Texas Tech University

A&S Faculty News

April 2017

Bruning Gets Artist's Viewpoint

Eric Bruning TTUEric Bruning, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Geosciences is collaborating with artist and art professor Tina Fuentes on a project that helps visualize the science of weather phenomena, such as lightning. The research is funded by a $733,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, with $70,000 allocated for the art project. "An important part of the grant, from NSF's point of view, is how you will do active outreach and education, and I was interested in doing something a little bit outside the box," Bruning said in a Spring 2017 Texas Tech Discoveries article. "I've always enjoyed data visualization and looking at our data in graphical form. So I figured it would be interesting to work with someone who has a lot of experience working visually." That desire to look at his science through a different lens led him to Fuentes, who at the time Bruning contacted her was Professor and Director of the School of Art of art at Texas Tech. "When Eric came into my office he started talking about lightning and he used words like color, line and texture," Fuentes said in the Discoveries article. "I thought to myself 'wait, you are describing art, you're using my vocabulary.'" Bruning's research focuses on understanding how lightening works within a thunderstorm and how that could help scientists predict when a storm will turn dangerous. "Everyone has seen lightning coming from the bottom of the cloud, but there is probably 10 times more lightning inside the cloud that you don't see," he said. "I'm looking at how the turbulence in the cloud ends up making very small flashes when it's really turbulent and very large flashes when it's smoother inside the cloud." The art may not directly help Bruning answer scientific questions, but he hopes it will help lay people better understand the research. In addition to an exhibition at the Museum of Texas Tech University later this year, Bruning and Fuentes are planning presentations to high schools in the South Plains area that will involve Bruning's graduate students.

Hayhoe Sees Changes in EPA Site

Katharine Hayhoe TTUKatharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, was quoted in an April 30 article in the St. Augustine Record about changes to the Environmental Protection Agency's website. The story described how the changes were being made to better represent the new direction the agency is taking under President Donald Trumps administration, including taking down some agency sites that contained detailed climate information. “The EPA's climate site includes important summaries of climate science and indicators that clearly and unmistakably explain and document the impacts we are having on our planet,” the story quoted Hayhoe as saying. “It's hard to understand why facts require revision.”

Guengerich Presents in Peru

Sara Guengerich, Associate Professor of Spanish and Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor for Spanish in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, presented her work, "Las redes de comunicación social de las élites coloniales del siglo XVI," to a panel of colonial Andean experts at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) 50th International Congress in Lima, Peru, April 29-May 1. 

Curzer Blogs on Upset Liberals

Howard Curzer, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, writes about how conservatives can understand liberal angst in his April 27 Huffington Post blog, “Why Are Liberals SO Upset?” His current areas of interest are ancient philosophy, virtue ethics, existentialism, and Confucian philosophy. And among his publications is a book entitled, "Aristotle and the Virtues" (Oxford University Press, 2012). Curzer is recipient of the 2016 College of Arts & Sciences Excellence in Research Award—Humanities. 

Hayhoe on Houston Flooding

Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, was quoted in an April 26 article in the Houston Chronicle about why Houston is flooding more often. "Human-induced climate change has irrevocably altered the background conditions of our atmosphere," the newspaper quoted Hayhoe as saying. "And so everything that happens now has some component of climate change. The question is now, how much?"  

Akchurin, Kunori Muon Detector

Nural Akchurin and Shuichi Kunori TTUNural Akchurin, Professor and Chair, and Shuichi Kunori, Associate Professor, both in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and a group of Physics undergraduates are developing a muon detector that will help archeologists map small voids in potential dig sites. Hunter Cymes, Aashish Gupta and Jason Peirce are three of the Physics undergrads working on the detector and who were quoted in a story about the project, “Archaeology Meets Particle Physics,” that published April 25 in Symmetry Magazine. The story explains that muons are produced when single-atom meteorites, a.k.a. cosmic rays, collide with the Earth's atmosphere and that muon detectors work the way X-rays do, but use muon particles instead. Instead of passing through the human body to confirm, say, a broken bone, the TTU muon detector will search out spaces half the size of what older muon detectors can find. The goal is to build the prototype detector within the next few months, with a final design by fall 2017.

Surliuga Book in 'Discoveries'

Victoria Surliuga, Associate Professor of Italian in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, wrote a book, “Ezio Gribaudo, the Man in the Middle of Modernism” (Glitterati 2016), that was featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Discoveries magazine.

Hayhoe on Trump's Climate View

Katharine Hayhoe TTUKatharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, was quoted in an April 23 article in the San Francisco Chronicle that gathered responses from scientists around the country to President Donald Trump's stance on environmental issues. Hayhoe was quoted as saying: “If you look way back in the paleoclimatic history of the earth, there has never been a period of time when this much carbon has been put into the atmosphere this fast. So we don't really even have any analogue to understand how quickly and how massively the climate system could respond to what we're doing.” And: “It's as if Henry Ford had already built the assembly line and was rolling out Model T's and people were buying them left right and center, and a new government came in and said, ‘We're really concerned about the horse farmers. We have to invest in horses. More and more and more horses.”

Hayhoe on Climate & Zika Risk

Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, was quoted in an extensive April 20 New York Times Magazine article about the impact of climate change on mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika virus, dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. “Climate change is a threat multiplier,” Hayhoe was quoted as saying in the article. “If there's one overarching theme that connects almost every way that climate change impacts us, it's that climate change takes a risk that already exists and enhances it. It's not inventing something new. It's taking something that we've already dealt with before, but giving it that extra oomph that makes it a bigger problem.”

Hayhoe Speaks at Marfa Theater

Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, spoke April 20 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas. The event was presented by the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center (CDRI) as its spring Conant Distinguished Lecture Series. Hayhoe's subject was “Talking Climate: Why Facts are NOT Enough.” A reception followed. 

Perkins on Gorsuch & Hot-Buttons 

Jared Perkins, Visiting Instructor in the Department of Political Science, was quoted in an April 16 Boston Herald report about newly installed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and the cases he will soon consider. “The court has recently placed several hot-button cases over for re-arguing in the fall or sent down to lower courts, in part to wait to decide until the full court could hear them,” Perkins told the newspaper. “Now Justice Gorsuch will be able to weigh in on these cases addressing issues from transgender bathrooms and workplace discrimination to redistricting and environmental policy.”

Lewis Evaluates MOAB Use

Col. Dave Lewis (USAF Retired), Director of the Strategic Studies graduate program in the Department of Political Science, was quoted in a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal story about the MOAB (GBU-43/B) bomb drop in Afghanistan. “The use of the GBU-43/B is intended to send a strong message to adversaries and potential adversaries that the United States is willing to commit significant technology and resources to counter an enemy's unconventional tactics,” Lewis was quoted as saying in the April 14 report. Lewis said the GBU was designed to use blast “overpressure” waves against soft targets.

Guengerich Gives Paper at Council

Sara Guengerich, Associate Professor of Spanish and Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor for Spanish in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, presented a paper entitled "Elites and Hegemony in the Andes" at the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies 64th Annual Conference. the conference was  held April 5-8 in Salt Lake City.  

Milam Talks to A-J About WWI

Ron Milam TTURon Milam, Associate Professor of Military History in the Department of History, and Interim director of TTU's newly established Institute for Peace and Conflict, was quoted in an April 5 Lubbock Avalanche-Journal article about World War I. Milam was quoted describing President Woodrow Wilson's efforts at diplomacy after the sinking of the Lusitania May 7, 1915, and again after the sinking of the Suffix, a French ferry, March 24, 1916. American citizens suffered injury and death at the hand of German submarines in both incidents. But the Zimmerman telegram of 1917 moved the United States to declare war: The telegram from Germany to Mexico promised the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona if Mexico would agree to attack the United States. “We pledged to put around 2 million boots on the ground as soon as possible, and on the Fourth of July we had soldiers in Paris,” Milam told the newspaper. “We were not a war-making nation, and when we went to war, a lot of people frankly thought it was a bad idea.”

Van Gestel Prices-Out Biodiversity

Natasja van Gestel TTUNatasja van Gestel, Research Assistant Professor and Director of Research Coordination for the Texas Tech Climate Science Center, is co-author of one of the first models to assign a dollar value to the loss or gain of species in an ecosystem. Research findings were published in Science Advances, one of the journals of Science, on April 5. This new work offers an economic argument for preserving biodiversity. “Biodiversity evokes exotic birds, tropical forests, the beauty of nature. Money isn't usually what comes to mind,” van Gestel said in a press release. “But biodiversity has monetary value, and in this study, we figured out how much value for one critical ecosystem service: carbon storage.” Bruce Hungate, lead author of the study and Director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at Northern Arizona University, described their work this way: “We tackled this by blending models of ecology and economics to make explicit, quantitative estimates about the value of species richness for carbon storage.” At small scales, such as 1 hectare, going from one to two plant species over a 50-year time period would store an additional 9.1 metric tons of carbon, potentially saving $804.55 per hectare based on a mid-range estimate ($137 per metric ton) of the social cost of carbon. Hypothetically, at larger scales, cost savings could be significant. For example, adding just one species to the 12.3 million hectares of cultivated lands restored to grasslands by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program could save over $700 million. The biggest cost savings come from restoring the most degraded, species-poor lands. "This is one of the first studies to estimate the economic value of biodiversity,” said Dr. Brad Cardinale, professor at the University of Michigan and leader of the working group that brought the economists and ecologists together at The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “It provides what is almost certainly an underestimate of value, but I still expect the study to become a classic as others repeat and improve these estimates for other ecosystems." It's an underestimate because biodiversity confers economic value in many ways beyond storing carbon. “Biodiversity means products like wood, food, and fuel, and services like recreation, water purification, and flood protection, all of which could be quantified using our approach,” van Gestel said. “Money is a language that speaks, and showing the economic value of biodiversity underscores the importance of conservation, and the policies that support it.” While the value of biodiversity is more complex than just one economic measure, this new research takes a bold step toward understanding the value of nature. Read more here.