limit yourself to only one risk-reduction approach.” He stressed the need for a research program to uncover the limitations and potential pitfalls of geoengineering.


Editor Jan Brown, e-mail: jbrown1@stanford.edu