Dinosaur-hunting: A Famous Fossil Safari

Dallas Zoo

Originally Posted: August 14, 2015

Just east of Matlock Road in Mansfield, Texas, a small, seemingly unremarkable plot of land overlooks a new shopping center. Graded for construction, the upturned earth impregnated with shale and red clay resembles so many other future building sites across the booming Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Yet this spring, this was the epicenter of a remarkable tale: a rare, 96-million-year-old dinosaur discovery by 5-year-old Wylie Brys and his father, Dallas Zoo employee Tim Brys.

Wylie and Tim suddenly found themselves thrust into the international spotlight: “Texas boy discovers dinosaur bones,” “Not Your Typical Sandbox Find!” and “Jurassic Jackpot,” the headlines shouted, with reports running on hundreds of media outlets, including the BBC, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, and Time. More than 6.5 million people across the country watched accounts of the father-and-son team. ABC World News Tonight Anchor David Muir even introduced Wylie as the “Jurassic kid.” READ MORE

Mystery Booms Plaguing California Residents Finally Have a Source

Science World Report

Originally Posted: August 8, 2015

Mysterious booms have plagued the residents of El Dorado County in California for some time now. While some have speculated what the cause of these booms has been, it’s remained a mystery until now.
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Residents have reported that the booms aren’t as crisp as a gunshot, and instead sound more like an aerial bomb. A few have speculated that it could be the result of work occurring in an underground mine. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, Inspectors check for damage to shaken North Texas bridges

The Eagle

Originally Posted: July 30, 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — When a big earthquake hits, the world often sees horrific images of collapsed bridges.

In 1989, during a 6.9-magnitude quake in the San Francisco area, the double-deck Nimitz Freeway pancaked, killing 42 people. Fifty-foot sections of the Bay Bridge also collapsed, killing a woman.
North Texas is unlikely to experience an earthquake of that scope, researchers say. But in recent years, the region has experienced dozens of smaller quakes, with the strongest having a magnitude of 4.0 — enough to potentially damage buildings and bridges.

Those in geology and engineering circles are increasingly concerned that the wave of seismic activity in Dallas-Fort Worth could damage the area’s transportation infrastructure — not only bridges but also tunnels, roadways and rail lines.

“We’re talking a lot about it,” Brian Barth, the Fort Worth district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said. “It is important for us to make sure we’re covered. We’ve been discussing it statewide. This isn’t the only area where we’re having these issues.” READ MORE

Success! Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields, the 2015 Conference Summary:

The SMU Geothermal Lab recently hosted its 7th international energy conference Power Plays:Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields. Along with discussion on generating geothermal energy from oil and gas fields, topics at this year’s event included desalination, flare gas and induced seismicity. A summary of the presentations is available at http://www.smu.edu/Dedman/Academics/Programs/GeothermalLab/Conference/PastPresentations.

Read a summery of the event here.

Read more on the event here.

State researchers not ready to blame quake on injection wells

Weatherford Democrat

Originally Posted: June 17, 2015

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AUSTIN – Disposal wells that catch the high-pressure byproducts of natural gas drilling cannot conclusively be blamed for an earthquake near Fort Worth this spring, according to state experts.

The Railroad Commission of Texas tested five disposal wells in Johnson County after a 4.0 magnitude temblor on May 7 to assess the effect of injection operations on underground rock formations.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the commission said in a statement released on Friday, citing an analysis by its seismologist, geologists and petroleum engineers.

Reports of injection wells elsewhere, however, suggest a link between disposal wells and seismic activity.

In April, a Southern Methodist University-led team found wastewater injection – along with extraction of saltwater from natural gas wells – was the most likely cause of earthquakes in 2013 and 2014 near Azle, west of Fort Worth. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, Texas regulators find no evidence that disposal wells caused Johnson Co. quake

Texas Tribune

Originally Posted: June 12, 2015

Regulators: No Evidence Wells Caused 4.0 Quake

After wrapping up a round of testing, Texas regulators say they have found no evidence that injecting oilfield waste into five disposal wells triggered the largest recorded earthquake in North Texas’ history.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the Texas Railroad Commission said Friday in a news release.

Last month, a 4.0-magnitude earthquake hit Johnson County, leading to a few reports of minor damage. It was the most powerful ever recorded in the Barnett Shale region, including more than 50 quakes that have struck since November 2013 — a surge that has coincided with the proliferation of disposal wells, deep resting places for liquid oil and gas waste injected underground at high pressures.

Under rules adopted last year, the Railroad Commission ordered testing at five disposal wells, which the four companies that operate them voluntarily shut down. On Friday, the commission said its analysis of “fall-off pressure”– tests to determine the effects of injections at the well sites – turned up no fault patterns nearby that could have been related to the earthquakes. READ MORE

Concerns over earthquakes spread to Texas

USA Today

Originally Posted: June 10, 2015

The connection between wastewater injection wells and an alarming increase in the frequency of earthquakes is getting a lot more scrutiny these days.

First was Oklahoma, which has suddenly become the earthquake capital of the United States. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2014 in the state. The culprit? Scientists are becoming more confident that the injection of wastewater into disposal wells causes fault lines to “slip,” contributing to the likelihood of an earthquake. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach, Earth Sciences, oil firms probed over Texas quakes

Wall Street Journal

Originally Posted: June 9, 2015

Oil Firms Probed Over Texas Quakes

Texas regulators are scrutinizing some of the biggest U.S. energy producers in the wake of several earthquakes that have rocked the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year.

An Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary and EOG Resources Inc., one of the biggest shale-oil and gas pumpers, are facing questions about their use of injection wells to dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. The state’s oil-and-gas regulator on Wednesday begins a series of hearings in Austin to assess some oil companies’ role in causing the temblors.

A growing body of scientific research from federal, state and academic researchers suggests that disposal wells, often used to get rid of the dirty water leftover from fracking and brine from oil-and-gas production, may be linked to increased seismic activity. READ MORE

 

Follow Jewel on SMU Adventures

Jewel is a sophomore majoring in biology and environmental science in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. A member of the University Honors Program, she is the recipient of the SMU Founders Scholarship and Dedman College Scholarship. During summer 2012, she also received a Richter Fellowship to conduct research at SMU-in-Taos, where she will update “A Guide to the Trees of the Navajo Country,” a 1940s bulletin written to teach Navajo students to manage and identify the trees in their area. She is using a variety of resources to update locations, scientific names, Navajo medicinal uses and other characteristics of the trees. READ MORE

SMU scientists will map faults in North Texas

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: May 30, 2015

Scientists at Southern Methodist University are embarking on an ambitious new project to map faults in North Texas.

The study, funded with $122,337 from the U.S. Geological Survey, would help answer key questions about recent earthquakes in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Those questions include: “How large of a quake can we have?” “Where are our most dangerous faults?” “How can we tell more quickly if a quake is natural or man-made?”

North Texas has had more than 160 earthquakes since 2008, including a record-breaking magnitude 4 tremor that struck near the town of Venus on May 7. Before 2008, quakes were virtually unheard of in the Dallas area.

Scientists at SMU, at the U.S. Geological Survey and at the University of Texas at Austin have linked many of the earthquakes with disposal wells, where companies bury wastewater from oil and gas operations. Geologists have known for decades that pressure from the fluid can build up near faults and cause them to slip, giving rise to quakes.

“In this area of the world, geologists and academics don’t know a lot about the deep faults associated with the recent earthquakes, because the faults don’t come to the surface,” said Heather DeShon, an SMU seismologist who will lead the new study with colleague Beatrice Magnani. READ MORE