Soil in the Headlines

A recurring post on this blog, Soil in the Headlines, collects a few of the ways soil is featuring in our lives and in our news.

Figure from this PLOS ONE article (#2 on the headline list!). Researcher's caption: "Variation in B. mycoides colony morphology due to the presence of 5 mm glass beads during incubation on PCA: with bead still in place (top); with bead removed (below)." doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081549.g005

Figure from this PLOS ONE article (#2 on the headline list!). Researcher’s caption: “Variation in B. mycoides colony morphology due to the presence of 5 mm glass beads during incubation on PCA: with bead still in place (top); with bead removed (below).”
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081549.g005

Japan tries to contain 133,000 tons of Fukushima’s radioactive soil

According to Japanese Daily Press, the Japanese government earmarked $970 million to store soil contaminated by Fukushima’s nuclear energy plant disaster. With the soil collected and money set aside to store it, the next question is, who wants to have a radioactive soil containment facility in their backyard? So far, no one is volunteering.

Soil microbe displays intriguing and potentially useful growth patterns

A recently published article in PLOS ONE describes a soil bacteria’s response to physical change in its surroundings. The bactieria, Bacillus mycoides, reorganized themselves into growth patterned around physical obstructions in their environment. Beyond the, “ooo, neat!” factor, this new knowledge of the bacteria may be useful for Continue reading

Frackonomics: the implications of cheap gas

At 5:30 on Tuesday another crowd settled in to a University of Wisconsin – Madison lecture hall for the final forum to foster public discourse on the state’s booming frac sand industry. This time, it wasn’t about Wisconsin’s sand, or who’s coming in to the state to mine it. This last forum, facilitated by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, focused on what the state’s sand is helping to produce, cheap natural gas, and what that means for future energy consumption and associated climatic impacts.

On the docket was Phil Montgomery, chairperson of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), Greg Nemet, assistant professor of public affairs and environmental studies at UW-Madison, and Frank Greb, president of Energy Center of Wisconsin. Rather than go speaker-by-speaker, I’ll summarize the most thought-provoking insights of the evening. In contemplating the impact cheap natural gas on U.S. energy here is what these three men had to offer: Continue reading

Frickity frac: what is sand mining’s impact?

At the second of three forums on frac sand mining organized by the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Nelson Institute, four interesting voices stood before another packed lecture hall. There was a representative of sand mining companies, an investigative journalist, a sociologist, and a groundwater specialist.

Each voice added context to the conversation Wisconsin is having as major energy companies move into the state. The Nelson Institute’s first forum two weeks ago, focused on why energy companies have pulled Wisconsin into the hydraulic fracturing industry: the vast amounts of a particular type of sand (frac sand) needed for fracking. This second forum sought to elucidate some of the impacts the state’s new industrial connections may have.

From bottom right, a conveyor carries sand from the crushing area to a wash plant tower to be washed and sorted by grain size at the Preferred Sands plant in Blair, Wis., on June 20, 2012. Lukas Keapproth/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Continue reading

An odd little parade

This parade is a glimpse into the culture of Madison, Wisc.’s near eastside neighborhood, Williamson Street. As you will hear one of the parade watchers say, “You see anything and everything on Willy Street.”

The parade, on September 16, was part of the neighborhood’s annual fair. It looped quickly around a few blocks, and dissipated into a street party back on Willy Street. Standing on the curb, some parade watchers whooped while others stood dumbfounded. The odd mix of parade participants gave witnesses sense of the unique and expressive atmosphere cultivated by neighborhood residents.