Huffington Department of Earth Sciences

Volcano research shows link between ground deformation and eruption potential

InSAR image of volcanic uplift in Africa's Great Rift Valley

InSAR image shows volcanic uplift in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. (Credit: Study authors)

Using satellite imagery to monitor which volcanoes are deforming provides statistical evidence of their eruption potential, according to a new study in Nature Communications.

The European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, launched from French Guiana in April 3, 2014, should allow scientists to test this link in greater detail. Its satellite interferometric synthetic aperture radar – InSAR for short – is a spaceborne imaging technology that will help scientists understand how volcanoes work, according to study co-author and geophysicist Zhong Lu, Shuler-Foscue Chair of geophysics in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College.

Volcano deformation – especially uplift – is often considered to be caused by magma moving or pressurizing underground. Magma rising towards the surface could be a sign of an imminent eruption. On the other hand, many other factors influence volcano deformation, and even if magma is rising, it may stop short rather than erupting.

InSAR technology will eventually help scientists develop a forecast system for all volcanoes, including those that are remote and inaccessible. “InSAR will aid in the prediction of future eruptions,” Lu said. “At SMU, we are developing and applying this technique to track motions of volcanic activities, landslide movements, land subsidence and building stability, among other events.”

Juliet Biggs of the University of Bristol in England led the study. Biggs looked at the archive of satellite data covering more than 500 volcanoes worldwide, many of which have been systematically observed for more than 18 years.

Satellite radar can provide high-resolution maps of deformation, allowing the detection of unrest at many volcanoes that might otherwise go unrecognized. Such satellite data is often the only source of information for remote or inaccessible volcanoes.

The researchers, who included scientists from Cornell University and Oxford University, applied statistical methods more traditionally used for medical diagnostic testing and found that many deforming volcanoes also erupted (46 percent). Together with the very high proportion of non-deforming volcanoes that did not erupt (94 percent), these jointly represent a strong indicator of a volcano’s long-term eruptive potential.

“The findings suggest that satellite radar is the perfect tool to identify volcanic unrest on a regional or global scale and target ground-based monitoring,” Biggs said.

Courtesy of the University of Bristol

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Four professors honored with 2013 Ford Research Fellowships

SMU 2013 Ford Research Fellows Thomas Ritz, Bonnie Jacobs, Michael Corris and Suku Nair

Four SMU professors were honored with 2013 Ford Research Fellowships during the University’s May Board of Trustees meeting (left to right): Thomas Ritz, Bonnie Jacobs, Michael Corris and Suku Nair.

Four exemplary SMU researchers have been chosen as the University’s 2013 Ford Research Fellows. This year’s recipients are Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts; Bonnie Jacobs, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Suku Nair, Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; and Thomas Ritz, Psychology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from SMU Trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help the University retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Learn more about the new Fellows under the link.

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For the Record: Feb. 26, 2013

Jodi Cooley, Physics, Dedman College, was named by the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women Physicists as its December 2012 CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month. She was nominated by students as “a physicist who has had an impact on [their] life or career, both past and present.” The award is open to students, teachers or any woman doing physics-related work.

Donna Dover, Office of the Provost, received a 2012 Award of Merit in a competition sponsored by the North Texas Lone Star Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. She was honored for her work on the print edition of SMU’s 2012-13 General Information Undergraduate Catalog. 

Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College, received the 2012 Skoog Cup from the Science Teachers Association of Texas for his “significant contributions to advancing quality science education.” The teacher association presents the Skoog Cup annually to a deserving faculty or staff member at a Texas college or university for a sustained record of leadership in science education, advocacy for quality K-12 science education for all students, contributions to science, and development of effective programs for pre-service and in-service teachers of science. Jacobs received the award at the Annual Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching, which took place in Corpus Christi in November.

K. Shelette Stewart, Executive Education, Cox School of Business, has received the 2012 Christian Literary Award in the Christian Living category for her book, Revelations in Business: Connecting Your Business Plan with God’s Purpose and Plan for Your Life (Tate Publishing and Enterprises). The award was presented in a ceremony that took place in November.

Michael McLendon, Higher Education Policy and Leadership, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, delivered a keynote address to the 2012 College of Education Dean’s Symposium at Florida State University in Tallahassee in October. The symposium’s theme, “Shared Dreams, Separate Interests: Higher Education Finance & Accountability,” focused on higher education performance, accountability and finance in an era of intense scrutiny of higher education in the United States and internationally.

Azfar Moin, History, Dedman College, presented a paper at the 2012 South Asia Research and Information Institute (SARII) conference at SMU in September. The SARII conference brings together leading historians of South Asia and specialists of Indo-Muslim cultures. Its 2012 theme of “Cities, Courts, and Saints” gathered new research on the way Islam spread across and became part of the Indian subcontinent.

Wes Abel and Jon Haghayeghi, Master’s degree candidates in the Department of Economics, Dedman College, were among three U.S. students chosen to participate in the ISEO Institute’s “Learn Economics from Nobel Prize Laureates” summer program June 23-30, 2012 in Iseo, Italy. Among the Summer 2012 participating Nobel laureates were Peter Diamond and Michael Spence.

SMU fossils, expertise to be an ongoing part of new Perot Museum

Malawisaurus in the Perot Museum

A 35-foot skeletal cast of the Early Cretaceous sauropod dinosaur Malawisaurus stands sentry in the spacious glass lobby of the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. SMU paleontologist Louis Jacobs, who discovered the dinosaur in Africa, provided the cast to the museum. (Image: Dallas Morning News)

SMU faculty and students, the University’s Shuler Museum of Paleontology, and the SMU Innovation Gymnasium have teamed with the nation’s new premier museum of nature and science to provide everything from dinosaurs and sea turtles to technical assistance and advice.

Fossils on loan by SMU to Dallas’s new Perot Museum of Nature and Science include those of animals from an ancient sea that once covered Dallas.

The fossils represent a slice of SMU’s scientific collaboration with the Perot Museum and its predecessor, the Dallas Museum of Natural History.

Items from SMU’s scientists include a 35-foot skeletal cast of the African dinosaur Malawisaurus (pictured above) standing sentry in the spacious glass lobby of the Perot, which opened Dec. 1 near downtown Dallas.

“The new museum building itself is an icon, but it’s also a statement by the city about taking the advances of science to the public,” said vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, an SMU earth sciences professor, who serves on the Perot Museum’s advisory board and Collections Committee.

Jacobs, who was ad interim director of the Dallas Museum of Natural History in 1999, led the team that discovered Malawisaurus in Africa. He provided the cast to the museum.

“Here at SMU we train students and create new knowledge. The museum’s mission is to take the stories of science out to the general public so they can be used,” said Jacobs. “Anthony Fiorillo, Perot Museum Curator of Earth Sciences, is a world-class scientist with whom we work. We have a junction between the mission, training and knowledge we have here, infused into and enhanced by what the museum does. That’s why the museum is important to SMU and that’s why SMU is important to the museum.”

Fossils on loan are from the Shuler Museum collection in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. SMU scientists provided technical expertise for exhibits and serve on the Perot Museum’s advisory committees.

Also on exhibit from SMU is a miniature unmanned autonomous helicopter designed for fighting fires that was built by students in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

Shuler Museum fossils can be viewed in the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall. They include an unnamed 113 million-year-old herbivorous dinosaur discovered in 1985 at Proctor Lake southwest of Stephenville, Texas.

For perspective on that exhibit’s paleoenvironment in Texas at the time, SMU paleobotanist Bonnie Jacobs provided fossil wood, fossil cones, fossil leaves and images of microscopic pollen grains from the Shuler Museum. The fossils provided information used to create a model of an extinct tree to accompany the exhibit.

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

Research: SMU paleontologist identifies new Texas fossil species

A new species of coelacanth fish has been discovered in Texas. Pieces of tiny fossil skull found in Fort Worth have been identified as 100 million-year-old coelacanth bones, according to SMU paleontologist John Graf.

The coelacanth has one of the longest lineages — 400 million years — of any animal. It is the fish most closely related to vertebrates, including humans.

The SMU specimen is the first coelacanth in Texas from the Cretaceous, said Graf, who identified the fossil. The Cretaceous geologic period extended from 146 million years ago to 66 million years ago.

Graf named the new coelacanth species Reidus hilli. It is now the youngest coelacanth identified in the Lone Star State, a distinction previously belonging to a 200 million-year-old coelacanth from the TriassicReidus hilli is also the first coelacanth ever identified from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Coelacanth fossils have been found on every continent except Antarctica. Few have been found in Texas, said Graf, a paleontology graduate student in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences of SMU’s Dedman College.

The coelacanth has eluded extinction for 400 million years. Scientists estimate it reached its maximum diversity during the Triassic. The fish was thought to have gone extinct about 70 million years ago. However, the fish rose to fame in 1938 after live specimens were caught off the coast of Africa. Today coelacanths can be found swimming in the depths of the Indian Ocean.

“These animals have one of the longest lineages of any vertebrates that we know,” Graf said.

The SMU specimen demonstrates there was greater diversity among coelacanths during the Cretaceous than previously known.

“What makes the coelacanth interesting is that they are literally the closest living fish to all the vertebrates that are living on land,” he said. “They share the most recent common ancestor with all of terrestrial vertebrates.”

Coelacanths have boney support in their fins, which is the predecessor to true limbs. “Boney support in the fins allows a marine vertebrate to lift itself upright off the sea floor,” Graf said, “which would eventually lead to animals being able to come up on land.”

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Research: New insight into a 19th-century fossil feud

In the late 1800s, a flurry of fossil speculation across the American West escalated into a high-profile national feud called the Bone Wars. Drawn into the spectacle were two scientists from the Lone Star State: geologist Robert T. Hill, now acclaimed as the Father of Texas Geology, and naturalist Jacob Boll, who made many of the state’s earliest fossil discoveries.

Hill and Boll had supporting roles in the Bone Wars through their work for one of the feud’s antagonists, Edward Drinker Cope, according to a new study by SMU’s Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College.

The study by Jacobs expands knowledge about Cope’s work with Hill and Boll. It also unveils new details about the Bone Wars in Texas that Jacobs deciphered from 13 letters written by Cope to Hill. Jacobs discovered the letters in an archive of Hill’s papers at SMU’s DeGolyer Library. The letters span seven years, from 1887 to 1894.

Hill, who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, not only provided Cope with fossils of interest but also shared geological information about fossil locales.

Boll, who was a paid collector for Cope — as was the practice at the time — supplied the well-known paleontologist with many fossils from Texas. More than 30 of the taxa ultimately named by Cope were fossils collected by Boll.

“Fossils collected by Boll and studied by Cope have become some of the most significant icons in paleontology,” said Jacobs, president of SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man. His study, “Jacob Boll, Robert T. Hill, and the Early History of Vertebrate Paleontology in Texas,” is published in the journal Historical Biology as part of the conference volume of the 12th International Symposium on Early Vertebrates/Lower Vertebrates.

Jacobs describes the late 1800s as a period of intense fossil collecting. The Bone Wars were financed and driven by Cope and his archenemy, Othniel Charles Marsh. The two were giants of paleontology whose public feud brought the discovery of dinosaur fossils to the forefront of the American psyche.

Over the course of nearly three decades, however, their competition evolved into a costly, self-destructive, vicious all-out war to see who could outdo the other. Despite their aggressive and sometimes unethical tactics to outwit one another and steal each other’s hired collectors, Cope and Marsh made major contributions to the field of paleontology, Jacobs said.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

For the Record: Sept. 7, 2012

Versatile Link logoAnnie Xiang, Physics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received the U.S. Department of Energy Generic R&D award, a 3-year program (2012 to 2015) with a total funding of $202,500 to develop small-form-factor, high-reliability optical transmitters at the 120 Gbps range for high-bandwidth data transmission in future particle physics experiments. At SMU, she also leads the Versatile Link project, a collaboration with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Oxford University, funded through U.S. ATLAS.

SMU’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention has received the 2012 TIPS Award of Excellence for its anti-alcohol abuse training program. The award is presented by Health Communications, Inc., the providers of the Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS) Program. SMU began implementing TIPS in early 2007 to train students in how to make sound choices when faced with challenging decisions regarding alcohol use. The Award of Excellence winner is chosen based on both volume of students certified and feedback from TIPS Trainers and student participants.

Brian Zoltowski, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received a $250,000 grant from the Herman Frasch Foundation for Chemical Research for his research focusing on the photoreceptor protein, one of the many proteins involved in an organism’s circadian clock. The photoreceptor protein enables plants to know when the spring and fall occur and to produce flowers or fruit at the appropriate time of year. The Frasch Foundation awards grants to nonprofit incorporated institutions to support research in the field of agricultural chemistry that will be of practical benefit to U.S. agricultural development. Grants are awarded for a period of five years, subject to annual review and approval on evidence of satisfactory progress.

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights Program, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has written the foreword to Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a graphic novel by James Disco about the Sudanese genocide and an international incident in which more than 20,000 children – mostly boys – ranging in age from 7 to 17 were displaced or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Read more from the Huffington Post. (Right, an image from the book.)

Lori Ann Stephens, English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has written The Lingerer – a libretto based on the story The Sweeper of Dreams by Neil Gaiman – which has been chosen as a finalist in the 2012 English National Opera Minioperas competition. More than 500 librettos were entered, and 10 were selected as finalists; Stephens is the only finalist from the USA. During the next two phases of the competition, composers create music based on one of the 10 librettos, and filmmakers create videos to accompany them. Stephens has been invited to London for the final presentations in October. Listen to the music written for Stephens’ libretto by composer Julian Chou-Lambert. audio

Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has been named the winner of the 2012 Skoog Cup presented by the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) as part of its STAT Awards program. The Skoog Cup is awarded to a faculty or staff member at a Texas college or university who “has demonstrated significant contributions and leadership in the development of quality science education.” Jacobs and the other STAT Award winners will be honored at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) Nov. 8-10 in Corpus Christi.

Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts, has been named reviews editor of the Art Journal, a publication of the College Art Association (CAA). CAA states its mission as “[promoting] the visual arts and their understanding through committed practice and intellectual engagement.”

Bezalel (Ben) Gavish, Information Technology and Operations Management, Cox School of Business, has been elected a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Only 12 members of the Institute were elected Fellows in 2012. They will be honored on Oct. 15 at the 2012 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

Ed Biehl, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received the 2012 Kametani Award for achievements in the field of heterocyclic chemistry. The $3,000 award was created in 1999 and is presented annually in memory of the founder of Heterocycles, the official journal of The Japan Institute of Heterocyclic Chemistry. The award is sponsored by the Institute and the journal’s publisher, Elsevier.

Anita Ingram, Risk Management, has been voted 2012-13 president-elect of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA). She and the other new URMIA officers will be inducted Oct. 2 at the organization’s 43rd Annual Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. URMIA is an international nonprofit educational association promoting “the advancement and application of effective risk management principles and practices in institutions of higher education.” It represents more than 545 institutions of higher education and 100 companies.

‘Unconventional geothermal’ a game changer for U.S. energy policy?

SMU-Google geothermal map of North AmericaSMU geothermal energy expert David Blackwell gave a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday, March 27, 2012, on the growing opportunities for geothermal energy production in the United States, calling “unconventional” geothermal techniques a potential game changer for U.S. energy policy.

Blackwell’s presentation outlined the variety of techniques available for geothermal production of electricity, the accessibility of unconventional geothermal resources across vast portions of the United States and the opportunities for synergy with the oil and gas industry. Also speaking at the briefing were Karl Gawell, executive director of the geothermal energy association, and James Faulds, professor at the University of Nevada-Reno and director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

“This is a crucial time to do this briefing,” said Blackwell, W. B. Hamilton Professor of Geophysics in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and one of the nation’s foremost experts in geothermal mapping. “Everybody is worrying about energy right now.”

The session was one in a series of continuing Congressional briefings on the science and technology needed to achieve the nation’s energy goals, titled collectively, “The Road to the New Energy Economy.” The briefing was organized by the National Science Foundation, DISCOVER Magazine, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was honorary host for the March 27 briefing at the Senate Visitor’s Center, which included congressional staffers, members of science and engineering associations, government, private and industry representatives.

SMU’s geothermal energy research is at the forefront of the movement to expand geothermal energy production in the United States. Blackwell and Maria Richards, the SMU Geothermal Lab coordinator, released research in October that documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power — 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today. Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth, demonstrates that vast reserves of this green, renewable source of power generated from the Earth’s heat are realistically accessible using current technology.

Blackwell began his presentation by debunking the common misperception that geothermal energy is always dependent on hot fluids near the surface – as in the Geysers Field in California. New techniques are now available to produce electricity at much lower temperatures than occur in a geyser field, he said, and in areas without naturally occurring fluids. For example, enhanced geothermal energy systems (EGS) rely on injecting fluids to be heated by the earth into subsurface formations, sometimes created by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Blackwell noted the potential for synergy between geothermal energy production and the oil and gas industry, explaining that an area previously “fracked” for oil and gas production (creating an underground reservoir) is primed for the heating of fluids for geothermal energy production once the oil and gas plays out.

The SMU geothermal energy expert called these “unconventional” geothermal techniques a potential game changer for U.S. Energy policy. Geothermal energy is a constant (baseload) source of power that does not change with weather conditions, as do solar and wind-powered energy sources. Blackwell noted that SMU’s mapping shows that unconventional geothermal resources “are almost everywhere.”

Blackwell closed his presentation with acknowledgment that site-specific studies and more demonstration projects are needed to make geothermal energy a strong partner in the new energy economy.

The briefing was taped and will be posted to the Science 360 website hosted by the National Science Foundation at a later date.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> More news from the SMU Research blog at smuresearch.com

SMU experts share perspectives on 2011 Japan quake in fund-raising lecture April 12

Japan quake relief T-shirt created for SMU fund-raising effortsTwo SMU faculty members with unique perspectives on the Japanese earthquake will speak at a public fund-raising lecture at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, in Room 123, Fondren Science Building. (The location has been changed from its original venue in McCord Auditorium.)

Dedman College Dean William Tsutsui was in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake as a member of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation. He will be joined by Brian Stump, Albritton Professor of Geological Sciences in Dedman College, a recognized seismology expert who leads a national university consortium funded by the National Science Foundation and works with the U.S. Geological Survey to manage global earthquake data.

Admission to the lecture is $10; SMU students will be admitted free with campus ID. Proceeds will benefit disaster relief efforts in Japan. RSVP online at the Japan Association at SMU (JASMU) website.

At the event, JASMU will sell a fund-raising T-shirt designed by its members (pictured right), priced at $20. The shirt features images of a crane and Mt. Fuji, both symbols of Japan, with a large wave symbolizing the recent disaster. “We hope that Japanese people will find a way to recover from the 2011 Japan earthquake just like cranes rising into the sun,” the students wrote on the JASMU homepage.

Half Price Books donated the assistance of its design team and covered the cost of the T-shirts and production, ensuring that all money raised through the T-shirts can go directly to relief efforts in Japan. The money will be given to the American Red Cross through SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man (ISEM).

The shirts will also be available from SMU’s booth at the 2011 Earth Day Dallas event, April 22-23 in the Dallas Arts District.

For more information, visit the Japanese Association at SMU website or call Yuri Kimura at 214-909-0786.

SMU community raises funds for Japan earthquake and tsunami victims

Japan quake relief T-shirt created for SMU fund-raising effortsThe Japanese Association at Southern Methodist University (JASMU) will raise funds for victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami through an upcoming lecture and T-shirt sales.

The newly formed organization is led by Yuri Kimura, a Ph.D. candidate in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Noritoshi Hiyama, who is pursuing an M.B.A. in the Cox School of Business; and Isaac Saito, who is pursuing an M.S. in systems engineering in Lyle School of Engineering.

“We hated seeing what was happening in our country, and we wanted to do something to help as quickly as possible,” Kimura says. “We hope others on the SMU campus and around Dallas will join us in our quest to raise funds for those in need in Japan.”

Two SMU faculty members with unique perspectives on the Japanese earthquake will speak at a public fund-raising lecture at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, in Room 123, Fondren Science Building.

Dedman College Dean William Tsutsui was in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake as a member of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation. He will be joined by Brian Stump, Albritton Professor of Geological Sciences in Dedman College, a recognized seismology expert who leads a national university consortium funded by the National Science Foundation and works with the U.S. Geological Survey to manage global earthquake data.

Admission to the lecture is $10; SMU students will be admitted free with campus ID. Proceeds will benefit disaster relief efforts in Japan. RSVP online at the JASMU website.

In addition, JASMU will sell a fund-raising T-shirt designed by its members, priced at $20. The shirt features images of a crane and Mt. Fuji, both symbols of Japan, with a large wave symbolizing the recent disaster. “We hope that Japanese people will find a way to recover from the 2011 Japan earthquake just like cranes rising into the sun,” the students write on the JASMU homepage.

Half Price Books donated the assistance of its design team and covered the cost of the T-shirts and production, ensuring that all money raised through the T-shirts can go directly to relief efforts in Japan. The money will be given to the American Red Cross through SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man (ISEM).

The SMU community can buy the T-shirts for the first time during the Cox School of Business 7th Annual International Festival. Sales will take place 5:30-8:30 p.m. March 25 in the James M. Collins Executive Education Center.

Additional shirt sales will take place March 28, 29 and 31, and on April 1 and 8 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The shirts will go on sale from 2-6 p.m. April 9-10 at the Half Price Books Dallas flagship store, 5803 East Northwest Highway.

The shirts will also be available at the April 12 campus lecture and from SMU’s booth at the Earth Day Dallas event, April 22-23 in the Dallas Arts District.

For more information on the upcoming events, visit the Japanese Association at SMU website, or call Yuri Kimura at 214-909-0786.

Written by Christina Voss

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