Louis Jacobs, Earth Sciences, New fossils intensify mystery of short-lived, toothy mammal found in ancient North Pacific


Originally Posted: October 6, 2015

The identification of a new species belonging to the marine mammal group Desmostylia has intensified the rare animal’s brief mysterious journey through prehistoric time, finds a new study.

A big, hippo-sized animal with a long snout and tusks — the new species, 23 million years old, has a unique tooth and jaw structure that indicates it was not only a vegetarian, but literally sucked vegetation from shorelines like a vacuum cleaner, said vertebrate paleontologist and study co-author Louis L. Jacobs, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. READ MORE

Palaeobotanist Bonnie Jacobs spent 15 years studying ancient plants to help predict future climate change


Originally Posted: September 16, 2015

Professor recounts adventure and discovery in Ethiopia

DALLAS (SMU) – In the movies, the adventure begins when the sinister industrialist abducts Harrison Ford to plan a hunt for lost treasure.


For Bonnie Jacobs, it started with a phone ring.

In the late summer of 2000, the SMU palaeobotanist was working in her office on the third floor of the University’s Heroy Science Hall when an old colleague called with exciting news about Ethiopia. He’d just returned from a dig site where he’d expected to find fossils from eight million years ago. Instead, he’d found fossils from 27 million years ago – mostly plants. He thought it was a job for Jacobs, one of the premier palaeobotanists of African flora.

Although Jacobs had just recently returned from field research in Tanzania, “There is something about Africa that keeps people coming back again and again,” she says. “Much of tropical Africa’s ancient plant history was a mystery, so that’s what attracted me. Not just the romance of exploration, but also because so little was known.”

Africa called, Jacobs answered, and a 15-year adventure in Ethiopia was born. READ MORE

“SMU’s seismology team stands by its research and does not comment on public policy.”

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: September 10, 2015

Five months ago geologists from Southern Methodist University identified two wells used to store wastewater from natural gas drilling as the likely cause of a series of earthquakes around the North Texas town of Azle in late 2013.

Now the Texas Railroad Commission is questioning whether they had enough evidence.

In preliminary findings released Thursday, examiners with the commission said there was not sufficient proof the injection well operated by EnerVest, a Houston-based oil and gas company, caused the seismic activity. They recommended the well be allowed to continue operating.

That followed on from a finding last month that another injection well operated by XTO Energy, a subsidiary of oil giant Exxon Mobil, was also not to blame for the earthquakes.

“SMU’s seismology team stands by its research and does not comment on public policy,” a spokeswoman for the university said in a statement. READ MORE

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

Dedman College Alumnus Junchang Lü ’04 Identifies Velociraptor Cousin, Maybe Weirder And Scarier Than Movies Imagine


LuFeatheredDinoSMU alumnus Junchang Lü ’04, one of China’s leading dinosaur experts, has helped identify a new dinosaur species – Zhenyuanlong suni – a cousin to the Velociraptor of Jurassic World fame and the newest clue as to how birds descended from dinosaurs.

The well-preserved fossil of a dinosaur with bird-like wings was unearthed by a farmer in northeastern China and eventually found its way to Lü, a top dinosaur researcher with the Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing. Lü called in Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh to aid in the identification process. The two scientists had teamed up previously in the discovery of Qianzhousaurus sinensis, a cousin of Tyrannosaur rex whose whose long snout earned it the nickname “Pinocchio rex.” 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


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